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An Uncommon Education

3.14  ·  Rating Details ·  1,087 Ratings  ·  208 Reviews

A young woman tries to save three people she loves in this elegant and remarkably insightful coming-of-age debut.

Afraid of losing her parents at a young age—her father with his weak heart, her deeply depressed mother—Naomi Feinstein prepared single-mindedly for a prestigious future as a doctor. An outcast at school, Naomi loses herself in books, and daydreams of Welles

Hardcover, 342 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Harper
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ugh, i don't want to write this review. because it's not that the book is bad, it just never worked for me. there is something so cheeky and earnest about this book, but it's like an amish girl going on her rumspringa. not that she's trying to be gritty or shocking at all, but it just feels wrong, somehow, tentative, like she is trying to write dramatic irony way out of her depth without realizing it.

i feel like the author is probably a really really good person. she just isn't great at writing
Mar 14, 2012 Heidi rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful novel, sort of Leif Enger meets Willa Cather with a pinch of Donna Tartt's The Secret History thrown in. It's also not at all what I expected. I wanted to read it because much of the story takes place at my alma mater, Wellesley. I also love coming-of-age tales. I guess I expected something...less exquisite? It's hard to explain. Basically I expected something good, something solid, something that I would adore because of the Wellesley connection, but not something that I wou ...more
May 31, 2012 Sheila rated it did not like it
A jumbled mess. I was really excited to read this book because of one descriptive sentence: The event marks Naomi's introduction to Wellesley's oldest honor society, the mysterious Shakespeare Society, defined by secret rituals and filled with unconventional, passionate students. I was disappointed to discover that this book wasn't about a secret society at all (those books are like catnip to me), but rather a dull coming-of-age novel with no real plot, uneven pacing, an unsatisfying conclusion, ...more
Dec 19, 2012 Sarah rated it it was ok
I almost never give a book so few stars, because I'm pretty good at anticipating what I'll like, and ditching anything I don't after 50 or so pages. But An Uncommon Education was a tricky little thing. I *should* have liked it, maybe even loved it. There's a tiny picture of Shakespeare on the front cover, for crying out loud, and the heroine was weird, compelling, unexpected. The story began with a fascinating and heartbreaking friendship between two outsiders and continued at a Northeastern Lib ...more
Angela Risner
Jun 03, 2012 Angela Risner rated it it was ok
First off, I think that this writer has a lot of talent. The language that she uses and the sentence structure are all great. I just didn't like the story or the characters.

We start off with Naomi Feinstein as a child, who is the apple of her father's eye. He makes an extra effort with her, as her mother suffers from depression. Her mother spends most of her time alone, as she doesn't want her moods to affect her daughter. Of course, the removal of her mother from most situations affects Naomi.

Book Him Danno
An Uncommon Education is a wonderful coming of age story.

Too often in life I will hear someone say “All my problems will be over once” something happens. The teenager thinks going to college will change them; the college kid thinks a real job with a paycheck will, the young employee thinks marriage, then children, then empty nester, retirement, and so on. The real truth about life is we never get rid of our problems, rather we just trade them in for new ones. The only constructive thing a person
Oh! Paper Pages
Jan 09, 2013 Oh! Paper Pages rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Also reviewed at Oh! Paper Pages

At ALA Annual last year, I saw people with copies of An Uncommon Education, and I was saddened that I missed out on meeting Elizabeth Percer. My disappointment has vanished now that I am able to help celebrate the paperback release of this wonderful book. An Uncommon Education tracks the life of Naomi, a girl who experiences loneliness and loss so profound that she carries the mark throughout her life. When Naomi’s best friend is suddenly ripped from her life, she
Jun 16, 2012 Kristin rated it liked it
Okay...again, I was completely predisposed to like this book. Wellesley heroine, Wellesley alum, this one even set at Wellesley. ya, ya, I am a sucker.

But here's the problem. There's no there there for me. Completely unlikeable heroine. A Wellesley I don't recognize (unfriendly, mean students). I found it falling into stereotypes of the college (okay no one but an alum would see this) about lesbians everywhere especially in the arts groups, competitive to the hilt females, and daughters who cann
Jul 23, 2012 Becky rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
Things I loathed about this book:
1. The plot ranges from nonexistent to stupid. When I finished the book, my only reaction was "what exactly was the point of that?"
2. On almost every page I wanted to yell "no one would ever do that" and/or "no one would ever talk like that (ESPECIALLY a college student)." Suspension of disbelief = not achieved.
3. The writing is cringeworthy, like when an author thinks she's saying something REALLY insightful, so it's kind of sneaky, and you're like, oh, maybe th
Jan 08, 2013 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When TLC Book Tours gives me a good adult lit-fic book, they give me a good one. Maybe it's because I don't read much in the genre, but I so appreciated and needed the story that Percer presented in these pages. It wasn't too pretentious despite the high-end college setting, the very intelligent heroine who narrates starting at a young age feeling like a friend rather than an alien. Thinking of this book makes me think of good words: quiet, peaceful, meaningful, and subtle. It's the kind of stor ...more
Jun 01, 2012 Octavia rated it did not like it
Boy, was this a hard book to get through. I decided at about 40% I had to power through and finish it. I couldn't stand the narrator Naomi. Her child observations were laughable. Even though she was supposed to be some kind of genius, no kid would ever have the thoughts she had.

