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The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids Hardcover – August 8, 2006
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More About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Alexandra Robbins's last book was Goodreads' BEST NONFICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR ("The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth" - also a Books for a Better Life winner).
Robbins was the 2014 recipient of the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism, given by the Medill School of Journalism. She also won the 2014 Donald Robinson Memorial Award for Investigative Journalism, the 2014 June Roth Award for Medical Journalism, and the 2014 Robert D.G. Lewis Watchdog Award, the top prize in the Society of Professional Journalists Washington, D.C. Dateline Awards.
Robbins has written for several publications, including The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Forbes, and regularly appears in the national media on shows such as "Oprah," "The Today Show," "60 Minutes," "The View," and "The Colbert Report." Robbins frequently lectures about her books and is currently touring. To view topics or book a lecture, please visit alexandrarobbins.com.
Top Customer Reviews
I took on too much throughout high school because my father pushed me. I interned at a biotech company, I headed three clubs at school, I took a full load of AP classes, and I missed lunch each day. I routinely stayed up all night, or slept 2 or 3 hours, to fit it all in and maintain my grades.
Red Bull was my life. Coke didn't do it anymore. Neither did coffee.
And then one day I passed out in the hallway at my house, and wound up in the hospital for two weeks with an irregular heartbeat from all the caffiene. I was so worn out, so out of shape, such a mess.
And you know what my father's first reaction was? "You're never going to get into Harvard if you're in this hospital and missing all this school!" I kicked him out of the room and cried. I thought I was dying and he was worried about Harvard.
The stories in this book are very real, and very helpful. I thought I was the only one who went through this. And the characters' stories give me hope. Thank you for writing this.
But Walt Whitman is not only a school for highly achieving, stressed-out, Ivy League strivers. It is also a school for average kids, quiet kids, goths, drug users, dope sellers, artists, devoutly religious kids, and single-pointed nerds who are the farthest thing from the polished, well-rounded, resume kings and queens portrayed in this narrative. At least, it was when I attended the school and graduated nearly twenty years ago, and to a large extent, it probably still is today.
The average students are rarely featured in the narrative, except in terms of their relationships with the overachievers, but it would have been interesting had the author focused a little more on how an elite public school like Walt Whitman shapes the expectations of its average kids.
Many of these youngsters probably benefitted from exposure to high achievers, particularly since they may have shared at least a few AP classes with them (not every AP student is a classic overachiever). But many of the average youngsters also feel the same stress that overachievers experience, along with a greater sense of inadequacy when comparing their modest achievements and SAT scores against the gold standard established by Whitman's top twenty percent. Some of the these average kids may deliberately model their academic and social behavior to contrast with the norm established by the school's dominant elite as a way of establishing their own identities, but whether this helps or harms them in the long run is a topic the author didn't get around to addressing.Read more ›
And yet I found I was very interested in what happened to these students. Alexandra Robbins (who attended this very high school and then Middlebury College and then graduate school at Yale) tells the stories from the students' perspectives. In between finding out what is motivating these teenagers, Robbins explores a host of relevant subjects: peer pressure, family pressure, No Child Left Behind, the SAT and AP exams, prescription drugs (especially Ritalin), teenage sleep patterns, college rankings, education in other countries, teen suicide rates, gap year, cheating, and more. Any of these subjects would make a compelling study on its own, but taken altogether, you begin to understand, and even sympathize with, these overprivileged students. Several of these subjects have already been excellently covered by books such as The Cheating Culture by David Callahan, My Freshman Year by Rebekah Nathan, and The Winner-Take-All Society by Robert Frank.
Obviously, The Overachievers isn't just about high school students. It's also about their parents, the schools, politics, and money. It turns out that what motivates these kids most is fear. Fear of failure, of disappointing their families and friends, of not getting a great job, of not making scads of money.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Being forced to read this book made it more of a drag but it was a solid book.Published 4 months ago by Brian Trang
I liked the story parts of the overachievers but I'm not a big fan of statistics written in books, I like charts and lists as a way to organize numbers, not in a paragraph or... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Eric Jones
"Anecdotal but not much research. Very limited to a few kids in one school"
Completely agree. Read more