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The Gifted School Bets On...

The Gifted School

August 2019

I took a look at our review of THE GIFTED SCHOOL by Bruce Holsinger, which prompted me to read it. I love when that happens. In this novel, a school for gifted children is opening in the Denver area, and parents are vying to get their kids in. The moms are much like those we saw in BIG LITTLE LIES. They have befriended each other because of the children, but the competition for these slots is pitting them against one another in that oh-so-special way that privileged folks can twist things up.

When my boys were growing up, I remember sitting at a baseball game, and one of the moms said, “At some point all of these kids are not going to get VG+ on their work, because, being realistic here, they are all not going to Harvard.” It was such a funny line that stayed with me, as when children are young, no one knows who will excel in school, who will do just fine, and who will drift through.

The parents in THE GIFTED SCHOOL are still in the “VG+/Harvard” frame of mind. There are two rounds of testing, and who makes the first cut is interesting. But from there, some parents will not take “not going to the next phase of testing” for an answer. And they scheme ways around this, sure that their child belongs there. What rules can be broken to make this happen? (And yes, the timing of this book is perfect given the college admissions scandal.) It reminds me of every parent who insisted that their child be waived into a high school course that they did not qualify for --- and you just know it is going to end badly.

The second phase includes a portfolio, and these take on the weight of doctoral theses. Seriously. It’s everything that I cannot stand about the pressure we put kids under today. And seeing it through the lens of this book crystalized that thought for me.

There is one child trying to get in who is not privileged. His mom cleans the homes of many of these families, and often he helps out. You root for him; here is someone who is trying to get in on his own merit. His family does not know how to scheme. They are pulling for him as his success will mean so much to the family --- not to be able to brag, but rather to pull them all up.

Layered in as well is the competition of athletics; one of the soccer games feels more like an ancient Roman lion vs. man fight than a youth league experience. At every turn, Holsinger is capturing Americana competition for the younger set, and it is not pretty!

And then there is a look at the marriages and lives of these families. There is not one who had golden lives, though they polished their halos every day.

THE GIFTED SCHOOL would be a great book for a discussion, and it would be very telling to see how your fellow book group members react to it! Oh, and my ideas for getting into school would be: How many books have you read, and what can you tell me about them? Seriously. If kids needed to read 1,000 books to get into college and document them in some way, how much of a better place would it be? And how many fewer dinners on the run and how much less homework in the car would be done?

The Gifted School
by Bruce Holsinger

  • Publication Date: July 2, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books
  • ISBN-10: 0525534962
  • ISBN-13: 9780525534969