by Rahul Kanakia
Published by Disney-Hyperion
on August 2, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads: Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all. What's a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent's help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford. But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she's already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success.My take: If you read the synopsis above, forget what you read. I don't think the synopsis does a good job of describing what this book is about, and makes it sound like a rehash of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life (which turned out to be plagiarized.) Then again, Enter Title Here IS about a plagiarist, which makes it either super confusing or very meta. Or both.
Here's my summary of the book's plot. Reshma wants to get into Stanford but, despite what the synopsis says, she's far from perfect. Based on her academic record and Stanford's 95% rejection rate, she knows she has a very low chance of success. After publishing an article in HuffPo, Reshma is contacted by a literary agent and decides that writing a book will be what gets her into Stanford.
She fleetingly has this idea that she isn't interesting enough to write a book, and makes a vague plan to Get Wild and Get a Life, but she actually spends most of the book doing one of three things:
a) obsessing about her GPA and how she wants to be the school valedictorian
c) arguing with her English teacher about a low grade on a poem she wrote
So ... yeah. Applying to college (and writing a book) aren't really things that will keep the average reader on the edge of her seat.
So here's my rundown of what I thought worked and what didn't.
-Reshma's voice. No, she isn't an admirable character, but many of us reader will recognize her right away. She's Tracy Flick, she's Blair Waldorf, she's Rachel Berry. (I kind of relate to characters like that, and I think they reveal a lot about how we view women and ambition.)
-- The writing. I had issues with the plotting, but I liked the writing a lot.
--The meta/humorous quality of the book was interesting, though I wasn't clear on how much of it was deliberate. Was this book a nod to Opal? Was this book supposed to be Reshma's book? Was this book supposed to be Dr. Wasserman's book (see below.)
-- I wished Enter Title Here had a stronger plot structure. To me, it felt like a bunch of half-developed subplots -- the GPA war, the lawsuits, her date, the book. Hilariously, Reshma's therapist gives her a whole lecture on writing. He's going on about Internal Arcs and External Arcs and I'm thinking ... "paging Dr. Wasserman" because I thought this book needed Arcs in the worst way.
--To be fair, I don't think Enter Title Here was trying to be an issue book. It raises, but doesn't really delve into, the crazy blood sport of college admissions and the psychological damage it can wreak on kids. But I was a little bothered that it raised some problematic issues in a way that almost seemed to trivialize them. Kids do cheat to keep their GPAs high and jump in front of trains when they feel like failures in school. Parents do sue school districts over valedictorian status and sue colleges for discrimination in admissions. Maybe Tracy Flick's machinations seemed funnier because back in 1998 the stakes were that much lower.
--I felt the book lacked a sense of purpose. It's not an issue book, it isn't dark enough to qualify as black comedy, and it isn't quite poignant enough to be a coming of age story in which the main character realizes something about herself or the world. For me, it kind of veered uneasily between all those things.
I will definitely try future books by this author, but the lack of plot and overall murkiness made Enter Title Here a frustrating read.