Saturday, October 04, 2008

Schooled by Anisha Lakhani

I was selected to receive this book last June for LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. Through a series of errors from the publishers, some people didn't receive their copies until last week. I was one of those people and was excited to see it show up in my mailbox, finally. I have been in the mood for light fare lately so I jumped right in.

This is the story of Anna Taggert, a first year teacher at a prestigious Manhattan private school. There is a note in the beginning of the book that says Lakhani did indeed teach in private schools, but that the characters and their actions in this book are entirely fictionalized. Riiiight. Remember The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada. Yeah, those were both fictionalized accounts as well, yet, the authors of Nanny Diaries were nannies and the witchy editor in Devil Wears Prada closely resembles the editor of Vogue (was it Vogue, I can't remember now, but some real-life editor of a high-end fashion magazine). So, I believe there is probably some truth to this outrageous story of spoiled rich seventh grade students who seem to have tutors who do all their work and attend multiple bar/bat mitzvahs in one weekend.

Anna starts out as a fresh faced 22-year-old ivy league graduate excited at the prospect of molding young minds, even if she's not getting paid a major league salary. Within two months of working at the private school, she has figured out teaching there is a no-win situation. If she teaches her students too much, the parents call saying their child is overworked. If she relaxes on the teaching, she finds that her students are spending their days watching movies and working on other homework during her class time. Not really the experience she had in mind. She stumbles into the world of tutoring and discovers she can make her whole month's teaching salary in one week tutoring just a few hours. She is seduced by the money, freedom to move out of her crappy apartment, buy designer clothes, and the change in her students' attitude toward her. She was now the "cool" teacher they all loved. But the tutoring begins to take its toll on Anna both morally and physically. She has to decide if she wants to keep up with her lavish yet empty lifestyle or actually teach the children something.

This book was very light and fast. I felt like the story was a bit tired though. As I mentioned, it is quite similar to The Nanny Diaries and Devil Wears Prada. Or actually, maybe a combination of both of those. We get a look at the world of the rich and their children. We also are treated to an array of designer names thrown out at us. The story of a homely, somewhat naive middle-class woman being seduced into the world of the rich, but will she give up her morals and everything her parents taught her about being a good person, in order to have the latest fashion trend? This is a good read for vacation or after a particularly hefty book, but it is predictable and lacks real substance.

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