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Friday, August 16, 2019

Campusland by Scott Johnston

by Scott Johnston
August 13, 2019
St. Martin's Press

Book Synopsis:

"Her room sucks. Her closet isn’t big enough for two weeks’-worth of outfits, much less her new Rag & Bone for fall. And there’s nothing worth posting. Cruel. To Lulu Harris—It Girl-in-the-Making—her first year at the ultra-competitive Ivy-like Devon University is a dreary impediment. If she’s fabulous and no one sees it, what’s the point?
To Eph Russell, who looks and sounds like an avatar of privilege (shh!–he’s anything but) Devon is heaven. All day to think and read and linger over a Welsh rarebit at The Faculty Club, not to mention teach English 240 where he gets to discuss all his 19th Century favorites, like Mark Twain. If Eph could just get tenure, he could stay forever, but there are landmines everywhere.
In his seventh year at Devon, Red Wheeler is the alpha dog on top of Devon’s progressive hierarchy, the most woke guy on campus. But when his position is challenged, Red is forced to take measures.
Before first term is halfway finished, Lulu bungles her social cache with her clubbable upperclass peers, and is forced to reinvent herself. Shedding her designer clothes, she puts on flannel and a brand-new persona: campus victim. For Lulu to claw her way back to the top, she’ll build a pyre and roast anyone in her way.
Presiding over this ferment is Milton Strauss, Devon’s feckless president, who spends his days managing perpetually aggrieved students, scheming administrators, jealous professors, billionaire donors, and bumptious frat boys. He just can’t say yes fast enough. And what to do with Martika Malik-Adams? Isn’t her giant salary as vice-president of Diversity & Inclusion enough?
All paths converge as privileged, marginalized, and radical students form identity alliances, sacrifice education for outrage, and push varied agendas of political correctness that drags every free thought of higher learning into the lower depths of an entitled underclass."

Man, I am not even sure how to rate this book. It started out funny, then started getting weirder and weirder by the page progressions. I know Campusland is supposed to be satirical, however, it felt real, like I could see it happening today and have seen it happen living 50 miles away from Cal- Berkley.  That touched a nerve.  The writing was engaging, maybe too engaging!  I wanted to reach through the book and throttle so many people. This is what makes Scott Johnston a good writer. 

Lulu's obsession with social media, her need to be accepted by the likes, the comments, the view count of her posts showed a sadness, I felt bad for her. I wanted to reach out and be her friend if only to add depth to her sorry life. However, her #crawlpeace shenanigans was the weirdest of all the causes and I had a hard time getting past it. but plug along I did. I am glad I did if not only to see what happens next but also to finish the book and hope that there was some good to come out of it for Professor Harris. 

I guess this book resonated with me because it made me think deeply, it just was how I see what is dangerous in the "virtues" of the social justice warrior students of the day, How does the college administration decide which group is more deserving of more money, how do teachers teach their curriculum without having any given student in the class taking offense and causing problems for the teachers? How do we make it fair for all sides of the agenda's to "feel safe" if we kowtow to the loudest of the student body population and not all of the student population?  These are very hard topics to talk about sometimes, if only because someone will get upset and protest the outcomes even if the subject matter is one of high importance.  I feel for the adults that are trying to do their best to teach subjects, be good role models and also navigate through the murky waters of the social justices issues of the day at the same time as teach the history to the era of when it happened and not what we see with our modern eyes. 
Satire at it's best. Tough issues. Campusland is that book. Well done, Scott!

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in lieu of my honest review.

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