Gia Loves Books : Admission by Jean-Hanff Korelitz
The college process is comparable to a mid-life crisis, and in Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel “Admission” the two coincide. The novel follows a 38-year-old Princeton University admission officer, Portia Nathan, finds purpose in her gatekeeper role as she goes through a series of bizarre ups and downs, and implausible twists and turns. Her career and conscience are challenged after she visits a down-at-the-heels New England town on a scouting trip and meets Jeremiah, a talented but rough-around-the-edges 17-year-old who maybe doesn’t measure up as Princeton material. Her reluctance to face the truth is suddenly overwhelmed by the resurfacing of a life-altering decision, and Portia is challenged with an extraordinary test. Just as thousands of the nation’s brightest students await her decision regarding their academic admission, Portia has to confront a painful secret from her past and may lead her into a career-endangering fracas with the admissions board.
Admission provides an interesting glimpse into the academic world and the process of selecting the elite students that comprise an Ivy League university. As an overly-curios-of-backstage-pass, I enjoyed hearing all about the intricate details and getting an insider’s look into something I’ve always been curious about. The downside is that there were parts I felt I needed to skim through because they were a little too detailed for me and detracted from the bigger picture and overall storyline. But again, this book is a fictional novel, so if you want to know about Princeton admission, this book probably wouldn’t help. In fact, the novel only makes the process more confusing. Legacy can be everything or it can be nothing; money is a factor for most, but sometimes it isn’t at all; grades are everything, except for, well, the exceptions.
Though the narrative is quiet and very emotional, I still felt surprisingly connected to Portia and invested in her outcome. While reading the book it seemed like I was getting to know her pretty well and so when she makes a decision near the end of the book that seemed contrary to her character, I was really shocked. Its devotion of subtle manner is its strength to push me to finish the book.
Admission is a very deep novel. For its technical plots of the process of college admissions, readers who look for a fast-paced beach read probably could easily give up. But those who can give themselves fully to Portia’s plots to uncover her secrets will be richly rewarded with a satisfying story. Even may suddenly remember how it feels to be deeply involved in a fictional character’s life. I’d give this a high recommendation for its elegant and thoughtful rendering of a woman’s journey from disconnection to realization. This is not the type of book that features any action or huge plot twists, but it makes for enjoyable reading due to its subtlety and intelligence.