*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Q by Christina Dalcher #Brainfluffbookreview #Qbookreview

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As a teacher with a keen interest – and concern – on the growing trend to test children and teachers almost constantly, this one caught my eye. How could I pass by the opportunity to read a near-future take on the situation, and see where it plausibly might end up?

BLURB: Every child’s potential is regularly determined by a standardized measurement: their quotient (Q). Score high enough, and attend a top tier school with a golden future. Score too low, and it’s off to a federal boarding school with limited prospects afterwards. The purpose? An improved society where education costs drop, teachers focus on the more promising students, and parents are happy.

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s elite schools. When her nine-year-old daughter bombs a monthly test and her Q score drops to a disastrously low level, she is immediately forced to leave her top school for a federal institution hundreds of miles away. As a teacher, Elena thought she understood the tiered educational system, but as a mother whose child is now gone, Elena’s perspective is changed forever. She just wants her daughter back. And she will do the unthinkable to make it happen.

Well… where to start? This is written in first-person viewpoint, so we see the world through the eyes of Elena, a high-achieving, successful teacher with two lovely daughters and a brilliant, successful husband. Though it soon becomes clear, in the middle of the huge info-dump that comprises the first section of the book, that she isn’t happily married. When a book is written in first-person POV throughout, especially when it is a classic fall from grace narrative, it’s important that the reader can bond and sympathise with the protagonist.

Initially, despite the rather indigestible lump of information about the way the educational testing worked, I was reasonably sympathetic. Elena had been a studious girl, who was slighted and overlooked by the cheerleaders. However, as the book went on, my first feelings rapidly faded, to be replaced by incredulity at her vengefulness, because she got her own back on them! And then I was shocked at her willingness to go along with the status quo, when the Family First movement started to turn ugly – and then I just disliked and despised her. Elena was perfectly happy to merely tut under her breath and shake her head, when A-grade students went missing from her class and her daughter’s best friend disappears. It also turns out she was a horrible bully at school. She was willing to turn her back on the love of her life, in return for material comfort – and I’m supposed to sympathise? I don’t think the wretched woman made an intelligent choice in her life and her reaction to her daughter’s test score is absolutely nonsensical, given her own status. As for the outcome and ending… I felt it verged on the ridiculous.

It is such a shame! This is an important subject, deserving of an intelligent examination with a likeable protagonist, rather than a cold-hearted, self-serving materialist with the instincts of a hormonal teenager. Because the scenario Dalcher depicts is all too plausible. The ebook arc copy of Q was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
5/10

19 responses »

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a low rating from you, I’m sorry this didn’t work out. And something sounded so familiar about this story, and I realized this book has a different title in the U.S.: Master Class. How weird is that to change the title!

    • Thank you, Tammy. I think it is the lowest rating I’ve ever given a book that I completed, sadly:(. There are a steady trickle of books that are given alternative titles between the UK and US publications. I think the letter Q in the States might represent something different? I’ve come across it before, but I always think it’s a daft move – why not find a title that works on both sides of the Pond.

  2. I read the author’s book vox and hated it. It had so much potential and failed. I was intrigued by the idea of this one and hadn’t realized that it was by the same author. Ugh. I think it is because it has a different title in the US. I thought Q sounded good! Why does she write hateful women in horrible situations. I want strong, fabulous, survivors. Will never be reading another book by this author for sure. Not for me at all. Glad ye clarified the issue for me but kinda sorry ye finished this book.
    x The Captain

    • Thank you, Cap. To be honest, I’m flummoxed at the flurry of very positive reviews and keep wondering if they read the same book… And the reason I kept reading was that the subject is VERY close to my heart – and I kept hoping the character would somehow come through and redeem herself. But she didn’t…

  3. I liked this one more than you did, but I agree about the beginning being an info dump and about Elena not being especially likable. I liked who she became later on in the novel, but I thought she was pretty horrid as a teen and was disturbed by how complacent she was about everything until it impacted her own child.

    • Yes… perhaps it’s because I am rather passionate about the subject matter that I was a bit short-fused about having to access it through a really flawed protagonist.

  4. WOW. I agree on the premise of assessing–they do it with 3 year olds, for heaven’s sake, and yet to celebrate the material things, the cold and selfish part of human nature? Yeesh, no thank you!

      • And this sounds different from the downfall of a character. THE CIRCLE by Eggers comes to mind, where Mae starts out very much like all of us, but by book’s end is swallowed up into the culture while we see her friend, who started as a “believer” in the culture, winds up in a coma from her attempt at escaping The Circle. That’s still powerful storytelling. Or Martin Amis’ THE RACHEL PAPERS–we don’t sympathize with the protag, but we will with everyone else. But Q’s heroine sounds awful in an awful world where EVERYONE is awful. Who’s left to care about?

      • That’s the point – we’re SUPPOSED to care about her! And there isn’t really anyone else, although I did rather like the feisty journalist, but she doesn’t play a big enough role to offset the awfulness of the protag.

  5. *OUCH* It’s strange indeed for a dystopian story to feature such an unsympathetic main character and your description of her story-arc makes me dislike her sight unseen… Thank you for the warning: the core concept of the book might have been attractive, but I don’t think I could stand that protagonist…

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