Accelerated

( 2 )

Overview

In a striking debut novel, a single father and his son discover what lies beneath the gilded façade of a tony Upper East Side private school: an endemic of over-medicated children.Every afternoon Sean Benning picks up his son, Toby, on the marble steps that lead into the prestigious Bradley School. Everything at Bradley is accelerated—3rd graders read at the 6th grade level, they have labs and facilities to rival most universities, and the chess champions are the bullies. A single dad and struggling artist, Sean ...

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Accelerated: A Novel

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Overview

In a striking debut novel, a single father and his son discover what lies beneath the gilded façade of a tony Upper East Side private school: an endemic of over-medicated children.Every afternoon Sean Benning picks up his son, Toby, on the marble steps that lead into the prestigious Bradley School. Everything at Bradley is accelerated—3rd graders read at the 6th grade level, they have labs and facilities to rival most universities, and the chess champions are the bullies. A single dad and struggling artist, Sean sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the power-soccer-mom cliques and ladies-who-lunch that congregate on the steps every afternoon. But at least Toby is thriving and getting the best education money can buy. Or is he? When Sea starts getting pressure from the school to put Toby on medication for ADD, something smells fishy, and it isn't the caviar that was served at last week's PTA meeting. Toby's "issues" in school seem, to Sean, to be nothing more than normal behavior for an eight-year-old boy. But maybe Sean just isn't seeing things clearly, which has been harder and harder to do since Toby's new teacher, Jess, started at Bradley. And the school has Toby's best interests at heart, right? But what happens when the pressure to not just keep up, but to exceed, takes hold? When things take a tragic turn, Sean realizes that the price of this accelerated life is higher than he could have ever imagined.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
All Sean Benning wants is for his eight-year-old son, Toby, to be happy. But competition is cutthroat at Manhattan’s fictional Bradley School, and single dad and struggling artist Sean doesn’t fit the Bradley helicopter parent mold. In Hruska’s witty, piercingly relevant debut novel, she pulls back the curtain on the lengths to which people will go to produce successful children. After his wife leaves the family abruptly, Sean becomes Toby’s sole caregiver, while juggling his day job at a celebrity tabloid and his own pursuit of art. Not only is he the odd man out financially (his in-laws pay the tuition) but when the school suggests that Toby, whose behavior is “becoming an issue,” should be medicated, Sean learns that he’s one of the few parents with a child not on drugs. Though Toby seems normally exuberant for his age, Sean is unnerved by the pressure exerted by Bradley and digs deeper into the use of Ritalin with the help of a sympathetic teacher. When tragedy befalls one of Toby’s classmates, Sean becomes even more determined to uncover the reasons behind the medicating of the student body. Hruska perfectly captures the prep school milieu that crackles with rumors, money, and the hunger for success, while creating a wholly sympathetic father-son relationship that ranks love over Ivy League potential. Agent: Stephanie Abou, Foundry Literary + Media. (Oct.)
A.M. Homes
“What starts off as an entertaining romp through the world of privileged parents and private schools, spins itself into a harrowing tale. A deftly, unexpectedly terrifying first novel.”
Jennifer Belle
“A fast-paced, crystal-clear, and funny exploration of a subject that, thanks to Hruska, can finally be openlytalked about. A kind ofKramer v. KramermeetsErin Brokovichin a dark dystopia with babypharmaceuticals packed in lunch boxes set in the most treacherous world there is: New York City privateschools.”
Madison Smartt Bell
“A smart, sexy thriller balanced on top of a real-life horror story: the irresponsible over-medication of our children by our schools.”
Randy Susan Meyers
“Page turning, socially compelling, and ringing with truth. layered between the stories of a private school over-medicating their students, celebrity journalism, and a crumbling marriage, lays the tender love of a father for his son.”
A. M. Homes
“What starts off as an entertaining romp through the world of privileged parents and private schools, spins itself into a harrowing tale. A deftly, unexpectedly terrifying first novel.”
Library Journal
Grueling admissions process, exorbitant tuition, and genius classmates. Welcome to Bradley, the Upper East Side school where Sean Benning's eight-year-old son is getting the best education Sean's father-in-law can buy. Sean works a tabloid job and neglects his art to be a good father to Toby, especially since his wife left abruptly at the start of the school year. The more Sean is pressured by the school to put the struggling Toby on medication to control his behavior, the more uneasy he feels about Toby's (and his own) ability to keep up with this group of impossibly wealthy New Yorkers. Out of Sean's concern for his son, anger at his wife's abandonment, admiration of Toby's new teacher, and a couple of traumatic, eye-opening events, the debut author has woven an engagingly believable narrative with just the right amount of snark. VERDICT This compelling story of high-pressure early academics in Manhattan will appeal to readers of Tom Perrotta, Jennifer Haigh, and other authors whose novels about families in a particular segment of society illuminate the larger human condition. [Hruska is the publisher of Soho Press—Ed.]—Laurie A. Cavanaugh, Wareham Free Lib., MA
Kirkus Reviews
A debut novel from Hruska, publisher of Soho Press. The author begins with Sean Benning. Sean's wife, Ellie, has walked out. He's raising their only child, 8-year-old Toby. Toby is a student at the famous Bradley School, where everyone who is anyone has matriculated. Once a legacy school for the rich, it has grown into a legacy school for the rich with a few token minorities (Ellie's parents, wealthy alumni, pay Toby's exorbitant tuition). Sean is an artist, not quite starving, with a rent-controlled two-bedroom on NYC's West Side. He has a day job at Buzz, a tabloid devoted to celebrity anatomy. Gino, paparazzo extraordinaire, is on speed dial. At a visit to Bradley, we witness humorless school psychologist Bev Shineman pursing Sean with missionary zeal, preaching the gospel of ADHD. During the same visit, Sean meets and falls hard for Toby's new teacher, Jessica "Jess" Harper. He and Jess discover Calvin, a student from Toby's class, in the stairwell. The convulsing child, apparently the victim of a peanut allergy, is the accelerant that ignites young love. Insecure about his single-parenting skills, Sean succumbs to the relentless Bev, visits an expensive psychiatrist, the diagnosis a fait accompli. What form will the inevitable complications take? Will trouble come from Bev or from the smooth-talking Walt Renard, a graduate of Bradley who remains involved in the school; or from Rick, Sean's loudmouth boss? What will be Sean's exit strategy from his marriage? Will his show at the prestigious Burdot gallery allow him to escape the numbing Buzz? Will Jess return to her fiance? Tune in and see. Though Hruska has a soft touch with characterization, this book does not have sufficient velocity to escape from predictability.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605983790
  • Publisher: Pegasus
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 814,195
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Bronwen Hruska,the publisher of Soho Press, has worked as a journalist and screenwriter fortwenty years. Her articles have appeared intheNew York Times,theLos Angeles Times,MoreMagazine,Entertainment Weekly,Cosmopolitan,theVillage Voice,andtheSan FranciscoChronicle.She has sold an original screenplay to Columbia Pictures and an original televisionpilots to NBC, CBS, Lifetime, and Sony television. She lives in Manhattan with her two sons.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    Recommend.

