From the publisher:
Smart and juicy, a compulsively readable novel about a previously happy group of friends and parents that is nearly destroyed by their own competitiveness when an exclusive school for gifted children opens in the community
This deliciously sharp novel captures the relentless ambitions and fears that animate parents and their children in modern America, exploring the conflicts between achievement and potential, talent and privilege.
Set in the fictional town of Crystal, Colorado, The Gifted School is a keenly entertaining novel that observes the drama within a community of friends and parents as good intentions and high ambitions collide in a pile-up with long-held secrets and lies. Seen through the lens of four families who’ve been a part of one another’s lives since their kids were born over a decade ago, the story reveals not only the lengths that some adults are willing to go to get ahead, but the effect on the group’s children, sibling relationships, marriages, and careers, as simmering resentments come to a boil and long-buried, explosive secrets surface and detonate. It’s a humorous, keenly observed, timely take on ambitious parents, willful kids, and the pursuit of prestige, no matter the cost.
The first hurdle I have here is in defining this genre. I would call this women’s fiction except it is written by a man, but I guess if Nicholas Sparks can write romance or women’s fiction or whatever you want to call it (please, no mail telling me it can’t be romance without a HEA, I’m a librarian, I define genres for a living) I am going to call it that. Amazon calls it family fiction which is probably more apt, and it also borders literary fiction as the story is pretty much character driven although without the main storyline, the plot, that wouldn’t happen. I am rambling quite a bit as I try to work this out so bear with me. Here’s the bottom line: it was a very interesting read, especially for me as I live in an area somewhat like the fabricated town of Crystal, Colorado; a mostly upper-middle class to wealthy community where the gifted schools are in such demand that the joke is there are so many gifted kids in this suburb that there must be something in the water. There are at least three, full time gifted elementary schools just in this town and the ways people get their kids into these programs, well, let’s just say this book illustrates some of it.
So the Gifted School in question isn’t just for gifted and talented children, it is for the uber-gifted middle & high school set. Of course the parents of the gifted children and even some of the kids themselves are intensely interested in testing in. This involves a standardized IQ test, in which the top achievers are then invited to submit a portfolio evidencing the child’s superiority. Needless to say, these overly involved parents go bonkers to try and get their kids in – cheating, lying, paying their way in if necessary. Of course it all blows up but rest assured, the truly gifted do get the recognition they deserve.
I think I enjoyed this book so much because I felt like I knew these people. A few are my neighbors, even fewer my friends, but many, many acquaintances. The super competitive helicopter parents are alive and kicking in this book, and I was alternately horrified and delighted by their shenanigans. If you know anyone like this, or aspire to be like this yourself, then this is your book. There are lots of tips on the right and wrong way to go about this sort of thing if you are open minded enough to recognize that. Even if you don’t have kids, gifted or otherwise, it is still an engaging read at the breakdown of societal norms when competitiveness gets out of control.
7/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
THE GIFTED SCHOOL by Bruce Holsinger. William Morrow (May 28, 2019). ISBN 978-0062861214. 432p.