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The Gifted School

A Novel
Narrated by: January LaVoy
Length: 13 hrs and 53 mins
4 out of 5 stars (100 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"Like Big Little Lies with standardized testing, this addictive novel digs hard into the culture of striving parents and anxious children, exploring privilege, competition and the elusiveness of happiness. A deeply pleasurable read." (Meg Wolitzer)

Smart and juicy, a compulsively listenable 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.

©2019 Bruce Holsinger (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"[A] timely and relevant read for the summer." (Oprahmag.com)

"An insular epic that questions the notion of meritocracy, the hypocrisy of white liberalism, and the politics that trickle from the adult world down to their children." (The Paris Review

"Addictive, whip-smart, acutely observed, and sharply funny, The Gifted School trains its lens on a community where a talented child is a social commodity and asks how far some families might be willing to go in pursuit of status. A delicious read." (Gilly Macmillan, New York Times best-selling author of What She Knew)

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant story AND Narration

I rarely post reviews in Audible; more often on Amazon, but this narrator, January LaVoy, deserves a shout out. I've downloaded well over 1000 titles on Audible in the past ten years, and I've learned that even a really great story can be ruined by subpar narration (when I even notice the narration after a few chapters, that's a problem). Narration should flow with the story. It requires a fine actor to do it well, especially with multiple characters and one narrator doing all the roles. Many women have one only one "man voice" and it doesn't sound like any man I've ever heard. Most narrators can't do children. This narrator does it all seamlessly! I did notice the narration throughout this book (paradoxically after my earlier comment) but only to marvel. The ten or so main characters, men and women, all had distinctive believable voices. The children were done perfectly. Hats off to you January LaVoy!! Really superb job.

Oh yes the story. I loved it. So smart, so richly textured (so many interwoven plot themes but all beautifully blended). A really hard look at today's culture of "tiger parents" and overly stressed children being raised, even when with good intentions, to become the stressed out anxiety-ridden young people we see on college campuses today (I work on one). Also, funny, wise, poignant and ultimately uplifting. Just a brilliant literary experience all around.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing

Great start but fizzles midway. Halfway through the book I started to play the audio at 1.5 speed in hopes I’d get through the boring parts. I wondered why I’d lost interest so looked on line for any reviews. The following paragraph written by Lily Meyer in her NPR book review says it all:

“As is, reading The Gifted School is an exercise in frustration, with only the sourest glimmers of schadenfreude. Unlike the real-life college admissions scandal, the cheating on offer here is too familiar to be entertaining. The bad behavior is predictable enough that the novel's suspense leaches away by its midpoint, leaving us with nothing left to do but wonder if four privileged children will get into a magnet school.”

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Amazing

Kept me hooked right from the start! Very reminiscent of big little lies! Characters were amazing, even the Male characters had depth. Can't believe it was written by a man, such a deep insight to a womans mind.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Oye

The description of the book portrays it as suspenseful (I don't what book that person read), wise (hmm, no), addictive (I had invested so much time I had to finish but it was a CHORE and a suspenseful, addictive book IS NOT a chore), and JUICY? Again, hmmm, I think it may be possible that I listened to a completely different book from the reviewer. None of the characters were likable. At all. And no one makes the decisions they made with the background or experience they had. It was nonsensical. And the big "surprise"?? Made. No. Sense. I do not recommend spending almost 14 hours of your life slogging through.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • TS
  • 07-12-19

Depressing

This book (in fact the audio version) was reviewed on NPR very positively. So, I downloaded it. I guess you could call it "entertaining" in a kind of "look at the train-wreck" frame of mind.
The writing was okay. Sadly, the characters were "card-boardish". The men, (apparently all Americans) were depicted as basic "wusses"--not a courageous, dimensional personality trait among them. The women were presented as neurotic, over achieving half-wits, void of simple problem solving skills. The one "ethnic" personality (s) depicted (Hispanic) were revealed as subservient victims which somehow placed them in heroic archetypal roles. The children were sociopathic, whiners. At the end of the novel, I wanted to say: that's America!? What happened to courage, perseverance; rising above challenges and exceptionalism. Occasionally some off beat comment about "the president of the USA" chimed in in a negative manner--not sure what that was about. Couched in the same confusion, the term "progressive" was tossed around...not sure what that was about either. It was just a kind of disappointing, depressive depiction of American privilege and failure. Happily, it is fiction...hopefully, anyway.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wow! Fantastic!

This book was fast-paced, prescient, relatable, and full of interesting details. It read like a suspense novel. My favorite Audible listen ever!

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Great book for Educators

This book showed both sides of the educational world. Both sides of characters were well-developed and the parents were a wide-array which was nice. Definitely a good book to read for people with kids or who work in the school systems!

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My first ever review

Not my usual type of book, but I really enjoyed it. I have to agree with another review...the narration was awesome.