A super-stressed high school senior bombs on the SAT, blowing her chances for Harvard–until she gets a text message from someone calling himself “The Taker” and promising to get her within 150 points of perfect.
High concept premise that fails in the execution for a lack of emotional honesty insight. Perhaps fans of the Gossip Girls series will find The Taker meaningful, but when compared to something like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Catalyst, also about a stressed senior, it’s only as deep as a puddle.
For starters, the setup is awfully contrived, with stakes that are unnaturally high. It’s not just that she does badly on the SAT, but she’s been groomed to go to Princeton since she was a baby, so of course it’s a disaster–never mind the fact that she isn’t an overachiever so someone at some point would’ve pointed out that in this day and age she doesn’t have what it takes to compete for an Ivy League slot. And then, of course, her best friend is writing an expose for the school paper about the legend of The Taker, and she has to be tutored by the nerdiest nerd in the history of nerds, not to mention that all of her teachers are caricatures straight out of a John Hughes movie. This could’ve worked if the book aimed to be more of a satire, but it seemed to be going for earnest sincerity and didn’t make it.