cover image Master Class

Master Class

Christina Dalcher. Berkley, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-0-440-00083-9

In this disturbing dystopian tale set in the near future from Dalcher (Vox), the U.S. government has adopted a ranking system for pre–college age students, dividing them into groups based on a constantly monitored quotient or Q score. The brightest attend elite schools, while those whose quotients are at the low end are taken away from their parents and bused to remote state boarding schools. The ranking system expands to adults, who are given preferential treatment in store checkout lines based on their Q scores. This nightmare is the priority for federal secretary of education Madeleine Sinclair, whose first deputy, Malcolm Fairchild, is married to a teacher, Elena Fairchild, whose offhand remark to him years before during high school led to the current system: “Wouldn’t it be great if all the people we hated could carry their crappy GPAs around for life?” When Elena’s nine-year-old daughter is taken away to a boarding school, Elena is forced to confront the monstrous system she’s been complicit in. Dalcher combines the pace and tension of a standout thriller with thought-provoking projections of the possible end result of ranking children based on test scores. Admirers of The Handmaid’s Tale will be appropriately unsettled. Agent: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary. (Apr.)