Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes

Berkley. Feb. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9780593098400. $26. F
DEBUT The politics of high school and the challenges they cause are at the heart of West’s debut. Helicopter parents, overworked teachers, and the students who run the gamut of smarts and talent all play their parts to perfection. Chief among the overly involved parents is Julia Abbott, who is determined (some would say to the point of obsession) that her son get a speaking role in the upcoming play. She will go to any lengths and cross any boundary to achieve that goal. When her antics are filmed and posted online in a viral video, the impact is felt by her family, friends and the teachers—chief among them, popular teacher Isobel Johnson—and administrators at the school. As Julia tries to get out of her own way and Isobel begins to fear for her career, a private, gossipy Facebook group works to undermine them both.
VERDICT Though the characterizations sometimes come a little too close to caricature, West has expertly captured the high school culture of today in a novel that is at times cringe-worthy and eventually hopeful. Readers of Amy Poeppel’s Small Admissions and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies will want this one.

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