The Unteachables by Gordon Korman
The Unteachables groups a class full of outsiders and forms it into an award-winning team.
The Unteachables by Gordon Korman. Balzer + Bray (HarperColins), 2019, 279 pages.
Reading level: Intermediate, 10-12 years
Recommended for: 10-15 years
When Kiana enters her 8th grade classroom on her first day at Greenwich Middle School, students fry marshmallows stuck on pencils over a trash can fire. Then an (allegedly) responsible adult comes in with a coffee cup the size of a toilet bowl. His first act is to calmly pour the contents over the fire. "Good morning. I'm your teacher, Mr. Kermit." Fortunately, Kiana doesn't plan to be around for long. This is just a temporary stay with her father and stepmother until her mother completes a film on site and Kiana can return to her true home in California. This is not even their class. Confusion during registration brought them into this collection of outsiders and ner-do-wells, which are colloquially known as The Unteachables. And although the class doesn't know yet, the situation is also temporary for Mr. K – a burnt-out teacher who is counting down the days until early retirement. Both Mr. K and Kiana can park here as long as time runs out, but the class has a lot more to offer than either of them knows.
Gordon Korman is a master at communicating serious issues with quirky humor. The novel is "dedicated to all teachers who are soldiers," despite screwed up schedules, pompous administrators, and bureaucratic nonsense. The focus on an adult is unusual in MG fiction, but the kids also get their money's worth: dyslexic Parker, angry Barnstorm (the injured Jock who is out of the season), angry Aldo, etc. It's a familiar story on the side and screen: a group of rejections learn to take care of each other and work as a team, and a dejected trainer or mentor gets his mojo back. But it's fun to get there with a few fist pumps on the way.
- There is a "my god", 2-3 "God Louise" (does anyone really say that?)
- Kiana calls her stepmother a "step monster", but luckily she thinks better about her.
Overall rating: 4 (of 5)
- Weltanschauung / moral value: 3.5
- Artistic / literary value: 4.5
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