Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s new elite schools. Her daughters are exactly like her: beautiful, ambitious, and perfect. A good thing, since the recent mandate that’s swept the country is all about perfection.

Now everyone must undergo routine tests for their quotient, Q, and any children who don’t measure up are placed into new government schools. Instead, teachers can focus on the gifted.

Elena tells herself it’s not about eugenics, not really, but when one of her daughters scores lower than expected and is taken away, she intentionally fails her own test to go with her.

But what Elena discovers is far more terrifying than she ever imagined…

Our Review

Q was brilliant and horrific in equal measure. Like Vox it grabs the reader and makes you pay attention to what the author wants to say.

I had a sick feeling for a while after finishing this book because it felt very real and that feeling grew when I read the author’s note. It wasn’t so much eye opening as wrenching their eyes apart.

Q is cautionary fiction at it’s best, very reminiscent of Atwood in style and subject matter so it’s no wonder I loved it really.

Elena is married to one of the most powerful men in the country, she is teacher at an elite school and has two bright and beautiful daughters.

Everyone in society exists in a system where everything is measured by your Q rating and intelligence is everything. Those who have a low Q rating are placed in special state schools so teachers can focus on those who are considered gifted.

Any negative action has an impact on your Q rating and potentially on the Q rating of those around you.  

Elena is able to overlook the flaws in the system until her own daughter fails her test. Elena intentionally fails her own so she can stay with her daughter. What she discovers there will change the way she feels about the system forever.

“I almost can’t remember how it felt before we all started carrying the Q numbers around with us, like an extra and unnatural print on the tips of our fingers, a badge of honour for some, a mark of shame for others. I suppose, after more than a decade, you can get used to anything.”

“It’s the same with the Q numbers, although we’ve carried numeric strings around with us in one form or another for most of our lives: our social security numbers for tax returns; our home telephone number in case an emergency call to mum became necessary; our grade point averages that would fill boxes in dozens of college application forms. Men, in a clothing store, became thirty-four long or sixteen-and-a-half, thirty-three. Women became dress sizes: six, eight, fourteen. In the more upscale shops, we were our measurements. In doctor’s offices we were our height and weight, watching one number creep down while the other number crept up.

We’ve always been our numbers. DOB. GPA. SSN. BP (systolic and dystolic). BMI. SAT and GRE and GMAT and LSAT; 32-22-35 (Marilyn, damn her); 3 (the Babe). PINS and CSCs and expiration date. Jenny’s phone number from the old song. And for the extreme among us the entire sixteen-digit sequence on our Visa cards. Our ages. Our net worth. Our IQs.”

I think one quote that sums up people’s attitude, including Elena’s own is, “I guess if I think hard enough people can get used to anything.”

It is scary how simply the system came into being. As with Vox this book has the reader constantly thinking about the powerful nature of words and our use of them.

Elena and Freddie were both wonderful characters. I felt like I knew them personally. Malcolm too although he was definitely less likeable.

I thought the use of yellow buses to take children to the state or yellow schools was very clever, something iconic even for those of us who don’t live in America. It turned them from something everyday and ordinary into something to be feared.

“The yellow buses come only once every month, always the Monday after testing day. And they don’t return. Not with passengers anyway. Also, they don’t roll into neighbourhoods like ours.”

An element of this book I liked was the way we got to see the progression of Malcolm and Elena’s relationship, the poor dynamic between him and Freddie and the subsequent impact on his relationship with Elena. The author uses this to illustrate quite how hopeless a situation it is for those women who find themselves without their husbands whilst raising a child.

“Malcolm, with double the income I bring in and half the late days, will always be the fitter parent. Most men are, even the ones who aren’t.”

Q is many things, and has many important messages but I think perhaps the starkest one is not to let ourselves become complacent.

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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