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Acceptance is a satire of America's overachievers, a novel set over one year in the college application process, when students and parents surrender their evenings, their weekends, and their sanity to the race for admission. Maya, Taylor, and "AP" Harry (so named for all the advanced placement courses under his belt) are high school students in a Washington, D.C. suburb called Verona, each gunning for admission to the most prestigious colleges. Olivia is an overworked admissions officer, under siege from ...

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Acceptance is a satire of America's overachievers, a novel set over one year in the college application process, when students and parents surrender their evenings, their weekends, and their sanity to the race for admission. Maya, Taylor, and "AP" Harry (so named for all the advanced placement courses under his belt) are high school students in a Washington, D.C. suburb called Verona, each gunning for admission to the most prestigious colleges. Olivia is an overworked admissions officer, under siege from applications and every kind of desperate appeal. The application process threatens to overrun all of their lives, and Acceptance follows each character's struggle for their sanity against the relentless pressure of competition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Bristles with enough wit and ambition to earn honors."—Entertainment Weekly

"If your teen is among the thousands of high school seniors anxiously awaiting their college acceptance letters, Coll's witty satire of the admissions process will provide both of you with some much-needed comic relief."—Life magazine

"Hilarious and dismaying."—George F. Will, Newsweek

"Coll's tale of the harrowing days of college admission is spot-on."—People

"Skillfully executed . . . a winning social comedy . . . Captures the reasoned irrationality of teens . . . It will prove a winning combination for readers who are in the throes of the rejection letter hype."—USA Today

"Coll neatly captures the irony and humor of an era in which colleges peddle to junior high kids and Saturdays are all about SAT prep."—The Christian Science Monitor

Publishers Weekly
Coll (; Rockville Pike) sends up college admissions in an overstuffed social comedy. The novel tracks three juniors-going-on-seniors as they and their families run the gauntlet of SATs, admissions essays, campus tours and rejection letters. It begins with AP Harry (named for the large number of advanced placement courses he takes) and his mother visiting Yates College, a ramshackle school enjoying popularity after U.S. News & World Report erroneously put it on its list of top schools. Also on campus are Harry's classmates Maya Kaluantharana, who'd rather swim laps than prowl library stacks, and Taylor Rockefeller, whose sole criterion for a college is having a private bathroom in her dorm room. As the months tick by and the students wait for acceptance letters, the book meanders through career maneuvering and faculty bed-hopping at Yates, a lawsuit brought against Yates, Harry's obsession with Harvard and Taylor's mother realizing the cause of her daughter's ambivalence toward college. The narrative is heavily peppered with contemporary miscellany (Hurricane Katrina, echoes of the Larry Summers controversy, Facebook, disputes about the SAT's importance), though the mentions often seem like afterthoughts. The surfeit of characters and narrative side trips creates a few pacing logjams, but Coll's deadpan wit and sympathy for her characters are more than redeeming. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT - Nola Theiss
Applying to and getting into college has turned into a deadly serious business for some students and their parents, but Susan Coll manages to make it funny and sometimes poignantly sad in her novel. The characters she describes—AP Harry, Taylor Rockefeller and Maya Kaluantharana, neighbors in an upscale Washington suburb—each react differently to the pressure exerted by their parents, teachers, counselors, peers and, most importantly, themselves as they live through April of their junior year to March of their senior year, by which time their fate is sealed along with their acceptance/deferral/rejection letters. Harry has lived his whole life with the goal of Harvard acceptance ruling his actions; Taylor's erratic mother is more obsessed with her daughter's future than she is; and Maya, as the fourth child of overachieving parents and siblings, must figure out for herself what she really wants and whether the school she chooses or that chooses her is going to really make the difference. Coll also tells the story through the eyes of an admissions dean at a small upstate New York college and reveals the politics and pressure from her point of view as well. Anyone who has been through, or is going through, the college admission process will find this novel hilarious at points, ridiculous at others and, most importantly, true.
Library Journal
Like Jane Smiley's Moo, this latest from Coll (Rockville Pike) is a hilarious novel about academe, following three high school students, their parents, and one dean of admissions in the year before the students' graduation. All three students are looking for the right college: Harry is driven but struggling to get into Harvard, Taylor becomes obsessed with stealing her neighbors' mail as she resists her mother's schemes to get her into a top school, and Maya tries to convince her family to let her go to a small liberal arts school even though all her siblings went the Ivy League route. Olivia, the interim dean of admissions at Yates College, which has just made the top 50 list of liberal arts colleges, works to maintain her admissions standards while under pressure from the college president to admit kids with wealthy parents. This extremely engaging story about the high-stakes, upper-middle-class world of college admissions is poised to become a popular book club selection and is recommended for most libraries.-Amy Ford, St. Mary's Cty. Lib., Lexington Park, MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal

