A fun middle grade read
Ungifted is a well-written middle grade novel. It is a fun, light story that is perfect for young readers and easy enough for reluctant readers. The plot progresses steadily and has some very light hearted moments. I enjoyed watching Donovan as realized that the gifted kids were fun and interesting and that they were his true friends. Some of his actions left Donnie a little unlikeable, but he did manage to grow by the end of the novel.
The other characters are cute, if a little stereotypical. I enjoyed Noah the most and was amused by his constant yearning to be expelled from the Academy. Chloe was also a cute character, but I felt the romantic element a little unnecessary and distracting.
I wasn't a big fan of the alternating narrative. Perhaps if it had been less random and had a little more development among fewer characters, I would have enjoyed it more. I also noticed an odd undercurrent of public school bashing. Admittedly, as a Canadian, I am not fluent in the issues plaguing the American school system, however, as a teacher, I felt a little insulted. We do the best we can with what we are given and I felt that the novel wasn't giving that process credit.
I can see this book appealing to boys (as most of Gordon Korman's books do) and being an enjoyable read for those reluctant readers.
Korman is certainly gifted!
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.