Click here to read reviewer Karen D. Haney's take on Schooled or
here to read Erica Jeffrey's review.
Imagine chick-lit with smarts, a mix of The Devil Wears Prada and The Nanny Diaries. First-time novelist Anisha Lakhani writes with authority and wit in her delightful debut novel, Schooled.
Lakhani draws on her former experiences as a tutor and teacher for New York’s Upper East Side to vividly describe the struggles of Anna Taggart. Schooled is chick-lit with a purpose. The same moral standards and lessons from the previous young female heroines in this genre still apply, but the ride is much more amusing and fun.
Anna Taggart is a young Columbia graduate who suddenly decides to become an English teacher. Her idealistic dreams of being an amazing teacher are quickly crushed by the realities of working at the snotty private school Langdon. She teaches seventh-grade brats in a first-year filled with expensive bags, lousy apartments, and snippy parents of the rich and spoiled. Out of desperation for cash, Taggart begins tutoring her charges on the side, which quickly turns into writing English reports for her overindulged students.
What makes Schooled so successful is Lakhani’s development of the young heroine. Taggart faces similar challenges of most young college grads: choosing a career, finding a low-paying job, and questioning previous choices. The students may live outrageous lives, but they also reflect contemporary teenage depictions. When twelve-year-old Katie lies to her parents and calls her teacher her bitch, Taggart displays her shock but helps Katie with the lie. This crazy behavior may be rare for the average teenager, but it’s not too far off from the truth.
No fish-out-of-water chick lit would be complete without embarrassing and shocking tales. Lakhani has plenty with Taggart walking on a fifteen-year-old having sex, having an interview with a mother who is visually medicated, and crying in front of her students. Each incident is filled with humor and sarcasm.
Similar to the chick-lit tell-all novels, Lakhani targets the private school system, revealing the hypocrisy and corruption of the elite. Langdon gives no grades so every student can feel special; students have their tutors do their homework; parents keep tabs on the teachers including late-night phone calls so homework doesn’t interfere with piano lessons. Lakhani takes the moral lesson one step further, showing Taggart’s frustration when trying to teach outside the restrictive Langdon lessons. Her successful efforts to engage her students when teaching Romeo and Juliet are quickly quashed by parents complaining about too much homework for their kids. As she slips into mediocrity, one wonders how many teachers go through the same struggles in broken school systems.
Schooled goes through a light pace with few twists and turns. Damian, Taggart’s mentor, makes a welcome return at the end and shines as one of the stronger characters. The end of the heroine’s journey is not surprising; trapped in a world of deceit, she faces the decision of whether to continue to help students cheat or stand up against the system. The conclusion may be expected, but the ride is so much fun.