by Bronwen Hruska
A single dad and his son discover what lies beneath the gilded facade of an elite upper east side private school
Everything at Bradley is accelerated—their facilities rival the best universities, their third graders read at 6th grade levels and here the chess champ is the school bully. A single dad and struggling artist, Sean finds himself thrust into the crush of power-mom pick-ups and ladies who lunch. But at least his son Toby is getting the best education money can buy, right?
Then Sean starts getting pressure from the school to put Toby on medication. What happens when keeping up is no longer enough? When success is not enough? When the pressure to exceed eclipses all else? Acceleratedis a story of love, longing, redemption, and a reflection on the modern family.
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1. How do you think the story would be different if it were told from a woman’s (mother’s) point of view?
2. Do you think Sean made the right decision when he decided to put Toby on medication?
3. Third grade seems to be the “sweet spot” for discovering learning disabilities, challenges and disorders. Do you think there’s too much emphasis at schools on “not letting anything fall through the cracks,” or do you think this is crucial for identifying and supporting any learning issues, even though some children and families will be falsely alarmed.
4. Has your child received an ADHD diagnosis of some sort, and have you been skeptical that the results were incorrect? How have your reservations been received? Have you felt pressure to put your child on medication? If you did decide to medicate, what do you think would have happened if you’d refused?
5. Medicating children used to carry a greater stigma than it does today, but it’s still not something parents talk about in casual conversation. Do you think that a more open dialogue among parents would help them make better decisions? Does knowing the statistics (all statistics and medications in the book are real, except for the fictional Ritalin-like Metattent and Metattent , Jr.). How does knowing how many children are being diagnosed with and medicated for ADHD impact your thinking about the disorder and the way this country views children’s development.
6. It’s hard to teach kids, especially boys, who are antsy and can’t sit still for hours on end. What are ways, beyond medicating, that might help boys learn what they need to learn in school? An article on education that ran a few years ago declared that boys were being treated like "defective girls". Do you think this statement is inflammatory, accurate, or both?
7. Do you think there’s an over-emphasis in today’s society on over-achieving? What are some pros and cons of pushing children and teens to work at such an advanced level?
8. Sean’s sister, Nicole, sends her daughter to a “Gifted and Talented” program at a New York City public school. Did you find this counterpoint to Toby’s private school experience helpful in considering what and how kids are learning today?
9. Many professional athletes have felt compelled to “juice” in order to keep up with the competition. Do you think steroid use among athletes is a fair comparison with the over-diagnosis and medication of school-aged kids in this country? Instead of leveling the playing field, do you think the prevalence of students taking ADHD medication has ratcheted up the level of competition to an unrealistic and overly stressful level?
10. How does Noah's approach to learning and education serve as a counterpoint to Bradley's philosophy?
11. Are you worried that reading this story will deter parents of children who need medication from giving it to them? Or do you think Sean and Toby's story will help parents who are on the fence make more informed decisions?
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"Bronwen Hruska brings a strong, agile literary sensibility to this novel that lifts the skin on the prep school milieu. There is a depth and charm and deceptive ease to the prose. A very fine novel."
Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin, winner of the National Book Award
"Hruska's eye-opening novel offers a glimpse of high-pressure academics and the anxiety of modern parenting, asking the question: Is it all really worth it?"
The Los Angeles Times
"Hruska is at her wittiest describing the lives of Toby’s classmates: A boy attends occupational therapy for his “pencil grip;” a girl gives her doll Play-doh breast implants and pretends Tic Tacs are Xanax. As knowing as it is entertaining."
O, The Oprah Magazine
"Accelerated invites readers into a story that is relatable and makes them aware of what could happen, what does happen, and what will continue to happen every day until more stories like hers are written and read. Well done."
The Chicago Examiner
"Entertaining and fast-paced. Hruska weaves her inside knowledge of Manhattan’s elite academies and the overmedication of children into an amusing but compelling critique of the race for success."
New York Family
"Witty and piercingly relevant. Hruska perfectly captures the prep school miliu that crackles with rumors, money, and the hunger for success, while creating a wholly sympathetic father-son relationship that ranks love over Ivy League potential."
"In her captivating first novel, Bronwen Hruska takes sharp aim at elitist private schools and their intense need to overachieve. Accelerated proved hard to put down."
The Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Compelling. Will appeal to readers of Tom Perotta, Jennifer Haigh, and other authors whose novels about families in a particular segment of society illuminate the larger human condition."
Library Journal, (starred review)
"A smart, sexy thriller balanced on top of a real-life horror story: the irresponsible over-medication of our children by our schools."
Madison Smartt Bell, author of The Color of Night
"A fast-paced, crystal-clear, and funny exploration of a subject that, thanks to Hruska, can finally be openly talked about. A kind of Kramer v. Kramer meets Erin Brockovich in a dark dystopia with baby pharmaceuticals packed in lunch boxes."
Jennifer Belle, author of High Maintenance and The Seven Year Bitch
"Page turning, socially compelling, and ringing with truth. Layered between the stories of a private school overmedicating their students, celebrity journalism, and a crumbling marriage, lays the tender love of a father for his son."
Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murderer's Daughters
"What starts off as an entertaining if ironic romp through the world of privileged parents and private schools, spins itself into a harrowing tale. A deftly, unexpectedly terrifying first novel."
A. M. Homes, author of May We Be Forgiven
"Although it tears along like a classy thriller, Accelerated is a social commentary wrapped in a nightmare. To read it is to look in to a window, or a mirror, and gasp."
Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean
"A touching novel about familial love and what really matters. Deftly lyrical and poetic, a charming read."
Molly Jong-Fast, author of Normal Girl
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