We Regret to Inform You, by A. E. Kaplan
Publish Date: August 21, 2018
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Contemporary
My Rating: ★★★★★ (4.75 out of 5 stars)
**I received an egalley of this from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**
Mischa Abramavicius is a walking, talking, top-scoring, perfectly well-rounded college application in human form. So when she’s rejected not only by the Ivies, but her loathsome safety school, she is shocked and devastated. All the sacrifices her mother made to send her to prep school, the late nights cramming for tests, the blatantly résumé-padding extracurriculars (read: Students for Sober Driving) … all that for nothing.
As Mischa grapples with the prospect of an increasingly uncertain future, she questions how this could have happened in the first place. Is it possible that her transcript was hacked? With the help of her best friend and sometimes crush, Nate, and a group of eccentric techies known as “The Ophelia Syndicate,” Mischa launches an investigation that will shake the quiet community of Blanchard Prep to its stately brick foundations.
Okay, so I honestly didn’t think I was going to be in the mood to read this when I started it, but from the first chapter onward I was hooked. The writing was fast, smooth and completely immersing, pulling me in and not letting go for one second. The characters are diverse and full of life, and the plot was both heartaching and beautiful. This book is one of those books that everyone can relate to in some way (re: feeling like a failure despite knowing you did your best), and is unflinchingly real in everything it portrays.
Right off the bat, the story dragged me in, making me feel sympathetic pain for Mischa as one by one all of her dreams are dashed with every rejection letter she receives from the colleges to which she applied. The pace of the story was absolutely perfect, giving me all the suspense and threat of growing stakes as Mischa and the Ophelia Syndicate race to uncover the mystery behind her botched college admissions. There was some time though where Mischa gave up on the chase a bit, and while it was interesting to see herself focus on herself more during this period, I also felt like it was a strange pause to have in the mystery aspect of the novel. Other than that, though, it was an excellent balance of intrigue and the daily woes of being a teenager on the cusp of adulthood.
I really loved the characters in this book. They all had distinct personalities, and felt real in the way they were portrayed. Mischa makes mistakes and some bad judgment calls, but is still kind and caring towards others and worries constantly about getting in trouble. Nate is willing to do what it right for him, despite what other expect. Meredith, Mischa’s academic rival, is unfailingly mean and doesn’t care what other people think of her. And the Ophelias – Bebe, Shira, and Emily – are all so extremely interesting in their individual ways, really making a statement about how people are perceived versus what they are actually like.
Mischa, the narrator, is a wonderful protagonist, because she is easy to sympathize with but also isn’t perfect. I felt such a connection to her, because I too was an overachiever in high school (although not to the same extent) and had some of the same existential crisis moments that she does throughout the book (sadly mine have come later in life and I wish I had had them sooner to realize what I was missing out on). I also loved Mischa’s relationships with those around her, especially Nate and her mother, because although they seem perfect and great on the outlook, as the story progresses it becomes clear that they aren’t perfect – there are fights and miscommunications and sometimes lies, but then there is also reconcilliation and forgiveness and always love. And while I didn’t always agree with the way she handled some things, it was easy to step back from the page and understand why she would act that way.
I think the strongest part of this book is just the message (which it should be), which, for me, is about taking a moment to step away from things and look at the bigger picture. I, too, spent my entire high school career studying and doing homework and getting good grades and being good in basically every subject, but now that I’m out of high school and out of college, I feel like I forgot to take the time to discover what it was exactly that I loved to do. This book is about that, and it’s about the pressure students have these days to achieve greatly and strive to be the best, because it’s a dog-eat-dog world and no one wants to make room for the younger generations anymore, so they have to fight their way in. It’s also about friendships and parent-child relationships, and understanding yourself and those around you.
This was a great read that started off heartbreaking, turned happy and gave me laughs, kept me on the edge of the seat to find out the answers to the mystery, and brought tears to my eyes everytime I recognized a part of myself on the page. Part of me feels like this is a book I could have used earlier in my life – maybe in high school, maybe even earlier, or maybe in college – but the other part of me wonders if I would have connected with it as much if I had read it then as opposed to now. It ended up being a narrative that meant so much to me, not because of the horrible feeling of being a failure that Mischa had to endure, but because of the realizations about herself that came about by the whole fiasco.