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Admission Paperback – April 8, 2010

3.4 out of 5 stars 210 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Portia Nathan, the overly dedicated 38-year-old Princeton admissions officer, narrator of Korelitz's overthought fourth novel, finds purpose in her gatekeeper role. But 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. The real rub is how making his acquaintance forces Portia to confront a painful secret from her past that ties into some domestic discord with her professor friend, David, and may lead her into a career-endangering fracas with the admissions board. The narrative is slow out of the gate, though it gets some pep once the Jeremiah-Portia angle comes into focus. And even if Portia tends to ruminate in an precious way, Korelitz makes good use of the sociological issues tied up in elite university admissions. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Portia Nathan is a thirty-eight-year-old admissions officer at Princeton University, a place so discriminating that it can afford to turn down applicants who are “excellent in all of the ordinary ways” in favor of the utterly extraordinary—“Olympic athletes, authors of legitimately published books, Siemens prize winners, working film or Broadway actors, International Tchaikovsky Competition violinists.” Portia compares her job to “building a better fruit basket” and achieves career success by helping her institution pluck the most exotic specimens, but her personal life is permanently on hold because of a traumatic incident from her own college years that she has never come to terms with. Although the reader may unravel the mystery of Portia’s past before the plot does, the novel gleams with acute insights into what most consider a deeply mysterious process.
Copyright ©2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (April 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446540714
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446540711
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (210 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Admission" is a novel that examines the complex process of selecting incoming freshmen for Princeton University from a large pool of eager and often superbly qualified applicants. Jean Hanff Korelitz draws on her experience as an "outside reader" for Princeton to add verisimilitude to her story. She also spoke with deans of admissions and college counselors to gain a broad perspective on what has become, for many, a harrowing and competitive race to the finish line. The protagonist is thirty-eight year old Portia Nathan, who has been a reader in Princeton's Office of Admission for the past decade. She is passionate about her work, identifying with the "kids" whose orange application folders contain a mini-portrait of their backgrounds, accomplishments, and ambitions. It is part of her job to visit feeder schools and deliver a sales pitch to encourage high school juniors and seniors to consider Princeton. Sometimes she manages to recruit a gem during her travels, such as "the Inuit girl from Sitka, Alaska, who'd won Princeton's sole Rhodes scholarship last year."

Unfortunately, Portia is in a rut. She has been living with an English professor for sixteen years, and they have little of substance to say to one another these days. She has few friends and little contact with her sixty-eight year old mother, Susannah, a gregarious do-gooder who spends much of her time volunteering for a host of worthy causes. Unexpectedly, during her visit to the Quest School (whose mission is "to open doors, not close them") in rural New Hampshire, Portia meets a warm and compassionate teacher named John Halsey who remembers her from their days at Dartmouth, as well as Jeremiah Balakian, a seventeen-year-old autodidact who has terrible grades but is a zealous and voracious reader.
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Format: Hardcover
I try to avoid spoilers but several people have complained that this review contains them. Of course, those people haven't read the book so they don't know that the movie trailer contains more spoilers than this review does.

Portia Nathan is an admissions officer at Princeton University who is assigned to the Northeast. Her duties include traveling to schools in her area to give presentations on Princeton to high school seniors. On her visit to one school, she encounters a man who remembers her from their days at Dartmouth. She doesn't remember him, but she ends up sleeping with him that evening. Portia's not sure why she did this because she's content enough in her domestic life - she's been living with her longtime boyfriend, Mark, an English professor at Princeton.

As she and Mark are traveling to see Portia's mother for the holidays, Mark tells her that he can't go on and she discovers that he has been having an affair and his other girlfriend is pregnant. He returns to Princeton and Portia continues on to her mother's alone. Upon arrival, Portia finds that her mother has taken in a pregnant seventeen year old and intends to help her raise the baby. All of this news throws Portia into a deep depression that leaves her barely able to function. Things from her past come back to haunt her and she has to deal with a secret from long ago that she'd like to forget.

Because Portia is such an aloof character, I found Admission, by Jean Hanff Korelitz a little slow at the beginning, but once I got into it, I didn't want to put it down. I found the details of the admission process at Ivy League colleges fascinating and found myself thankful that I went to college before U. S. News & World Report started their college rankings.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The central tale in this book is fantastic. It's all the other stuff that the reader must unpack to get to that tale that causes the problem.

Basically, the author of this book makes the reader work too hard to get to the meat of this tale. The book is bloated by long periods of introspection and memories. I found myself idly flipping page after page of long paragraphs without breaks, mostly periods of monotonous inner searching by the main character. The love story had so much potential, and it could have been amazing had the book itself been better paced and not broken up with so much inner searching and character monologing. The author is a great writer of fun, quirky, and realistic dialogue, but this book should have been edited down by about 200 pages. There are too many breaks between good scenes to try to build back story that could have been better told during a quick conversation between characters.

All in all, this book is just a chore to get through to try to find enjoyable parts. There are some funny moments, and I really wanted to like the characters and to care about their story. But the author made me work too hard to do it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a (very detailed) tome on how to get into an Ivy League college that masquerades as a novel. Helicopter parents of high school juniors and seniors will love it!

But even forgiving all that, my primary objection to this book by Jean Hanff Korelitz is the main character, Portia Nathan, a Princeton admissions officer. She is totally unlikeable. Try as I might, I had no sympathy or empathy for her. She is shrill, irritating, judgmental, off-putting and strident and has basically no sense of humor.

And then everything changes.

For readers who stick with it, the plot and Portia suddenly wake up--but you'll have to wade through two-thirds of the book before you get there. It turns out there is a reason for her thoroughly dislikeable personality--a traumatic incident in her past that takes her until now to resolve. It's a lot of work for the reader for not much story.

On the other hand, if you are looking for information on how to get into the nation's most elite universities, look no further.
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