Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Accelerated

Accelerated, by Bronwen Hruska.

He rolled the bottle between his hands, then struggled with the childproof cap and shook the pills onto his desk. They looked like lavender Tic Tacs. He realized now that there was only one way he could ever give this medication to Toby.

He funneled the pills back into the bottle, leaving one on his desk. He popped it into his mouth and downed it with a gulp of water from the bathroom sink.

He'd never been big on drugs. After his sophomore-year roommate dropped acid and tried to jump off the clock tower, Sean decided to skip the experimentation that kept most of his friends high through art school. Taking the Metattent was different. It was his responsibility to try it. He sat at his desk waiting for something to happen.


I was blown away by this book, and the fact that it's Hruska's debut novel amazed me as well. Sean Benning earns $70k a year working for a tabloid in New York City, even though his passion is art, and because his estranged wife's family is rich, they are able to send their son Toby to The Bradley School, which otherwise would cost about half of his Sean's yearly salary. Everyone always tells Sean how lucky Toby is to be at Bradley, and up until now he's agreed. When the school starts pushing Sean to put Toby on ADHD medication, though, Sean has Toby diagnosed and then gives him the pills, even though he disagrees with their diagnosis. After an incident that almost kills Toby, Sean begins to realize that its not just Toby that the school has tried this with - it's a lot of his male classmates - and the cover-up is bigger than it originally seemed.

Hruska has children enrolled in private school, which is probably why the "privileged" life is easy for her to write about, as she's intimately acquainted with the types of parents these schools lure in. One of these schools suggested her son be "evaluated" at one point, as well, and they put him on Ritalin only to take him off of it a bit later; Hruska did some research and found out that in 2007, 9.5% of all U.S. children were diagnosed with ADHD. She says: "With numbers like that, I started to wonder if the problem was not that more and more kids were unfocused, but that schools, parents, and a generally accelerated society  were expecting too much of them."

Bravo to Hruska for a great first novel - I finished it in about two days because it was so hard to put down. The characters are all people we can relate to, even though some of them live in a world where school costs $40,000 a year, and Hruska has weaved a story that will captivate even the most discerning reader.

5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

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