Dominique is one very bitter rabbit. His owner, Lars Jorgenson, is a former tennis pro who has blown out both knees, become obese, and is now addicted to a cocktail of prescription drugs containing the letters X and Z, one weird side-effect of which is that he has developed an omniscient point of view. Both Dominique and Lars are going crazy in the affluent Maryland suburbs where their faux Tudor home is up for sale. Idle on the market for months, the home is now being staged: A professional has come in to redecorate and depersonalize the house so that others can imagine themselves living there. Into the messy personal life of Lars and his beautiful wife Bella comes Eve, an unemployed journalist-turned stager who immediately realizes, as she steps into the foyer, that she is in the home of her former best friend. Eve knows way too much about Bella, including the questionable paternity of the meddling young child who lives in this house. Questions of friendship, loyalty, fidelity, sobriety, and sanity are raised to hilarious effect in this dark comedy of how we live now in the age of planned communities, cookie-cutter mansions, and cutthroat careerism.
It's spring break of junior year and the college admissions hysteria is setting in. "AP" Harry (so named for the unprecedented number of advanced placement courses he has taken) and his mother take a detour from his first choice, Harvard, to visit Yates, a liberal arts school in the Northeast that is enjoying a surge in popularity as a result of a statistical error that landed it on the top-fifty list of the U.S. News & World Report rankings. There, on Yates's dilapidated grounds, Harry runs into two of his classmates from Verona High, an elite public school in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There's Maya Kaluantharana, a gifted athlete whose mediocre SAT scores so alarm her family that they declare her learning disabled, and Taylor Rockefeller, Harry's brooding neighbor, who just wants a good look at the dormitory bathrooms.
With the human spirit of Tom Perrotta and the engaging honesty of Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, Susan Coll reveals the frantic world of college admissions, where kids recalibrate their GPAs based on daily quizzes, families relocate to enhance the chance for Ivy League slots, and everyone is looking for the formula for admittance. Meanwhile, Yates admissions officer Olivia Sheraton sifts through applications looking for something-anything-to distinguish one applicant from the next. For all, the price of admission requires compromise; for a few, the ordeal blossoms into an unexpected journey of discovery.
For Jordan Adler and her family, though, this rite of passage threatens to become more than just frivolous fun. The teen's parents, Leah and Charles, might not let their only child go at all. Their marriage is in shambles, their old house is languishing on the market, and the bills are stacking up. With all that stress, it soon seems they're behaving as irresponsibly as their daughter and her friends.
With the wit of Nora Ephron and the insight of Tom Perrotta, Susan Coll satirizes a new teenage rite of passage, in the process dismantling the lives of families in transition. Beach Week is a hilarious, well-observed look at the end of childhood and the human need to commemorate it—expensively.