Early Decision : Based on a True Frenzy
by Lacy Crawford

Overview -

A delightful and salacious debut novel about the frightful world of high school, SATs, the college essay, and the Common Application--and how getting in is getting in the way of growing up.

Tiger mothers, eat your hearts out. Anne the "application whisperer" is the golden ticket to success.  Read more...

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More About Early Decision by Lacy Crawford

A delightful and salacious debut novel about the frightful world of high school, SATs, the college essay, and the Common Application--and how getting in is getting in the way of growing up.

Tiger mothers, eat your hearts out. Anne the "application whisperer" is the golden ticket to success. Working one-on-one with burned-out, helicopter-parented kids, she can make Harvard a reality. Her phone number is a national secret. Her students end up at the best of the best.

But sometimes acceptance comes at an enormous cost. In a world of cheating scandals, huge alumni donations, and lots of inside pull, some parents know no bounds when it comes to ensuring that their children get in. It's Anne's job to guide students to their own destinies, beginning with their essays. Early Decision follows five students--four privileged, one without a penny to her name--as they make their applications and wrestle with fate.

To write the perfect personal statement, they must tell the truth. And the stories they tell are of greed, excess, jealousy, deceit, money, ego, and pressure, as well as of endurance, tenacity, victory, and the hope of surviving their parents' wildest dreams so they can begin to live their own lives.

Early Decision captures the most ferocious season in a modern family's life. Parents only want the best for their children, and students are fighting for college seats that will give them a head start into work and adulthood. Is it possible to face the fall semester of senior year without losing your mind?

Told in part through the students' essays, unsparingly revealing the secrets of college advisors at the highest levels, Early Decision is an explosive insider's guide to college admissions in our day. It's also a sharp commentary on modern parenting. The truth is, the kids are all right. Their essays are fabulous. But the system is broken. With humor and hard-earned wisdom, Early Decision illuminates the madness of the college race.

  • ISBN-13: 9780062240613
  • ISBN-10: 0062240617
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Company
  • Publish Date: August 2013
  • Page Count: 294

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Contemporary Women
Books > Fiction > Family Life
Books > Fiction > Coming of Age

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-09-02
  • Reviewer: Staff

This entertaining tale of upper class parents and adolescent learning curves points a keen eye at the college application process and the agony and ecstasy of getting that acceptance letter. Twenty-seven-year-old Anne with her polished Princeton background has somehow fallen into the college essay coaching business and is quite proficient. Enter Margaret and Gideon Blanchard and their daughter Sadie who has been groomed from birth to attend Duke as a legacy. Anne sets to help Sadie polish her essays and in the process they discover each other's strengths and weaknesses. Anne is dealing with an unruly upstairs neighbor who hates her dog and may be stealing her newspaper, a philandering actor boyfriend, and her own unfinished aspirations, while her students deal with their sexuality, finding their voice, and escaping their parents' expectations and jealousies. Wealth and privilege are in no way major indicators of who gets in where, and sometimes they hold the perfect student back, but with the right help and support, such as Anne supplies, those students find their way despite themselves. Sprinkled with tips for writers—"it isn't so much about editing as it is about aligning execution to intention," essays in various forms of re-write, and a very satisfying twist at the end, the reader is lead through a long, dark supervised High School hallway and off to the freedom of the great lawn. (Sept.)

BookPage Reviews

Required reading: Lessons on mean mamas and helicopter parenting

School is back in session. After the homeroom bell rings, grab one (or both) of these novels and enjoy a quick, humorous tutorial on how not to act while educating the next generation. Debut authors Gill Hornby and Lacy Crawford deliver a welcome dose of playground escapism.

British author Gill Hornby got the idea for her first novel, The Hive, while reading Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes, a nonfiction book that Tina Fey used as the basis for her hit movie Mean Girls. In The Hive, Hornby observes that teenage girls aren’t the only catty females at school: Their mothers can be worse.

The children who attend the upscale British academy of St. Ambrose have started another school year, and their mothers are busy creating their schoolyard cliques and dramas to rival those of their children. Top mum Beatrice rules her minions with daily text invites for her famous workouts, which take place after the school drop-off. Will you be invited to Bea’s group run, her Pilates session or maybe, just maybe, the elusive power walk?

Then actual catastrophe strikes at St. Ambrose. The headmaster informs the parents that they do not have funds to complete construction of the new library. Here, the plot gets a bit cliché: Moms mobilize with Bundt cakes, lunch ladders and other fundraising events, but are too preoccupied to be bothered with their children.

Still, Hornby, the sister of author Nick Hornby, is a perceptive writer, using her comedic talents to investigate the minds of these women even as she exploits their ridiculousness. The Hive does just that—with a healthy serving of British humor thrown in for our reading pleasure. This is a book that might make any mother of school-age children just a little bit nervous.


Lacy Crawford’s Early Decision is the story of five Chicago high school seniors, their college essay-writing process and their well-paid essay consultant, Anne. What makes this novel so fascinating is that Crawford has dramatized her personal experience in the college admissions world. For 15 years, she helped teenagers perfect their essays, gaining access to a network of mega-rich parents who relied on her to help their children earn acceptance to some of the best schools in the country.

Crawford expertly fictionalizes some of the crazy and vicious behavior exhibited by parents who claim they only want what is best for their child. Readers will be rooting for all five young adults—four wealthy, one from a working-class background, all relatable—to find their own voices and their own paths.

This is a winner of a novel. Part comedy, part exposé, it can open the door to debate about the intensity of the college application process. Early Decision should be required reading for every parent of a child who is embarking on the college admissions journey.

BAM Customer Reviews