Admission, by Julie Bexbaum

I vaguely remember in 2019 when the college admissions scandal news broke, and being slightly disappointed that Lori Loughlin, of all people, was involved. It certainly wasn’t the most shocking news I’d ever heard, but I, like many others, found it pathetic how much privilege and entitlement reached as high as they did. That very story serves as the inspiration for Admission.

Chloe Berringer lives a privileged life in LA: her mother, Joy Fields, is a steadily-working TV actress, and Chloe has recently been admitted to the school of her dreams, SSC. But when the FBI comes knocking at her door, calling for her mother’s arrest, Chloe’s life takes a chaotic and stressful turn. Her mother has been accused of conspiring to bribe college officials to get Chloe into her dream school. Now faced with countless hate texts and the possibility of losing everything she loves, Chloe needs to take a good look at the family, and the Chloe, she thought she knew.

I remember rolling my eyes at the real-life criminals in the scandal and thinking they had to be stupid and or bad people to do what they did. This book takes versions of those same people and allows us to see behind the scenes.

The book alternates between “now” and “then”, showing us how the scandal came to be and what happens as a result. We see how deeply it affects not only Chloe but her whole family. She grapples with her own guilt that perhaps it was because of her that the scandal happened, as well as her anger towards her parents for being so reckless. 

The reason why I relate to Chloe is that every time she tries to make her case, her parents tell her to be quiet and treat her like she has no say in what she needs. They give her almost no agency in deciding what to do with her life, and it frustrates her beyond belief. It’s clear that she does want to try, but everyone around her is so obsessed with status and privilege that she never gets to handle her own affairs. She feels as though everyone thinks she’s stupid, and it’s frustrating when you just want to say your piece and no one cares to listen.

Plus, her parents walk a fine line between being controlling, flighty assholes, and genuinely caring people. You see traces of how much Chloe and her family cares for one another, but you cannot at all ignore how their privilege and entitlement have blinded them to larger problems outside themselves.

The pacing in this book is indelible. Although the story talks a lot about the mundane steps of college admissions and applications, you’re still intrigued at watching Chloe’s slow discovery of her parents’ scheme. You find yourself remembering your own college experience and how you got pulled into the cyclone of essays, scores, and app results, while also feeling glad that where you went to college was for your own personal accomplishment, not your parents’ social status. 

Chloe feels like her parents try as hard as they do because they want her education to reflect well on their television careers. It hurts when a child wants to have more agency in a situation that decides her life, only for her parents to selfishly take it from her.

What also makes this story interesting is that Chloe has a slight hand in losing her friends. She sometimes says or does things that show her privilege and accidentally hurts people. She’s by no means a terrible person; she is only a little naive because her parents gave her a comfortable life.

Too often, the news media shows us the worst of humanity, not remembering that there are real people behind the faces and names that we mock. If only we had a book like this for every news story: to see how an unexpected onslaught of hatred can affect the people who, while entitled, make dumb mistakes and can still learn a few lessons.

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