Review: Small Admissions

Book by Amy Poeppel

Has life ever broken you? Has something that should only be something knocked the wind out of you? Made you feel so insignificant that you had no idea how to begin again? Small Admissions is about Kate Pearson — an intelligent woman who staked her worthiness in a career she was never meant for, and in a man who was never really right for her. So when they both fall apart, Kate falls to pieces.

At once cringe-inducing and embarrassingly familiar, Small Admissions follows a group of people who are all trying (and failing) to be their version of good friends and family members to Kate as she finds her way back to herself, whoever that is. Kate wallows in the deepest depths, and her well-meaning but overbearing big sister forces her into a job interview that by all accounts, Kate blows. It's a laugh-out-loud funny scene that perfectly transitions the book from a narrative about a sad, lonely girl to a story about the relatable, self-deprecating loser human version living inside all of us. You know the one; she comes out when you take stalk of all your stumbles (likely when you're trying to fall asleep), pointing her finger and laughing at those times you said the wrong thing, wore the wrong thing, and fell for the wrong person. She's a jerk with bad timing.

Kate is messy, and as she flails around her new job as an admissions counselor at an ultra-ritzy private school (Ivy League for tots), she's often out-matured by the kids she interviews. But the scenes are almost therapeutic, as she begins finding strengths she never much needed as a researcher working in a silo (the career that broke her).

The kids and parents inject their own humor — in such opposition around the stories they tell about themselves it's as if they're living separate lives altogether. Similarly, Kate's friends and family are doing the same, constructing their own narratives about what Kate needs, and who she really is, working themselves into a flurry and getting it wrong. Every time. 

While the parent-kid-counselor dynamic builds into a dramatic crescendo, Kate's past "moment" unfolds in its entirety, and the drama, well, it's really not so dramatic after all.

This book is a light-hearted portrayal about the chaos we create in our own lives (and the lives of those we love). It's about inventing context around outcomes, and never bothering to fact-check. While the synopsis may have you believe this is a look inside the competitive world of prep schools, that's merely the setting. This book is about someone letting life happen around her, and while it's entertaining and quirky and shallow and exhausting and wince-inducing and absurd and amusing, it's also a great reminder that who you are isn't a decision that's already been made.

Rating: 4/5 

Happiness is not a zero-sum game. It’s the only case in which the resources are limitless, and in which the rich can get richer at no expense to anyone else.