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The Ivy Chronicles Hardcover – January 31, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (January 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670033812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670033812
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #644,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Karen Quinn's The Ivy Chronicles is the amusing story of what happens when a New Yorker loses her job, her husband, and her ritzy Park Avenue pad and is forced to carve out a new niche for herself and her two private school-educated daughters. After transferring the girls to public school and renting a shabby-chic (at best) flat upstairs from a knicherie, Ivy Ames takes her billionaire friend Faith's advice and starts a consulting business to help privileged pre-schoolers get into the city's premier kindergartens. Light on substance yet heavy on laughs, Quinn does a reasonably successful job of following in the well-heeled footsteps of earlier gossip lit standouts such as The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada.

While Ivy's moral quandaries (is it really wrong to accept an alligator-skin Prada in exchange for securing a child's placement at a top "Baby Ivy") and often raunchy romances form the basis for this exposé, it is the toddlers' family stories that get the most laughs along the way. From Maria Kutcher, whose mob boss father is often referred to as "Kutcher the Butcher" to Winnie Weiner, a "nice Jewish girl from the Upper West Side" who becomes the African-American WaShaunte Washington in order to snag a "diversity" spot at the top schools, Quinn spares no one when it comes to exposing the habits of the rich and almost-famous. Yet even as Ivy begins to see the error of her snobbish ways, Quinn never quite lets her off the hook completely (" was such a relief to have a powerful man to lean on. Why couldn't I have one of my very own? Why?"). Still, for those of us who are in need of a quick laugh and have a few hours to spare, The Ivy Chronicles promises to entertain and amuse. --Gisele Toueg

From Publishers Weekly

When 39-year-old Ivy Ames loses her corporate job, her big-shot husband, Cadman, cheats on her and she's too poor for her pampered Upper East Side lifestyle, she finds herself creating a new life for herself and her two young daughters on New York's exponentially less tony Lower East Side. Ivy hammers out a living helping the city's elite nab spots in the most exclusive private kindergartens in town, but first-time author Quinn's book isn't a feel-good tale about realizing money isn't everything. Even as Ivy comes to understand that her former life among the ultra-rich was absurd and shallow at best, she continues to hope that she'll snag a new husband so rich that she'll never have to work again. Quinn's characters are unapologetically shallow, two-dimensional cartoons designed to affably lampoon the silliness of New York's elite, giving readers ample opportunity to snicker at people like a newspaper mogul willing to pay off the FDA to get her demon child into a "baby Ivy" league kindergarten and other wealthy, overly successful parents who use their kids to channel ambition and perpetuate elitism. It's good fun in small doses, but lengthy exposure to the cotton candy plot and caricaturish characters may leave readers with the zombie-like feeling produced by watching too many reality TV makeovers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Welcome to the tale of how I got to who I am today, from lawyer to corporate drone to small business owner to author of four novels to my first non-fiction, Testing For Kindergarten, self-proclaimed "Testing Mom" and blogger for The Baby Ivy Chronicles. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and curl up in a comfy chair. It's kind of a long story...

When I was growing up in Texas and Colorado, I dreamed of becoming an artist or a writer. However, I'd never actually met anyone who made a living doing either job. So, I opted to become a lawyer instead. Somehow, it made sense at the time. My legal career lasted until my firm sent me to the SEC to represent a guy whose financial futures fund was under attack. I didn't know what a financial futures fund was. I still don't. But I represented him anyway, falling asleep during the proceedings. The room was hot and the discussion soooo boring. I'm only telling you this because the statute of limitations for malpractice has run. I took this experience as a sign that I should find a different path. [Note: a year later this man was murdered. My lawyering had nothing to do with it, but isn't that sad?]

My next pursuit - advertising for American Express - lasted fifteen years. I worked my way up to Vice President. Then one day, my world came crashing in. My boss called me into his office and said the two words dreaded by corporate drones everywhere: "You're downsized."

Psychic #1.
Having no idea what to do with my life, I went to a psychic. The psychic told me to relax. In a few years, something huge would happen. It would change my life forever and I would finally have the career of my dreams. In the meantime, with two kids to support, she suggested that I find something meaningful to do that paid the rent.

A Business is Born.
Lucky for me, a personal experience with my son gave me inspiration to start a business for myself. Sam was one of those toddlers who had an ear infection every other month. By the time he turned 3, we noticed that he wasn't developing the way his older sister had. Eventually, we mustered up the courage to take him to a doctor who ran a battery of physical and psychological tests.

"I have good news and bad news," the doctor told us. "The good news is...Sam's speech and motor delays stem from the fact that he can't hear, the result of fluid build up from all his ear infections. Physically, we can fix that."

