Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Donovan Curtis cannot explain why he does the things he does. No one in his family is that impulsive, and according to ancestry.com, no one in his family's history is either. But he still gets himself in trouble by acting without thinking-like when he hits the statue of Atlas outside his middle school with a large stick and sends the world rolling off his shoulders. Atlas' shoulders, that is. Dr. Schlutz, the strict superintendent, will surely punish Donovan to the best of his ability, but imagine Donovan's surprise when he's called to the office and told that he's going into the gifted program at a new school, not getting suspended or worse. A couple of good mix-ups and Donovan is suddenly working on a robot with some of the brightest minds in his school district, and he's praying that no one ever finds out. This is another great school story from Gordon Korman.
Donovan is a great character. He knows his faults very well. He knows that he's not smart enough to be at the academy, but you can't blame the kid for hiding out there. Donovan really does try to fit in, but he's a normal kid and that stands out in a brilliant way at a school full of intelligent students.
Then there's the supporting cast from the Academy. Perfectionist Abigail who wants nothing to do with Donovan, since he will surely ruin her chances at Harvard; smart, but normal-ish Chloe who wants to be both smart and normal, genius Noah who would give anything to get kicked out of school, and the teachers that just can't quite understand how Donovan got into this school in the first place. It was wonderful to hear this story told from so many points of view because even though Donovan wasn't gifted in the traditional sense, he is gifted at bringing people together.
The chapter headings were wonderful since every heading introduced the character with their name and IQ score (keep track of those scores, because they are a little surprising). Also, every chapter is titled with an "un" adjective: Unforgiveable, Unmasked, Unsorry. This would be a great writing exercise for a class. Have them write a short story to follow-up and give it an "un" title. Maybe write something from the robot's point of view because the poor guy is a big part of the action, but doesn't get to give any input.
This book did remind me of Schooled by Gordon Korman where a homeschooled kid comes in and shakes up a public middle school. Again, you have an outsider coming into a group and changing it into something so much bigger. But that's a great theme, so I'm really happy that Korman went back to it.
Ungifted is a great middle grade fiction novel for all types of readers. It is funny, it has heart, and there's a robot on the cover. The only thing that would make this book any better is a coupon for free ice cream.