Jane Austen in Scars­dale: Of Love, Death and the SATs

Paula Marantz Cohen
  • Review
By – October 24, 2011

In Jane Austen In Scars­dale, Paula Marantz Cohen close­ly exam­ines and wry­ly par­o­dies the col­lege admis­sions process and all the per­son­nel asso­ci­at­ed with that painstak­ing Amer­i­can right of pas­sage in an upscale Amer­i­can sub­urb. She offers a tongue-incheek per­spec­tive of the req­ui­sites nec­es­sary for entry into the elite world of the Ivy League uni­ver­si­ties, includ­ing the tutors hired to boost GPAs and the selec­tion of vol­un­teer and after-school activ­i­ties for their prospec­tive val­ue on col­lege appli­ca­tions. The pack­ag­ing” of stu­dents for admis­sion into col­leges in all its intri­ca­cies is por­trayed with uncan­ny wit. 

Cohen offers us an in-depth exam­i­na­tion of life in one of the most com­pet­i­tive com­mu­ni­ties in Amer­i­ca while she chron­i­cles con­tem­po­rary life as seen through the eyes of the appli­cants to col­lege, their neu­rot­ic over involved par­ents and the aca­d­e­mics and high­ly spe­cial­ized tutors brought in to max­i­mize the stu­dents’ chances of admis­sion into their dream schools. With humor and not just a tinge of cyn­i­cism, Cohen describes the tri­als and tribu­la­tions that must be endured by high school stu­dents in an upscale sub­ur­ban neighborhood. 

Many res­i­dents of com­mu­ni­ties sim­i­lar to Scars­dale will undoubt­ed­ly rec­og­nize them­selves in this nov­el, based loose­ly on Jane Austen’s Per­sua­sion. Cohen has clev­er­ly used Jane Austen’s satire and plot and turned it around to describe the dog-eat-dog world of the col­lege appli­ca­tion predicament.

Paula Lubin is a human­i­ties teacher at the North Shore Hebrew Acad­e­my Mid­dle School. She has writ­ten for a vari­ety of pub­li­ca­tions, most recent­ly the New York Health­care Law Update.

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