There’s a theme for our July mini-reviews: college admissions!
Admission by Julie Buxbaum
Chloe Wynn Berringer cannot wait to start college in Southern California, close to where she grew up. Everything in her life is perfect: her best friend, hot boyfriend and wealthy lifestyle.
Then one morning she’s greeted by the FBI, who arrest her mother for allegedly being involved in the college admissions scandal. Everything in her life falls apart overnight. No college, her friends ignore her and her parents spend every day with the best legal team money can buy.
Only Chloe didn’t know about any of this. She truly believed she earned that SAT score and had no idea her parents, with the help of an advisor, redid her entire application. What’s a girl to do when her parents won’t admit fault and nobody wants to speak to you?
We found the college admissions scandal that dropped in 2019 fascinating. We know how stressful the college application process can be and it shocked us how far some wealthy parents will go to buy their kids way in through the “side door.” We knew we had to pick up Admission by Buxbaum because Chloe’s mom is narrowly based on Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
However, we wished we liked the story more. Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things is an adorable contemporary and this one didn’t quite compare. First, Chloe was naïve to an annoying degree. She doesn’t understand her own privilege and she didn’t actually work very hard, meaning she didn’t deserve the college she wanted to attend.
Second, her parents drove us crazy. Her mom kept saying that she did what any parent would do and it shouldn’t be a crime. Lady, you paid someone to take the SATs for her and lied multiple times on the applications. You also paid hundreds of thousands to accomplish this.
We did like Isla though, Chloe’s younger sister. She’s the smartest member of the family and the only one who didn’t buy all the BS. Plus, she worked really hard and we worried that the scandal would ruin her chance of going to college, because unlike her sister, she really deserved to go.
In some areas we did feel bad for Chloe because her parents treated her like a moron most of the time. We liked her ending and did see some character development potential for her.
Overall, Admission is well written and that’s what kept us reading it. However, we do wish the situation and characters were more fictionalized. Parts of the book felt like reading the news from two years ago. However, the subject is timely and it really opens your eyes to the world of the super wealthy in Hollywood, who think their money can buy them anything…without consequences.
The Ivies by Alexa Donne
While the last book talked about how people will buy their way into college, what if they’d kill?
Olivia Winters is part of the Ivies, a group of girls who will do anything to go ivy league for college. Avery Montfort, the group’s leader, has decided where everyone will go and Olivia has Penn. Only, Olivia applies to Harvard early action and gets in when Avery doesn’t. So does Emma, another member of the group. The next morning after Emma gets into Harvard early action, her body is found on campus.
Everyone at the school is a suspect: the Ivies, Emma’s boyfriend and all the students who hated Emma. Olivia doesn’t get why her friends are ignoring the investigation, when all she wants is answers. But the more she digs, the more she finds out that Emma and the other Ivy girls are not who she thought.
With the help of her crush, Olivia starts to unravel the twisted web of her elite prep school, Claflin Academy. Only, she starts receiving threats to tell her to back off. Is learning the truth about Emma worth risking her own life?
The Ivies started off really strong. There’s something about YA mysteries set at prep schools that we love. Olivia had a strong voice and even though she was far from perfect, we sympathized with her for how her friends treated her and how they viewed her as a charity case.
The plot also moved quickly. The fast paced actions made it hard for us to put down. As a journalist, Olivia tried really hard to use her skills to try to get justice from her friend. It drove us crazy though that the members of the clique would rather ignore what happened then learn the truth. Seriously, Avery and the others drove us crazy.
The problem we had with the book was the last quarter. What started off really strong, ended with a flop. We suspected the killer from the start, but hoped the author wouldn’t go in the direction because it was just too easy. The person didn’t even have that good of a reason to want Emma gone. It reminded us a bit of Diana Urban’s All Your Twisted Secrets because we hoped for a bigger shock.
What also annoyed us was that Olivia took the fall for things that others did. While she eventually had some things to look forward to in the future, we felt Donne went too far with Olivia’s ending.
Overall, we had a lot of fun with the book until the very end. It’s still an interesting read for mystery lovers.