From the Publisher
“Mr. Trees demonstrates a Kingsley Amis–like ability to extract humor from the travails of his hapless hero.” New York Times
“A hilarious upstairs-downstairs story set in the absurd world of Manhattan's most elite private schools. I couldn't put it down.” Karen Quinn, author of The Ivy Chronicles
Not since Primary Colors have we come across an anonymously penned novel that so thoroughly captivated us with its clever writing and spot-on satire. Authored by a prep school insider, this sly send-up of "education" among the elite tells the story of an idealistic teacher named John Spencer (dubbed "Candide" by one of his knowing students), who becomes mired in a morass of social and academic intrigue at a prestigious Manhattan private school. Whether or not it's a true roman à clef, Academy X is smart, funny, and shrewdly observed. Speculation about the author's identity only adds to its appeal.
A conspiracy to get a rich man's daughter into Princeton ensnares an idealistic prep-school teacher. A few weeks before summer is not the easiest time to keep the students of Academy X focused on the book in front of them, which, for John Spencer's senior lit class, is Emma. Half his time is spent reminding students to refer to the titular character as Jane Austen dubbed her and not as Hollywood cast her (Gwyneth Paltrow). The rest is spent quelling class wars between the wealthy and the ultra-wealthy and more primitive fights between brains and brawn. Par for the course, John thinks, for end-of-school-year antics . . . until his most comely, most scantily clad student, Caitlyn Brie, approaches him for help. She was accepted at Wellesley, but only wait-listed at Princeton. Wellesley won't do. Pressure to write Caitlyn a second, stronger letter of recommendation rises when the head of the College Counseling Department reminds John that Caitlyn's father is a big Academy X donor. Two tickets for floor seats at a Knicks playoff game appear anonymously in John's mailbox, and since he is trying to woo Amy, a new assistant librarian, he yields. Shortly thereafter, everything unhinges: Amy may not be as innocent as John imagines . . . and neither is Caitlyn: She committed plagiarism. Determined to expose the crime, John finds himself charged with sexual harassment and bribery. He enlists a motley group to help him clear his name: a handful of loyal students, an art teacher who won't admit her boyfriend is gay and a science teacher who thinks evolutionary biology will help him find a date. Can this band take on the trustees' bank accounts, their lawyers and the shamelessly competitive Englishfaculty, who all covet the post of department head, which rightly belongs to John?Anonymously written by a Manhattan prep-school teacher, this debut aspires to social satire, but much of the humor is canned. Stick with the original, Lucky Jim.
Read an Excerpt
My world is a place where a powerful Wall Street broker is willing to manipulate the stock market on behalf of people still using sippy cups, so I think it is safe to say that it is a world where things have gone awry. I am part of an elaborate system designed to ensure that children end up in the right nursery school so that they can attend the right elementary schools so that they can gain entrance to the high school Ivy League so that they can win admission to the actual Ivy League. What happens after that seems to be superfluous.