Friday, August 17, 2012
Guy Friday-- Ungifted
21 August 2012, Balzar & Bray (ARC from Baker and Taylor)
Reviewed at Young Adults Book Central
Donovan is one of those kids with no impulse control. Hitting the statue of Atlas with a branch wouldn't have been that bad of an idea... if the one bolt holding the world on Atlas' shoulders hadn't given way, sending the 400 pound globe careening right through the glass doors of the gym and into the middle of a basketball game. While the superintendent is there. Donovan is used to being in trouble, so cooperates when the superintendent writes down his name, and waits for the fateful call that gets him in major trouble. It never comes, and a series of mistakes lands Donovan instead at the Academy for Scholastic Distinction, an able and talented magnet school that is far nicer than the regular middle school he had been attending. Realizing that this is the best place to avoid detection, Donovan tries to keep up with the school work, but it's hard. Even his classmates know that he's not gifted in the traditional academic success, although he brings a new view point to their projects. He names the robot they are building for a competition, and has sophisticated joy stick skills the others lack. When the students need credits for Human Growth and Development or face summer school, Donovan talks his heavily pregnant sister into being their "hands on experience". He introduces Noah, the class genius who is not interested in anything, to YouTube, which finally engages him in his classes. The teachers compare notes, however, and are not fooled. Donovan has to take the online, secure test again, and knows that he can't pass it. When he gets unauthorized help from an unknown classmate, he does, and is able to stay at the academy and compete in the robotics competition. But Donovan still struggles with impulse control, and his antics cause just as much hilarity as problems for him.
Strengths: Middle school students are often just like Donovan; they are not bad kids, but they make poor decisions. Korman is great at portraying these students to excellent effect. Even though Donovan feels out of place socially and academically, his resilience and ingenuity are heartening as well as fun to watch. An abundance of laugh-out-loud lines and comical situations makes this book about fitting in and working hard one that students will enjoy tremendously.
Weaknesses: The gifted students span the range of stereotypes-- skinny Noah, who is a math genius; awkward, lumber jack shirted Chloe, who has a small crush on Donovan; driven Abigail, who refuses to get anything lower than an A+. While these stereotypes are based in a lot of truth, it would have been interesting if Donovan had met a gifted student who had less impulse control than he did!
Apparently, this book has been optioned for a FILM! I'll definitely go see that one! Do worry a little about the depiction of the gifted students, but seeing the school would be awesome!