They’ve gotten good grades – but that’s not good enough. They’ve spent hours on community service – but that’s not good enough. Finn and Chloe’s advisor says that colleges have enough kids with good grades and perfect attendance, so Chloe decides they’ll have to attract attention another way. She and Finn will stage Chloe’s disappearance, and then, when CNN is on their doorstep and the nation is riveted, Finn will find and save her. It seems like the perfect plan – until things start to go wrong. Very wrong.–From Goodreads
It’s not easy getting into college these days. I read Alexandra Robbins’ The Overachievers and Alec Klein’s A Class Apart recently, and I was horrified at the amount of work some high schoolers are doing in order to get into college. I spent most of my high school years occupied by Academic Decathlon, and I certainly knew some incredible overachievers who balanced ridiculous loads of AP classes, extracurricular clubs and competitions, volunteer work, music lessons, SAT prep, etc. Even that wasn’t enough for many of them. It seems like if you want to get into a top notch school these days, you should have already solved the world hunger problem or published a few books. It’s no wonder that more authors are writing fiction and non-fiction in response to this growing academic pressure. Most of the fiction I have seen dealing with matter involves cheating–teens steal the answers to the SAT or they develop codes to communicate with friends during the test. Eireann Corrigan’s Accomplice takes two teens’ college admissions tactics a step further.
Finn and Chloe are best friends, and both are worried about how they are going to make it to the ivy leagues. After seeing a kidnapped girl return home, they know she’s going to make it–what says overcoming adversity more than that? They decide to stage Chloe’s kidnapping and then have Finn rescue her so that both will end up in the spotlight. That ought to juice up their admissions essays. Of course things go terribly out of control. Families are devastated, suspects are brought in for questioning, and Finn and Chloe’s relationship is threatened when the task of lying about Chloe’s whereabouts proves more difficult then Finn anticipated.
The plot of this book is brilliant. Finn and Chloe’s plan itself is, of course, a horrible idea, but it makes for a compulsively readable novel. The book kept me wondering if the fake kidnapping would somehow turn into a real kidnapping, if somebody would take the fall for what happened, if they would get caught, or they’d give up, or perhaps they might manage to turn into the celebrities they dreamed of becoming. You’ll have to read the book to find out.
In addition to the mystery and suspense elements, I was impressed by Corrigan’s portrayal of Finn and Chloe’s friendship, which teetered from strong to tenuous, and I couldn’t believe that this was a book with real live families. Finn and Chloe both had very present parents. I don’t see that often because I guess you can’t have a good teen romance with parents watching your every move. In this non-romantic book, though, there are involved parents who have rules and expectations and concerns. Those things might be broken and betrayed on a regular basis, but at least they are there.
Corrigan also depicts an interesting cast of side characters, including Chloe’s brother, who is autistic, and “Stuttering Dean,” a friend of Chloe and Finn’s whose trouble speaking causes him to be a misunderstood loner despite his clear intelligence and desire to connect with people.
Reading a book like this reminds that I need to be incredibly thankful that I made it in and out of college. I’m sure if I make my way back to graduate school I will feel a lot of this same pressure all over again, but I promise I won’t cheat on a test or fake my own abduction. If I think of any other sneaky tactics, perhaps I will write a book about them.