Thursday, September 5, 2013


by Gordon Korman
288 pages
Late elementary+

Donovan Curtis isn't really a bad kid, he just lacks impulse control.  When that impulse is to whack a bronze statue of Atlas on the backside, which causes the globe on his shoulders to come of and roll into the gym during a basketball game, it cause him lots of trouble.  Especially with the superintendent standing right there.  After going to his office and getting his name written down, Donovan expects the worst: the dreaded call to his parents.  When that never comes, Donovan wonders what happened.

Then the completely unexpected happens: instead of getting reprimanded for what he did, Donovan is getting promoted.  His parents received in the mail a letter stating that because of his excellent test scores, he has been invited to attend the Academy of Scholastic Distinction, the school for the super smart kids.  Donovan figures this is a great place to hide from the superintendent until he remembers to punish him.

At this school, Donovan couldn't be more out of place.  While other kids are acing calculus, everything said in class is going way over his head.  His only redeeming feature: he's normal.  He quickly names the school robot (Tin Man), makes the robotics team a true team, and introduces the smart kids to YouTube.  Making their days better, he seems to fit in, even without the smarts.

But can he stay there forever? His teachers are quickly realizing he's not gifted, the superintendent is still looking for him, and now his pregnant sister is moving back home.  On top of all of this, he's got to take care of her spastic dog that doesn't like anyone but him.  How long can he keep hiding, and keep his random impulses under control?

This book made me laugh so much.  The visual of a kid whacking Atlas' backside with a tree branch, and watching, horrified, as it rolls into the school gym was priceless.  He is continually defying expectations and norms.  Quirky kid, who just doesn't want to be yelled at.

I liked how the point of view switched between people.  It always came back to Donovan, but you got a great look at how frustrated the superintendent is when he loses Donovan's name, and how his new teacher really likes him and values what he is doing for the class, but wonders why this kid was chosen for the gifted school.  Makes you realize the other characters in the book aren't necessarily oblivious to what is happening, and gives their perspective on the story as well.  While in other books, I have seen this distract from the story line, it really worked out well in this instant.

Another thing I really liked was how the characters could grow while staying true to themselves.  Donovan changed his perspective on some things, grew out of some childish tendencies, but at the end is still struggling with his impulse control (great scene!  Robot showdown!).  He is still himself, but an improved version of himself.

Overall, really good book.  The characters were fun, the story was great, and had meaning without being preachy or trite.  Lots of humor, and both girls and boys should enjoy it.  Have fun reading it!

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