WONDERLAND: A Year in the Life of an American High School

Michael Bamberger, Author, Michael Bamberger, Author . Atlantic Monthly $24 (224p) ISBN 978-0-87113-917-7

For the last 30 years, Pennsbury High, a huge public school in Fairless Hills, Pa., has staged such an over-the-top senior prom that thousands of local residents turn out on prom night just to watch the seniors enter their "Wonderland." Bamberger, a Sports Illustrated senior writer, spent a school year with Pennsbury's seniors, recording their "true-life" stories. Since prom planning starts in September and climaxes in May, the event is both a good hook for readers and a convenient organizational device for various subplots that develop month by month. Will up-and-coming musician John Mayer finally agree to play for the prom? Will Rob and Stephanie still go to the prom, now that they're parents of a newborn baby? Will Lindsey keep co-chairing the prom committee even though she needs heart surgery? Bamberger cuts from one subplot to the next like a seasoned TV soap director, breaking away from each story just when it gets juicy. While much of the drama is about who's attracted to whom (high school kids are "on display, like mating birds"), for variety there's an ace student involved in a drinking death, another coping with cerebral palsy, some with college admissions problems, one or two kids planning for upward mobility via sports, plus a few faculty members with their own issues. Bamberger's teens may not be 100% typical, but they offer a good window onto at least a segment of contemporary teen culture. Agent, Kris Dahl. (June)

FYI: The book has been optioned by Paramount Pictures.

Reviewed on: 05/03/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
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