As one who left high school behind many, many moons ago, I was keen to see if it still fitted the stereotype images we see in movies and read in books. Christopher Ryan is a high school teacher of many years and is well positioned to observe and comment on the attitudes, behaviours, needs and desires of today's youth. He does this extremely well in Genius High and yes! It would appear that High Schools today are no different to those of yesteryear; filled with young, highly emotional, hormone driven teenagers, who want, above anything else - to be accepted and to bel liked. The stereotypical cliques are still there; the cheerleaders, the jocks, the nerds, the geeks and a whole plethora of people in-between, just trying to fit in somewhere.
The story itself revolves principally around three and later four young people who are caught up in some sinister goings-on within the school. The sudden appearance of four, black suit wearing, consultants, who seem a law unto themselves, and the not so subtle changes in the students behaviours and achievements, leads our four crusaders to realize something evil and very wrong is happening.
This story had the potential to become just another teen angst tale, but what lifts it above the morass is Ryan's ability to pose some much bigger questions that are obviously causing major problems in high schools all over America, right now. Through the book, he questions the absolute focus of education on "testing" and academic achievement, with a principal's career's often dependent on achieving measurable and "testable" results. He poses the question; if you were offered a surefire method of lifting the academic achievement of the whole school, why wouldn't you take it? Other teen subjects like police profiling, drugs, and teen sex are all touched on and well handled by the author.
There is your usual teenage love tangles, unrequited passions and although some of the characters are perhaps stereotypical, I think Ryan realized this was necessary to get his message across.
I did enjoy the book, although at times I had to suspend some belief just to accept the plot lines. One thing I liked particularly was the lack of an attempt, by the author, to sugar-coat the issues. He wasn't afraid of posing the hard questions - like who to grieve for a lost friend?
I'd highly recommend Genius High to anyone who wants to revisit the halcyon days of their youth and who frequently can be heard to say; "you kids just have it so easy these days!" Christopher Ryan may convince you otherwise. An excellent four-star read.