Furthermore, from child to young adult to adult she changed very little. She was so shy it seemed she didn't even talk to her friends yet she was in plays? Her growth as a character was so stagnic I felt the need to try
Dec 04, 2011 Alicen rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderfully written book about what it means to grow up and find yourself, despite how hard and non-linear and unexpected that process can be. This book is also the first one I've ever read about a place and time that I actually experienced as the author is a fellow Shakespeare Society member from Wellesley College who overlapped for one year with me. This made the book even more enjoyable for me to read as it instantly brought me back to that time in my life which - much like the book ...more
Mar 11, 2013 Stacey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I adored this book and the characters. I enjoyed the story of her learning more about herself and the life she lived in with all it's complexities and chaos. I loved the way it was written as well.

It's a story about Naomi, and I think it's more than just a "coming of age" book as many have suggested. While we do watch Naomi grow up, I think the complexities allow us to see life on a bigger picture. It wasn't that I ever sympathized with Naomi, but it was more like I simply understood her.
Jaime Boler
May 01, 2012 Jaime Boler rated it really liked it
She Could Fly

An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer (Harper; 342 pages; $24.99).

Coming of age novels are so popular as of late. They are everywhere. Just within the last few months, I have read Jennifer Miller's The Year of the Gadfly, Morgan Callan Rogers's Ruby Red Heart in a Deep Blue Sea, Amber Dermont's The Starboard Sea, and others. The new novel An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer can now take its place beside these favorites. In some ways, Percer's book stands head and shoulder
Lindsay Heller
Picking up this book I wasn't entirely sure I would like it. Reading the description, the plot seemed entirely up my alley, but after it had been out for a few weeks and the reviews started coming in I grew a little bit skeptical. They weren't that great. Many of them expressed distaste in the lead character, the depiction of Wellesley College, and even the pacing of the story. Still, I put it on my wish list on PaperbackSwap and when it arrived in the mail I picked it up right away.

Naomi Feinst
I liked this book because it was a different perspective on a fairly common coming-of-age story. I've encountered lots of boys only schools with private elite societies (and their bacchanalian parties), but I have yet to read one about girls. The writing was generally good and there were some real moments; however I was not convinced by Naomi's motivations. I found her character to be less than believable at times.

Most importantly, I did not understand Naomi's devotion to her mother. Her father
Crystal (Kris)
Jan 07, 2013 Crystal (Kris) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-reviewed
Interview with Elizabeth Percer on Uncommon Education at my blog Imaginary Reads

An Uncommon Education is a coming-of-age story that follows Naomi from early childhood to her adult years. Over the years, Naomi learns things about her family that she wonder might have been better left alone, she finds love in different people and in different forms, and she comes to terms with who she is and what she wants to do with her life.

Naomi is a gifted child with a photographic memory. An ambitious
Alisha Marie
Most people who don't love An Uncommon Education say that the book was slow to start and that the first half dragged. I seemed to have the opposite reaction. I thought that An Uncommon Education was amazing and compelling at the beginning, yet seemed to meander along throughout the last half. It's just that learning about Naomi's life was great at first, but after a while, I noticed, that there wasn't much going on in her life that could have kept me engaged throughout the whole novel.

I loved re
Julie - Book Hooked Blog
The story of a young woman who comes of age with an acute fear of losing her parents (the first half of the book give or take) and then joins a secret society of Shakespeare enthusiasts at Wellesley, only to become embroiled in a scandal (it's a secret society, what else is to be expected?). Basically it's a coming of age story about a very relatable and intriguing young woman as she grows into herself.

