What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the main subject, standardized testing, is somewhat obscured. Instead readers get a lot of weird supernatural violence: people imploding, bodies in coolers, injuries, murder. There are also references to masturbation, taking off clothes, and a character is sexually harassed.
What's the story?
George is pretty excited when he gets a letter inviting him to attend The Whitttaker Magnet School, "an experimental, college-prep charter school." His older niece, Kate, is less thrilled when she is accepted too, especially when she finds out that her house has been redistricted so that she has no choice. Once there they discover that the entire curriculum consists of boosting their test scores by sitting in windowless basement rooms taking standardized tests from every state.
But there's a lot more going on here than meets the eye, including haunted books, a visit by the First Lady, advanced military weapons, revisionist history, lethal town politics, and an unexplained series of injuries and deaths. It's a school with a lot going on, almost none of it educational.
Is it any good?
No one would ever accuse Edward Bloor of writing ordinary stories; here, though, his scattershot technique works less well. The supernatural, broad, and very black humor simply overwhelms the main plot -- and the point.
The flap copy refers primarily to the story about the school and testing, so readers may be disappointed that there's so little about it, though some may enjoy the supernatural shenanigans. But even those seem at times to make little sense, the humor is often too broad to be really funny, and the author often seems to be flailing around, trying to figure out where to go. The subject of standardized testing would seem like a rich literary vein to mine, but, alas, Bloor goes off at a tangent, and never seems to make it back.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about standardized testing. Do you think there's too much focus on such tests? What's at stake with this kind of testing? What other ways could schools and governments assess students' progress?