According to Bronwen Hruska's novel ACCELERATED, 5.1 percent of all children in the United States were taking mood-altering drugs in 2008, specifically to combat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Her book exposes this fact in a particularly dramatic way, and also asks the implied question "How much of this medication is really necessary for children, and how much is for the convenience of parents, teachers and caregivers?"
"ACCELERATED raises provocative and discussion-worthy questions that will resonate with parents and educators alike.... [Hruska] puts this topical content in the context of an entertaining, funny and sexy novel, with a page-turning plot that readers will want to accelerate through."
Hruska sets her novel at the fictional Bradley School, the most highly rated private school in New York City, and possibly in the country. Sean Benning's eight-year-old son, Toby, is a third-grader there, thanks to the generosity of Sean's in-laws. Sean's father-in-law and wife both attended Bradley, and even though his relationship with both is pretty shaky at the moment, he's grateful for the opportunities Toby has been offered.
That is, until the school's headmistress starts pressuring Sean and his recently estranged wife Ellie to consider putting Toby on Ritalin or similar medication. Even though Toby seems fine and attentive at home, he's having trouble keeping up with the accelerated coursework at school. Sometimes he daydreams or laughs at the other kids' jokes; sometimes he gets so excited to see his friends that he forgets to follow proper classroom procedures. This kind of behavior seems pretty normal and harmless to Sean, but according to the headmistress, it's a big problem --- Toby will never be able to keep up with his peers academically if he can't buckle down and pay attention.
Sean certainly doesn't want Toby to fall behind, but he also knows that there are plenty of other reasons why he might be having trouble concentrating. The sudden departure of his mom might be one reason; his best friend's sudden serious illness might be another. With the help of Sean's creative (and attractive) new teacher, Sean sets out to uncover whether --- and why --- the Bradley School might have a hidden agenda for putting Toby on this medication.
ACCELERATED raises provocative and discussion-worthy questions that will resonate with parents and educators alike. Issues at stake include the different learning styles of boys and girls, the pressure put on schools and kids by standardized test-taking and the prevalence of accelerated curricula, and the sometimes fraught relationship among parents, teachers and school administrators. Hruska has clearly done her research; at times, the novel threatens to be weighed down by too many statistics, but readers will likely be surprised and, in many cases, horrified by the facts she lays out here. What's more, she puts this topical content in the context of an entertaining, funny and sexy novel, with a page-turning plot that readers will want to accelerate through.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on February 1, 2013
- Publication Date: October 2, 2012
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Pegasus
- ISBN-10: 1605983799
- ISBN-13: 9781605983790