I love when you read a book that is so good you just cannot put it down. For me, the most recent read in this category was Amy Poeppel’s Small Admissions. Light, but also grounded in real adulthood issues, this read had me so intrigued I basically read it in two days. I started it, but it took me a little while to get into because I just wasn’t in the mood to read. Honestly, it was nothing against the book, I just felt tired after work so worked on other things. However, on Friday after work, I sat down to read a bit before bed. Then I found myself doing the inevitable “just one more chapter…just one more page” shenanigans until it was 1 a.m. and I could barely stay awake. When I woke up on Saturday I just read until it was finished.
To summarize, the novel focuses on Kate, a young woman who suffers a terrible heartbreak before the novel begins. The breakup affects various relationships in her life – her sister, her best friends, etc. Going from an ambitious graduate student to semi-permanently parked on the couch, her family is desperate to get her out of the house. When she takes a job, after somehow landing it despite a disastrous interview, things start looking up.
What I found most enjoyable about the novel was the cast of characters. Since Kate becomes an assistant admissions director at a prep school in New York (for middle schoolers), Poeppel creates robust, self-involved, nauseating, overbearing parents who had me laughing out loud. The depiction of those pageant parents for prep school admissions was so hilarious and, given Poeppel’s experience in admissions, pretty accurate. I’ve always been so intrigued by what actually goes on in admissions departments and it was fun to get a glimpse, even if it was for middle school, which I never applied to, thankfully.
I’ve seen some reviews of this novel that critique it for being too light. A review on goodreads.com said that though the novel addresses many issues, it never really penetrates beneath the surface. I disagree. While a lot of the issues aren’t explored super in depth, I think it would be inappropriate given the book. The book has so many characters and alternates point of view, so I appreciated that Poeppel gave enough character backstory that she was able to give each character closure by the end. I loathe when storylines develop, but then they become too complex and the writer doesn’t leave enough time to really tie up all loose ends. However, with this novel, I felt like each storyline and each person got their proper ending without it feeling rushed or incomplete.
In terms of characters, I felt Kate was super annoying and overreacting initially. However, I realized that part of her unsteady, desperate behavior was the result of heartbreak and the other part was not knowing who she was, which would explain why she was so awkward and acted like nothing in her life really fit. I loved the confidence she gained as the novel moved forward. Given the timeline of the novel, I also understand why some people felt Kate’s development moved a little too quickly at one point. However, I appreciated the arc, and probably wouldn’t have liked pages and pages of Kate lamenting her breakup. My least favorite character was Vicki. She was so obnoxious and definitely didn’t have her friends’ best interest at heart. Actually, my favorite part about her was when she owned how selfish she is.
I liked how witty this novel was and am eager to read more by Poeppel! If you’re looking for an end of summer, quick read, this is it!