Iversen, Jeremy 1980(?)-
Iversen, Jeremy 1980(?)-
(Jeremy Watt Iversen)
Writer. Formerly print model; Merrill Lynch, New York, NY, former investment banker; has been involved in scientific research into neurotheology; active in political fundraising; associate producer of documentary film.
21 (young-adult novel), Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2005.
High School Confidential: Secrets of an Undercover Student (nonfiction), Atria Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Manhattan born and raised with the proverbial silver spoon, Jeremy Iversen took the advantages he gained from a boarding-school education, earned a degree from Stanford University, and then went out to make his mark on the world. While his energies have been far-flung—he had tested the waters of investment banking and found them tepid, and explored the machinery underlying the American political landscape as both a political fundraiser and documentary filmmaker—Iversen's most noteworthy effort by the time he reached his mid-twenties was as a writer. Cited by Kliatt reviewer Joseph DeMarco as "a frightening story that should make parents, school officials, and students take notice," his novel 21 explores campus drinking and the fraternity tradition through the fictional story of a college student trying to fit in, while High School Confidential: Secrets of an Undercover Student is Iversen's provocative exposé of the American high school experience.
Sparked by his realization that he hoped for more than the lackluster life stretching out before him as an employee at the brokerage firm Merrill Lynch, the high-achieving Iversen decided he wanted more dimension from his life than a promising corporate career could give. A graduate of the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy, he realized that his nose-to-the-grindstone schooling had cheated him of a "normal" high-school experience. He was also curious about an educational system that appeared to churn out graduates lacking critical-thinking skills. In 2004, the then-twenty-four-year-old Iversen moved to Los Angeles and went undercover as seventeen-year-old transfer student Jeremy Hughes. Casting himself as a surfer dude at California's Claremont High School, he recorded his experiences in furtive note-taking, and he reveals his insider perspective on modern teens and the educational system in High School Confidential.
During his undercover experience, Iversen became immersed in the reality of social cliques, peer pressure, and the lackluster educational standards American teens must reconnoiter during their public-school experience. He witnessed his high-school "peers" engaging in risky behavior such as steroid use and unprotected sex, but to preserve his undercover status he could do little more than offer prudent advice. Instead, he tried to relate to teens on their level, mimicking the talk and behavior of his classmates while hoping to inspire his new friends to have the self-confidence to make smart choices.
Several of the insights Iversen gained during his undercover experience concern the failings of the contemporary educational system. In an interview with David Kent Randall for Salon.com, he cited low teacher expectations as the cause of some of the system's weaknesses. "We were never assigned to write a paper longer than a page, we were never asked to find a source beyond the textbook," he explained of his experience as a high school student. "No one ever said, 'Find an opinion and defend it with proof.' The best you got was, 'Regurgitate the textbook in full sentences.' And what ends up happening is that you get people who aren't able to ask challenging questions or find independent answers, so they just repeat what they hear around them with increasing conviction." Reviewing High School Confidential, Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin appreciated Iversen's insights, writing that his "extensive use of dialogue gives the episodic, realistically raunchy narrative the patina of fiction," allowing readers to become "wrapped up in the lives of his composite kids. He catches then at their very worst and their best as they rage, dream, and struggle to move on with their lives."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of 21, p. 1352; September 1, 2006, Stephanie Zvirin, review of High School Confidential: Secrets of an Undercover Student, p. 27.
Kliatt, May, 2005, Joseph DeMarco, review of 21, p. 26.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2005, review of 21 p. 229.
Publishers Weekly, April 18, 2005, review of 21, p. 64.
School Library Journal, April, 2005, Sharon Morrison, review of 21, p. 134.
Jeremy Iversen Home Page,http://www.jeremyiversen.com (October 10, 2006).
Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/ (October 10, 2006), David Kent Randall, "Big Man on Campus," author interview.
U.S. News & World Report Online,http://www.usnews.com/ (October 10, 2006), Elizabeth Weiss Green, "Fast Times, Revisited."*