"The bad news is that we gave him the WPPSI - the same test he'll need to take next year to get into school. He failed miserably. I don't believe he can catch up." And then came the kicker. "Mrs. Quinn, no private school in town will accept your son."

I was devastated. We lived in one of the worst performing public school districts in New York City. With Sam's delays, I felt he would need the small class size of a private school in order to thrive. Naturally, I called my mother. I'm lucky. My mother was a Professor of Early Childhood Education. With her guidance, she and I mapped out a program I could do with Sam at home to build the skills he would need for kindergarten. Every night, Sam and I worked together. To him, we were just playing. But in reality, each activity was selected to develop the 7-abilities he would need for testing and school.

One year later, Sam took the test again. I'll never forget the call I got from our nursery school director a few weeks later.

"Sam's results are in," she said. "You're never going to believe this, but he made the top scores in his class!"

Sam was admitted to our first choice school. Today, he's a bright high school student taking honors and advanced placement classes. In fact, by first grade, his teachers were surprised to learn that he ever had any developmental delays.

The experience with Sam inspired me to co-found Smart City Kids, a company dedicated to improving every child's chance of acceptance to the school of their parent's choice. We helped NYC families through every step of the admissions process with workshops and one-to-one consultations for nursery school and kindergarten, private, gifted and talented programs, and public school. While there, I taught parents how to work with their children, just as I had worked with Sam. To create the business, I partnered with a friend who had tons of experience (and a Masters Degree) in counseling families on education matters. Did I personally know about being an educational consultant? Not really. But hey, I represented a financial futures fund without knowing what one was. How much harder could this be?

The Smart City Kids years.
As it turned out, harder than I thought. After researching the ins and outs of Manhattan school admissions, I learned enough to convince others (and myself) that I knew what I was doing. Happily, our families fared well. More importantly, I had a ringside seat at the crazy Manhattan admissions circus. Don't get me wrong. 99.99% of our families were fabulous. And the children we worked with were wonderful, as children naturally are. But there were always a handful of difficult parents who would lose it. There were interrupted vacations (mine), tears (parent's), screaming matches and outrageous behavior - all in the name of getting children into the most desired school. We were written about in Forbes and the New York Times. I appeared on 20/20. It was a heady time, but there was one problem. The business could support one person, but not two. I decided to quit so that at least my partner could make a good living. She has gone on to turn the company into a million dollar plus business, so I'm really proud of her and not jealous at all. I swear!!!!

Psychic #2.
I needed a new direction so I went to see another psychic. Like the first one, she told me a change was in the offing. It was huge. "Can you give me a hint?" I asked. "I don't want to miss it." "Don't worry," she said, "it'll be like hitting a brick wall at 100 mph."

Chasing my dream.
After leaving Smart City Kids, my husband and children held an intervention imploring me to get a real job with a regular paycheck and paid vacation. I had a better idea. Why not write a bestselling novel inspired by my experiences helping kids get into schools? "How long will that take?" My husband asked. "Three months," I assured him. Did I know anything about writing a novel? No. But everyone said that my annual Christmas letter was really funny. How much harder could this be?

Lots of Hard Work.
Okay, it was harder. Working day and night, I finished the first draft in three months. A friend arranged for me to show it to a well-known editor. When I took it to her mailroom, the magnitude of the odds I faced became clear. That room was filled with dozens of huge containers holding thousands of rejected manuscripts sent by others who, like me, fantasized about living the writer's life. Still, I dropped my script off and waited anxiously. A few weeks later, the editor called. She said she liked the first 100 pages, but then lost interest. "Good luck," she said. "Be sure to show it to me if you rewrite it." Ouch.

Setbacks and Breakthroughs.
For three weeks, I was too discouraged to write. When my son told me to get a job like a normal mom, I went back to the computer with new resolve. For the next two months I edited and polished, working fourteen hours a day. Then it hit me. Maybe this was the big thing those psychics had predicted. I finished the book with new confidence. If two independent psychics predicted it, how wrong could they be? With my second draft complete, I needed an agent. Agents can be as tough to get as publishers. But the stars aligned in my favor. I mentioned to our babysitter that I had written a book called Telling Tales Out of School. "Oh, I know an agent. Do you want me to call her for you?" "Absolutely," I said. Even though our babysitter had not talked to this woman in ten years, she got her number from directory assistance and dialed her immediately.The agent told me she wasn't taking new clients, but she'd read the book and give me advice. A week later, she called to say she loved it. Could she represent me?

