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Wonderland: A Year in the Life of an American High School

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  251 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Pennsbury High School would be like any other were it not for one thing: its prom. Its spring dance is considered to be one of this country's best legacies. Wonderland is the inspiring true story of a dance floor and the kids who fill it: a tale of hope, sex, love, and loss. For one year, the students, parents, and teachers of Pennsbury invited Michael Bamberger, a senior ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 7th 2005 by Grove Press (first published April 16th 2004)
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Sonia Reppe
May 01, 2008 Sonia Reppe rated it really liked it
At first glance, I thought it would be an expose of teen problems with drugs, sex, depression and the like, but it’s not. It's a gracefully crafted portrait of American high school life, chronicling the stories of real-life students, teachers and parents of one Pennsylvanian high school.
Bamberger, a Sports Illustrated writer, first saw Pennsbury High School featured on television because of their unique prom tradition. Pennsbury holds their prom on their campus, and the whole town comes out to
Rather feels as though this should be subtitled Delusions of Grandeur. Decent enough idea, decent enough execution, but the entire thing fell a bit flat for me. Part of it is the premise: that this school stands out among American high schools because of its prom traditions. The book is structured as something of a build-up to prom—the prom committee planning all year, students worrying about who to go with, etc. When it comes down to it, though, what sets this prom apart from others? That it is ...more
Jan 21, 2012 Laurel marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I'll be reading this eventually because it's about my high school, the kids in it, and the killer senior prom that is the main focus for the entire community on a particular Saturday in mid-May.

Pennsbury's Senior Prom is not like any prom you've ever seen. This is the definition of magic and all the effort put into such a night is more than amazing. I am able to say this because I was lucky enough to be a prom chair for the student committee during the 2009 edition.

