Everyone knows Ari Newman is destined for great things -- because she's the first person to tell them. Truth is, Ari just wants out of her own life. Between her stay-at-home dad (loves being the only white guy in the neighborhood) and black, university professor mother (saving the world, one hot-button issue at a time) it's a wonder she has any sanity left at all. Add in pseudo-friends who are shallower than a puddle of spilled latte and an academic schedule that would make Einstein cry, and you have a recipe for worst senior year ever. Ari knows that getting into Yale University, her dream school, will make it all worth it -- which is why she didn't apply anywhere else.
When a rejection letter arrives in the mail, it nearly destroys her. She did everything right: grades, leadership positions, rabid ambition. That's when Ari realizes the truth -- if she is right, then the system must be wrong.
After quitting the cheerleading squad and abandoning her extracurriculars, Ari falls in with a group of activists led by sexy college student Vasili Sokolov. When she discovers they have plans to send a message to "the establishment" -- by any means necessary -- Ari doesn't hesitate. As they stand above a pile of homemade dynamite, she knows it's too late to turn back.
Her old life will be gone forever, but she can't possibly anticipate what that means for her future.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
First 500 words:
“Do you even want to go to college?”
My guidance counselor, Ms. Goodman, and I stare at each other across the expanse of her desk. She looks down her nose at the folder in her hand with Ariadne Newman written on the tab.
“Planning on it.” I roll a pencil across the top of the desk. It’s the only bit of clutter on the entire surface. She has the folder, a computer and a picture frame that still holds the posed photo it came with. That’s all.
Ms. Goodman is a case study in Type A — and a few other psychiatric diagnoses that I haven’t quite pinned down yet.
I suppress the little shiver that always rolls up my spine when I hear that word. “That’s right.”
“I have been looking through your file, Ari.” Ms. Goodman frowns. The movement pulls at the skin around her mouth so her lipstick looks like it’s just outside the curve of her lips. She reminds me of a very stern tree frog. “I have some concerns.”
I sit up a little straighter at her tone. When I got the note to come see her, I thought it was for another one of the canned speeches that are a staple of senior year. The administration still believes that the few people they’re capable of helping can’t figure out this whole high school graduation thing on their own.
“What do you mean?”
“I was under the impression that you were participating in our college application review.”
“I am.” Under extreme duress, I want to add.
“You only submitted one application.”
I immediately recognize the nature of the argument we’re about to have. It is not new. “That’s right.”
“Am I to understand that you are applying only to Yale University?” She asks the question slowly, as if a few more seconds might alter its meaning.
She clears her throat sharply and taps the placard hanging off the back of her computer monitor.
“I mean — Ms. Goodman. Please understand that I did not come to this decision lightly.” I’m prepared for this. I started memorizing this speech at the beginning of freshman year. “I asked my parents to go on our first campus visit when I was twelve. I’ve attended summer enrichment programs with Yale professors. I know almost everything there is to know about the university’s history. Yale is my dream.”
“Dreams aside —”
“I’m ranked in the top one percent of my class. I have numerous, diverse extracurricular activities. My test scores are above the 90th percentile. I’ve done at least five hours of community service every week for the last four years. I even have two letters of recommendation from current Yale faculty. I am a perfect fit.”
“I see a B+ here from your freshman year.”
Ms. Goodman drums her fingers on the desk. “Even perfection isn’t good enough. At least a thousand other students have that exact same story.”
“Nobody else wants it as much as I do.”