Adult/High School
This book follows a handful of high school students throughout the year leading up to their graduation. It is a harrowing and hilarious story told from the points of view of the teens and their families as they navigate the maze leading to the holy grail of acceptance by a major university. Coll celebrates and skewers the people and the politics waged on both sides of the application process as the students pick their dream colleges and these institutions either pick them back or toss them onto the scrap heap of second- and third-tier safety schools. The characters evolve through their trials and learn about themselves and one another and accept the loss of one dream while embracing another. They include Harry, a scarily normal overachiever; Maya, the talented but seemingly least gifted of a wealthy Indian family; and Taylor, a girl teetering on the verge of self-abuse or self-discovery. These are teens who come from fairly affluent families and schools. They are treated with respect and love by the author, and readers will return the favor. YAs interested in the college selection process will find this book illuminating as they see in it their own fears acted out and resolved. It reads a bit like a Stephen King novel minus the horrific ending.
—Will MarstonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
A cheerfully pointed satire about the college-admissions process at a suburban Washington, D.C., high school where students and/or their parents have Ivy League aspirations. In the spring of their junior year, Harry, Maya and Taylor are surprised to find each other at an admissions-information session at Yates, a small upstate New York college each high-schooler assumes is below the others' expectations. Harry, better known as AP Harry, is one of those obnoxiously perfect kids who loves tests and has his heart set on Harvard. His divorced, hardworking mother, Grace, worries that Harry is too driven to excel, which is why she drags him to see Yates. Maya's not-quite-stereotypical East Asian parents expect swim-star Maya to follow her sister into the Ivies, but well-adjusted, easy-going Maya knows she is merely a good student, not exceptional. Taylor's mother, who never went to college, is desperate to have Taylor go somewhere more prestigious than Yates, but Taylor, whose relationship with her mother is prickly at best, falls in love with the school. As the admissions season progresses, Harry resents suggestions that he apply to the Univ. of Maryland as a fallback. Under pressure from her parents to raise her grades, Maya temporarily quits the swim team, but when she fills in at a meet, she breaks a state record. She is then wooed by USC, much to her parents' relief. Taylor, whose application essay is disarmingly honest, is deferred from Yates. Yates admissions officer Olivia has been overwhelmed by the surge in overqualified applicants since a technical glitch listed the mediocre school as 50th on U.S. News & World Report's list of top colleges. Bored and cynical about the process sheoversees, Olivia is moved by Taylor's application and invites her for a personal interview that ensures Taylor's acceptance. While readers will root for these kids, Coll's affection for her targets does not detract from her bite.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312426965
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 3/4/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 703,568
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Coll

Susan Coll is the author of the novels A Love Story and Rockville Pike. She lives in Washington, D.C., and she and her husband are the parents of three college-aged children.

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Read an Excerpt

"Mom, are you all right?" Harry whispered in her ear. "You look kind of funny."


"I’m great," Grace replied, managing to pat him reassuringly on the knee.


Another parent asked a question about the importance of grades versus standardized test scores, and then wondered aloud about how much weight would be given to her son’s fluency in three languages and his forthcoming summer internship at NASA. "Think of the application as a jigsaw puzzle," the tour guide said. "Grades are one piece, scores are another." He sounded bored with his own answer, as though he uttered these same words several times a day, which he no doubt did. He had been asked some version of this same question at least six times in the last thirty minutes, and the schedule indicated that there were four separate information sessions being offered that day. The interrogator in this instance—a squat, wild-haired woman in her mid-fifties who resembled one of several hermit-like, mentally unbalanced chemists in Grace’s office—was not this easily put off. She wanted numbers, percentile groups, statistics, solid granules of information to record in the red, three-ring binder balanced on her lap. Specifically, she wanted to know whether her son, the skinny, meek-looking youth sitting next to her with the same unfortunate DNA, was going to be able to use Yates University as his safety school. There was a murmur in the room, as the rest of the audience absorbed and remarked on the arrogance of this question. Her poor son slumped in his chair.

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Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about Acceptance are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Acceptance.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2013

    hate it. so boring.

    hate it. so boring.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2008

    A real page-turner!

    Acceptance shows the real college application process and is incredibly accurate with all the details. After I started my college applications, I read this book and was surprised at how they described the college tours, how to apply to colleges, and the requirements you need to enter colleges. This book is incredibly witty, clever, and smart. Susan Coll does a very good job at describing what college is really all about. I recommend this book to any teenager in high school.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2007

    A reviewer

    In her third novel, Acceptance, Susan Coll once again gives a master class in the deftest comedic story-telling. In a tale packed with wry observations and cringe-making set pieces, this is a comedy of the college admissions process that will give parents of younger children nightmares about what the future holds for them and their offspring. The applying kids Harry, Taylor and Maya are each carefully constructed characters with their own, not necessarily predictable, problems. From the broad range of parents, Grace is probably the nearest to the ¿everymom¿, valiantly trying not get swamped by the whole process. In counterbalance to these is the wonderfully cynical Olivia, who provides sober reflection on the entire education system which a lot of world-weary adults will recognize. In the hands of a lesser writer these characters might have come across as less than perfect, but in Coll¿s hands they take on a depth that adds pathos to the crackling humor. Definitely another novel by Coll to be savored and enjoyed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2007

    As a high school junior, I can relate!

    I just starting doing college tours during spring break and my mom got me this book to read while we traveled. I was amazed at how accurate most of the stuff regarding colleges was. I had just read the first chapter, regarding boring informational sessions at colleges and intense parents asking a million questions. At the first college I went to, it was exactly like that, which I thought was hilarious. Great for anyone, especially high schoolers worried about the imminent college decisions.

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