Fredericks (The True Meaning of Cleavage) weaves together the experiences of four juniors who are in the throes of preparing for the SATs: Max, an intelligent test-taker and gifted writer with his sights set on Columbia; Daisy, his best friend, a popular basketball star who freezes up at test time; Leo, a hottie and a skilled tester but with no extracurriculars to his credit (thus he yearns for "the perfect score" to ensure entry to Yale); and Jane, daughter of a movie star with average scores and little idea of what she wants to do. The quartet comes together in an SAT prep course, when the teacher can't find the test booklets, and Daisy suggests they walk out. Through a first-person narrative that shifts among the four, the author convincingly portrays each character's motive for leaving the class, and for accepting Jane's invitation to study at her house. They gradually improve their scores over the course of their weekly meetings. Meanwhile, Max finally summons the courage to tell Daisy that he feels more than friendship for her, just as Leo begins calling Daisy at home. And when a brilliant senior admits that she was paid to take the SATs for someone in their class, suspicion causes the narrators to turn on one another. Even more than the mystery, teens will be intrigued by the philosophical discussion these four characters bring to light regarding what it means to be judged by standardized test scores. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Following four high school juniors through the endless struggle of growing up, Crunch Time by Mariah Fredericks is a novel many students will relate to. Delving deep into the issues of friendship, relationships, failure, parents, and fear, this novel depicts the world of high-stakes testing and pressure to succeed in a refreshing, entertaining way. Crunch Time stands as a snippet of high school life, including the dramas and scandals typical in most schools today. Fredericks creates this high-stress world by giving first-person accounts of the four very different main characters who met by skipping a SAT prep course together. The characters tell their side of the story in their own unique voices, so readers know what's going on far before the characters do. This out-of-the-ordinary perspective allows for more suspense, insight, and connection as readers sympathize and relate to each specific character's personality and situation.
Junior year, competitive schools, SATs, and a guidance counselor's power plays: these all adds up to crunch time, as any high school student knows. The four students Fredericks creates for her readers are each complex individuals, evading stereotypes. They share a rebellion (for various reasons) against the costly SAT prep course, and form a study group of their own. Fredericks returns to the milieu she does so well, the NYC private school, and she tells the story in the four voices of her main characters: Jane, Leo, Daisy and Max. Daisy and Max are already good friends, and Max has a crush on Daisy, but she gets interested in Leo as time goes on. Leo is selfishly ambitious and has a drinking problem. He is highly competitive with Max, but true to high school standards, Max suffers in comparison because he is short and not so handsome. Then there is Jane, a different sort of heroine, and the strangest. Her mother is a famous movie star, and Jane shares her mother's glamorous looks, but she is friendless and lonely. She is the character who is the most enigmatic. Their foursome proceeds towards the fateful day of the SATs. Daisy, who started as the weakest among them, with the help of the others improves her skills dramatically. So, when it is discovered that someone in their class paid a senior to take the test in their stead, Daisy is a prime suspect, since her scores are much higher than expected. But then, Leo seems to have few scruples and everyone knows how aggressively competitive he is--perhaps he is the guilty one. The mystery and tension surrounding the suspicion focus on how serious some people are about the SATs. When we discover the guilty one, Fredericks offers a real zinger,which perhaps will help her readers put crunch time into the proper perspective. The four characters are reflective, intelligent, and interesting, and she makes their thoughts and conversations flow naturally with her skillful writing. KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, Simon & Schuster, Atheneum, 317p., Ages 12 to 18.
When the SAT prep teacher is late, an unlikely foursome creates their own study group: Daisy, a popular girl who performs well on the basketball court but poorly on tests; Daisy's best friend, Max, a bright student and promising journalist secretly in love with Daisy; Jane, the beautiful but insecure daughter of a famous actress; and Leo, a BP (Beautiful Person) with a bad boy reputation and a competitive drive. Over the course of the book, told in multiple narratives, their practice test scores rise and fall, as do their friendships and romances. Max finally gathers his courage and reveals his feelings to Daisy who, to his devastation, does not reciprocate. To make things even worse, Daisy gets involved with Leo, who has become Max's rival. Jane's insecurities lead her to overreact continually: thrilled when the group includes her; crushed when they don't. After the long-dreaded test is over, the heroes learn their scoresand the school learns that someone cheated. A witch hunt ensues and two of the key suspects are Daisy, whose hard-earned scores were much higher than those on her practice test, and Leo. Things get ugly as the friends begin to doubt and distrust each other. When the cheater reveals his or her identity, it is no great shock (the author gave enough clues), but it is believable. Fredericks has created a highly readable page-turner with three-dimensional characters and relevant issues. This is an excellent choice for all high school readers. 2006, Richard Jackson/Atheneum, Ages 14 to 17.
Gr 9 Up-After skipping out of an SAT prep class, juniors Leo, Daisy, Max, and Jane agree to meet regularly at Jane's apartment for their own study group. They all work hard, seem to improve their test-taking skills, and forge friendships in the process. Soon, Max reveals to best friend Daisy that he wants more than friendship from her. Daisy, however, falls hard for Leo, who appears to fall back but doesn't know how to be devoted in a relationship, especially when he is drinking. Jane is the rich, beautiful wallflower whom Max could ask out if the idea occurred to him. After the SAT, a senior high scorer confesses that she was paid to take the exam for someone else. The whole school is in an uproar as the senior refuses to disclose the cheater's name. When two members of the study group are among the suspects, things begin to unravel. The extreme preoccupation with the SAT and getting into good colleges becomes somewhat weighty during the course of the novel and some of the plot elements test believability. However, because it is, for the most part, insightfully told from the various viewpoints of the four main characters in short, quick-moving segments with true-to-life dialogue, the story is redeemed. Readers will wonder what will happen to the friends as they embark on senior year at the conclusion.-Diane P. Tuccillo, City of Mesa Library, AZ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Four juniors, who attend the same Manhattan private high school, find themselves in an SAT review class and, at the sight of a flaky instructor, decide to skip out to form their own study group. In alternating voices, the four relate a story that's not big on plot but large on interior thinking. At first the author seems workmanlike in her storytelling, steadily building to a crisis involving the four, but she supplies enough subtext to keep readers amused and guessing about characters until the central conflict unfolds: Someone has cheated on the SATs and somehow one of the four is involved. Fredricks is particularly adept at carrying the narrative line chronologically through the alternating perspectives of the four teens. Speakers change without missing a beat. Readers might be confused initially between the two boys (Max and Leo) and the two girls (Jane and Daisy), but personalities quickly emerge and diverge into individual belief systems yearning to be formed, with plenty of personal inner demons to help that along. College-bound readers will find this page-turner immediately absorbing; it might amuse all high schoolers who are about to or have already participated in this American rite of passage. (Fiction. 12+)