A few months ago, my school had an author visit us. We had the pleasure of hosting Gordon Korman, and he discussed a book called Ungifted with us, even showing us an ARC of it. He didn't tell us much about the book, other than that it was about an "ungifted" kid sent to the wrong school...oh, yeah, and about robots. I instantly made a resolution to read it. Why? Well, that cover is simply irresistible. And secondly, telling someone you're going to mention their school in your book is an extremely good way to get that person to read your book.
Ungifted is, partly, about robots, but it's so much more than that. Our ungifted hero, Donovan Curtis, has never been a star student. In fact, he's just pulled his latest prank on the middle school--however accidental it may have been. But in a miraculous twist of fate, the school makes a mistake. Instead of getting into trouble, Donovan is headed to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction. His goal there? Attempt to blend in with the geniuses there, while hiding as the culprit behind his prank that got him into the whole mess in the first place.
This book has a bit of everything in it: it's got action, a heavy dose of humor, and some seriously great characters. Donovan is a character who I think we can all relate to. Of course, he's a troublemaker, but surely everyone has felt ungifted at least once in their lives. Then there's Donovan's quirky teacher, Mr. Osborne, who, trust me, is every kid's dream teacher. Then you have Chloe, and Abigail, and Noah, and Katie...all these supporting characters make for a great reading experience. Not to mention, there are some truly laugh-out-loud moments in here! And...how did I forget the robot?! Ungifted takes the prize for Most Lovable Robot I Have Read In A Book This Year.
The only complaint I have (and this is the reason why I gave it 4 stars, and not 5) has to do with the point-of-view switches every chapter. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the fact that we can see the school world from Donovan's, Chloe's, and Noah's points-of-view. But here's the thing. We also see the school from Dr. Schultz's (the administrator's) point of view. This doesn't sound very bad on paper, but there's just something awkward about writing from an adult's POV in a young adult/middle grade book. Dr. Schultz's tone sounded dumbed-down and absolutely nothing like I would expect him to sound.
Ungifted is a short book, but its message really soared and rang true with me. I think every kid in middle school can relate to the issues presented here, and the book can be really inspiring as well. The writing is humorous, crisp, and clear. This is not Gordon Korman's best book, but it is certainly up there. This book isn't going to be considered literature anytime soon, but it's a book that can start discussions in the classroom while being a devilishly fun read.