Books about teen-agers usually miss the point or belabor it, writes Tom Carson in The Atlantic. He makes fun of Freaks, Geeks, And Cool Kids: Teenagers, Schools, And The Culture Of Consumption and Teen TV: Genre, Consumption, and Identity. But Carson praises Michael Bamberger’s “vivid, engaing” Wonderland: A Year in the Life of an American High School.
A reporter for Sports Illustrated, Bamberger spent the 2002-2003 school year embedded in Pennsbury High, an economically diverse (straddling Levittown and more-upscale areas), racially homogenous (85 percent white) Bucks County, Pennsylvania, school whose elaborate senior prom has become both an all-around community celebration and a regional legend. . . Wonderland isn’t just an uncommonly rich and intimate look at high school life; it’s the best piece of decent-minded, unpatronizing Americana I’ve read since Jim Wilson’s Vietnam-themed The Sons of Bardstown (1994).
In other countries, high school is the beginning of responsibility, Carson writes. In the U.S., it’s the beginning of freedom.