Friday, November 29, 2013

PERSONAL STATEMENT by Jason Odell Williams

Published by In This Together Media; August 2013; 217  pages
Young Adult, Humor, Realistic Fiction
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4 out of 5 stars

"The average student uses 400 sheets of paper during the college application process."

The road to Harvard is paved with ____ intentions. Getting into college has never been harder. Can't rely on that perfect SAT score or a 5 on your AP Mandarin exam. And field hockey or basketball? Please. The real sport is Volunteering. This year, seniors all over Connecticut are positively euphoric over a natural disaster that's promising epic opportunities. Let the game begin!

My review
Smart book! Wry social commentary disguised in young adult fiction and served with a healthy dose of humor makes for some refreshing read. Personal Statement is the irreverent portrayal of three ambitious college-bound students who will transform a natural catastrophe into an opportunity to boost their resumes and enhance their chances to be accepted by prestigious universities. 

Anyone who's applying to a top college can sport outstanding report cards, perfect test scores, leadership, sports, and volunteering, but what really separates a college application from the rest of the pile is a killer personal statement. Our young protagonists need an epic opportunity, a 'frontline' life experience that will turn their personal essay into a touching representation of their unique personalities.  And that opportunity presents itself in the form of a hurricane heading for Connecticut. Being part of the volunteer rescue effort is the wild card Emily, Rani, and Robert were hoping for in order to stand out over a crowd of college applicants. The problem is that the crowd of pre-college students they were trying to leave behind had exactly the same idea. 

Nudged by their parents, spurred by individualism, or motivated by an unhealthy obsession for academic excellence, Emily, Rani, and Robert rush to the place where Calliope will make landfall, just to find out what really defines them and makes them happy.

Williams' characters belong to a world of wealth and privilege, nuveau riche and old money: it won't be easy for everyone to relate to their status and background, although that very elitism  provides the author with an hilarious  foil for his social satire. Clearly Personal Statement strikes a chord as it ridicules the absurdity of college admissions, a process that nowadays borders a mania at best, a real nightmare at worst. For many high-school students (and their parents), college application is an angsty and stressful experience: when a model of education values achievement over real knowledge, and trades love of learning for cut-throat values and an impossible ideal of perfection, we undermine our children's mental sanity and happiness. Not a promise of a bright future.

*Review copy generously offered by the publisher in return for an unbiased and honest opinion


About the author
Jason is an Emmy-nominated writer and producer of National Geographic's  hit television series "Brain Games", as well as an award-winning playwright. He lives in New York City with his actress-director-producer wife, Charlotte Cohn, and their daughter, Imogen, who is working  on her hyphenated as we speak. Personal Statement is his first novel. Visit his website for more details.


  1. Great review Mina! I have one daughter in her second year of college and one is a sophomore in high school and we will be doing the college application process all over again soon so maybe I need to get this to bring a little humor during our stressful application process! She's already stressing over how many volunteer opportunities she needs!

    1. Thank you, Monica! I can imagine the crazyness of this whole process even if my kids are still little. On his first day of school, my 9 year old son received from his school a brochure about college applications. He's only in 4th grade!!!! College should be a 'medium', not the goal.

  2. I have some personal statement for graduate school examples after that i am able to write my personal statement my own. I really say thanks to you.