cover image Small Admissions

Small Admissions

Amy Poeppel. Atria/Bestler, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5011-2252-1

The focus in Poeppel’s quick-witted debut novel is on elite private school admissions. Kate Pearson is a sharp yet aimless young woman a couple of years out of Wellesley, struggling to recover from a disastrous breakup. Her helicopter sister, Angela, gets her a job interview, which is a comical nightmare for Kate and her prospective boss. Surprisingly—to both of them—he hires her to be in charge of admissions at Manhattan’s prestigious Hudson Day School. Poeppel’s novel follows Kate’s journey from hot mess to self-actualizing grown-up, while detailing the campaigns for admission of a small group of students and their families. Some rise to the challenge, but one fails miserably. The novel is also about friendship and family, and the author gently satirizes hippie academics through Kate’s parents, whose nontraditional take on child rearing contributed in no small part to Angela’s tightly wound demeanor. Rounding out the cast are Kate’s two best friends: Chloe, who goes to extreme, humorous lengths to find Kate a boyfriend, and Vicki, who tries to manipulate the situation to her advantage. With so many strong personalities and disparate threads, Kate and her story might easily have gotten lost, but the author, like a circus ringmaster, points attention here and there, always bringing it back to the center. An excellent debut. (Dec.)