The school itself is completel
Robin Altman
Nov 25, 2009 Robin Altman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this when my kids were in 8th & 11th grades. I was so touched by the HS kids in this book, and what they were going through, that I lent the book (and I "oh so rarely" lend my books) to our HS's Principal and Assistant Principal. What an insight into the minds of teens.
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 Frederick Bingham rated it liked it
The story of Pennsbury High in Levittown PA. The author follows the class of '2003 through its last full year. The focus is on the prom and plans for it and how a number of different individuals work into those plans. The book tracks a few students, a "jock" who is the star of several different teams and takes care of his sick brother during his off hours, a couple that gets pregnant, a math whiz who is tragically killed during a Christmas break trip to Florida, an overweight nerd who works in t ...more
Elizabeth Desole
A fun case study of the lives of some teens leading up to the prom at my former high school. I can't help but wonder how thoroughly he immersed himself into so many of their lives. I mean, had the kid who died seriously been one of his subjects by happenstance, or did he have to gather information after the death and pretend he had talked to the kid?
It was fascinating to me how much remained the same (even a lot of the teachers mentioned)
I big flaw was that he focused primarily on the kids form
May 20, 2013 Claire rated it did not like it
There's a lot to hate about this book (the sexism, the dismissive way Bamberger barely acknowledges the African American students, the bizarre obsession with abortion), but what's unforgivable is the obvious lack of respect Bamberger had for the students he embedded himself with for a year. Everything is written as though he's an anthropologist from the 1930s; it really does have this tone of "Let me tell you about this strange, primitive culture!" (Like, I know what an STD is, and it is not som ...more
Aug 05, 2011 Kendra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a former Pennsbury High School student, it was interesting to me to read this book because I wanted to see what someone outside thought about the school. Yes, it has the same problems/issues that most teens face, but the one uniting thing about our school, was the Prom! It was a major event and has morphed into something that most locals look forward to seeing and hearing about in the spring. It was fun to read familiar teacher/staff names from when I was a student, but many things have chang ...more
David Ward
Jan 25, 2016 David Ward rated it really liked it
Wonderland: A Year in the Life of an American High School by Michael Bamberger (Grove Press 2005) (373.74821). This is a very successful “year in the life” book of the 2003 school year at Pennsbury High School, a medium to large sized high school in a small town which is renowned for the scope and attention to detail that the school pours into the annual prom. This is a sweet and bittersweet reminder that the stage never changes, only the players. My rating: 7.5/10, finished 5/19/15.
Jul 20, 2009 Kate rated it really liked it
Well-done bit of journalism re: a year at Pennsbury High, where the prom is such a unique and unifying event that EVERYONE attends, from the jocks and geeks to the goths and pregnant teens. Bamberger follows a handful of particular students throughout their year - most of them are seniors - and you find yourself rooting for them, abysmal when their hopes are denied, and then revitalized when they make do as best they can anyway, and create new dreams.
Nov 16, 2007 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book portrays the lives of a handful of high school students in a working class town in Pennsylvania. A friend gave me this book because it depicted actual people he went to high school with. Their lives are interesting and, well, real. It was very refreshing to read and I really couldn't put it down.
Sep 04, 2011 Alice rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, americas
Read this on the plane on the way to Europe - a good choice since it took me back to high school. Funny that some of the teacher were the same, and some of the divisions (i.e. Yardley vs. Levittown). A slice-of-life take on American teenagers. Strange to see a book written about your school, I wonder how well it resonates with people from other parts of the country?
Mar 23, 2008 Regan rated it really liked it
I picked this up for the sole reason that it was my high school he was writing about. I didn't have very high expectations for it. I thought I would be bored to tears, but it was actually very enjoyable.
Aug 10, 2011 Chandler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Compelling novella about a year in the life of a high school, specifically centered around its famous prom. Simple, yet interesting. Bamberger has a very engaging writing style which has garnered comparisons to works like Fright Night Lights, and for good reason.
Aug 24, 2009 Mary rated it really liked it
Really good book. Confirmed my ongoing impressions that John Mayer is NOT a cool guy though...Now I want to read the Wonderland Reunion book about their lives after graduation next: please Mr. Bamberger?
Sue Kozlowski
Aug 16, 2012 Sue Kozlowski rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Non-fiction. Author is a writer for Sports Illustrated. Wrote about Pennsbury H.S. for a year. In Penn. outside of Philly. They get ready for the Prom all year. Have it at their school. Town comes to see them arrive on their Prom Night. Okay.
Mar 12, 2013 Kathy rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this non-fiction book. It looks at a year in the life of students and teachers at Pennsburg High School in Pennsylvania. Much of the book focuses on the preparations for the prom. Having spent my entire career in education, mostly in high schools, I can identify with this.
Feb 22, 2010 Jill rated it liked it
It follows a year in the life of a high school in Pennsylvania, which puts on its own prom - and holds it at the school. It is an all community event. It highlights various staff members, students, and families. An interesting read.
Jun 16, 2007 Christy rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Slice-of-life type of book - not very ambitious, but does touch on some of the realities of suburban high school - without all the unbelievable dramas given to that setting by films and tv shows.
Dec 08, 2008 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-for-school
A quick read that fits the title. Very simple. The author does a good job of relaying information rather than making judgements.
Todd Brown
Jun 30, 2015 Todd Brown rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this book; it took me back to high school. The Epilogue is reason enough get through this one quickly.
Mar 26, 2012 Sheila rated it liked it
I probably liked this story a bit more than usual simply because I once lived in the area. It was fun to read about the neighborhood through someones viewpoint.
Apr 25, 2008 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book about Vermeany's high school! Craziness. One of the better books about a year in a high school.
May 11, 2008 Valerie rated it liked it
I kept hoping that John Mayer would emerge a hero... he didn't. As for an in-depth piece of journalism, this book is average.
Apr 07, 2007 Laura rated it it was amazing
i probably liked this more than most people would because it was written about the high school that i attended.
Aug 19, 2008 Katherine rated it it was amazing
There aren't enough stars for this book, I thought it was amazing-well written and honest. I think I read it in a day.
Karen rated it it was ok
Mar 10, 2009
Lesley rated it liked it
Jul 30, 2007
Jackie W.
Jackie W. rated it it was amazing
Nov 12, 2009
Eva rated it it was amazing
Jul 03, 2014
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Michael F. Bamberger is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and the author of multiple books.
More about Michael Bamberger...

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