Book Review ~ Schooled by Anisha Lakhani

Summary ~ “When Anna Taggert lands a teaching job at an elite private school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, her dreams of chalk boards and lesson plans are quickly dashed by the grim realities of her small paycheck. It’s not easy to overlook the fact that tuition for each of your students exceeds your annual salary or that your students dress better than you do, but this earnest young Ivy League graduate does her best. And then comes the discovery that the papers she grades are not the work of her seventh graders, but of their high-priced tutors. Before long, Anna too is lured into a world where paying for the best that money can buy takes on a whole new meaning. Enticed by the prospect of earning more in an hour than she takes home in a day, Anna becomes a teacher by day and a tutor by night, joining the ranks of those who secretly do the homework of the children of affluence. A delicious debut based on the author’s experiences as a tutor while teaching at one of Manhattan’s top private schools, Schooled presents a shocking picture of an underground economy that is altering the landscape of education in every way. This dazzling exposé lays bare the tutoring industry in a way only an insider can. Welcome to Schooled, where even homework has a price.”

Schooled is a fun, light and enjoyable novel by debut author, Anisha Lakhani.  At the fictional Landon School, Anna Taggart is the newest and youngest member of the teaching faculty, in more ways than one.  Anna is the embodiment of a young Columbia University grad who actually gets a job right out of college as an English teacher at the most coveted private school in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  The hopeful and optimistic Anna enters the world of private school as a driven and idealistic first year teacher full of dreams of happy hours with co-workers and inspiring her young students. 

She starts out the new semester with clever class assignments and a drive to teach and mold the minds of her young students.  The lesson plans are creative and compelling and made for some of my favorite scenes in the book.  The students, who on most days would sit bored out of their minds around the conference table (there aren’t desks in this progressiveschool), really respond to Anna’s assignments.  Especially two in particular.  One being an assignment to rewrite some of Romeo’s lines as a rap song and the second, to direct a scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  They have to create story boards, blocking and put together the staples of a play. 

I learned more about Shakespeare while reading Schooled than I did while studying his work in high school.  I chalk it up to the fact that I may not have really been interested in learning about Shakespeare and his significance but I also blame the unenthusiastic teachers who saw the sea of faces before them as a group of uninterested, carefree, hormone driven kids who didn’t care.  I have no recollection of ever learning or at least retaining the magic of iambic pentameter.  I will admit that thanks to the character, Anna Taggart, I now understand it.

After some students, God forbid, seriously do the homework themselves and whine when asked by parents to go to bed, go out for the weekend or be on the computer working instead of the rumored hours of IM’ing, complaints come in over the phones to the administration and Anna is reminded that her job as a teacher does not require assigning homework.  Langdon School prides itself in it’s progressive ways of teaching and handling its students. 

As the semester continues, Anna learns that the papers she has been grading are too perfect to have been written by her seventh graders and are actually the work of overpriced and overpaid tutors who work for the families of Langdon.  Not only is she learning about the tutoring underworld that parents blindly believe is best for their children but these tutors are private school teachers just like herself.  

The plot thickens when Anna finds herself seduced by parents and their money to tutor their children.  She soon acquires a whole new schedule full of students from other private schools after finding out that she could make more in one hour of tutoring than she does in one day of teaching.  Soon Anna is caught up in the crazy world of writing papers for students all over the Upper East Side as well as for college students over Christmas break, being able to move from her fifth floor walk-up to a luxurious apartment between Park and Madison Avenue, to shopping and dining at all the tres chic boutiques and the coveted shopping mecca that is Barney’s. 

Schooled is full of moral issues, big money and spoiled rich kids and their parents taking advantage of the school system to their own detriment.  One of the most refreshing things I found about this book was the fact that the protagonist, Anna Taggart, does not have a love interest to busy herself with but instead devotes her time to starting her career as a private school English teacher and learning, and consequently becoming a part of, of the tutoring underworld that haunts her school and other private schools on the Upper East Side.  The idea of a relationship brimming between Anna and a fellow teacher hit me while reading and I later found out from my correspondence with Anisha Lakhani that she had toyed with the idea of pairing Anna up with this other character but decided against it.

I enjoyed every part of this book, from the classroom scenes to the shopping sprees to the tutoring lessons.  Schooled has a flair about it that transports the reader to Manhattan’s Upper East Side and makes it easy to visualize the life of the filthy rich and the people they take advantage of.  It offers up a great heroine named Anna Taggert who has decided to go into the thankless and difficult career of teaching.  She is a great character whom I will not soon forget.

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

Schooled will be available for purchase Tuesday, August 5th.  You can visit Anisha Lakhani’s website HERE.  It is a very cool site.  You can see Anisha’s book tour schedule under the Field Trip ‘pencil’ and be sure to check out her adorable Shih Tzu, Harold Moskowitz, under the Class Mascot ‘pencil’.  Anisha will also be over at The Debutante Ball grog (group blog) on August 9th.   

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5 thoughts on “Book Review ~ Schooled by Anisha Lakhani

  1. Taught public school myself but spent a year at a high school where at least of half the student body came from money that allowed them to drive expensive cars and wear only the latest fashion. I remember a conference I had with a boy’s mother whose only concern was that I pass him. It didn’t really matter to her what kind of fuzzy math I had to use to do it. She had connections that would get her son into university just as long as he graduated.

  2. That sounds exactly like som eof the parents in SCHOOLED and I’m sure in real life all over the country. So sad that the parent is willing to sacrifice their own child’s education like that instead of helping work toward a better result.

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