Category Archives: *Student Review

Student Review: Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto (reviewed by Phoebe B.)

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory SchoolingDumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

One would think that someone who has been teaching in the public school system for 30 years would have minimal complaints about their job. John Taylor Gatto, however, has a nearly endless list of criticisms about America’s public school system in Dumbing Us Down. In this book, which is a collection of his own essays and speeches, he brings up many radical, uncommon ways to fix problems that he believes are catastrophic to students, teachers, and entire communities. Gatto is successful in opening the reader’s eyes and bringing up thought-provoking ideas, all with the aim of showing that the public education system is teaching students to function like machines. On the other hand, some of his ideas aren’t strongly backed up with quality evidence, as there are few legitimate statistics.

One example of an idea that Gatto strongly persuades readers to consider is that school is hindering the amount of family time students have. In his own words, he claims that “[Schools] separate parents and children from vital interaction with each other and from true curiosity about each other’s lives” (65). He blames the long days of school as the main reason for this, as it limits the time students spend with their families. This concept is relatable to all readers of Dumbing us Down, as it is in everyone’s interest to spend more quality time with their family, making this a successful point.

However, some of Gatto’s ideas leave the reader scratching their head. When talking about the benefits of being homeschooled, and that “…you don’t need officially certified teachers in officially certified schools to get a good education” (48), he doesn’t bring up a single statistic, whether it be about a difference in scores, social abilities, or overall satisfaction. Rather, he demolishes the idea of networks and how they “do great harm by appearing enough like real communities to create expectations that they can manage human social and psychological needs” (51). Also, he fails to mention the massive number of job losses that would occur if legitimate school systems didn’t exist, whether it be teachers, janitors, or parents who now have to educate their children full-time. A major lack of direct evidence to support some of his ideas makes this collection a less reliable source, as there are often not facts, but weakly supported opinions.

Waiting for Superman is an excellent example of the benefits of facts. The film appears to be reliable, as strong facts are thrown left and right, leaving the viewer with more confidence in agreeing with the points made. Yes, the film is like Dumbing Us Down, created based on an opinion, but the abundance of facts in Waiting for Superman provides exactly what Gatto is missing: evidence-based arguments.

Overall, Dumbing Us Down brings up many ideas on the issues of public schools, including many that are unconventional and interesting. Gatto pulls the reader in successfully with a book that immediately starts with bashing the public school system, showing what he is expected to do as a teacher and how it is harming students. Nevertheless, the arguments in his book have an aggressive tone, and his immense use of strident, unconventional opinions hang in the air, unsupported by facts or statistics, making his argument weaker. ~ Student: Phoebe B.

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Student Review: Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto (reviewed by Henry W.)

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory SchoolingDumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writer, teacher, and strong advocate of taking education and learning back from the government, John Taylor Gatto provides us with a well articulated treatise that leaves readers questioning our current school system. Gatto gives us a great review of how compulsory government schooling is just teaching the kids of America to follow orders like robots, rather than actually learn what is being taught in the school system.

Gatto describes that children are learning subjects “like they learn the catechism or memorize the Thirty-nine Articles of Anglicanism”(pg.3), sharing his view that children are learning everything the wrong way. Gatto’s solution to navigating the “tricks and traps” (pg. 104) of the school system is to get the parents of the children in these schools to teach them the things schools can’t such as being a leader, thinking critically and being able to act independently. However, bad school systems often times lead kids to fail and it’s not the kids fault but rather the schools fault. In the movie Waiting for Superman, a film about the state of public education in America, these schools are called “dropout factories”. These schools are given this nickname for the obvious reason that most of the kids who attend it end up dropping out. Like in the film, Gatto describes these compulsory school systems to be failing the kids by teaching them through the “hidden curriculum”. This destructive hidden curriculum is given by Gatto as the seven different lessons that he teaches. These lessons are confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependency, intellectual dependency, provisional self-esteem and one can’t hide. One of these lessons that really stands out is indifference. As shown in Waiting for Superman, classes can oftentimes be a huge waste of time where teachers can babble on for an hour and the students wouldn’t learn a thing, or classes can be run where the teacher feels no need to really teach anything because it simply doesn’t matter. This indifference of the importance of each individual lesson leads to students going from class not caring too much about anything. This basically means that when you switch between classes during the day, you stop caring/learning about what was in that class, and now you just learn about xyz in the next class.

