Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Gifted School

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
Penguin Random House: 7/2/19
eBook review copy; 464 pages
ISBN-13: 9780525534969

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger is a highly recommended domestic drama about parental ambition for their children.

The prestigious community of Crystal, Colorado, is about to be one of the communities whose children will be able to attend the areas new magnet school for gifted children in grades six through 12. Of course admission hinges on receiving a high enough score on the IQ test, along with other requirements. The Gifted School follows a group of families where the four women, who have been friends for over a decade, are all about getting their precious gifted children into the school. The drama ensues as the meddling and competitiveness commences and friendships begin to fall apart.

This is a great choice for a summer read. It is full of gossipy scandal and parents behaving pretentiously and badly. The children aren't perfect either, just FYI. There is plenty of friction between parents/friends and the children themselves. The one huge thing The Gifted School has going for it is the timeliness of the plot with the whole college admissions scandal. The involvement of these parents in their children's lives, looking at their abilities as a reflection of their own prestige, is eye-opening and, in some ways, horrific. Being caught up believing that your child is the best and most gifted of all the gifted children in all the land is nothing new. We've had these parents among us for years. Holsinger captures that essence of bad parenting as it merges with privilege, questionable ethics, and the parent's own competitiveness.
The novel is well crafted and the plot moves along at a good pace, building up the tension and anticipation until the final climax, which is explosive. The narrative is told through several alternating points-of-view, so you can follow everyone's poor choices and become acquainted with all the characters, including the children. The different points-of-view result in the characters being all well-developed, and almost universally unlikable - with one lone, long-suffering exception. The biggest hurdle to overcome while reading The Gifted School is the occasional sheer repulsiveness of the parents, and their questionable ethics and choices.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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