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TOP 500 REVIEWERon October 29, 2012
Accelerated is a novel in search of an identity. The first half is a cross between a character-driven literary novel and a cheesy soap opera. The second half tries to be a thriller, while the overall theme suggests that Accelerated is a message novel. Although some aspects of the novel work reasonably well, none of its ambitions are fully realized.

Sean Benning beats himself up because he's not Wonder Dad. He doesn't take his third grade son Toby to Sight Training or to Occupational Therapy to improve his pencil grip. He can't pay for Toby's pricey private school, the sort of place that caters to the overprivileged, but his in-laws are picking up the tab, a circumstance that (like most of his circumstances) leaves Sean feeling humiliated. The school thinks Toby should be medicated because he engages in the sort of "distracting" behavior that is common among boys, but Sean initially resists the idea of turning his son into a drugged zombie.

For no apparent reason other than the need to drive the storyline, Toby's mother, Ellie, has disappeared for three months, occasionally phoning in her regrets. She resurfaces with a desire to take Toby over his Christmas break, which would give Sean the time he desperately needs to prepare for an art show that he scored on the basis of a mere three pieces. Ellie later proves to be such a self-absorbed ninny that it's impossible to take her seriously.

Parts of Accelerated hint at Bronwen Hruska's talent. Sean's concern for his son and struggle with parenting feels authentic. Hruska effectively conveys Sean's anxiety as he talks to Toby about the death of another student, as well as Sean's sense of frustration when he deals with school administrators and mental health providers who seem rather glib in their desire to pin labels on Toby.

Other aspects of the novel don't work at all. Hruska strives for biting humor and sweet sentiment but the story she tells is too obvious to reach those goals. Sean's attendance at a party where Bill Clinton hits on Toby's third grade teacher is laughable, while Sean's inevitable relationship with the teacher is predictable. A happy ending is forced, clearly created to appease readers who like happy endings.

Much of the story surrounds Sean's belief that Toby's school pushes healthy kids to take unnecessary medication and then covers up the disastrous results. In its implicit condemnation of school administrators and drugs like Ritalin, the plot becomes heavy-handed. I have no problem with the notion that normal childish behavior is misdiagnosed as ADHD and that schools have a vested interest in medicating boys as a control mechanism. I do have a problem with hinging a thriller plot on the proposition that drugs like Ritalin routinely cause heart problems in healthy children, that schools push for medication of every male student despite ensuing health problems, that they tell parents the problems are caused by peanut allergies or bee stings, and that parents are too blind and cardiologists too incompetent to recognize the truth. By flirting with hysteria, the plot loses its integrity.

Before the story spins out of control, it features a reasonably balanced debate about the merits and pitfalls of medicating kids. That theme could have been the foundation for a serious novel. By turning the story into a mundane thriller, Hruska cheapened an important debate, wasted her carefully constructed characters, and impaired the novel's credibility. Despite its merits, the novel never recovers from those flaws.
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VINE VOICEon October 3, 2012
"Accelerated" reminds me of Ira Levin's "Rosemary's Baby" and "Stepford Wives": it is a sharp, lean, funny, savvy thriller about class, family, and societal pressures. A low body count and a delicate authorial touch may disappoint some readers, but the core conspiracy is plausible and timely, and its larger implications scary as hell. Parents everywhere overschedule and medicate their kids because schools force them to. This book may give them ammunition to fight back.

Even if you don't care about schools and children, the book is a delight. The story is suspenseful and packed with sex, both rousingly boisterous and hilariously awkward and embarrassing. Hruska has been to the best and worst parties in New York, and has a clear eye for the city and its people. The flawed protagonist is affectionately drawn, and is for once sympathetically clueless, not unbelievably stupid. His actions and relationships ring true, especially the one with his son, which is both the reason for and driver of what happens. Bravo.
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on May 1, 2015
Accelerated immediately hooked me, and I read it in a single afternoon. It's an intriguing hybrid of thriller and social satire, and a knowing look at the lives of Manhattan's most privileged residents and their children.
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on April 4, 2015
I am a teacher so the subject matter caught my attention. I hoped for a well written juicy story, and I wasn't disappointed. A fictional story, yes, but as you read it becomes apparent that this could really happen. Or worse yet, has already happened at countless schools across America.
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on April 30, 2014
I purchased the Kindle version of this book to read while traveling. It was such a good book that I ended up finishing it in just 3 days. It's a very easy read and will definitely keep your attention. I found it hard to put this book down after starting it. I highly recommend purchasing this book ... I can see myself reading it again ... it was that good.
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on April 26, 2015
The writing is okay, but the plot was very predictable. There were no surprises, such that I do not recommend this as a purchase for those looking for the unexpected. Had I known this going in, I would have passed on this book.
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on January 3, 2013
This novel is all about the competitive lifestyle of New Yorkers but could be applied to other cities as well. Children don't escape this and under performers are drugged in order to get better results. It might appear to be far fetched to some but I found it believable because I know of a school that put the same kind of pressure on parents to drug their children, not necessarily for improved results but to subdue them in the classroom instead of just using old fashioned discipline. This book illustrates how far parents might go to do what they mistakenly believe is best for their children.
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on November 8, 2012
I liked this book quite a bit at first. The subject was interesting and timely. My only criticism is that at times it felt as if it was two different books. Parts of it were extremely naive and just when I thought I was going to put it down, it took off and got exciting. However, the author could not sustain it for the whole book. I did like the characters but it got just a little smarmy for me towards the ending, which wrapped up a bit too neatly. All in all, though, a nice first effort.
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on January 17, 2013
This is the first time that I read this author, and it was an amazing read. If you have children, grandchildren, or are an educator, this is a must read. If you are a parent, you want your child to succeed in everything that they do, sometimes you may find yourself doing things that you may not normally do. The education system of today is always looking for a quick fix, in a lot of cases they are not interested in the childs well being, they are more interested in making kids zombies, because teachers are afraid to control the classroom. This book takes a look at the education system dabbling in the pharmacuetical drug trade. What makes a child a candidate to be medicated, it could be a true disorder, or could simply be overzealous educators trying to get ahead, at the cost of the child's overall health. I felt for the characters of this book, even the characters that knew they were doing wrong. Competition is not always healthy. This is my first great read of the year!

Christopher Berry
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on November 1, 2012
The unnerving fact at the core of this absorbing novel has been widely publicized. Hundreds of thousands of American children are dosed with attention deficit medications, drugs similar to Ritalin; originally designed to curb obstreperous behavior. When these medications were later found to improve concentration, they were routinely recommended by psychologists and teachers, and willingly adopted by parents eager to give their children every academic advantage. In some cases, the drugs also increase heart rates to dangerous levels, particularly when started when the child is 8 or 9 years old.

What begins as an entertaining account of a father attempting to manage his precocious and winsome young son during his wife's absence morphs into a powerful indictment of the hazards of medicating young children. Though the transition from diversion to documentary is somewhat abrupt, the appealing packaging should effectively make more people aware of a dangerous and growing trend.
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