Gatto also gives readers two excellent “official” ways to look at the state of education in the United States as well as how many people think we need to solve the education systems problems. Like in Waiting for Superman, Gatto correctly explains how many are blaming the failing schooling system on “bad teachers, poor textbooks, incompetent administrators, evil politicians”(pg. 85) etc, and all we need to do to fix this problem is just fire the bad teachers! Get rid of the evil politicians! However, reality is not so kind as to make it that simple. The evidence of this is clear if we all look at the large number of “industries that claim power to cure mass education of its frictions or of its demons in exchange for treasure” (pg. 85). This idea of being able to just fire a bad teacher to fix the problems of a school is shown in Waiting for Superman. One superintendent tried to do this in order to try and give his students a better education, but he was unsuccessful due to tenure. As Gatto explains, there is no “quick fix” to all of the major problems in our school system, and any change will take time and careful thought. ~ Student: Henry W.

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Student Review: Among Schoolchildren, by Tracy Kidder (reviewed by Brianna W.)

Among SchoolchildrenAmong Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Imagine being a child’s doctor, lawyer, psychologist, and teacher all before 7:30 AM. Chris Zajac does this every day. In Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder, Kidder sits in a classroom and observes Chris Zajac’s fifth grade class for an entire school year. Mrs. Zajac teaches in Holyoke Massachusetts, which at the time of the book is struggling with poverty. This book explores what it is like to teach and learn in a neighborhood where most people are living below the poverty line. These challenges are something most people have never experienced, and it opens the reader’s eyes to what it is like to teach and learn in this environment. Mrs. Zajac is an upbeat, caring teacher who does all she can for her students. While this book tackles the problem of teaching in poverty, the book can be repetitive and too detailed. Among Schoolchildren has many connections to Waiting for Superman because it is clear that Mrs. Zajac needs a saving figure to help many of these children.

Holyoke is an impoverished old mill city. Growing up in Newton, I have never experienced this type of poverty, especially not in school. However, after reading this book, I realize that perhaps there are kids like Mrs. Zajacs’, and I just don’t know about them. This situation is very similar to Waiting for Superman because many kids in the movie could not afford private school; therefore, they need to suffer in their old public schools. While the book does not talk about kids wanting to leave, the situations they are facing are similar. Kidder presents in great detail the many different children in the class and their extreme challenges, such as disobedience, disrespect, fighting, and learning disabilities. The reader feels as if he or she is actually in the classroom setting.

Showing what it is like to learn and teach in a poor area is the best aspect of the book. Kidder does an excellent job revealing how students respond to Mrs. Zajac’s positive teaching style. In describing one student’s positive reaction, Kidder writes, “He’d make a drawing for her, or write an anonymous love note, and for a while tiptoe around her, saying his pleases and thank-yous…He liked her too and he needed her” (159). Mrs. Zajac helps students overcome their tough home lives and balance this with successful schoolwork. Many students have rough home lives in both the book and the movie; many students “looked shabby and dejected” at first, but after Mrs. Zajac helped them and taught them many looked “neat and pert” (77). This is the biggest difference between Among Schoolchildren and Waiting for Superman because Mrs. Zajac is an incredible teacher who truly cares about her students. Waiting for Superman talks more about what teachers need to do in order to improve, rather than focusing on the amazing teachers.

While Among Schoolchildren opened my eyes to what school would be like in a poor environment, it is overly repetitive when talking about each child. Chapter two of the “Homework” section (72-107) is spent explaining what each child got on a test and why Mrs. Zajac believes they received their scores. While it is important to explain grades and expectations, it does not need to take up this much space.

