Monday, February 3, 2014

Review of Ungifted by Gordon Korman

HarperCollins Publishers
by Gordon Korman
3 Scribbles

Donovan loves a good practical joke, especially at school; school is simply boring without mixing it up once in a while. But when Donovan accidentally-on-purpose destroys the school gym, he must go underground to protect his identity from the school’s superintendent, Dr. Schultz.  Laughter and hijinks ensue.

There is a lot to love in this fast-moving adventure, if the reader can get past the stereotypes. Korman portrays the kids at the gifted academy who hide Donovan as nothing short of cyborgs. They have the IQs (listed at the onset of every chapter) of quantum physicists but the social skills of a calculator. Sure, some gifted students may be a bit socially awkward, and some have concrete disabilities that challenge them in social settings, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Real gifted kids are just as quirky and adventuresome as “ungifted” kids. In fact, I think Chloe was the only gifted character who seemed realistic since she longs to be “un-isolated” from other, “un-gifted” students.

I did enjoy the plot turns. There were just enough to keep the reader guessing without making the story difficult to follow. It was fun to see how Donovan manages to dodge Dr. Schultz, the superintendent, time and time again, and to see the ironic reason behind the dog, Beatrice’s depression. I also liked the inclusion of Donovan’s older sister, Katie, in the story. She’s living with her family (and Donovan) while her husband fights in Afghanistan, and she is pregnant. Readers may sometimes forget that soldiers are still being deployed regularly and are still stationed abroad. Our country is at peace, but this is not peace-time.  I found it refreshing that the author so naturally incorporates this conflict into the plot and makes readers care—without hitting them over the head with it. I also like the key role Katie plays in the story.

I did feel one point was sort of ignored in the story. Donovan is notorious for dishonesty and theft—part of his charm. However, even though he grows and matures, I’m not sure the thievery is adequately resolved.  For example, what happens with the floor polisher? Did I miss it when this loose end was tied up? That being said, the book is an easy, fun and accessible read that many older elementary and middle school students will enjoy—so long as they don’t get too hung up on the stereotypes.  For an even more hilarious read by Gordon Korman, I’d recommend Schooled.