August 2012 by Balzer + Bray
The word gifted has never been applied to a kid like Donovan Curtis. It's usually more like Don't try this at home. So when the troublemaker pulls a major prank at his middle school, he thinks he's finally gone too far. But thanks to a mix-up by one of the administrators, instead of getting in trouble, Donovan is sent to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction (ASD), a special program for gifted and talented students.
It wasn't exactly what Donovan had intended, but there couldn't be a more perfect hideout for someone like him. That is, if he can manage to fool people whose IQs are above genius level. And that becomes harder and harder as the students and teachers of ASD grow to realize that Donovan may not be good at math or science (or just about anything). But after an ongoing experiment with a live human (sister), an unforgettably dramatic middle-school dance, and the most astonishing come-from-behind robot victory ever, Donovan shows that his gifts might be exactly what the ASD students never knew they needed.
Ungifted is just a lot of fun. The characters are great. Some reviewers thought the gifted kids were too extreme or stereotyped, but I thought it worked. Sure they may be a bit extreme, but it's what worked. As for Donovan, he is definitely true to life. He reminds me uncomfortably of some of my students. "Why are you doing (insert random weird thing)?" "I don't know..." And they really don't know. They have no impulse control and no concept of consequences. Donovan does bring a bit too much life to the gifted school for it to be truly plausible, but it's a fun book and middle schoolers love that kind of exaggeration.
I loved the relationship between Donovan and Katie. I love when sibling relationships are done well. Korman perfectly captures the I-hate-you-but-if-anyone-else-tries-to-mess-with-you-I-will-beat-them-up feeling. And the subplot with the dog was a fun touch, if too predictable.
Ungifted is filled with dramatic irony. I wish the passages were easier to lift so I could use them in class, but without the context of the rest of the book, they don't make sense. Ungifted is one of those books that both kids and adults can enjoy. My students love it. It is a fun and meaningful foray into the challenges and the joys of middle school life.