Sunday, May 17, 2009

Back to College with "Admission"

I posted a review of Travis Thrasher's Admission at, and I won't repeat or recycle it here. It's sufficient to say I liked this mystery/suspense novel. Anyone who's ever been a college student or known a college student will recognize the intensity of college life (including the binge drinking), how things seem to matter so much more than they ever will again, and the college pranks and practical jokes and what happens when they go wrong.

The novel is the story of how one former college student has to find out what happened in an incident from 11 years before. Thrasher keeps you guessing throughout. Someone did something, and you gradually begin to suspect what the something was, but the mystery is who might have done it and the details of what actually happened. The story is structured and tied together well. You finish Admission and you're satisifed. This is an author who writes for his readers, and he writes very well indeed. I've previously read his Isolation and Sky Blue, and all of his books are good.

Admission also provokes long-buried memories. You think back to your own college days and about things that happened that you remember or heard about. It reminded me of college "names," the student "wheels" on campus. And then the book connected me to the memory of going to the police jail in my college town on a cold, overcast Sunday morning. A friend and I, he a "name" in student government and I a "name" on the student newspaper, went there to see if we could get a girl we knew released from custody. She'd been arrested because because she was with her boyfriend when he was arrested for drug possession (this was the early 1970s).

The girl was a type -- sweet, naive, innocent and wildly in love with her boyfriend, who was also a "name" in student government. And, shocking everyone, a drug dealer. We talked with the police; they listened and told us to leave, but they did release her about an hour later and never pressed charges against her. Some time later, another student government "name," who was one of the university's official, card-carrying-and-proud-of-it "leftists," suddenly quit school. It turned out he was actually a narc, and had been the one to turn the guy, and many others, in.

The narc's girlfriend, another "name" in student journalism, was a good friend of mine (we'd even dated a couple of times). She was devastated. Think what that would have meant for her --dating a guy who turned out to be narc who turned in his friends, then disappeared. She loved the guy, but she was only part of his cover, and their relationship a complete sham, as was his commitment to the campus leftist political association he was part of (which, by the way, never recovered from the scandal of having a narc in its midst). This sounds like a novel, but it actually happened.

There's an intensity about college life that's hard to describe -- you have to live it to understand it. That's what Travis Thatcher captured in Admission.

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