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The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  2,385 Ratings  ·  354 Reviews
The bestselling author of Pledged returns with a groundbreaking look at the pressure to achieve faced by America's teens

In Pledged, Alexandra Robbins followed four college girls to produce a riveting narrative that read like fiction. Now, in The Overachievers, Robbins uses the same captivating style to explore how our highstakes educational culture has spiraled out of cont

Hardcover, 448 pages
Published August 8th 2006 by Hachette Books (first published January 1st 2006)
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Sep 05, 2008 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: High school students
Recommended to Sharon by: Ms. Campanella
Alexandra Robbins' The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids is a poignant, non-fiction work that touches upon the modern competitive education system, which has seemingly gone out of control. Rather than earning grades for learning, students are obtaining artificial grades through cheating, and even resorting to non-prescribed medications to facilitate their study habits in order to get into their dream college. During Alexandra's 10-year high school reunion, she gathers a group of her ...more
Dec 21, 2014 Alec rated it it was amazing
A Year Later....

It's close to the end of my senior year of high school, it's about time for me to really decide where I want to go, and it's been a year since I read The Overachievers -- yet this book is still sticking in my head. Of all the books that I've read, this is probably one of the most important. Honestly, I don't quite know why because it just gets me so righteously angry whenever I think about my own college application experiences in terms of this book -- curse the Early Decision ad
Nov 20, 2013 Betsy rated it it was amazing
When I read this after college, I felt like I was being transported back to high school. Not only did I know the kinds of kids she was describing - I WAS one of those kids. As a somewhat adult, it's hard to imagine how I could ever pull off everything I did in high school now. I can barely make it through the workday sometimes, how did I go to school, do homework, work at my job and play competitive sports and not simply die of exhaustion? The thought makes me crazy.

This was a great read for som
Jackie Carlson
Mar 28, 2016 Jackie Carlson rated it really liked it
It's been a while since I've truly liked a book that a teacher assigned me to read. In a little over 400 pages, Robbins discusses the hectic lives of a few teenage "overachievers" while focusing on a broader topic, the dysfunction of the American education system. She touches topics like the overbooked schedule of the American teenager, "helicopter" parents, and the stress of getting into a top rated college. Since I am a teenager in three AP classes, I am able to relate to this book. I myself a ...more
Matthew Tsvetkov
The Overachievers: Secret Lives of Driven Kids, gets a 2.5 out of 5 stars from me (although for the sake of the Goodreads website I gave the book a 2). The book had a strong, interesting opening. However, when I reached the halfway point I was really only interested in reading about the characters for a reason I couldn't understand. About 250 pages into the book I discovered that my big problem with the book was that I felt like I was being fed the same information in every section that was not ...more
Alexandra Robbins
Oct 18, 2010 Alexandra Robbins rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
My favorite of my books!
Sep 08, 2008 Judy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who can read at the fourth grade level
Recommended to Judy by: Ms. Campanella
The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, a nonfiction work by Alexandra Robbins, is a book I chose to read because it was a requirement for our English Honors class. Students usually groan at the thought of reading a book because it is a school requirement, but I found The Overachievers to be quite an interesting read. In it, Robbins traces the thoughts and lives of several overachieving students, namely juniors and seniors, from Whitman High School located in Bethesda, Maryland, who ...more
Nov 05, 2008 Crystal rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone involved in the high school life
Recommended to Crystal by: Ms. Campanella
In The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids by the celebrated author Alexandra Robbins, a significant issue of our current society is addressed: the dilemma of how academic and societal pressures are negatively affecting students today. This non-fictional novel retraces the high school lives of real students whose only names have been changed. The frenzied lives of six high school students, which may seem even unbelievable at times, are portrayed. Unfortunately, the different, yet simi ...more
Jun 05, 2016 Kathia rated it it was amazing
Alexandra Robbins style is friendly, yet very informative. I like how she didn't just follow the lives of the eight students and analyze their behaviors. She actually became close with her subjects which was very interesting and something I have never seen before. It was very a very interesting book that analyzed the very popular overachiever culture and its flaws. Being an overachiever myself, I was able to relate to the many topics Robbins analyzed. This book made be realize a lot of things ab ...more
Oct 15, 2012 Jonathan rated it really liked it
The Overachievers, by Alexandra Robbins, follows the lives of various students in their final years of high school (and one entering his freshman year in university). It details the various pressures and troubles brought about by the effort to succeed and be the best in one of the most competitive high schools in America. I enjoyed this book, not only because it sends a much needed message that the pressure to get into a good university is too high and placing too much stress on students across ...more
May 17, 2008 Claudia rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all adults -- teens might like it too
Recommended to Claudia by: I chose this for Book Club
I chose this book for our book club, and I'm eager to see what elementary teachers and parents think of this book. I was impressed! Robbins follows several students from one high-achieving school and connects their concerns and struggles with education issues: NCLB, SAT and ACT testing, the whole test-prep industry; recess and the competition for preschool admission; and how schools' schedules are a mismatch to teenagers' sleep patterns. Her commentary is top-notch! I read fiction for character, ...more
James Parker
Feb 18, 2014 James Parker rated it really liked it
The Overachievers is overall a great book, being very informative and providing much insight into what really goes on in the educational system. Every page keeps you wanting more, and the shockingly true facts that this book is replete with only add to this feeling. Alexandra Robbins is a fantastic investigative journalist, and she has done a fantastic job documenting the struggles and challenges in the lives of multiple students. Not only are the stories of the students interesting and engaging ...more
May 18, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Robbins' non-fiction reads like a novel. Her characters, real life high school students, tell the story, which Robbins validates with her research, sprinkled between the anecdotes. As the parent of a high school junior who attends a school much like Whitman, I was deeply interested in the subject matter, and as a former school counselor and adjunct professor, I appreciated the thoroughness of Robbins' research. This book should be required reading for high school parents, particularly if their c ...more
May 23, 2016 Jada rated it liked it
Reading this book as a high school student meant a lot of me nodding my head and saying "Same!" a few times each chapter. The content of the book itself was great, and honestly more people need to read this book because people don't seem to truly get the stress kids are under these days. My only issue was Robbins has this style of writing that to me is a little too verbose. I found myself skipping paragraphs and having to force myself to come back and read them because I just found them boring. ...more
Oct 30, 2007 Lani rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: overachievers of the past and present, teachers, parents
Living in the DC metro area, working in Bethesda (where the school mentioned is located), and having attended an even more intense magnet school in the area less than 5 years before the book was written... This book spoke to me. I can't even PRETEND to guess if this is a universal experience, but I could personally relate to many aspects of the students profiled. What I didn't see in myself, I saw in my classmates.

