The Gifted School

Salacious and suspenseful, The Gifted School wows with its intrigue and twists, but underwhelms with a lack of character integrity and an unoriginal setting.

A blessing, to know the talents and limitations of those closest to you, what they’re capable of and what they aren’t.

— Bruce Holsinger

Synopsis:

A tight-knit group of four friends and their intertwined families become so entrenched in their competitiveness over the community’s new exclusive gifted school that it nearly tears them apart. How far will they go to secure their children spots at the gifted school slated to open, and at what cost?

Insidious, these false versions of superiority and ease we project onto other families: how often they blind us to the surer comforts of our own.

— Bruce Holsinger

Review:

This novel is a complex mix of poor personal and professional choices, interesting community involvement in (and opinions surrounding) a gifted school, and frustrating social interactions. Although it was underwhelming to me overall, The Gifted School still has some great twists and suspenseful elements. The topics are so relevant, sensitive, and divisive. Bruce Holsinger has no fear in boldly delving into some touchy topics, and does so with great zeal.

I enjoyed Holsinger’s writing style, and the characters were really well developed. Despite more than 20 characters to learn and keep track of, I did gain a sense of intimacy with most of them.

While I appreciate certain well-researched elements of the book, the overall feel of the relationships and choices made by the characters really brought the story down for me. Perhaps this type of gossipy, back-stabbing, lying friendship-and-family-dynamics novel is not for me. I realize that people aren’t perfect and will do nearly anything for their family, but this just feels like too much drama. It’s cringe-worthy and frustrating how horribly some of the characters behave.

Personally, I was constantly annoyed by the obvious and unoriginal comparisons to Boulder, which is near to where I live. (People not familiar with this area won’t notice or be bothered by this similarity.) It would be one thing if all of the settings were original creations, but this book has a strange combination of real places (Breckinridge, Steamboat Springs, Denver, and Grand Junction), but the main setting of the story (set in “Crystal”) is a mirror of Boulder. Holsinger renamed our Flatirons the Redirons and Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall became Crystal’s Emerald Street Mall. Crystal even has Boulder’s walking path through the city into the canyon, the college campus, rich and mostly white citizens, and Lululemon-wearing moms. I just don’t understand this need to mirror – but rename – a city already in existence, if not to indirectly attribute Boulder with the issues he raises in the book.

The Gifted School is a book some will love, and others might love to hate. Salacious dramas have that polarizing tendency. I fall somewhere in between. Overall, it’s a well-done novel that explores some interesting and relevant topics in melodramatic detail. It’s just not for me.

There were lots of ways to be with people you knew so well.

— Bruce Holsinger
The Gifted School
by Bruce Holsinger (Author), January LaVoy (Narrator)
Audiobook / Published July 2nd 2019 by Penguin Audio
(Hardcover, 450 pages / Published July 2nd 2019 by Riverhead)
Summary

The Gifted School is a book some will love, and others might love to hate. Salacious dramas have that polarizing tendency. I fall somewhere in between. Overall, it's a well-done novel that explores some interesting and relevant topics in melodromatic detail. It's just not for me.

— Cassie
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