Chloe Berringer has the perfect life. The daughter of an actress and an executive, she takes granted the luxuries only affordable to those who have landed the birth lottery. Recently, life has gotten even better: she receives admission to her dream school, SCC.
But then Chloe’s mother is revealed to be part of a national college admissions bribery scandal. For the first time, Chloe is forced to check her privilege and inspect her long-suppressed conscience.
Thanks to this book, I was suddenly able to see some apparently innocuous occurrences at my own private high school in a different light.
I knew someone who was diagnosed with ADHD right before their SAT; another student was appointed the President of a previously-nonexistent Student Council after making a generous donation to the school. There were also rumors of sabotage and back-stabbing at St.George’s, Vancouver’s top Ivy League feeder school. Although Admission is only a novel, I appreciate its close alignment with my own observations.
On the other hand, Chloe’s characterization is somewhat problematic. Buxbaum ensures that even a reader antagonistic to fraud would be unable to hate Chloe, with her adoration of her intelligent but underprivileged best friend, her patience with her six-year-old reading buddy, and her affection for her parents.
This is a deliberate characterization decision as alluded to in Chloe’s commentary on the villainous protagonist in Crime and Punishment at the beginning of the novel, showcasing the complex humanity of even those whose egregious crimes scandalize the entire nation.
However, while we do see Chloe’s underprivileged best friend, who was counting on a scholarship at SCC, go on to attend Harvard and live happily ever after, we do not see the consequences endured by those who were shoved out of their hard-earned seats with no Harvard to fall back on. I cannot help but feel that such a setup whitewashes the actions and trivializes the consequences of those who commit these frauds. While the narrative and case were fascinating, I was left with a rancid feeling after all the horn and confetti had faded.