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The student newspaper of, by, and for Ames High School.

The WEB

The student newspaper of, by, and for Ames High School.

The WEB

“Safety School” or Blessing in Disguise? Rating: 6.8/10

In “Party School,” novelist Jon Hart challenges the traditional advice surrounding college admissions.
Jon Harts Party School seeks to challenge the elitism surrounding college admissions. While entertaining, it falls short of thorough criticism. Cover art by Siori Kitajima.
Chantal de Macedo Eulenstein
Jon Hart’s Party School seeks to challenge the elitism surrounding college admissions. While entertaining, it falls short of thorough criticism. Cover art by Siori Kitajima.

As spring comes around and students enter the home stretch of the school year, seniors face a daunting hurdle: college admissions season. Many students face the pressure to attend prestigious universities as they prepare to advance their academic careers. Enter Party School, Jon Hart’s amusing take on the college admissions season. While Hart’s ambitious debut novel attacks the stigma regarding “safety schools” and lesser-known universities, it lacks the authenticity to be truly meaningful.

The synopsis of Party School is pictured. Jon Hart’s message is insightful and well-intended, but the absurdity of Party School means that it verges on the edge of a cliché. Interior design by Siori Kitajima. (Chantal de Macedo Eulenstein)

Dylan Mills is a college-bound teenager from the affluent village of Castleton, where an atmosphere of expectation surrounds university applicants. A decidedly average student and the fifth-string goalie on his hockey team, Dylan enjoys hanging out with his “shot-calling” girlfriend Rosemary, who drags Dylan to parties and brings him on excursions to her family cottage.

However, everything changes when Rosemary is admitted to a prestigious “it” university while Dylan is only accepted into his safety school, the fictitious stoner haven of “North South.” Already dreading the upcoming school year, things only get worse for Dylan when Rosemary asks to put their relationship on pause – she wants time to recalibrate to life at her new school. Yet Dylan surprisingly rediscovers himself at North South, while Rosemary’s seemingly infallible life becomes embroiled in scandal. 

If you’re looking for a brief and entertaining novel, then Party School is a whimsical read for your next car ride or weekend. However, if you expect a genuine comprehensive take on the stress created by college admissions, then this book falls flat. 

— Elio Viatori

Overall, “Party School” is an entertaining read, packed with twists and bloopers. The plot is enthrallingly unpredictable, and Hart’s characters are not the people that they initially seem. Dylan’s supporting cast of friends, professors, and family add hilarity and shenanigans to the story, particularly the eccentric sociologist Berkowitz. Author Jon Hart’s message is insightful and well-intended, if verging on the cliché — many students feel pressure to attend prestigious schools, but as Hart says, “It’s not the brand of the school. It’s the character of the student and the quality of the journey.” 

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However, the absurdity of Party School damages the relevance of this message. The endless stream of weed jokes and attempts at high school slang conjure up a small laugh but quickly become detrimental to the gravity of the novel. Additionally, Dylan’s positive character development is overshadowed by his clout gained from streaking across a rival school’s football field. 

Furthermore, the book oversimplifies the diverse range of potential post-secondary experiences; most students don’t attend an Ivy-level school or their last choice safety. Despite having a diverse array of characters at his disposal, Hart seemingly presents college as the only acceptable path for all of them.

If you’re looking for a brief and entertaining novel, then Party School is a whimsical read for your next car ride or weekend. However, if you expect a genuine comprehensive take on the stress created by college admissions, then this book falls flat. 

Rating: 6.8/10

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