Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars
Kate Pearson is going through a rough time. She's been dumped by Robert, her incredibly handsome French boyfriend, and she turned down a spot in her grad school program, so instead of living a dream life in Paris, she's living on the couch, barely able to wash her own hair. Her friend Chloe feels responsible (Robert is her cousin, after all), her friend Vicki is just annoyed (Vicki has no patience for wallowing), and Kate's older sister Angela just wants to fix everything. She connects Kate to a lead for an interview at the admissions department at the Hudson Day School. Surprising everyone, Kate gets the job, and suddenly has to get her life together. There's no time for self-pity during admissions season, after all. Indeed, Kate finds herself drawn to her job, her new colleagues, and the various children she meets while at work. And while Kate's working non-stop, her friends are busy falling in love, feeling guilty about their role in Kate's earlier breakdown regarding Robert, and generally making a mess of things. Will Kate make her own mess at the new admissions gig as well, or is this the fresh chance she needed?
I am torn somewhat on my thoughts for this book. It starts off quite witty and drew me in immediately. It's told from a multitude of perspectives, including Kate's friends (Chloe and Vicki), her sister (Angela) and Kate, and Kate's new boss, Henry. It's also interspersed with tales of several children trying to get into private school, along with the perspectives of their parents. There's definitely some nuance and depth there, but sometimes it's A LOT. A lot of characters, a lot of jumping of back and forth. I won't lie: Kate's friends certainly annoyed me at times. The side show with them can be humorous, but often just irritating. I found myself wanting more Kate.
The problem with all the jumping around is that I didn't really get to know the characters as much as I wanted, which was a shame, because they were fascinating. Kate, Chloe, Angela, Henry -- they were intriguing and, when featured, seemed real, even if Angela was driving us crazy meddling into Kate's life, as was Chloe with her never-ending guilt over her supposed role in Kate's breakdown. Poeppel has done an excellent job of creating real, flawed characters, and I just wish they all received a little more face-time. The snippets from the kids (and parents) applying for school are great, too, but it's hard not to see them sometimes as a detraction from our main characters, especially a side plot with two fervent (and delusional) parents.
Still, don't think I didn't enjoy the book, because I did. There are some wise and wonderful moments and some instances where I found myself laughing out loud. Kate is endearing, and you cannot help but rooting for her character. This book is redeemed by her and her journey. She is an inspiration. Because of her and my various feelings for this novel, my final rating falls at 3.75 stars.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss (thank you) in return for an unbiased review; it is available everywhere as of 12/27/2016.
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