Review – Schooled by Anisha Lakhani

When Anna Taggert lands a teaching job at an elite private school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, her dreams of chalk boards and lesson plans are quickly dashed by the grim realities of her small pay check. It’s not easy to overlook the fact that tuition for each of your students exceeds your annual salary or that your students dress better than you do, but this earnest young Ivy League graduate does her best.
And then comes the discovery that the papers she grades are not the work of her seventh graders, but of their high-priced tutors. Before long, Anna too is lured into a world where paying for the best that money can buy takes on a whole new meaning. Enticed by the prospect of earning more in an hour than she takes home in a day, Anna becomes a teacher by day and a tutor by night, joining the ranks of those who secretly do the homework of the children of affluence. A delicious debut based on the author’s experiences as a tutor while teaching at one of Manhattan’s top private schools, Schooled presents a shocking picture of an underground economy that is altering the landscape of education in every way. This dazzling exposé lays bare the tutoring industry in a way only an insider can. Welcome to Schooled, where even homework has a price.
When I first stumbled across a site promoting Schooled I thought this would be a fantastic book for me. Chick lit is one of my favourite genres when I just want to kick back and enjoy a quick read. I especially enjoy chick lit novels that do not deal exclusively with romance: Nanny Dairies, Save Karyn, anything by Sarah Mlynowski etc. So a book that deals with an upper class private school teacher who decides to start tutoring rich, snobby brats on the side really appealed to me. Unlike many others who enjoyed this book, I found this book to be a mediocre addition to the genre.
In my opinion, teachers, whether they be from private or public schools, are some of the most influential people our children will be exposed to. Therefore I believe teachers should teach because they love to teach, not because they want to make a good salary or wear the latest fashions. So right away I was turned off by Anna’s behaviour in the book, I would be appalled to know that she was responsible for the education of anyone’s child. Seeing how the parents weren’t concerned over their children's achievements was eye-opening, but knowing that a teacher was willing to go along with their cheating in order to make a few dollars was worse.
All of this would have been alright had the novel concluded in such a way that I honestly believed Anna to have learned something and become a better person. Sadly I do not believe this. Knowing also that this book is based on the authors own personal experiences, leads me to suppose that the purpose of this book was to make a little more money at the expense of her students.
Aside from my not liking the subject and how it was handled, I also found aspects of the writing style to be flawed. While I understand that chick lit is not meant to be of a high literary standard, I do expect the writers to pay some attention to character development. In Schooled, the only character that is close to complete is Anna herself. Other secondary characters, such as the students and parents seem to have been created using a Stepford style cookie cutter. There are no signs of individual personality evident, which could easily have been improved had effort been diverted from the logo-dropping that became pretty annoying by a quarter of the way through. Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Prada, Valentino etc. etc. etc. Me, I like my nifty $10 purse from Wally-World. But then again I’m not a private school teacher trying to keep up with the Jones’s whose kids I teach.
My final thoughts on Schooled would be that while it wasn’t a terrible novel, it did have some shortcomings that annoyed me enough that I didn’t enjoy my reading at all.
About The Author
Until 2006 Anisha Lakhani taught English at the Dalton School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side where she also chaired the Middle School English Department. Ms. Lakhani received both her B.A. and her M.A. degrees from Columbia University. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and their beloved shitzu, Harold Moscowitz.
Author Website
Published by Hyperion

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


J. Kaye Oldner said...

Wow! You are right. There have been so many positive reviews about this book. What happened to you has happened to me before. I hope it won't happen with this book...ugh! So sorry...I feel your pain.