    Everyone can and should learn more about how our schools are encouraging the use of (and the results of use of) ritalin by our young children. The author of Accelerated, Bronwen Hruska, does a very good job of making the reader aware of the dangers.

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  • Posted October 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Drug Problem

    Once the reader gets past and accepts the initial premise of this novel, that there is an almost universal conspiracy to boost children’s learning power by declaring them victims of ADD or ADHD and prescribing Ritalin or similar drugs, then it becomes a heart-warming story. Sean Benn, a single father (the result of his wife’s abandoning him and their young son, Toby), is pressured to dose the boy, against his better judgment, after having refused for quite some time,

    It should be noted that Toby’s best friend had gone into a coma and died. The school told everyone it was the result of a peanut allergy. Shortly afterward, Toby fell during PT, suffering from an arrhythmia, and ended up in the hospital, comatose. From that point the plot takes off in dramatic fashion.

    Certainly the novel’s raison d’etre is a significant topic. When over-medication is routinely used to force students to accelerate their ability to learn, something is wrong. So exposure is warranted. But to raise the possibility that this technique is so widespread across the country, aided and abetted by pharmaceutical companies, while worrisome, is kind of hard to believe. But maybe such exaggeration is needed to make the point. And perhaps “worrisome” is required as well. Written with a smooth hand and tightly plotted, the book is recommended.

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