Book Review: Admission by Julie Buxbaum

When the college admissions scandal broke a few years ago, I was stunned—partly due to the money and bribery involved and partly because of the involvement of one of my favorite actors. It was difficult to reconcile those actions with my teenage years. I was a good (not great) student who went to a state university. My father would have liked me to excel more, to experience more, but he didn’t push or coerce me into doing what I didn’t want, and I’m thankful he let me figure out my life on my own.

Admission centers around a wealthy fictional family in Los Angeles and the daughter, Chloe, a high school senior. The author doesn’t just show a life of luxury and beating the system. She creates an in-depth world full of complex characters and gripping writing. The book is split into Now—the arrest and what comes after—and Then—Chloe’s teenage life, complete with her hopes and fears and dreams. She’s not a great student, and due to her family’s wealth, she doesn’t have to be. But beneath her lack of academic prowess lie the typical teenage questions—what do I want to be, how do I compete with everyone, how can I make a difference? The same questions I had at her age and into my forties (some of which still plague me now). Some of us are fortunate to know what we want when we’re young, to follow that desire and carve out a life of our dreams. Many of us struggle with that question, despite our finances, and flounder through life.

The beauty of Admission is Chloe’s journey from self-centered teen, who hasn’t had to think (much) about others, to an almost-adult with grownup values and compassion. The journey is beautifully detailed and illuminating. A thoroughly engrossing story that made me remember and ponder my upbringing and values.