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2002's THE NANNY DIARIES cast a satirical eye on Manhattan parents
and their cavalier attitudes toward their preschool children. Now,
with her debut novel ADMISSIONS, Nancy Lieberman skewers the
private school admissions process that is a rite of passage for a
certain class of New Yorkers.

Helen Drager is the head of the Parents Committee at The School, an
exclusive K-8 school where her daughter Zoe is an eighth grader.
Helen's best friend, Sara, is The School's admissions director, and
as such is a pro at weathering the annual deluge of phone calls and
letters from anxious parents eager to make sure their four-year-old
aces the KAT (Kindergarten Admissions Test) and nabs one of the few
spots in next year's kindergarten class.

Helen is about to need all of Sara's advice --- and more --- as she
and her husband Michael prepare to enter their own admissions
battle: to snag Zoe a spot at one of Manhattan's top private high
schools. Helen and Michael are sensible, down-to-earth people, and
Zoe is a likeable kid, but the cutthroat world of private school
admissions is enough to turn anyone a little crazy. Soon enough,
Michael is promising the head of The Fancy Girls' School her own
cooking show on the cable network where he works, and he's engaging
in NBA trivia with the head of The Quasi Country Day School in the
hopes that his knowledge of the Knicks will be enough to get Zoe in
the door.

Helen's friend Sara has her own problems. Besides being inundated
with calls and letters from stressed out parents, booking school
tours for overscheduled preschoolers, and trying to have a
semblance of a social life, she's being given the cold shoulder by
her boss, Pamela. Ever since Sara hinted that she might like to be
the head of the school someday, Pamela has refused to speak to her.
Sara soon discovers that Pamela might be hiding more than just
where she spends her afternoons, though…

Although ADMISSIONS is a comedic novel, it does have a serious
point. The Dragers are a fairly normal family (at least as normal
as people can be when they have that much money to spend on
schooling), and it's easy to sympathize with their desire to have
the best for their daughter. The countless other families who are
used merely as the fodder for satire, though, sometimes go to
extremes: "the LD, ADHD, HIV-positive son of the type A, hepatitis
B, Vitamin D-deficient trustee married to the CPA with TMJ and
chronic PMS." After 300+ pages of examples like this, the parents'
endless neuroses and the children's myriad insecurities start to
wear a little thin; some judicious editing could have cut out some
extraneous material and kept the book more closely focused.

The primary audience of ADMISSIONS is a little hard to figure out.
If Lieberman is targeting New York parents, her sharp observations
might cut a little too close to the bone. Maybe she's aiming at
those of us far from the Big Apple, who can rejoice in our own good
public schools and laugh freely at the foibles of those privileged
but pressured Manhattanites.


Reviewed by Norah Piehl on December 22, 2010

by Nancy Lieberman

  • Publication Date: September 15, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books
  • ISBN-10: 0446533033
  • ISBN-13: 9780446533034