Ungifted, by Gordan Korman, is a humorous book for middle schoolers. It stars Donovan Curtis, a born trouble-maker, an eighth-grade smart-aleck who cuts class with his two buddies, the two Daniels, to play pranks and escape sitting in boring classrooms.
He gets in more trouble than even he can handle, however, during the school pep rally for a big basketball game. The statue of Atlas bearing the globe, which stands in front of the school on a hill, is practically begging for a smack with a big stick, and Donovan is just the delinquent to provide one. To the horror of Donovan and the delight of the two Daniels, that jars the giant metal globe loose and it rolls down the hill, shatters the glass doors to the gym, and bounces across the gym floor, sending basketball players and fans scattering. Luckily, no one is hurt, but the district superintendent happens to be standing outside the gym and catches Donovan red-handed. He drags him to the administration building where he writes Donovan’s name down on a handy piece of paper and promises he will call his parents later that evening.
After he sends Donovan home, he hands the list of new students for the district gifted school to his assistant and rushes off to a meeting. When he returns to his office later, he searches frantically for the sheet of paper with that kid’s name. What was it? Dave? Doug? The piece of paper has to be in the office somewhere! Meanwhile, on Monday, Donovan finds himself transferred to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction. He’s as surprised as his teachers, but the Academy seems like a good place to lie low until this whole thing blows over.
The rest of the book involves Donovan attempting to fit in at the Academy. The Daniels let him know the superintendent is searching for him at his old school, but if can keep himself enrolled at the Academy he realizes the superintendent will never think to look for him there. Since, his parents could never afford to pay the costs of fixing the gym, he really tries to do well in his classes for the first time in his life, going so far as to join the robotics club. It’s obvious from the beginning that he’ll never match the academic prowess of his driven, high-IQ peers at the Academy, but Donovan and his nerdy new classmates gradually discover that he may be gifted in his own way, and does indeed have something to contribute.
I think any middle-schooler would really enjoy this book. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to adults, unless they were specifically looking for a humorous middle-grade book, but I don’t think an adult would be bored by it either. It’s fast-paced and very funny–I laughed out loud several times at the various situations Donovan gets himself in, and chuckled at nearly every page. It also provides a nice message about the different talents and strengths everybody has, even if they aren’t obvious to others, and not to assume you know what’s happening in another person’s life. It’s not preachy, though; it presents its message in an organic way, with Donovan, the least likely of heroes, proving to be just what the Academy was missing, while by the end of the book the Daniels and a number of Donovan’s nerdy new classmates reveal sides of their personalities one wouldn’t have suspected at the beginning.