You Never Know Who Can Help.
Meanwhile, my husband mentioned that a couple we had recently met and were traveling with to the World Track and Field Championships both worked in publishing, but he had no clue what they did. Still, he offered to call them for me to see if they could help. The next day, he asked, "have you heard of a book called The Devil Wears Prada?" "Sure," I told him. It turned out that Stacy Creamer, one of our traveling companions, worked at Random House at the time and was the editor of that book. As a favor, she agreed to read my manuscript. At the track meet, I asked her if she liked it. She apologized, saying she hadn't had time to read it. I figured she must have hated it but didn't want to tell me and ruin our vacation. By the way, that's a picture of Stacey winning a race. Besides being a book publisher, wife, mother and talented artist, she's a world class athlete who runs triathlons ever weekend - not an inch of fat on her. But I digress.

The Most Exciting Day Ever!
We came back to New York on a Friday. The next Monday morning, I received an e-mail from Stacy. "Karen, I read the book over the weekend. Love it and want to publish it! My screams of joy could be heard all the way in Harlem (and I lived downtown). I called my agent to tell her the good news. She alerted the other editors to whom she had already submitted the book that an offer was coming. By evening, we had three other offers. An auction was held that went on for three days. The book was sold to Viking. They later changed the name of the book to The Ivy Chronicles. I got my picture in Publisher's Weekly! Let me tell you, this was way more exciting than hawking credit cards and defending financial futures funds (whatever those are).

Then Hollywood Called.
Before The Ivy Chronicles was even published, my agent sent it to a CAA agent she knew in Hollywood who gave it to Catherine Zeta Jones. Catherine absolutely loved it and wanted to play Ivy. Now, if you read the book, you'll agree that Catherine Zeta Jones is the last person you could ever imagine in the role of Ivy, but I wasn't going to complain. Catherine took the property (in Hollywood that's what they call it) to Jerry Weintraub (Ocean's 11, 12, 13). He agreed to produce and got Warner Brothers on board. A very good script was written (I thought). After Catherine read it, she said she thought she was too young to play the role of Ivy and dropped out. She had two kids at the time and was married to Michael Douglas. Too young? I think not. Warner Brothers brought in two new script writers who started all over again. They wrote a screenplay that, again, I thought was excellent. Next thing I knew, Sarah Jessica Parker was on board to play Ivy. Yay! I love her and think she's perfect for the role. For the third time, a new screenwriter was brought in - Aline Brosh McKenna, who wrote the screenplay for The Devil Wears Prada. Do you see how my life has gone full circle here? Aline wrote yet another script and now, well, that's where we are now. All I can say is that I'm emitting positive energy to the universe (ala The Secret) so that the movie gets made, but only the Hollywood Gods know for sure (and they're very fickle from what I've seen so far). I'll keep you posted.

Richard and Judy.
The other exciting thing that happened with The Ivy Chronicles release was that Richard and Judy picked it for a summer read. Who is Richard and Judy, you ask? Obviously you aren't from the UK. Why, they are the Oprah of the UK! When Richard and Judy pick your book, it becomes an automatic bestseller. Every bookstore from London to Limerick puts your book in the window with a "Richard and Judy Pick sticker" on it! Richard and Judy do a big show segment about your book (the segment is posted in my Media section). Ivy became a big bestseller there, which gave me a wonderful audience in that part of the world. If you go to my website ( you can see my segment on Richard and Judy. It's really adorable the way they do things in England!

Post Ivy Chronicles.
After Ivy was sold, I went out and bought every book on "how to write a book" that was ever written. I decided that if I was going to do this for a living, I should learn more about the craft. I also joined a writing group, which I recommend to anyone who wants to write. In the years after Ivy was published, I wrote three more novels - Wife in the Fast Lane, Holly Would Dream, and The Sister Diaries. Holly Would Dream is my personal favorite among those three. It's about a woman who wishes her life could be like an Audrey Hepburn movie (who doesn't, right?). At first, it doesn't resemble one in the least, but by the end, she's living her Audrey Hepburn - Cary Grant dream. This book combines three things I love: Old movies, fashion history, and cruising. Yes, I adore cruising. Don't judge me for this. The book has been optioned to be made into a movie and the screenwriter is typing away as we speak. I'm an executive producer, which means (hopefully) they'll listen to me when I try to cast my first born in the role of Denis King's bratty teenage daughter. What we won't do to help our kids, right?

Testing For Kindergarten.
Have you ever heard the expression, "It was a book I had in me?" Actually, I may have just made that up. Anyway, I had two books in me. The Ivy Chronicles and Testing For Kindergarten. These were two books that I feel I was meant to write. It was a pleasure to write both and the words flowed through my fingertips as if I were taking dictation from the Big Writing Kahuna in the Sky. I wanted to explore the absurd side of kindergarten admissions in New York City, and I did that with Ivy. There were so many funny moments when I worked at Smart City Kids, and they all found a place in the book. I also wanted to be sure that everything I discovered about helping children get ready for testing didn't simply vanish because I left my company. The information that I gathered and lessons I learned teaching Sam and other children were too valuable not to document and pass on to other parents. So I did that with Testing For Kindergarten. My other three books were also a pleasure to write, but they weren't quite as easy and natural to produce as these two.