Mrs. Zajac has a difficult time getting a student named Clarence to put in effort to learn. She spends many hours after class working with him and many hours on the weekend worrying about him. Kidder shows the reader how much teachers care about their students and how they will do all they can to help them improve. Much of the “Sent Away” section of the book is spent talking about how to help Clarence and what would be the best way to help him learn. It is eventually decided that Clarence will leave Mrs. Zajac’s class and go to a class called “Alpha.” Mrs. Zajac sends Clarence “into a notorious group of troublemakers” (185). Here Kidder shows that even the best of teachers can feel like they fail their students. Mrs. Zajac “thought about Robert. ‘He’s my failure, I guess. Him and Clarence.’” Clarence is just one example of the difficult students in Mrs. Zajac’s classroom. By giving detailed descriptions of the back and forth between Mrs. Zajac and her difficult students, Kidder reveals the hard truth of teaching.

Among Schoolchildren shows the reader the difficult side of schooling in a poor city. Kidder’s detailed descriptions reveal the positives and negatives of teaching and learning in this environment. Most importantly, the book portrays how teachers truly care about their students and try to do everything they can for them. ~ Student: Brianna W.

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Student Review: Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, by Monique Morris (reviewed by Susannah K.)

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in SchoolsPushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique Morris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not many nonfiction books start out with a playful rhyme and the story of how an eleven-year-old began to call herself a “ho.” Monique W. Morris begins her book Pushout this way and makes it work. It draws the reader in, and invests them in the story of eleven-year-old Danisha with her “baby face.” She is already a prostitute at such a young age. Morris explains to the reader what lead to this happening. She then uses this, and many other interviews to drive home her point: black girls are being criminalized all too often in schools. She has interviews from black girls in all different schools and situations who give examples of how they have been treated unfairly-sometimes even violently-just for being black and a woman. Pushout helps people to understand just how serious the problem of black girls being treated unfairly is and to sympathize with them more than they ever have before.

Although Pushout is extremely detailed and great for getting an inside look into black girls in schools, the language can be heavy and difficult to unpack. For some, it might discourage them from reading a book on such an important and relevant topic. The interviews, since they were done of children and teens, were simpler and more understandable. However, Morris’s explanations of these interviews could be hard for some to thoroughly interpret because of the complex language. This book is important for people of all ages, races, genders, etc. to read because of how it shines a light on a topic that seems to be shoved under the rug. It would be even better if the language was slightly simpler, so more people who should read it are able to.

Another major topic that was important for Morris to talk about is the school to prison pipeline. When black girls, or others in general, are criminalized in schools, that leads to them getting in trouble with the law outside of school as well. If a girl is constantly berated for dress code violations, being too loud, and other small offenses, they are not going to want to go to school. Not going to school generally leads to getting in trouble with the law, or just being in the wrong crowds of people. Pushout emphasizes the importance of stopping this with the interviews that are used throughout the entire book.

Yet another great addition to Pushout was all the resources and extra facts in the back. After completing this book, the reader might be wondering “What now?” Having a whole slew of additional questions, facts, resources, etc. allows the reader to answer this question and see what else they can do. This is a very helpful idea, and if more nonfiction books included something similar, more people might actually be active in helping others.

Overall, Pushout is an incredible book that definitely deserves more popularity than it has now. How black girls are treated in schools, specifically how they are criminalized, is something that everyone should be aware of. If people are aware of it, they can also start learning how to spot it and actively end it. Adults reading it can inspire others in their community, and teens can help out their black female peers to receive the best education they possibly can. ~ Student Review: Susannah K.

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Student Review: The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner (reviewed by Daniel H.)

The Global Achievement Gap: Why Our Kids Don't Have the Skills They Need for College, Careers, and Citizenship—and What We Can Do About ItThe Global Achievement Gap: Why Our Kids Don’t Have the Skills They Need for College, Careers, and Citizenship—and What We Can Do About It by Tony Wagner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Many American students would expect the United States to be a leading country in healthcare and education but in fact the United States is ranked 17th in educational performance in the world.

