“You can’t just be the smartest. You have to be the most athletic, you have to be able to have the most fun, you have to be the prettiest, the best dressed, the nicest, the most wanted. You have to constantly be out on the town partying, and then you have to get straight As. And most of all, you have to appear to be happy.? ? CJ, age seventeen
High school isn?t what it used to be. With record numbers of students competing fiercely to get into college, schools are no longer primarily places of learning. They?re dog-eat-dog battlegrounds in which kids must set aside interests and passions in order to strategize over how to game the system. In this increasingly stressful environment, kids aren?t defined by their character or hunger for knowledge, but by often arbitrary scores and statistics.
In The Overachievers, journalist Alexandra Robbins delivers a poignant, funny, riveting narrative that explores how our high-stakes educational culture has spiraled out of control. During the year of her ten-year reunion, Robbins returns to her high school, where she follows students including CJ and others:
· Julie, a track and academic star who is terrified she’s making the wrong choices
· ?AP? Frank, who grapples with horrifying parental pressure to succeed
· Taylor, a soccer and lacrosse captain whose ambition threatens her popular girl status
· Sam, who worries his years of overachieving will be wasted if he doesn?t attend a name-brand college
· Audrey, who struggles with perfectionism, and
· The Stealth Overachiever, a mystery junior who flies under the radar.
Robbins tackles hard-hitting issues such as the student and teacher cheating epidemic, over-testing, sports rage, the black market for study drugs, and a college admissions process so cutthroat that some students are driven to depression and suicide because of a B. Even the earliest years of schooling have become insanely competitive, as Robbins learned when she gained unprecedented access into the inner workings of a prestigious Manhattan kindergarten admissions office.
A compelling mix of fast-paced storytelling and engrossing investigative journalism, The Overachievers aims both to calm the admissions frenzy and to expose its escalating dangers.
?I couldn’t get enough of it. The Overachievers is part soap opera, part social treatise . . . I was so hooked on their stories that I wanted to vote for my favorite contestant at the end of every chapter . . . It reads like very good . . . fiction, thanks to its winning cast, its surprising plot twists and its pushy parents . . .
Robbins is also a good writer, and she must be a good listener, because she more than delivers on the promise of ‘secret lives’ in the subtitles . . . At the end of the book, Robbins offers sensible suggestions for reform . . . Robbins gets the big picture right.? —The New York Times Book Review EDITORS? CHOICE
?Impossible to put down.? —People. CRITIC?S CHOICE, 4 out of 4 stars
?Quick and riveting.? —Entertainment Weekly
?Compelling and thorough. —Chicago Tribune
?A must-read ?. I found myself devouring The Overachievers in two days, more eagerly than I might an actual novel?. The Overachievers is perfect for anyone agonizing his or her way through high school and beyond. Robbins brilliantly captures the thoughts and feelings of a generation pushed to excel while offering insight for turning this pervasive and potentially harmful drive into positive motivation.? —Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
?Robbins deftly assimilated herself into the environment she sought to study. Few authors have written with such clarity and poignancy about the teen experience today. It’s clear the students Robbins follows trusted her.?Writers twice her age have plenty to learn from her exhaustive reportage and sharp insight?. Robbins gets it all right. Our society would be smart to listen.? —The Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)
?Robbins’ book is structured like the movie “Fame,” if “Fame” had been filmed as a PBS documentary. She gives us in-depth looks into the lives of a group of highly personable teenagers? —Austin American Statesman
?Thrilling?. [and] heartbreaking.? —The Washington Post
?A deft mix of compelling research, scientific studies and fascinating profiles of students?. Robbins? conclusions include sane and simple recommendations for schools, parents and students.? —Richmond Times-Dispatch
?All the kids are likable and the reader comes to care about them and their futures?Compelling.? —Newsday
?Robbins’ study reads like ”The Amazing Race: The Ivy League Version.” Teenagers zip along so fast, hepped up on Red Bull and diet pills, trying to accomplish, the enjoyment from learning and doing entirely absent. ‘The Overachievers’ is highly addictive.” —Philadelphia Inquirer
?Alexandra Robbins knows a thing or two about driven students. For starters, she says she was one. Her new book, The Overachievers (Hyperion), follows a group of students from her alma mater, Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., as they apply to college. They are competing for a prized slot in a freshman class, a race for what they see as the universal measure of their success, at a time in their lives when image means everything.? —US News & World Report
?Engrossing ?. The portraits of the teens are compelling and make for an easy read. Robbins provides a series of critiques of the system, including college rankings, parental pressure, the meaninglessness of standardized testing and the push for A.P. classes. She ends with a call to action, giving suggestions on how to alleviate teens’ stress and panic at how far behind they feel.? —Publishers Weekly
?Interspersed with the compelling, novel-like narratives of each teen’s hectic life are revealing looks into the issues these students face?.. Highly recommended.? —Library Journal Reviews
?Compelling investigative journalism?. The author concludes this eye-opener with suggestions for high schools, colleges, counselors, parents and students alike on ways to break the addictive, abusive cycle of extreme perfectionism.? —BookPage
?Alexandra Robbins grades the lives of the amped-up, perfection-obsessed kids known as The Overachievers.? —Vanity Fair
“[Alexandra Robbins] is an excellent stylist and a first-rate mind.” —Houston Chronicle
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