This is the first of two reviews and giveaways in 5 Minutes for Books. Scroll down or click here for the second one.
I love novels with a strong sense of place. Dangerous Admissions has one. Set in Manhattan, I could see the side streets and apartment buildings and coffee shops and bars that the characters frequent. Set in an exclusive private prep school, I could easily imagine the teenagers who probably look more sloppy than sophisticated, and the old dark campus buildings. The characters resonate: a teen boy with not much on his mind other than his secret crush; a headmaster who is beloved by some and hated by others (who just happens to turn up dead); a single mom, displaced from her job, looking for another while she plays amateur detective while she works her part-time job on campus; a recent grad who is struggling to make it on the outside; and a rich, eccentric, brusque yet caring old woman.
How does author Jane O’Connor paint this landscape so well? She’s been there.
“My sons each spent 13 years at a very high-powered place, and so twice my husband and I suffered through the process of applying,” O’Connor explains. “Of course, it was our kids, not us, who were actually applying, but the angst involved as parents often made it feel as if we were the ones waiting for the proverbial fat envelopes. One day, an idea for a mystery just popped into my head. The story would revolve around nasty doings at a New York private school where the seniors are all vying for slots at the same ivy-covered places.”
High-powered private schools provide a setting full of excesses and as exotic to most readers as the tribal customs of the Maori. “I think it’s beyond awful how competitive the process of getting into college has become,” explains O’Connor. “Kids don’t get to enjoy being dumb teenagers, and high school is ruined for them because by eighth grade they are already obsessing and have their eye on the ivy-covered prize.”
Dangerous Admissions is Jane O’Connor’s first novel for adults, after writing the successful Fancy Nancy books for children. O’Connor has switched her focus without a hitch. The privileged prep school high school students are characterized so well that this book would resonate with young adult readers as well (in the modern, very explicit genre that Young Adult often is today). This book does contain mature themes and language.