The education system is faulty at its core since it is stuck in a trance teaching to the methods that were developed for the past. Nowadays employers are expecting students who know and can fluidly use the seven survival skills. These skills are proven to be necessary in the book by Tony Wagner, The Global Achievement Gap. This book looks at how the schools are using multiple choice tests designed by the state to see where their students are on their literacy and mathematical skills. The problem with many of these test as Wagner puts it is “these tests do not indicate whether a student is ready for college even if they achieved a passing score” As I was reading this book I agreed with many of Wagner’s points. As a high school student I often feel that that the class is just teaching for the final test. It is not just Wagner who believes that the schools are not preparing their students adequately for high education. In the documentary Waiting for Superman the film mentioned the unreliability of state tests since they are incredibly skewed and often solely prepared for during the year.

As mentioned earlier the new skills needed for the future aren’t test taking but the seven survival skills. These skills are in high demand by employers because students with these skills know how to work with a team, problem solve, communicate with others and are curious to learn. Wagner spends a chapter interviewing successful business leaders on what they look for in their employees, and each one responded with the seven skills. In a study of elementary schools funded by the National Health Institute researchers concluded their research with this “In a course of 20 minutes the majority is spent watching the teacher do problems or working on a worksheet alone with minimal feedback. Few opportunities were provided to work in small groups and work on analytical skills.” This form of teaching which is very linear and focused on math and English is due to the “No Child Left Behind” Law. Due to this law schools are tested every year on these skills and many receive the needs improvement standard. This is why Wagner says the state tests can be questioned for their effectiveness. The school’s focus all their time and money on the two subjects tested while cutting out the classes and skills that prepare students for post education.

The documentary Waiting for Superman blames the failing schools as the fault of the teachers. Although it may seem logical to blame the teachers who have proven failures, it is not justified to blame all teachers for the failing students. It can’t be the fault of the teachers themselves since their training is mainly consisted of the core classes such as English, history and math. When Wagner interviewed dozens of teachers they all said “With very few courses that teach how to be effective teachers and none on how to be a change -leader or even to supervise teachers effectively.” Without the proper skills teachers can’t be expected to do their job effectively. Wagner explains a major reason why schools fail is due to the faculty’s lack of understanding for the current challenges in schools and classrooms. This book provides extensive proof for the need to change the current way our education system is run. It should be important for everyone to understand that passing the test is not enough. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to do more for their education.
~ Student Review: Daniel H.

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Student Review: Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Jonathan Kozol (reviewed by Nabeel N)

Savage Inequalities: Children in America's SchoolsSavage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Jonathan Kozol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Inherently Unequal. These are the words Jonathan Kozol uses to describe the education system in the US in his book, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. This book talks about the discrepancies in the education system and how race, money, and opportunities play big roles in education. The book looks at the everyday struggles that many children with poor backgrounds face when receiving an education. Kozol was a teacher at an all-black school, and found the lack of opportunities for his students alarming. He decided to set himself a new goal, educate students about the unequal opportunities in education. This is an issue that our government claims to be improving. Kozol gets fired for teaching about the differences between richer, white students’ education, and his students’ education. He decides to go tour the US and look into several different school districts and systems. He talks with students, teachers, and superintendents and compares a city education and a suburban education. Kozol finds the differences shocking.

Kozol blames the lack of support from the society for the low levels of academic performance, high rates of dropping out of high school, classroom discipline problems in inner-city schools. He also uses this as an explanation for low levels of college attendance or completion. However, Kozol’s view on inner city school’s issues are not entirely complete. Kozol’s major concern is the lack of funding toward these schools and feels as though, with funding, every student would do better. Although more funding to schools would help, having parents offer support for academics at home is a major key to success for students. The funding would help the teachers and give them more tools to teach with, but the strong support from home would boost the children to do better. Kozol seemed to only talk to the students that had fared well in school.

This book is about the tough realities of our schools and how students in suburban schools, like Newton South, should be thankful and make the most of the opportunity they have. This book should be read by high school students and teachers of all levels. It is not okay that race gets to dictate the chances one has to do better and get farther. This book is worth reading if you are interested in the differences among education systems in different parts of the country. ~ Student: Nabeel N.

