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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Review: The Ivy Chronicles (and a bunch of other random stuff like the K Files blog and Amy Graff)

In my vast amounts of spare time, between writing, raising the kids, and making meals, I dissect tomes like War and Peace and The Fountainhead. And if I still have spare time, I translate the Odyssey from its original Greek (I’m kidding, since I can’t even spell it in English and had to look it up online).

Once in a great awhile, I change from my intellectual ways and read chick lit. And of course I want to share my reviews with you. War and Peace – it already has Cliff’s Notes and scholarly research. It doesn’t need me.

While I was in New York a few months ago, I was digging through the stacks and stacks of books at the Strand and I randomly happened upon The Ivy Chronicles by Karen Quinn. Very random because a few days after buying it (it was literally shoved into one of dozens of massive bookshelves with only the spines showing), I saw a review of it in People. (No, I don’t subscribe to People. My friend’s cat Lolita does. It gets passed down to me after my friend, her husband, their babysitter and of course, the cat, reads it).

In another moment of massive coincidence, I also just happened to read a San Francisco Magazine story on getting into kindergarten in San Francisco. You see I’m usually months and months behind in my magazines. But for some reason I flipped through the magazine when it arrived, and out popped this story. It centers on Amy Graff, a San Francisco mom and fellow magazine and blog writer who actually gets PAID to write her blog posts (please please click on my ads!).

Reading this story made me realize how lucky I am to live in a suburb with good public schools. Okay, lucky isn’t the right word, since our move to a suburb with good public schools was intentional. I wasn’t aware of Amy’s K files blog until this magazine story appeared. I never had to go through the angst of evaluating dozens of San Francisco public schools and then ranking them, hoping to get one of my top seven choices. I didn’t have to apply to unaffordable private schools to ensure my children got a quality education.

And now you’re wondering whether I mislabeled my blog title, reviewing The Ivy Chronicles, which you don’t even know yet, is about getting children into private kindergartens in Manhattan. I find this all fascinating since my youngest entered kindergarten this year.
All I did was pick up the forms on the first day of registration, and then turn them in a few days later. Granted, friends at the popular Baywood School in San Mateo had to wait in line for days…in the rain. I didn’t feel too sorry for them, since their houses are worth more than mine.

The Ivy Chronicles is an over-the-top book, none too subtle with the names. The protagonist, Ivy, is a private admissions consultant trying to get Manhattan’s finest into the “baby Ivies” (if you’re dense, these are top notch private schools that give your child a better chance to go to the college Ivies). This cracks me up, since I went to an Ivy League school, and was clueless about the process of getting in during high school, let alone in preschool where I stuffed bugs up my nose and my parents thought I’d be lucky to make it through high school. Of course the main reason I got in was because I was geographically desirable (i.e.from Arizona).

So Ivy is married to Cadmon (Cad for short), who like his name, is a lying, cheating ass (I hope I didn’t spoil the book for you). When we start the book, they live the $2 million yearly salary high life in NYC that few of us will ever understand, let alone experience (damn!). And then she gets canned and her life falls apart. THIS we can relate to.

She musters her resources and becomes a kindergarten admissions counselor to mostly rich and jaw-droppingly odd characters. Hilarity ensues. I’m serious. This book is laugh out loud funny, and you can’t help but like Ivy. She’s fun and she’s real (except for her rich days, when her kids had $22,000 birthday parties at FAO Schwartz. Our last one was at Chuck E. Cheese. And I thought THAT was expensive.)

So I’m now in search of Karen’s two other books, one with the awesome title Wife in the Fast Lane. How can you not want to buy a book with that title?

As for me, I'll be the wife in the carpool lane.

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