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The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids

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3.90  ·  Rating details ·  2,971 ratings  ·  412 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 high-stakes educational culture has spiraled out of co ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published August 8th 2006 by Hachette Books (first published January 1st 2006)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  2,971 ratings  ·  412 reviews


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Ruby Granger
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well... This was possibly one of the best books I have ever read. You know that I am stingy with my 5-star book ratings but this one was sorely deserved. The book is non-fiction, following the stories of several high schoolers and providing a commentary on the US education system and the beginning of the Age of the Comparison. It was written around 2008 and so the statistics are obviously outdated but I think one of the most shocking things is that, despite Robbins's clear and factual critique, ...more
Sharon
Sep 05, 2008 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
Alec
Dec 21, 2014 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
...more
Betsy
Nov 20, 2013 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
...more
Alexandra Robbins
Oct 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
My favorite of my books!
Jackie Carlson
Mar 28, 2016 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
Nikhil
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If your are an adult, this book will surely make you nostalgic. This book is a stark criticism of the educating system. The problems outlined in the book are not only relevant to the educating system in U.S, but also to educating system in general. The author also gives address on how one can go about solving the problems in the end of the book. The book may be best described in the words of the author, " It is not a call for mediocrity. It is a call for perspective.".......and the best part is ...more
Judy
Sep 08, 2008 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
melina
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was a wild ride. In my AP Language and Composition we had an assignment that involved choosing a nonfiction book to read. We got a huge list of books to choose from, but The Overachievers was one that really caught my attention because so many people have called me that throughout my life. The characters in this book are so similar to my classmates and to me that at times I had to put it down and take a break. It was actually scary how much I could relate to what the characters were go ...more
Steph Lovelady
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
My son, a high school junior in a magnet humanities program, was assigned to read this book for his AP English class. I read it along with him. While I was somewhat bitter about my overworked, high-achieving high school student having to read 400+ page book about how high-achieving high school students are overworked on top of everything else he has to do, I did enjoy it. It's highly readable and relatable, both as someone who went to what was a fairly competitive high school in the 80s (though ...more
Crystal
Nov 05, 2008 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
Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
High school isn't what it used to be. The competition is fierce for grades, class rank, activities, SAT scores, AP Classes and recommendations. Alexandra Robbins has done an extensive amount of research into the lives of high achievers - those kids whose goal is to get into a top college, and who will do just about anything to get there.

This engaging account is made more fascinating because it doesn't just deliver dry research page after page. Ms. Robbins returned to her own high school, Walt Wh
...more
Kathia
Jun 05, 2016 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
Claudia
May 17, 2008 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
Jonathan
Oct 15, 2012 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
James Parker
Feb 18, 2014 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
Lisa
May 18, 2014 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
Lani
Oct 30, 2007 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
...more
Jada
May 23, 2016 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
Kim Shaw
Sep 14, 2012 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.
Akiko
Aug 23, 2007 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. ...more
Sarah
Sep 19, 2007 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. ...more
Sally
Mar 16, 2008 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. ...more
Katie
May 31, 2012 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. ...more
Laura
Apr 22, 2008 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. ...more
Zoe
Aug 03, 2011 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? ...more
Rachel Miserlian
Aug 19, 2016 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.
Tamara
Jul 26, 2007 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.
Mike
Oct 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Interesting stuff. I was one of these tragic kids--and know a great many to this day.
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The author of Goodreads BEST NONFICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR and of the blockbuster book PLEDGED

The author of five New York Times bestselling books, Alexandra Robbins is an award-winning journalist and speaker who writes nonfiction books in the style of fast-paced beach reads. (Reviewers have called her smart, entertaining writing style "poolside nonfiction.")

Her newest book, FRATERNITY, is the only
...more

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