Having read Christina Dalcher’s Vox and finding it a solid 3 star book, I was curious to see what her next thriller would be like. This dystopian future set in the US segregates people by Q number – a number attached to them their whole lives once they’ve started school. It’s a thrilling not too unrealistic book, that really played on my test anxiety that’s for sure.
Star rating: 4 stars
The book centres on Elena, a teacher at a top tier ‘silver’ school for the kids with high Q numbers. She’s married to Malcom, high up in the government education department and a big supporter of the Q number system. They have two daughters, Anne is the oldest, she fits in at her Silver school and succeeds in the system, and Freddie, who is struggling at her middle tier green school and suffers from anxiety.
The chapters are divided between now and then – Elena’s present day experiences where Freddie is demoted to a Yellow school and has to be taken away, and Elena’s own experiences of school when the Q system was first being dreamed up. I really liked this format as it showed how Elena had grown into a more empathetic adult, where as as a teen she was just bitter that she wasn’t one of the popular kids and happy when their roles were reversed when good test scores got you amazing benefits.
As with any system controlled by a corrupt government, the Q numbers enable the officials to manipulate the figures. Kids who were in Silver schools end up leaving for the big Yellow boarding schools. The Yellow schools aren’t what they seem, and Elena is about to find out just what happens when you let your Q number drop too low.
Elena’s family dynamics are interesting – Malcom practically ignores Freddie because she isn’t as academic as Anne. She’s 9 years old and already her life is determined by every test she takes. Elena has to make some really critical choices when it comes to her daughters and it was really hard to see what she had to do.
Overall this is a terrifying book with a lot of scary details. I would absolutely hate to live in this world, with the pressure to be perfect always haunting you. If you like weird alternative futures, this will be an interesting book for you to read.