Summary: Golden Ticket
After Ash McAnulty won the school-wide Quiz Bowl in the fifth grade, it was almost like she got a golden ticket. Although she’d been in the school’s Gifted and Talented program since first grade, now everyone viewed her as the smartest of the bunch. But now fifth grade is wrapping up, and Ash feels less gifted. She can’t seem to grasp the abstract concepts other kids in her class do, and she begins to feel like a fraud.
If she asks for help and her teachers learn she’s struggling, she’ll no longer be “gifted,” will she? Then who will she be without her “gifted” identity? She resolves to prove herself in the upcoming Quiz Bowl, but her plan doesn’t go to plan, triggering a sequence of events that forces Ash to evaluate what matters most.
I adored this story. I listened on audio and the narrator did a phenomenal job. I think stories like this one and Brigit Young’s Bright appeal strongly to me because I was that kid who felt burdened by others’ perceptions of my smarts. Ash has been privileged throughout elementary school. Teachers trust her because of her intelligence and generally treat the smarter kids better than those whom they perceive to be “less smart.”
This pressure moves Ash to do something unscrupulous to win the Quiz Bowl, but she’s unable to get away with her actions and the reckoning proves helpful for her. One of my favorite things about this book is how realistic it is. Ash’s dilemma and how she processes having done something wrong while learning that making a mistake doesn’t make her a bad person. I also loved the role Ash’s parents play in helping her and the lessons she learns about herself and doing the right thing.
Overall: Golden Ticket
Golden Ticket is a true-to-life middle grade book about intelligence, identity, and recovering from poor choices as a kid. This book highlights the privileges garnered by book-smarts, how the “Gifted and Talented” label can impact children’s identity, and how to bounce back after making a mistake. Although this one is set in late elementary school, I think all middle schoolers will benefit from reading it.