Summary: This Is Not a Personal Statement
In This Is Not a Personal Statement, we meet Perla Perez, a 16-year-old high school senior who has been rejected from the college of her (and her parents’) dreams. Much to her dismay, she put all her eggs in this one basket and didn’t give her other college applications half as much care as she did this one — so all the other colleges rejected her too. With her back against the wall and under the immense pressure from her immigrant parents to succeed, she forges an acceptance letter and thus begins months of lying and elaborate schemes to get into the dorms, going through all the motions of a real student. She hopes to re-apply in the next session and get in so her parents never know she was rejected. But will her plans go up in flames?
This was absolutely riveting. If you can get past the dread that comes from seeing someone spinning a web of lies that will only entangle them, you won’t want to put it down. Perla is an obnoxious –perhaps hard-to-like protagonist — who believes she should have gotten in and so isn’t doing wrong by faking her admission. Her view does change over time and her character growth is one of the book’s highlights for me.
Another big theme in this book is the undue pressure some immigrant parents can place on their kids. For some parents, this is actually because they want their kids to do well and be okay. For others, their childrens’ performance is somehow part of their self-esteem and reflects on the way their peers view them — which is why they’re so invested in how well their kids seem to be doing on the outside. Perla’s mom seemed to be the latter, which was sad but also realistic.
Finally, I loved that there was no romance in this book. Perla is young and hyperfocused on getting through her fake college life. Living in dorms without ID, attending classes (and even taking tests!) she’s not assigned, befriending other kids and getting a job on campus! This girl goes to LENGTHS and it was simultaneously entertaining and petrifying. Thankfully, the ending is relatable and satisfying.
Overall: This Is Not a Personal Statement
This Is Not a Personal Statement is a fast-paced, compulsively-readable young adult novel about the pressures of college admission. Set in college, this YA novel features a younger protagonist whose ID is wrapped up in her smarts and academic success, fueled by pressure from her parents. Readers who enjoyed books like Admission and younger teens will like this no-romance YA.
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