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Admission Paperback – Bargain Price, April 8, 2010

3.4 out of 5 stars 208 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, April 8, 2010
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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.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (April 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446540714
  • ASIN: B0051BNU1Y
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,325,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jean Hanff Korelitz was born and raised in New York City and graduated from Dartmouth College and Clare College, Cambridge. She is the author of the novels THE DEVIL AND WEBSTER (forthcoming in 2017), YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, ADMISSION, THE WHITE ROSE, THE SABBATHDAY RIVER and A JURY OF HER PEERS, as well as INTERFERENCE POWDER, a novel for middle grade readers, and THE PROPERTIES OF BREATH, a collection of poetry. A film version of ADMISSION starring Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and Lily Tomlin was released in March 2013. Korelitz created and runs BOOKTHEWRITER, a service that represents over 100 novelists, memoirists, poets, food writers, biographers and non-fiction writers who are available to visit book groups in and around New York City. www.bookthewriter.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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3 Comments 44 of 54 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Maybe I've gotten spoiled on the crazy idea that novels should have a point, or at least be interesting, because Admissions scrapes by indifferently on both counts. It escapes me how a fiction novel passed by with so many unending, droning tangents about the literal admissions process and why the author (and editor and publisher) thought that anyone would care to read these meandering rants in repeated succession, but there you go. That's the book.

The protagonist is not particularly likable. She seems one of those dull women, in a dull unfullfilling relationship that you see from a distance and wonder why and how anyone would live like that. Well, that's one thing this novel did - explain how people can stand to lead stale, seemingly pointless lives where nothing ever happens, devoid of passions, devoid of excitement and meaning. Halfway through the book I realized literally two things had happened - she boned the guy from Quest and her long time partner got another woman pregnant and ran out on her. (The plot points tend to come out of nowhere, shortly after they are introduced, which is unsatisfying.) I'll repeat - Portia isn't a likable or sympathetic character, and there isn't really much need to empathize with her either. So what's the point? Portia's only passion in life is explaining - repeatedly, in unnecessary minute detail - that Ivy League schools take no joy in rejecting applicants and how guilty she is that people assume otherwise. Literally about 300 pages of the book are spent expounding that point.

I knew I wasn't going to end up anywhere meaningful when I felt no guilt at skipping pages in a novel I'd never read before.
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