Were you an overachiever in high school? If you weren’t, I bet you knew a few kids who were. And according to Alexandra Robbins’ The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, the drive to overachieve can hurt kids — and it’s getting worse.
Robbins followed several students at her former high school for a year, and she alternates their stories with extensive research about high pressure to achieve, its possible causes and results and what students, parents, high schools and colleges can do about it. She writes about issues like overemphasis on test scores, cheating, parental pressure and students’ mental health.
The kids in this book are from the graduating class of 2005. I graduated from high school in 2002, and while my high school wasn’t as highly rated or Ivy League-oriented as these kids’, I definitely recognized little bits of myself and my friends in them. This book was published in 2006, and I kept wondering as I read the book whether things have changed for the better or for the worse in the six years since then. Maybe they’re the same.
Overall, I’d recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in these kinds of topics. I almost majored in sociology in college, and apparently that still comes out in my choice of books to read; I found this book fascinating. I did have trouble keeping some of the kids straight, but that wasn’t a huge distraction.
Rated: High. A lot of this book is based on teenage students’ experiences and opinions, so there is a lot of language in this book, including a few instances of the f-word. There isn’t much sexual content, except for one racy note that one student wrote to another.