Updated: Sep 27, 2019
What would you do to ensure your child got a place in a special school for gifted and exceptional learners?
THE GIFTED SCHOOL is set in Crystal, Colorado, a perfect little fictional town filled with wealthy, high performing families. It’s just been announce that a new public magnet school for exceptional learners will be opening next year, and students in sixth through twelfth grades in the four surrounding counties are welcome to apply.
The applicant pool is huge and the selection criteria focuses on difference, diversity and overall excellence. The admission process starts with an admission test which students must score well on to make the first cut. The second cut is determined by a student project exhibiting the student’s strength. The strength may be anything; athletics, science, math, fashion design, leadership or even origami.
Rose, Samantha, Azra and Lauren all met at a baby swim class ten years ago, now they are the best of friends. All four believe their child is gifted and all are are seeking admission to Crystal Academy. These women who have always had each other backs are now competing against each other for a limited number of slots. The gloves have come off!
“Insidious, these false versions of superiority and ease we project on to other families. How often they blind us to the surer comforts of our own.”
THE GIFTED SCHOOL is similar to a story that has been in the news earlier this year. Remember the FBI sting Operation Varsity Blues, where rich and connected parents were cheating on tests or buying their student’s way into colleges. This is more of the same, but at a middle and high school level. Ambitious parents are lying, cheating and bribing to win a prestigious seat for their child in Crystal Academy. The novel addresses issues of class, race, and privilege.
The story starts a little slow as we are introduced to a multitude of characters, all the members of the four families in the story. Once the story gets going, however, it grabs you. We all know these families, the soccer dad, the controlling and high achieving mom, the family with the money and contacts, and the single mom just trying to keep it all together. But it’s not just the parents feeling intense pressure. The children, the siblings, the marriages and careers are all affected. The characters were definitely believable and the writing was both entertaining and engaging.
Author Bruce Holsinger Is a professor of English language and literature at the University of Virginia. This is his third novel. I listened to this book on Audible and really enjoyed the narration by January LaVoy.
Publisher Penguin Random House/ Riverhead
Published July 2, 219
Narrated January LaVoy