Thursday, July 31, 2008

Schooled: Book Review by ChristineMM

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Summary: Entertaining Escape Read, Similar to The Devil Wears Prada But About Elite Private Schools

Title: Schooled: a Novel
Author: Anisha Lakhani
Genre: fiction for adults
Publication: Hyperion Books, August 2008
Format: Hardcover book
Price: $23.95

How this book came to me: I received a pre-publication advance reading copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program. Although I read little fiction for adults the subject intrigued me and I thought it might make light and entertaining summer escape reading.

Schooled is being marketed by the publisher as being in the tradition of The Nanny Diaries but I felt that it more closely resembled The Devil Wears Prada. I liked both of those books but felt that The Nanny Diaries was much more serious and emotional than Devil and Schooled.

This book is about a former wallflower and book mouse, who was highly pressured by her parents to attain top grades in public school. She has never worked, having the luck of having parents who paid her way through the Ivy League college she has just graduated from (after much hard work and again no social life). Her lofty goal is to change the world and open the doors of the love of learning by being a middle school teacher. Neither her family nor friends support her decision to enter the profession of teaching, for the sole reason as the job pays too small of an income. Thrilled to have received a job at one of the elite private schools in Manhattan, this eager teacher soon learns that the private school world is very different than she ever imagined.

It seemed to me the book’s title should have been Tutor or Tutored as the focus of the book’s focus is on the private tutoring that takes place with the wealthy Manhattan private schooled students. Oddly, the private school teachers in this book make 75% less than the entry pay for public school teachers and they can barely pay their rent and eat. Some of the teachers turn to tutoring and at one point the teacher in this book is pulling in $2500 by moonlighting in one day, and even earning $10K a week during Christmas vacation. Lest you worry that the tutors will not earn anything in the summer, don’t worry, they work through the summer tutoring in the Hamptons.

Note that another novel was published in 2007 titled Schooled, by Gordon Korman, in the Young Adult fiction genre. The two identical titles were surprising to me.

Schooled was indeed light reading and a fun escape read, perfect for summer pleasure reading. If done right, the book would also make an entertaining movie.

The best part of the book was that what the public thinks is happening based on surface observations of the elite private schools filled with very intelligent students who actually want to learn and become educated is revealed to be far from the truth. The students are basically slackers whose parents are willing to pay any price to get tutors to do their homework for their students so they earn very good grades and hopefully ensure their admittance to an Ivy League college. The lifestyle of the families and parents is so over the top that it is entertaining, as is the way the private school teachers and administrators play games to keep the parents happy. I know that there is truth to the fact that some or many parent’s ideas of what their children are like is far from reality—I have worked with children and parents enough to have seen that many times over, although in real life it can be a downer to see when reading about it in a novel it was funny. To what extent all of these things are true of Manhattan’s private schools, I do not know, but the book is fun reading! Per Amazon policy I can’t give spoilers so I can’t share much more.

I found the book to be a page-turner and I was dying to know how it wrapped up and what was going to happen in the end.

I’m rating the book four stars because the super low salary was just too ridiculous to believe. In real life this character could have gone an hour east to work at a Fairfield County, Connecticut public school where there are always openings, earning starting salaries of 300% more than this character was offered at that private school. After earning a master’s degree by attending night and/or summer school a public school teacher can jump their salary up quickly, and numerous teachers in my town make over $80K per year, not bad, certainly not necessary to live in a cockroach infested hole of an apartment living off eating Ramon Noodles and having to moonlight to just pay the utilities. Frankly I’m sick of hearing the old ‘teachers get paid nothing’ and ‘people don’t think teaching is a noble job’ spiels.

The author also blames the tutor ‘necessity’ on too much homework and too-little in-class teaching another common accusation made by the public of school teachers resulting in the yet more disrespect for the teaching profession. The attitude taken toward over-emphasizing learning styles and the negative portrayal of learning disabilities was bothersome if I stopped to think about what was really being said. Lastly the main character’s drastic change from being the kind of teacher she wanted to be into making wads of cash and blowing thousands on one pocketbook and other designer clothing week after week virtually overnight, was too abrupt to be believable.

If I stop to think and analyze this book as I’ve done to write this review, I start to dislike it—so I’ll stop. I enjoyed the book because it was a light escape read. If this topic and books like The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada were up your alley, I think you’ll love this book. I can only hope that if this is made into a movie that the director will do it justice and it will end up a funny movie.

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Natalie said...

I rarely read adult fiction, but I may have to get this book. Do you think Schooled would be a suitable selection for a book club of homeschooling moms?

Thank you for submitting this to the CoH: Not Back to School Edition.

Patricia said...

Thanks for the review. I'll put it on my list.

christinemm said...

Hi Natalie,
Thanks for leaving a comment on my book review.

I don't think there is a lot to discuss unless you want to discuss the ethics of having tutors do the work for students. Or parents who are more focused on getting their kid into an Ivy League school at any cost.

If you liked The Devil Wears Prada then this is up your alley. If that type of book is not your interest then you probably won't like this...