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Student Review: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (reviewed by Harir Z)

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our BrainsThe Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a world where we depend on Facebook to connect us to our friends; Thesaurus to find us yet another synonym for “good”; Paypal to send money our families across the oceans; and just about anything in between, schools in the United States are also becoming increasingly dependent upon electronic devices for a different reason: to educate their students.

Through the use of personal anecdotes, in Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, he discusses the ideas of the linear and scattering minds, explaining that the internet’s accessibility deteriorates our attention spans; in other words, we can no longer read long books, or even longer articles, without getting bored. Through use of historical and present-day examples, Carr is effective in getting his points across. The author also integrates his personal experiences and provides a subtle comedic tone to an almost purely scientific topic; because of this, the book is a much more pleasurable and relatable read than a boring, informative one. While aspects of technical neuroscience are necessary in understanding the author’s point, he does not overbear the reader with information that is too technical. For example, in explaining the complexity of the brain’s response to the effects of being online, Carr describes it as: “through what we do and how we do it — moment by moment, day by day, consciously or unconsciously — we alter the chemical flows in our synapses and change our brains” (49).

Indirectly, Carr’s points pick at a greater problem we are faced with today: computers and education. Many schools in the United States, particularly high schools, are becoming progressively reliant on smartphones, computers and the internet as a whole; often, schools even administer students with their own tablet or personal computer. While there are clear benefits to having books, exams and research materials in one place, there are also distinct disadvantages to their prevalence in the world of education. The purpose of education is to introduce students to new ideas by engaging them through reading and discussion; however, the presence of this plethora of information is disengaging for students in the classroom, as they tend to cut corners in doing work. It is rare to find a student that writes an entire synthesis paper within the boundaries of the books they have read, and this is assuming they have read the books. Often students immediately turn to the internet as a primary source for their writing. ~ Student: Harir Z.

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Student Review: Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Jonathan Kozol (reviewed by Alexander G)

Savage Inequalities: Children in America's SchoolsSavage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Jonathan Kozol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What would you do if your kids went to overpopulated schools with insufficient teachers, books, and in some cases, classrooms to learn? In Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, Kozol travels from New York City to San Antonio to investigate this travesty. His findings bring out the de facto racism that is ingrained in the United States and reveal that even after the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954, American public schools are still separate, and unequal. Kozol does an excellent job of explaining how US public schools contribute to the wage gap, racism, and the unfair socioeconomic divide in American society.

The massive wage gap that exists in the US starts with public schools. Kids believe that school doesn’t matter because of the sparse amount of teachers and resources in these schools. Without school, it is much harder for children to succeed, which leads them to drop out and work at a low paying job or go to prison. While visiting a kindergarten classroom in Chicago, Kozol makes the statement that “by junior year of high school… 14 of these 23 boys and girls will have dropped out of high school… four of these kids will go to college… one of those four may graduate from college”(55). These children are not given any opportunities from the beginning of their education. Lack of achievement contributes to the expanding wage gap in the United States because it creates a cycle for children from lower income families to stay below the poverty line. Without an education, these inner city children have no way to make it out of their low-income neighborhood.

Systematic racism results from underachieving public schools. Most of these schools Kozol visits are almost all Black and Latino. Many of these kids and their families struggle to pay bills and put food on the table. The parents are busy with jobs and other worries; children are given no attention and are left on their own, which can lead to bad decisions. According to the New York City Department of Corrections, “90 percent of the male inmates of the city’s prisons are former dropouts of the city’s public schools”(144). Many African Americans are stereotyped as negative roles in society because of a lack of opportunities, such as a poor education. In the early to mid-1900s, many minority groups were put into impoverished neighborhoods with high crime rates and bad schools. Because these school systems have been notorious for their dropout rates, these people are given no way out, which has led to generations of failure for some families. Kozol does a great job of connecting these social injustices and the education system, which can change opinions and preconceptions of some people, and educate the public about the origins of these oppressing stereotypes.