I hope teachers and parents read this book and understand the pressures that kids
Kim Shaw
Sep 14, 2012 Kim Shaw rated it it was amazing
This book informative and intriguing. I read it for my summer reading junior year and was in love with it. I did not want to put it down even the parts that are satistics. My favorite part of reading the book though was the connection I felt with the other students. It put some of the events I do in perspective because I knew that my life would be okay. I enjoyed learning about the pressure kids my age go through. The research was great and organized well. I think this book is a must read.
Aug 23, 2007 Akiko rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: future parents
This book took me back to my high school years, when my college counselor told me that my first choice college should be my safety, and that "I could do so, so much better" in my college choices. Thankfully, I ignored him and proceeded along to my first choice, one of the best choices I've made in my entire life so far! Really nostalgic book, and makes me glad I'm not in high school anymore.
Mar 16, 2008 Sally rated it it was amazing
This books reports on the nuttiness of high school life for students striving to get into the best colleges. Unbelievable. The book also talks about how this pressure starts at the pre-school level, and I can already sense the overachiever pressure, and my kids are not quite 5 and 3! I can't put the book down; I'm so curious to see what happens to these kids.
May 31, 2012 Katie rated it it was ok
Shelves: art-of-teaching
This is the second book I've read by Robbins, and I'm a total sucker for her books about high school. However, now that I've finished this one, I highly recommend Geeks over this. It didn't dig quite as deep into the research as I had hoped, and the narratives dragged. I started skimming and skipping to the researched sections.
Sep 19, 2007 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just love Alexandra Robbins' style. She forms friendships with the subjects of her books, and becomes part of their social circles, resulting in super accurate descriptions of any phenomenon she investigates. This book is another example of her abilities. A good look at high schoolers who are so busy getting into the "right" college that they forget to ask themselves who they really are.
Apr 22, 2008 Laura rated it it was amazing
the research in this book is what i found most compelling, but i was also dying to know whether julie went to the prom with sam and moved by some of the individual kids' stories, too. definitely an interesting read for educators, parents, and just overachievers in general.
Aug 03, 2011 Zoe rated it really liked it
I didn't realize a high school could be this cut-throat until I read The Overachievers. I hope to achieve similar success to that of the overachievers, but at the same time I don't want to experience the same level of extreme stress and anxiety. Is that even possible?
Rachel Miserlian
Aug 19, 2016 Rachel Miserlian rated it it was amazing
This book was SO GOOD. 10/10, would recommend to anyone, but in particular [stressed out] high schoolers should read this. Administrators and principals at [high performing] high schools should read this book cover to cover, and keep it in their top desk drawer.
Jan 06, 2008 Felicity/Rosestar rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All who wonder about overacheivers
Recommended to Felicity/Rosestar by: My mom
This book is soooo surprising! The things that kids will do to get above a 4.0!
Jul 26, 2007 Tamara rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: especially parents of highschool students and educators, but really anyone
A great book. I really found it fascinating. Robbins did a great job explaining the lives of these high school students. I enjoyed reading it.
Apr 15, 2008 Courtney rated it it was amazing
For anyone involved in higher education, this is a must read.
Julie Rowse
Feb 16, 2008 Julie Rowse rated it it was amazing
A must-read for any parent or teacher of teenagers, especially those parents who either knowingly or unwittingly pressure their child to be hyper-successful.
Oct 04, 2007 Mike rated it it was amazing
Interesting stuff. I was one of these tragic kids--and know a great many to this day.
David Schuster
Oct 11, 2015 David Schuster rated it really liked it
Indeed a problem for many people, but I don't think I know any of them. We have other problems 'round here.
May 21, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it

We all know what the stress of high school can feel like. All the pressure to live up to parents' expectations, perform well on tests in comparison to peers, and getting into that dream college at the end seem to crush us all. What many of us don't realize though is that these pressures, while seemingly personal are experienced all over the United States and even more so all over the world. The pressure to succeed as been lifted to new heights as schools become more competitive and dangerously s

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The author of five New York Times bestselling books, author Alexandra Robbins is the recipient of the prestigious 2014 John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism (given by the Medill School of Journalism), a 2016 Exceptional Merit in Media Award (given by the National Women's Political Caucus), and the winner of the 20
More about Alexandra Robbins...

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“Someone else's success is not your failure.” 3 likes
“We live in the Age of Comparison. Too often, we deem our own achievements worthless if they fall short of others' standards. Our best isn't good enough if it's not as good as someone else's best.” 2 likes
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