Imagine getting caught for playing a giant prank at your middle school — something you’re known for — and then receiving an acceptance letter from the prestigious Academy of Scholastic Distinction. Such is life for Donovan Curtis in Gordon Korman’s Ungifted.
Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle Young Readers will discuss Korman’s book at 4:15 p.m. today in Hurlbut Church Room 1. Much like Donovan’s experiences at the academy, Young Readers will participate in a robotics program of their own as they experiment with motorized Lego sets.
Korman, the author of more than 70 books for young adults, has noticed that most schools have a program for gifted and talented students — youth who have been identified by the school system for their academic performance and standardized test scores. While this can be a positive schooling experience for those who need to be challenged, Korman wanted to spotlight kids who have talents that often go unnoticed.
“You see a lot of kids in the other classes who are in their way just as gifted — it’s just not recognized by the school,” Korman said. “I wanted to write a story that explored the idea that we’re all kind of gifted in our own weird way.”
Korman tells the story through the eyes of several different characters. At the Academy, Donovan is the “ungifted” gifted student. Noah is the kid who lacks social skills and resents his intelligence. Chloe is eager to be considered “normal.” Abigail will do anything to keep her grades up and get into an Ivy League school.
The adults in Donovan’s life also have a voice in the story. Oz, Donovan’s teacher, suspects that Donovan was accidently placed in the gifted program after several attempts at identifying the student’s scholastic strengths. Dr. Shultz is the superintendent of Donovan’s school district who, while confronting Donovan for ruining the school gym, creates the circumstances that sends him to the academy. Kate, Donovan’s sister, also plays a key role in uniting him with his gifted classmates.
Korman said he appreciates the challenge of writing for several different characters.
“That makes you work very hard to create that separation between the characters’ personalities,” Korman said. “I think that really focuses the writer on trying to create those distinctions, because everyone has to have a different attitude toward a certain thing.”
Through his book, Korman didn’t aim to present any particular lesson, but to tell the story of a kid who got himself mixed-up in a tough situation and had to deal with the consequences. He hopes that young adults will enjoy his books as noncurricular reading.
“I just want them to meet some new people and have a fun read,” Korman said. “That’s always been my No. 1 goal: to entertain.”