Kozol also points out that most white people are given a free pass in education since they tend to live in more suburban communities. While this does not hold true for all white people, the majority of high achieving schools contain a predominately white student population. They are sheltered from the hardships that other people in inner city schools have to face, and this only contributes to helping white people succeed instead diversifying the field of success. Predominately white schools succeed while predominately black and Latino schools fail “offers symbolism that protects the white society against the charges of racism”(236). These schools are majority white, which shelters the kids from systematic racism because they aren’t exposed to other socioeconomic backgrounds nor a diverse group of races.This takes away the opportunities that could be given to underprivileged children that would help them get out of their unfortunate circumstances. With a “divided and unequal education system that is still in place nearly, four decades after Brown”(236) schools remain separate from each other, and with many left with different classrooms, teachers, and dropout rates. The differences between majority white and majority black schools are devastating and give affluent whites advantages they don’t deserve. Kozol explains the huge gap between the two types of public schools, and to reach equality, the public education problem must be addressed. Kozol suggests that there should be more integration in suburban schools and that major cities, such as New York, should prioritize funding their public education system. He also notes that charter schools (which were brand new at the time) can also give children in low-income neighborhoods a much better education.
American public schools are great where the wealthy live, but give those in poverty and poorer communities no opportunities and no resources to make them successful. The divide in the public school system has contributed to racism and must be fixed to improve low-income communities. Kozol does a fantastic job of explaining this issue and giving reasoning of why schools must be set, which is why Savage Inequalities is a great read if you want to learn more about social injustice and the problems with education in the United States. ~ Student: Alexander G.

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Student Review: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson (reviewed by Tajea B)

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No NormalMs. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first female Muslim superhero is finally here, and she’s not afraid to kick some butt. G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel successfully caught my eyes with its amazing illustrations and storyline. Reading Ms. Marvel is almost like going on an adventure through your imagination. The plot in this adventure breaks a new ground. When we meet Kamala in her non-super state she’s a 16 year-old geek, who’s loyal to her close friend and disinclined to rebel against her observant family. Don’t get me started on her “sad nerd obsession with the Avengers” (3). She writes elaborate fanfictions about them and tries to get her parents to understand, but of course they don’t. Kamala seems out of place, even in her diverse high school. She can’t seem to “fit in” with the other teens. Throughout the comic we see how it is a struggle to not only learn new superpowers, but also live a double life. I will say this book is a big deal to American Muslims, and the children of Muslim immigrants, to see themselves represented in an amazing book like this. It also shows how wonderful teenage Muslim minds think and how they cherish their faith. If I could, I would give every single student in high schools everywhere a copy of this comic. I recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about Muslim culture or who loves a good laugh and superheros. ~ Student: Tajea B

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Student Review: Penelope, by Rebecca Harrington (reviewed by Katie D.)

PenelopePenelope by Rebecca Harrington

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Penelope is a humorous and amusing book written by Rebecca Harrington, about a socially awkward girl named Penelope who is starting her freshman year at Harvard. When starting her time at Harvard, Penelope is faced with the challenge of making new friends, a task which turns out to be more difficult than she had expected. When she first arrives at Harvard, Penelope discovers that she is rooming with two other girls, Emma Green and Lan Wu, and expects that the two of them will end up being her good friends. However, she could not have been more wrong. Emma is snobby and over-privileged, and admits that the only reason she managed to get into Harvard was because her New York socialite parents had ‘connections’. On the other side of the spectrum, Lan is an eccentric ‘loner’, who’s only friend is the cat that she brought with her to Harvard. Penelope does not feel any connection with either of these people, in fact, she hates Lan and is hated by Emma. The book describes Penelope’s journey through her freshman year, and her struggle fit in. What makes it even harder for Penelope to find her way, aside from her social incompetence, are the challenges that she is faced with along the way. From boy problems, lecturers who loathe her, and a mother trying to live her dreams through her daughter, Penelope faces it all. The book touches on the topic of coming of age, as we watch Penelope grow throughout her first year of college, into a more confident and self-assured character. I would really recommend this book to anyone who likes to read modern books which have topics that are relatable to them, however if you are looking for a thriller or a plot with lots of action, I would not recommend his book, as it there is not a lot of drama in it, just descriptions of Penelope’s hilarious encounters as she navigates her way around Harvard. ~ Student: Katie D.

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