Monday, June 04, 2007

Book 29: Academy X

NUMBER: 29
TITLE: Academy X
AUTHOR: Andrew Tress
STARTED: June 1, 2007
FINISHED: June 4, 2007
PAGES: 224
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: [From Chapter 1] Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of this story, these pages must show.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Welcome to Academy X, an ethical wonderland in which up is down, right is wrong, and parents and students will stop at nothing (including lying, plagiarizing, and even seduction to name a few) in order to get into the Ivy League. Caught in the middle is John Spencer, a bumbling but lovable English teacher struggling through the final weeks of his spring semester. But keeping focused on a Jane Austen seminar proves problematic when a his crush on the sexy school librarian and as well as a pending promotion threaten to divert his attention are threatening to sink him in a sea of academic intrigue. Things become even more complicated when the college counselor asks John to lie (or at least exaggerate) in a recommendation letter for the very student who he’s just discovered is a plagiarizer! And things are only about to get worse for John, who discovers that no price is too high to achieve a coveted admission to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton—even if that includes his own disgrace.

REASON FOR READING: It was on my TBR list.

THOUGHTS: I'm having trouble deciding if Tress is actually witty or was simply playing at witty. This book relies heavily on allusions to scenes, plots, and language from literary classics. I want to say that Tress is truly witty because only a very well-read, learned person could draw the parallels he does. Then again, he hits you over the head with some many of those very same allusions that he comes across like he is deliberately trying to impress the reader. (I get it, your a brainiac English teacher, lets move on.) For a book like "Academy X" I don't expect (or even necessarily want) the author to makes some vast, world-altering point about the state of education in the modern era. The corruptness that is today's educational system is disparaging enough to not need an extra fluff to shock the reader.

The whole point of Tress' book is to showcase to the reader the utter depravity of the education system - specifically, it focuses on the extreme lengths parents and their children will go to get into an "acceptable" college. In the world of private schools, these actors are not above bribery, cheating, and manufacturing scandals. "Academy X" focuses on John Spencer, our trying to remain naively innocent (and totally autobiographical) English teacher. Spencer is childlike in his need to believe the best in everybody (his students, their parents, and his colleagues) even though every aspect of their character points to the contrary. During the book Tress is caught up in sex scandal that threatens to ruin his career - even as he actively loathes the system, he refuses to rebel against it.

It's hard to like any of the characters in this book, even the protagonist. Spencer's students have no redeeming qualities (their cheats, drunkards, and "loose" with everything from their bodies to their morals), Spencer's colleagues are annoying and selfish, and Spencer himself comes across as a whiner who refuses to see what is truly occurring in the world around him. When one of his students manufactures a scandal to preserve her acceptance to Princeton, I was actually rooting against Spencer. He's been working in this world for years and knows all the "tricks" for getting a student into college - he whines about it and, yet, he refuses to actually do anything until it affects his job.

The point of Tress' book is simply to say,"Our educational system is completely corrupt, the rich kids get their way because they've got the money, the poor kids who deserve everything get nothing, and there's nothing we can do to change it." There is no real resolution at the end of this book. Sure, the plot lines are wrapped up, but the whole moral point of the book just sits there. Yup, our educational system is fraudulent and we might as well just deal with it instead of fixing the problem. At the end of the book, Spencer merely goes back to the way things were. The reader is left screaming at him to do something but he seems happy to go back to the role where the school and his students steamroller over him.

MISCELLANEOUS: I could so ramble on about school vouchers right now... but I won't. Aren't you lucky.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

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