Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Thoughts on Candy Bar Books and a Review of The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore

Every once in a while, I need a Candy Bar Book.  And I don’t mean a book that’s an artisanal truffle made of Fair Trade organic cacao. I mean a book whose chocolate is made from corn syrup and chemicals and tastes like Happy Halloween and the best moments of childhood.

Different people have different ideas about what constitutes a good Candy Bar Book. For some of you, it takes a significant amount of blood and a brooding hero. For others, it requires a ninja or two or six.  Still others of you need the word “shopping” to be in the title of the book in order to be satisfied. The common denominator is that the book is straightforward and predictable in a completely satisfying way. You get what you expect, and what you expect is exactly what you want at that moment.

The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore was a fun end-of-summer Candy Bar Book for me. In it, we get to live with the Hawthorne family, whose members are over-achieving upper-middle class people trying to climb the endless ladder to success. And guess what? The endless ladder to success is endless. Each family member does some dumb things while climbing that ladder, including lying, cheating, and stealing (and then lying some more).

As I’ve spent the year reading about grief, mixed in with some despair and oppression, The Admissions offered some much needed relief.  It had just enough humor in it to make it digestible all in one sitting.  I’m reminded a little bit of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s Admission, which is a story that (almost) shares a title and a theme with this one. This novel also reminds me of the documentary, Race To Nowhere, which similarly concerns the upper-middle class climb toward achievement. But the book, unlike the film, is pleasingly dipped in a vat of the above-mentioned corn syrup and chemicals and comedy.

There are things that aren’t perfect about this novel. The structure is a bit choppy (short chapters focusing on different characters). There are moments when the author tries to club the reader over her head with THE MESSAGE (ladder = endless). There are also moments when some of the characters express some stereotypical views about race, which is off-putting. But this was definitely a novel that hit me at just the right time – a SUMMER READ, just a tiny bit little late in the season.

You can find an interview with the author here and here.

I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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