Q by Christina Dalcher

Q is a tense dystopian novel about eugenics, intelligence, and motherhood, in which one of the privileged must expose the heart of the new education system. Elena is a teacher at an elite school, one for those with the highest Q quotient. Her daughters go to these schools, and her husband runs the politics behind them, the politics that makes the country focused on perfection and unforgiving on those who don’t do well enough. Those who aren’t good enough at these schools end up at the yellow schools, boarding schools out of state with restricted visiting access. Elena thinks the system is fair, until one of her daughters fails a test and is sent to a yellow school. Elena hatches a plan to join her, but to get her out the whole thing will need exposing.

This is a dark book that fits very much into the kind of dystopia where only a few details from reality have to be changed to form the crux of the narrative and where calling it ‘sci-fi’ doesn’t seem appropriate. Dalcher takes historical (and not so historical) ideas about intelligence and eugenics and looks at what would happen if these became the new basis for an educational system that spills out into other areas of life. Elena is an interesting choice of protagonist, someone with a complicated, morally questionable past and a controlling husband in the present. The novel made me want to know more—about the supporting characters, about what the yellow school was like—which was unexpected (often dystopias give you too much detail), and sometimes the plot felt a bit too neat and easily resolved, but as a relatively quick read it at least wasn’t bogged down.

The concept of this novel is interesting and the viewpoint of the protagonist brings complexity due to her past and her present clashing. Easily linked to elements of the modern day, it will probably spark a few conversations and shock a few readers.