She knew how to recognise the good girls and the diligent boys, the rebels and fuck-ups, the artsy kids who knew nothing about art and the ones who had art burning inside them.
38-year old Portia Nathan is an admissions officer for Princeton. Her life revolves around recruiting potential students and careful consideration of application folders. At home, at work, in transit she is surrounded by piles of orange folders containing the (sometimes heartbreaking) life stories of the brightest and best 17-year olds.
All is not well with Portia. She has a fractious relationship with her feminist activist mother, a stagnant relationship with her long-term partner and immerses herself in work to blank out events from her own teenage years at Dartmouth.
Fascinating though the admissions process is I was more interested in Portia's relationships. When her partner Mark invites the ghastly Oxbridge academic, Helen, to their dinner party Portia tries not to be irritated by her rudeness, her affected Virginia Woolf hairstyle and her expensive T-strap leather shoes. A lesser writer would have made Helen a caricature, but Jean Hanff Korelitz is much more subtle than that. Similarly, when Portia later learns that Helen is pregnant the truth begins to dawn on her the way all truths emerge:
She was thinking of something, or trying to think of something. Just beyond her grasp, her ken, flittering away.
Admission is amusing, perceptive and clever. You must read it.