Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D

3 of 17
288 pages; Pegasus
In her riveting novel, Accelerated, Bronwen Hruska skewers the parenting habits of affluent Manhattanites through the perspective of suddenly single dad Sean Benning. Having just been left by his wife, Ellie, Sean is on his own dealing with the hypercompetitive environment at the exclusive Upper East Side school his 8-year-old son, Toby, attends (the boy’s grandparents pay the tuition). An aspiring artist, Sean works a day job at the gossip rag Buzz, editing pieces on subjects like cellulite of the stars and P. Diddy’s love child. The tabloid gig supplies easy laughs, but Hruska is at her wittiest describing the lives of Toby’s classmates: A boy attends occupational therapy to improve his “pencil grip”; a girl gives her doll Play-Doh breast implants and pretends Tic Tacs are Xanax. The story turns sinister when Sean and teacher Jessica Harper discover Toby’s best friend unconscious in the school stairwell, and darker still as educators pressure Sean to put his son on drugs for ADHD. The plot races forward as Sean develops a crush on Jessica, a gallery offers to show Sean’s work, Ellie returns—and disturbing information about the medicating of students at the city’s elite schools emerges. As knowing as it is entertaining, this novel portrays a segment of New York as “a trap, an amped-up bubble where everything had to be better, faster, more impressive.”
— Louisa Ermelino