Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ungifted by Gordon Korman

Earlier this month, I served as the Book Fair Chairperson at our school.  I love book fair.  I love looking at all the books and I really love telling people which books they just have to buy.  The books I pushed the hardest were Wonder, The One and Only Ivan, and The Book Thief.  I just love being able to tell people about wonderful books and then watching as they come to love them as well.  And of course, I also love buying the books that I see at the book fair.

One that particularly captured my attention was Ungifted by Gordon Korman.  It's hard to ignore a cover like that, don't you agree?  It is the story of Donovan, a middle school trouble maker who is accidentally sent to an academy for gifted students.  Due to his most recent trouble, Donovan uses the academy as a place to hide out from the powers that be.  Unfortunately, he is decidedly ungifted.  When the letter comes informing him that he has qualified for this special school, he says to himself. "Forget it.  Not in a million years.  You won't last ten minutes in the gifted program.  There's never been anybody more ungifted than you."

While attending the Academy for Scholastic Distinction, Donovan suddenly becomes a part of the robotics team where the extent of his expertise is in decorating the body of the robot.  Also on this team are several people with IQs far above his own.  One of the fun parts about the book is that it is narrated by several different characters and each chapter lists the narrators full name as well as his or her IQ.  They range from 107 to 206.  Can you imagine being that smart?  Donovan makes friends he never would have expected and learns so much about himself, even if he can't understand a thing in biochemistry. 

I loved that this book talked about the positives and the negatives of being identified as gifted.  One girl in his class, Chloe, begins her chapter with this: "Being gifted is not a gift.  A gift you get for nothing.  This you have to pay for.... There is a price to being gifted."  Chloe just wants a "normal" life with friends and sports and free time and dances.  And Donovan notices the double standard enjoyed by the gifted students:

"We didn't even have the dumb soda rules that ruined everything.  For example, soda was banned at my old school because of the sugar content.  But the Academy lunchroom had a drink machine that was open to everybody.  It even sold the extra-sugar, extra-caffeine stuff.  It was fine, even necessary to fuel the brainiacs through late-night study marathons.  But if one of the ungifted kids at Hardcastle happened to get a sip, he'd go straight out and rob a bank."

I have already recommended this to two school counselors that I know and I have another friend whose husband teaches Physics and runs the robotics team at a nearby high school that I think would also find it amusing.  My sister is a teacher and I think she would get a kick out of it as well.  As a matter of fact, you should all read it.  Really.  Even if middle grade books aren't really your thing, I think you'll enjoy this one.  

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