All Loves Excelling

Josiah Bunting, III, Author Bridge Works Publishing Company $22.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-882593-40-8
Addressing a subject that troubles parents across the country, this heartfelt if stiffly written novel dramatizes the pressure put on high school students to win acceptance to elite universities. Having failed to get into Dartmouth after her senior year of high school, Amanda Bahringer is spending a year at St. Matthew's, an expensive prep school that prides itself on placing ""underachieving"" students in prestigious colleges. Amanda runs track and plays piano; although both pursuits should provide a reprieve from academic worries, they only serve as feathers in her academic cap and as conduits for additional neurosis. While the school's headmaster encourages her interest in poetry, she never allows herself to progress in a creative direction; instead, she throws herself ever deeper into her studies and exercise. She develops an eating disorder, coupled with addiction to a dizzying array of mood-altering prescription drugs, and records her increasingly dark thoughts in a journal whose contents parallel the narrative. Amanda becomes a symbol of an unfortunate trend in contemporary life, rather than a character. Her overbearing mother, consumed with ambition for her daughter, and her father, compassionate but ineffectual, are unable to help their only child find happiness as she moves down a progressively darker path (one that is rife with foreshadowing). Bunting (The Lionheads), a former boarding-school headmaster, knows this timely and relevant subject inside and out, but too often the novel resembles less an act of the imagination than a fictionalized newspaper article. The narrative's rather stilted tone seems mismatched to its protagonist, and Amanda's story is overshadowed by the moral it is trying to impart. 8-city author tour. (Apr. 1)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2005
Release date: 02/01/2001
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4176-1847-7
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-425-18612-1
Prebound-Other - 978-0-606-26014-5
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4616-2309-0
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