I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, particularly for a debut. I think in any book aspirin
Jul 21, 2012 Evelyne rated it really liked it
Overall a pretty solid novel written by a fellow Wellesley alumna. Three aspects of the novel struck me most:

1) The juxtaposition between the inward reality versus the outward portrayal of Wellesley (and most likely other institutions with prestigious reputations). About a week before starting at Wellesley, an upperclasswoman told me that the day-to-day reality of the school would be vastly different from the facade presented to the rest of the world. I found this to be true--not in a negative w
Jul 30, 2012 Heather rated it did not like it
Given that this book is set in Brookline (partly at JFK's birthplace, no less!) and at Wellesley College, and given that it was written by a Wellesley alumna to boot, I was so excited to read it. Perhaps because of this initial excitement and investment (but perhaps not), I could not have been more disappointed by the time I finished it. The prose was clunky and overwrought, sometimes to the point of being totally meaningless. The plot was at times predictable and at times completely ludicrous - ...more
Bonnie Brody
Mar 15, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it liked it
Naomi is a lonely child, the daughter of a father with a heart condition and a mother with serious depression. She has no friends at school and her sole goal academically is to do well and 'win'. She has a dream of attending Wellesley College and becoming a cardiac surgeon. A boy her age, Teddy, moves in next door and Naomi and he become fast and close friends. He is the adopted son of a Hasidic family and Teddy's mother does not like Naomi. She goes to extreme lengths to get Teddy's mother to l ...more
L’inizio del libro è stato davvero entusiasmante. Naomi, la protagonista, da bambina, visitando la casa dei genitori di JFK, scopre delle carte appartenute alla sorella malata di John, Rosemary, tra cui spicca la foto di Amelia Earhart e la scritta “Sapeva volare”. Quindi le premesse c’erano tutte, sembrava un romanzo di formazione in cui la protagonista cresce attorniata dai libri e dalla cultura, diventando consapevole della sua intelligenza e della sua memoria fotografica a dir poco sorprende ...more
Nov 08, 2012 Amy rated it liked it
Percer has reminded me that I can enjoy good writing even when the novel isn't all that interesting (to me). If this hadn't been a library book, I would have underlined passages for the sheer beauty of a well-constructed sentence or a thought expressed like pure poetry.

For example(s):
"The first phase of his life was so marked by trauma he was able to detach it almost completely from his later realities; his pain a faulty limb that had been cleanly removed, only to be remembered as a phantom sens
May 02, 2012 Melissa rated it liked it
Received as an eARC via the publisher.

There are parts of this book that are very good and compelling. Unfortunately, they happen much later in the book. I was very uninterested in Naomi's story for about the first 120 pages - I couldn't connect her father's obsession with Rose Kennedy/the Rose Kennedy house, her father's heart attack, her friendship/first love with the neighbor boy, her mother's depression, etc. Naomi also has a photographic memory (?) just to give it that extra quirk.

Once the s
Feb 15, 2012 Marguerite rated it it was amazing
This is such an amazing book. The characters are haunting, as is the prose. It stays with you long after you put it down and I found myself highlighting and dog-earing pages to remember phrases and lines. I don't often do that these days, so it is a treat to read a page-turning story that also makes me stop and think about my own life and soul. And I found myself so tied into each of the main characters, it was hard to put down. It's like a beautifully gift-wrapped package that you slowly uncove ...more
Aug 05, 2013 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Lovely and challenging. This book explores themes of loss, loneliness, self-determination, and self-actualization, raising questions without easy answers. It's intelligent, painful and beautiful. If you're looking for a simplistic coming-of-age story with a straightforward protagonist then you might be disappointed, but if you're interested in a more complete portrait of a more realistic, and therefore far more complex, woman, I recommend this highly.
Jul 01, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club

I have to admit, a portion of my like for this book is based on the fact that it truthfully depicts the Wellesley I remember and brings back all the emotions I had while there. It's also possible that I felt the limited character development of Naomi translated well to women I knew at Wellesley. The story resonated for me, and i'll admit that my nostalgia may have convinced me of the greatness of this novel...
Jul 28, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it

A novel that has a distinct sense of place, especially of the lush, wooded campus of Wellesley College, and a much looser grasp of character, from the oddly aimless Protagonist to the ciphers who populate her stories like movie extras. I wanted to love this book -- it's the type of book I often do love -- but very little of it jelled for me.
Jun 24, 2012 Lizzy rated it liked it
it started out great, but it got progressively more boring.
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Elizabeth Percer is the author of the novels All Stories Are Love Stories and An Uncommon Education. She is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and has twice been honored by the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation. She received a BA in English from Wellesley, a PhD in arts education from Stanford University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship for the National Writing Project at UC Be ...more
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“His information was multifaceted, almost colorful. Had he not delivered it with such impassivity, spinning on his backless chair as if he were at the center of some odd carousel - we the horses, each with our own rigid purpose: names for me, numbers for my father, promises for my mother - it would have been a speech worth remembering.” 1 likes
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