...[an] engaging book ... the book is much less successful in making the jump from the generally middle-class suburban Bee spellers to revealing truths about an entire generation of people born after 1996. They are 'accustomed to competing from a young age,' 'work hard to become young social media influencers and entrepreneurs,' 'seek out opportunities rather than expecting things to be handed to them' — these are just a few of the unsupported generalizations about Generation Z. Shankar is most convincing when writing about the kids and their parents in the culture of the Bee, and how many Indian-Americans have come to call it their own.
Shankar provides an in-depth analysis of multiple factors that contribute to an elite speller’s success ... In this revealing look at how the youngest generation is adapting to face an exceptionally competitive world, Shankar shows that these bright, dedicated competitors give us many reasons to feel hopeful.
[Shalini's] generational depictions tend toward broad archetypes (hedonistic, helicopter-parent baby boomers; Generation X parents skeptical of the 'American dream') and she does not provide rigorous, explicit support for her claims that the culture of intense preparation surrounding the bee is merely one example of an endemic 'professionalization of childhood.' This account is more successful as a deep dive into bee culture and immigrant experience than as an argument about what constitutes a typical Gen Z experience or child, but it makes for engaging reading nonetheless.