A Princeton admissions officer faces a long-buried secret in the height of application season.
The college application process, shrouded in secrecy and constructed with fuzzy logic, proved quite fascinating in Admission. Watching Portia speak to prospective students, looking over her shoulder as she read through applications, and hearing her defend a process most believe inherently unfair and corrupt perked up a book with an otherwise unimpressive plot.
Portia and her long-time boyfriend Mark have reached a crisis in their relationship, just as Portia finds herself facing the consequences of a choice made long ago. Her angst and sorrow color all her interactions and ultimately shape her outlook when choosing which students deserve Princeton.
I liked the insider’s look at the college application process, and felt that Korelitz handled tricky material well. Though it got a little preachy at times, Korelitz usually managed to bring it back to the drama at hand. However, her structuring of Portia’s emotional journey wasn’t well thought out, and by the time her secret came out I’d guessed it a million times over. Korelitz backloads too large a chunk of the story, lessening its impact when all is finally revealed. I would have liked to have seen her integrate her revelations more consistently throughout the book.
Despite my criticisms, I found Admission to be eminently readable. I’m a character junkie, and between the snippets of applications essays opening each chapter, to the students Portia encounters while touring New England, and to the central figures in the story, I was thrilled with the variety and depth of the people Korelitz created.