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A veteran teacher–turned-novelist provides a satirical view of life and (not so fast) times at an underperforming high school in Texas.

Elden populates the paradoxically named Brae Hill Valley High School (located neither on a brae or hill nor in a valley) with a variety of stock characters, including the hapless principal, the idealistic teacher from “TeachCorps,” officious administrators, the hard-as-nails football coach, and a plethora of students ranging from the football-crazed to the routinely apathetic. When the mediocre equilibrium at Brae Hill Valley is upset by the appointment of a self-promoting, disruptive education guru as superintendent of schools, the new school year devolves into a farcical exercise in increasing test scores and chasing after “new” standards, including a “Believer Score.” With references to the educational acronyms and platitudes spouted by industry consultants, Elden draws a manic sketch of a school under attack by the forces summoned to save it. Elden’s limited development of several characters, particularly students, results in some stereotyping in lieu of nuanced portraits, and her long service as a classroom teacher is clear from the more flattering portraits of the teaching staff vis-à-vis the student body. Occasional episodes, including one touching on issues of race, hint at layers beneath the surface which might have been mined for a weightier, less-slapstick approach.

It’s hard to know whom to root for in this sitcom but easy to see how the system is broken.

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-9821-3502-7
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2019