An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer
Published: 2012 by Harper Perennial
Source: Received from publisher for review
An Uncommon Education starts out well enough – we meet Naomi Feinstein, a young girl with fragile parents – mother, emotionally; father physically – who, after her father’s heart attack decides to become a cardiologist with the hope of healing both him and her mother. Naomi is smart and mature and with few friends and I could identify with her isolation and her reluctance to appear smart to avoid ridicule from classmates.
Then a family moves in next door and she becomes friends with Teddy. He too is quite smart, and they become quite close (in almost all meanings of that term), but when Teddy is forced to move away, he is lost to her after only a brief correspondence. Naomi is devastated, but she moves on and attends college at Wellesley, where by chance she becomes involved in a somewhat clandestine Shakespeare society. From here her life starts to take shape in ways I don’t think she ever would have foreseen.
I didn’t hate the book, but I didn’t really like it much either. I had trouble with the way some of the relationships developed (or didn’t) despite evidence to the contrary of what actually did happen. Naomi’s relationship with her parents was especially puzzling: though her career goal was based on helping her parents, I didn’t see them being all that close to one another until later in the book. And certain characters — Teddy, Jun – a college classmate — seemed to pop up at times that didn’t always make sense to me.
The biggest issue I had was with the jacket copy, which I know is written to sell books. It describes: “As Naomi immerses herself in this exciting and liberating world, her happiness is soon compromised by a scandal that brings devastating consequences”. First, I don’t know that Naomi truly saw her life in the Shakespeare society as always exciting or liberating; it seemed as if she fell into it and couldn’t find an easy or polite way to get out when it started to affect her grades. Second, the scandal? If it can even be called a scandal it was so minor to the plot in my opinion that it wasn’t even worth mentioning. The consequences were by no means devastating.
That said, I did enjoy the writing; some of which was absolutely beautiful. For example, when Teddy shows Naomi a picture he drew of her in yellow and she expressed distaste, he tells her “You’re just not used to your own brightness”.
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