"Accelerated-A Novel" by Bronwen Hruska was chosen as one of Oprah Magaine's best new books for October 2012. And it's now available as a downloadable or CD audiobook.
When his wife leaves him, Sean Benning finds himself a single father raising his 8 year old son Toby in a culture he is unfamiliar with and unprepared for: the upper class world of a private upper-east side Manhattan school (paid for by his in-laws.)
Toby and his Dad are close, so Sean is baffled when the school suggests that Toby may need medication for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) to help him "concentrate" and improve his school performance. Sean sees Toby as a normal, energetic third-grader, and he's always questioned the hyper-competitive atmosphere of Toby's school and the pressure placed on grade-schoolers to perform like Ivy Leaguers—which is what they all must become.
Fortunately, Sean finds an empathetic ear in Toby's teacher Jess, and when Toby's best friend is discovered unconscious in a school stairwell, together Sean and Jess uncover the unsavory truth behind the prestigious school's formula for success.
"Accelerated" is Hruska's first novel; prior to publishing it she worked as a journalist and screenwriter for twenty years. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, Entertainment Weekly and Cosmopolitan, to name just a few.
Hruska has said that her inspiration for the novel came from an experience in which her own son was placed on medication for ADD at his school's request. About a year later, the medication didn't seem to be working, and she questioned the necessity and frequency of the ADD diagnosis.
"It's just too many kids for this to be a disorder. You've got to start to wonder what the barometer for normal is", Hruska has said.
Every afternoon Sean Benning picks up his son, Toby, on the marble steps that lead into the prestigious Bradley School. Everything at Bradley is accelerated—third graders read at the sixth grade level, they have labs and facilities to rival most universities, and the chess champions are the bullies. A single dad and struggling artist, Sean sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the power-soccer-mom cliques and ladies-who-lunch that congregate on the steps every afternoon. But at least Toby is thriving and getting the best education money can buy. Or is he?
When Sean starts getting pressure from the school to put Toby on medication for ADD, something smells fishy, and it isn’t the caviar that was served at last week’s PTA meeting. Toby’s “issues” in school seem, to Sean, to be nothing more than normal behavior for an eight-year-old boy. But maybe Sean just isn’t seeing things clearly, which has been harder and harder to do since Toby’s new teacher, Jess, started at Bradley. And the school has Toby’s best interests at heart, right? But what happens when the pressure to not just keep up, but to exceed, takes hold?
When things take a tragic turn, Sean realizes that the price of this accelerated life is higher than he could have ever imagined.
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