The Gifted Schoolby Published 02 Jul 2019
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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 Gifted School Reviews
It's always nice when fiction illuminates the worst in people, isn't it?
Rose, Samantha, Azra, and Lauren have been best friends for years, in many cases since their kids were infants. The four women and their families have weathered many crises—death, divorce, troubles with their children and their marriages, etc. While there are certainly interesting dynamics among the four of them, there doesn't seem to be anything that can keep them apart.
When word gets out that their affluent town of Crystal, Colorado is building a school for gifted children, all four women react to the news differently, especially when they learn there will be a limited number of slots available at every grade level, and decisions will be made based both on test scores and other factors.
Samantha has always believed her daughter, Emma, is practically perfect in every way, so for her it's a given that Emma will be accepted. Rose's daughter Emma, who is best friends with Samantha's daughter, may be smarter, but she isn't as driven or as competitive as the other Emma. But what would happen if one Emma got in and the other didn't? They've been inseparable since infancy.
While Azra's twin sons, Charlie and Aidan, have focused more on soccer than academics, there's no reason they shouldn't be considered for the school as well, despite the misgivings of Azra's trust-fund yet hippie-esque ex-husband. Since her husband's death, Lauren has focused most of her energy on her son, Xander, who actually is gifted, but at the expense of her older daughter, Tessa, who has dealt with challenge after challenge without the support of her mother.
"Parents always want to manage the narrative instead of letting kids write their own."
Following the perspectives of multiple characters, including several of the group's children, The Gifted School is a melodramatic yet insightful look at how competition and envy can bring out the worst in adults, laying bare secrets long kept hidden, in some cases pitting spouse against spouse and friend against friend. The book also examines the pros and cons of schools for gifted children, the biases of testing and other admission-related decisions, and the thin line between striving for equity and creating quotas for traditionally under-represented populations.
I expected the book to be a little more campy and entertaining than it was. While some twists are telegraphed early on, Bruce Holsinger did throw in one twist that upended the characters, and it really didn't feel genuine to me. I thought that Holsinger makes some interesting arguments, but the majority of his characters were so unlikable it was difficult to have any sympathy for them.
There's a lot going on in The Gifted School . There were a lot of storylines to follow, and while I understood the points Holsinger was trying to make, I could have absolutely done without the whole storyline featuring the group's cleaning lady and her family, because it kept dragging the story away from its core.
Holsinger is a talented writer, and his storytelling definitely kept me reading. Those of you who enjoy stories of people acting horribly to each other to advance their children's best interests (or perhaps their own) might enjoy The Gifted School a bit more than I did.
See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.
Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2018.html.
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This book! I did all I could to escape being an adult in the world and just disappear into this story. I had to find out what was going to happen, and I knew it would not go well (which was as I wanted, truth be told).
And how prescient that the ARC I’m reading came out just before the headline grabbing story of parental interference in elite college admissions. This novel is about younger/late elementary age kids and their obsessed parents. Set in a recognizable, but renamed, Boulder. Compulsively readable (as my family will attest these last few days). And so well written. I loved the various points of view and the occasional “vlog” chapters from the teenager perspective.
Bruce Holsinger’s previous novels set in Chaucer’s London were fantastic. I couldn’t wait to see what he would do with something so completely different.
Put this one on your TBR for a summer read. Out in July. Highly recommend!
The Gifted School is a slow burn read, centered around friendship and family drama with a few twists to spice things up along the way.
As an educator for over 20 years I found the book very realistic in its portrayal of the behind the scenes look at the “gifted” label. It’s amazing what some people will do to try to have their child(ren) labeled as gifted when they are simply hard working, good students. So much pressure and impossible to meet expectations are put on these amazing children so they are left feeling inadequate and not good/smart enough. It’s sad.
What I enjoyed most was the varied POVs we got throughout the story. Once you get used to all the characters, it’s wonderful to have so much insight from the men, women & children. I loved how differently they saw things and processed what was going on.
The book is filled with so many characters that will have you shaking your head, thanking the stars above that this is not your family and these are not your friends. Yet, you’ll be drawn in by the drama and find yourself hoping for some redemption for these families. After spending so much time with them, I was definitely feeling invested.
This was a buddy read with some Instagram friends & it prompted some great group discussion. I think that definitely helped my overall enjoyment of the book because it was definitely long.
3.5 ⭐️ (rounded up)
LOVED this book. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. It reminds me of BIG LITTLE LIES- parents behaving badly in believable, horrifying, yet shockingly relatable ways! So so so good.
This book makes the Varsity Blues scandal look almost G rated.
This was one wild read!
Review to follow.
So I finished this yesterday. What a wild ride! I enjoyed The Gifted School. It s much deeper then I expected it to be frankly and though it is long, the pages sort of fly. It was a great read.
So I do not have children. I mention this because I wondered if I'd be able to relate to the subject matter. I do think people who DO have kids will have a better grasp of how such things could happen.
For me, I interestingly enough related to the CHILDREN. I grew up with a gifted sibling. It was tough as he (my sibling) is absolutely brilliant. I struggled in school and had a real concentration problem. Sometimes I wondered if I'd graduate. Two things saved me. One was my wonderful mom who went to bat for me. The other was reading.
So my heart went out to all the kids..the gifted, the not so gifted. It can be tough..really truly tough..when you are young not to be affected by all the superficial crap.
Luckily I was blessed with parents who would not have given a crap about this "gifted school".
Sadly for some of the children in this book, they did not have the same experience. Some of these parents were beyond anything I could comprehend.
I mean..if this book had come out 5 or 10 years ago, I'd most likely not have liked it as much because I wouldn't have believed it could happen. But..with the Varsity Blues scandal not to mention the every day news cycle of parents behaving badly and doing crazy things, I do believe it now.
The Gifted School is written in a superb way as your feelings keep shifting. There are a huge cast of characters. Each one has a story. If I have one gripe it is that there are so many characters. I wish it had been just a few less narrators. It was tough keeping everyone straight.
And it is still hard for me to believe so much emphasis is put on this stuff. I think the internet has sort of contributed, where social media abounds and people can sing the praises of their children, their friends and spouses, from behind a computer screen. But people like Rose..who was my least favorite character..I still struggle to understand.
This book is like watching a train wreck but it also has much to say and is less light and way more human then I ever expected. I often wondered, while reading it, about these people who, in my eyes, had it all and let petty envy get in the way.
But then I started thinking. Though I myself do not have kids, I have been envious before. Of family, of good friends. I have coveted things I lacked, that were not mine to covet. And I have had people envious of me. I think ALL of us have been, at one point or another, on both sides. So you do not have to be a parent to relate.
Envy is a lethal thing that can eat away at you. I have seen ordinary sane people make insane choices while in its grip. I could find good in every character in the book in one form or another. I hope, just one person may read this and realize that all the surface stuff..it is all bullshit. I think if it changes one person's actions, even just one, that will have been a great thing.
So I consider this a great read, one of the best of the year. I almost feel in my bones this will be picked up as a film or a TV series. I recommend it to everyone..the envious, the envied, the happy, the sad. We are ALL gifted in one way or another although it is easy to forget that. And we on GR, are all gifted by the joy and love and magic of books. I wouldn't have it any other way.