At this point, I don't know what I'll write next, but I do know that I want to spend time blogging at The Baby Ivy Chronicles blog. I love this subject and want to continue to learn and write about it. Plus, I like the idea of writing and having parents write back to me, even if they disagree.

For the last twenty + years, I lived in New York City with my husband, Mark. We have two children, Schuyler and Sam, two cats, Smokey and Cookie, and two Pomeranians, Olive and Bronco. We recently moved to Miami Beach and now I'm living 33 floors high overlooking the ocean. I hope you'll visit my website at Contact me anytime at, at facebook -, or via twitter at Karenquinnnyc. I would love to hear from you.

Customer Reviews

This book was very well written.
A. Vegan
I felt like slapping her to her senses at many points through the book.
Real Name
We both thought it was a very fun laugh out loud book.
Library Lady

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Tina on February 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I know that I should hate this book. Ivy is shallow, shallow but she somehow manages to attract love and attention by EVERYONE in her surroundings. She is a minimal mother (at best), she is manipulative and a liar.

Yet, I enjoyed this book. I think this book is just so over the top that its enjoyable. I laughed in a few spots and basically just enjoyed this thing.

Who knew?

Is it great lit? NOPE, but if you are looking for a lightweight but fun read, buy this.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Barb M on December 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
I usually "have" to finish even books I don't like - but I got about two thirds through this one and just couldn't take any more. The premise was amusing and the beginning of the book held a lot of promise. But it just got dumber and dumber until I finally bailed out and couldn't slog through the last 100 pages. I can see why it is compared to "Nanny Diaries" but it doesn't even come close in quality. Don't waste your time - there are way too many great books out there!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tonya Speelman VINE VOICE on November 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Well these parents top it all! They lie, cheat, threaten, bribe, and the list goes on! Not only are the parents doing it, but Ivy who has had the worst luck with her job and husband and needs money to support her own children is involved.

Although I do agree she didn't redeem herself fully, this book was entertaining and laughable. I don't live like them, so I have no clue about that kind of lifestyle. It seems none of them appreciate what they have, or realize that these are CHILDREN but it was entertaining and I did enjoy it. Isn't that what a book is sometimes? Away from the world, a place to escape and fantasize?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lois Lain VINE VOICE on November 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
It's been a long time since I've disliked a protagonist as much as I hated Ivy Ames. While the premise of the book was intriguing (an insider's view into the cut-throat world of the Manhattan elite), my antipathy for Ivy overroad any hopes of my giving this book a good review.

She continually baffled me with her amoral stance and her ability to turn everything into a one-woman whine-fest. There was almost no one to cheer for, save some of the stereotypical "underclass" children. I almost quit reading several times, but somehow convinced myself to carry on.

It's unfortunate, because Quinn is a talented writer. She just needs to work on creating some likable characters -- maybe some with morals.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on January 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
I read this book for my book club because it was supposed to be funny. It isn't. The author couldn't get me to care about anybody in the story. I'd never read another book by this author, and I read a lot. For a really funny book with a much better plot and sympathetic characters, read The Undomesticated Goddess by Sophie Kinsella.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Feminist Reader on August 31, 2009
Format: Paperback
I could tell you things about unrealistic plot and characters, and they would be true, but here are the things that really made me stop reading.
1. Page two, main character explaining why she doesn't make her unemployed husband get the kids ready for school: "Plus, let's face it, wha man takes charge of the morning marathon?" This is a GREAT formula for ensuring that men will continue to not do their share of the child-rearing. Not to mention perpetuating 1950s gender roles generally.
2. There is a character named Sassy. Who is sleeping with Cadmon but married to Drayton, who works for Konrad. I could go on.
3. Page 36, final straw: A former boss is referred to as a "she-boss." Book was published in 2005, not 1955.

If you like this kind of book, I suggest that you buy something by Jennifer Weiner or Marian Keyes instead.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By readerforlife on August 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Maybe the most poorly written book I've read in a long time. Not funny. Not Involving. Not even worth wasting my time writing this review but I just found it so darn annoying!!!!! Try Charlotte Simmons (now Tom Wolfe, there's someone WHO CAN WRITE!!) Try Admissions. Try Prep. Try Private Schools for Dummies. Try to avoid this dreck.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By sreader on September 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I listened to this book on CD and found it to be tedious, shallow and nothing like I'd hoped. I found my self hating Ivy Ames and just wanting the book to end. All in all this book was not worth my time.
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