Robbins exposes society’s ugly side in The Overachievers


Disha Kohli

Sidekick staff writer Pramika Kadari holds a copy of The Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins. The Overachievers is a nonfiction book that explores the problematic pressures of today’s society, focusing on eight high school and college students’ lives.

Pramika Kadari, Staff Writer



In New York, there are preschools with a lower acceptance rate than Harvard, where children with parents who are obsessed with their success levels are sent.  This is only one of the many shocking facts The Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins presents regarding the insanity of society today.


The Overachievers (2006) is a nonfiction book that reads like a fiction novel, with characters who dig their hooks into readers and refuse to let go. It follows eight high schoolers from Walt Whitman High School in Maryland. Through an analysis of their lives, Robbins reveals the insane pressures citizens of society today face, focusing on high school and college students.


“You can’t just be the smartest. You have to be the most athletic, the most fun, the prettiest, the best dressed, the nicest, the most wanted … most of all, you have to appear to still be happy,” CJ, a character from The Overachievers, said.


The eight students are a diverse cast of characters, both racially and personality-wise. One of the characters, Frank, has never been to a party, while another, Taylor, goes to parties every week. Frank is seen as hardworking, while a third character, Ryland, is perceived as a slacker. Because of this diversity, readers can easily find a character to somewhat relate to.


Throughout the novel, the characters find themselves crying, getting sick and even losing hair from the huge weight on their shoulders. Many Coppell High School students feel the same stress.


“Everyone here is fighting tooth and nail for a spot in the top 10 percent [in regards to student ranking],” CHS chemistry teacher Susan Sheppard said.


The Overachievers condemns students constantly comparing themselves to their peers, striving to be one step above them in every aspect of their lives.


We live in the Age of Comparison… we deem our own achievements worthless if they fall short of others’ standards. CJ might have been happy with her SAT score if she didn’t know how others fared.


Academic pressures are not the only pressures students face; The Overachievers explores the intense social pressures they feel as well.


[Frank’s] friends spoke of parties … and wild adventures, while … Frank spent most of his evenings studying or playing video games.


At the end of the book, Robbins advises young adults with methods that may help reduce their stress levels, such as “stop the guilt”, “adjust the superstar mentality”, “carve an individual path”, and “accept that a prestigious name does not reflect ability.”


The Overachievers is a stellar piece that deserves a five star rating. The writing keeps readers interested, the characters’ stories help students’ mental/emotional health and the author clearly put an incredible amount of work into the book – there are almost 30 full pages of citations at the end. Although parts of the book drag, this did not affect my enjoyment of it enough to knock a star off the rating.


If you find yourself mentally struggling for not living up to society’s or your peer’s standards, The Overachievers is an important book to read.


Follow Pramika on Twitter @pramika_kadari