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The Education of Hailey Kendrick

by Eileen Cook

Hailey Kendrick is about as engaging a teen protagonist as a reader could wish for. Sure, she’s smart and pretty, but she’s also earnest, anxious, and maybe more than a little accident-prone.

Following her mother’s death years earlier, Hailey developed a cautious, risk-averse nature that is a coping mechanism as much as anything else. She’s known for following the rules, and it has paid off in perfect grades, perfect friends, and a perfect future. Her boyfriend is the hottest guy in school, she’s vice-president of the student council, and all roads lead to Yale in the fall. Then Hailey meets an outsider who embraces life in all its unpredictable glory, and she learns that taking a chance can sometimes be the best way to solve your problems.

While the novel’s genre is best described as ChickLit: Junior Division, there’s plenty here for early adolescent girls to like, and nothing preachy or contrived about the story. Hailey’s problems are the mainstays of high school: she’s lost touch with her father, over-identifies with her social group, and is so afraid of life that she might just miss it altogether.

The celeb status of most of Hailey’s boarding school cohorts can be a bit much at times (one student is a famously naughty heiress, another is the politically ambitious son of a senator), but the dialogue is fast and true, the narrative well-paced, and despite her rich-girl persona, Hailey manages to be funny, sweet, and perhaps most importantly, instantly likable.