Life, death and SAT literature

As every high school student knows, passing the SAT examination is absolutely essential to one’s future survival in 21st century America.

Bomb the SAT (which, appropriately enough, stands for ‘SAT’), and you’re doomed to a short life of quiet desperation. No decent university will even look at you. For that matter, most bartending schools are likely to give you the bum’s rush if you show up with a poor SAT score. Your parents will disown you, your fiance will dump you and convicted felons with missing teeth will make rude fun of you as they stroll past the refrigerator crate you call home.

Fail the SAT exam and you’ll probably have to flee to Mexico, where you’ll eventually be arrested as an illegal alien and deported to Florida with a half-dozen University of Arizona frat boys who’ve been celebrating spring break in Cozumel since 1986.

Pretty grim future, eh, amigos?

Fortunately, there’s a lot of help out there in the form of SAT prep texts, online advice and tutorials designed to help you pass the three-letter test of doom.

Most recently, there’s even a growing body of SAT literature to help get students through this established scholastic nightmare.

The literature comes in the form of suspense fiction which, page by page, transports the reader through a thrilling tale of derring-do while exposing him or her to a broad range of vocabulary words likely to be found in SAT exams.

One of the latest books in this genre is “The Mayan Mystery,” succinctly described as “Another mission. Another country. Another action-packed adventure … with 1,000 need-to-know SAT vocabulary words (2006, Wiley Publishing, Hoboken, N.J., $12.99, 326 Pages.)

Written by Karen B. Chapman, this suspenseful tale tells the story of teen adventurers Jose and Alexa who, while visiting the ruins of an ancient Mayan temple, discover a plot to pirate priceless archaeological artifacts.

While dealing with this dilemma, our protagonists also help readers discover hundreds of tricky vocabulary words that could spell SAT disaster for the unprepared.

This is a whole lot more intense than a couple of words tossed casually into every other chapter or so.

Page 150 alone has 10 tough vocabulary words woven into the text of “The Mayan Mission” – words like milieu and ostentious as well as impeccable and hegemony.

I know what you’re thinking: “Impeccable and hegemony on the same page?!”And Page 151 is no slouch, either, peppering readers with such essential words as inveterate, abnegation and mendacious.

Curiously enough, I always thought I knew exactly what mendacious meant. After reading “The Mayan Mission,” I realized, to my great chagrin, that I had been wrong for about 46 years.


Let’s face it, amigos, if you’re roughly 17 years old, about to take an SAT examination and don’t know what the word “inchoate” means, you could do worse than picking up a copy of “The Mayan Mission.”

You might, of course, choose to pick up a dictionary. But the things are damned heavy and they’ve got all that little, bitty print…

Originally published May 14, 2017