Wednesday, October 31, 2012

If You're Going To Read A Book With Multiple Points Of View, Read This One

Minutes before I started reading Ungifted by Gordon Korman, I gave up reading a book that was told from alternating points of view. Several of them. None of the characters were particularly interesting, some of them were terribly cliched, and the point of view switches meant having to keep readjusting myself to a different person telling a story I didn't like very much, anyway.

Imagine my surprise when I found that Ungifted was told the same way. The basic story is more interesting in Ungifted, though, and the characters are all more likable and more accessible.

Ungifted is the story of a run-of-the-mill kid who has a history of stumbling into disruptive rather than criminal trouble. After accidentally causing expensive damage to the middle school gym, he takes advantage of a paperwork error so he can hide out in the district's school for the academically gifted.

I found the basic premise for the book believable. Donovan had legitimate reasons for being concerned about the financial trouble he was going to make for his family if he was fingered for the gym job. I found the slip-up that got him into the gifted program believable. I found his family's response to his sudden identification as gifted believable. For the past thirty years, at least, it has been a rare parent who hasn't spent their children's entire school careers waiting for someone besides themselves to recognize their offsprings' splendor.

I did feel the point of view switches weakened the story, though. The basic idea is that Donovan's presence at the school makes life better for the gifted students. I buy that idea, too. But I would have enjoyed getting deeper into one point of view in order to see what's so great about Donovan.

This is a contemporary, realistic school story with a lot of humor. I see so much fantasy, paranormal, teen girl group stuff that a realistic story seems unique by comparison. A lot of kids would be happy to find this book.

Ungifted is a Cybils nominee in the middle grade fiction category.

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