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“Bamberger spends a year learning the individual stories that make up a senior class, weaving them together for a composite portrait that, we hope, will give us a clear vision of a changing America. . . . For most of the students Bamberger introduces to us, it seems likely that the realities of adulthood will never be able to measure upbut Bamberger’s carefully drawn portraits seem strangely optimistic nonetheless. Perhaps, he appears to suggest, students who can construct such a virtual world for themselves are indeed capable of reshaping their own lives to match their dreams.” Rachel Elson, San Francisco Chronicle
A Year in the Life of an American High School
978-0-8021-4197-2 • $13.00 • Paperback • Apr. 2005
From an acclaimed Sports Illustrated journalist, the all-American story of a high school and its larger-than-life prom
Pennsbury High School would be like any other were it not for one thing: its prom. Its spring dance is considered by Reader’s Digest to be one of “America’s best legacies.” Wonderland is the true story of a dance floor and the kids who fill it: a tale of hope, sex, love, and loss. For one year, the students, parents, and teachers of Pennsbury invited Michael Bamberger, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, into their classrooms, their homes, their parties, and their dreams. He discovered an extraordinary and disparate group of everyday teenagers whose stories were touching, odd, funny, and beautiful.
In Wonderland, lives intersect in unpredictable ways and are never what they appear to be. The star quarterback seems to be perfect as he walks Pennsbury’s hallways, but hides the pain of not knowing where his father is. The senior in the lowcut jeans and the black Corvette doesn’t realize she is idolized by a group of junior boys. A student with cerebral palsy is desperate to learn to tie Eagle Scout knots, despite a useless left hand: his dream is to arrive at the dance in the car from Back to the Future. A young couple want to score the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile for the big nightand a babysitter for their infant son. The patriarch of the prom, a history teacher who has presided over the dance for thirty-three years, secretly wishes after a new life as a novelist and a White House usher. And then there is Bob Costa. He dreams of making his name and bringing glory to his school by convincing John Mayer, whose song “Your Body Is a Wonderland” is an anthem for the students, to perform at the prom.
Wonderland shows that truth really is stranger than fiction, and every bit as moving. It is a portrait of young people in America todayfinding their way, struggling with identities, fighting with their parents, falling in love. Moving, heartfelt, and inspiring, Wonderland is a fresh and spirited report from the front lines of American adolescence, where children long for the ritual of a seemingly vanished world and search after what they’ve always wanted: hope, meaning, and something to call their own.