Young Adult – Crunch Time

Daisy, Leo, Jane, and Max are about as different as teenagers going to the same high school can possibly get. The only thing they have in common is that they are all Juniors – and all of their parents signed them up for the same SAT prep class. They’re all under pressure to do well: Daisy because she desperately needs a scholarship, Max because being the best is the only choice where his father is concerned. Leo dreams of going to Yale, and Jane is worried the headlines will read “Famous Actress’s Daughter Flunks SATS”. Together, none of them are terribly excited about SAT prep class. On the first day, Daisy, in a fit of exasperation and nerves, stages a walkout. Aware that they need some help, even if they don’t want to get it by “cheating the system” and taking a prep class, they decide to form their own club.

Of course, things are never that easy. Max has been in love with best friend Daisy for years, but Daisy only ever goes after arrogant bad boys … exactly the sort of person Leo seems to be. Jane, meanwhile, is haunted by the belief that no one notices her, that she could turn invisible and no one would notice. But, slowly, the group becomes, if not friends exactly, at least a group. Then, just when it seems like everything’s over, and the SAT scores have finally been finished, it’s revealed that someone in the school cheated. But who? All four group members have reasons to have done it, and suddenly they can’t trust each other anymore.

This was a solid YA novel. While not outstanding or ground-breaking, it nevertheless holds the readers’s interest. The characters seemed real, as was the pressure they felt to do well on a standardized test. The “a test can’t measure your true worth” message was a big heavy-handed at times, but it’s a message that some students need to hear. The revelation of who cheated on the test was subtly foreshadowed; while a surprise, it does not come out of nowhere. One problem the novel had for me was the subplot with Jane’s stepfather. This issue was never really resolved. If he is a creep, why does the author not make it clear that something should be done? And if it’s all in her head, then why bring it up at all and lend credence to the “she’s making it up” attitude?

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