by Gordon Korman
E-book, 288 pages
Expected publications on January 8th, 2019 by Balzer + Bray
A hilarious new middle grade novel from beloved and bestselling author Gordan Korman about what happens when the worst class of kids in school is paired with the worst teacher—perfect for fans of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day.
The Unteachables are a notorious class of misfits, delinquents, and academic train wrecks. Like Aldo, with anger management issues; Parker, who can’t read; Kiana, who doesn’t even belong in the class—or any class; and Elaine (rhymes with pain). The Unteachables have been removed from the student body and isolated in room 117.
Their teacher is Mr. Zachary Kermit, the most burned-out teacher in all of Greenwich. He was once a rising star, but his career was shattered by a cheating scandal that still haunts him. After years of phoning it in, he is finally one year away from early retirement. But the superintendent has his own plans to torpedo that idea—and it involves assigning Mr. Kermit to the Unteachables.
The Unteachables never thought they’d find a teacher who had a worse attitude than they did. And Mr. Kermit never thought he would actually care about teaching again. Over the course of a school year, though, room 117 will experience mayhem, destruction—and maybe even a shot at redemption.
I received this book in exchange for an honest review through Edelweiss Plus.
It’s been a while since I read middle grade, longer still since I’ve read a great book about teacher/student dynamics. Most books nowadays portrayed teachers as either awkward, unmotivated, strict, or soul sucking dementors. The students itself are no better, it seems like everyone is not interested in studying, too busy with their teenage drama, and those who studies are often for the sake of college application. Where’s the motivating teacher? The ambitious student who actually passionate about what they learn?
Enter The Unteachables. From the moment I saw it, I knew it has a huge chance to be a new favorite of mine. It is a story of a teacher, Mr. Kermit, who for the longest time, believed teaching is a mission. He was that type of enthusiastic teacher, that would motivate you and fight for you. A scandal 27 years ago ruined his career though, along with his professional life, and he never stop sinking deeper. This year, he got to teach the Unteachables, a group of so-called delinquent group together in a class famous for being, well, unteachable. I sense that this is a book about redemption and second chances, but this book turned out to be so much more than that.
This book unconsciously (or maybe, consciously) point out everything wrong with our education system. Grouping together a bunch of “school rejects” is already problematic in it’s nature, but see deeper into the children’s characteristic, and you can see the problem they represented:
- Parker is dyslexic, he constantly getting mocked for being unable to read even though he’s in grade 8. But instead of noticing his difficulties and getting help, the school chose to send him to the special class.
- Rahim is always asleep in class since he can’t sleep at night, but he’s a fantastic artist. He draws a lot and his drawing is really good. The school ignored his talent and seeing only his sleeping problem, and send him to the special class.
- Mateo is… different. He lives in a pop culture world where everything is parallel to our everyday events. But he’s also a smart and attentive student, yet due to his weirdness, the teacher wrote him off without giving him a chance.
- Elaine is this huge girl that was judge by her looks. No one tried to get to know her better, when on the inside she’s the smartest in the whole class.
- Aldo, similar with Parker, has problems too. He has anger management issue which landed him in the Unteachable class.
- Branstorm used to be the star athlete of the school. He got passes for his grades and unfinished homework… until he got injured and now he’s in the special class because everyone can’t excuse him anymore.
- And Kiana is the overachiever the teacher hated and demotivate, who by chance landed in the class with the rest of the unteachables.
Listen, Christina, I know they’re awful, but what we did to them is just as awful. Are we really going to keep them cooped up like prisoners until they can be the high school’s headache? If there’s a chance for them to have a real education, we have to take it.
Their dynamics at first was as expected: chaotic, unruly, and indifferent, on Mr. Kermit part. But as the story goes, you can see how much they grew on each other. The Unteachables considered Mr. Kermit as their teacher in their own ways of being less disruptive and actually trying, and Mr. Kermit considered them as his children by standing up for them. Is he encouraging? Not really. But he provides different kind of guidance and they respect and love each other.
This book is written in multiple povs and not a consistent one. Sometimes we got the children, sometimes Mr. Kermit, other times it’s other supporting characters in the story. While I think the story can be written in single pov, I think the multiple one works as it gives the character and plot more depth. We get to know the children and Mr. Kermit personally, along with the principal, superintendent, and yes, Jake Terranova. The author also nails every voice: they are all different, and the children have this innocent and sort of spoiled qualities, without being entitled. Meanwhile, the adults have this ~responsible and experienced~ vibe, without being patronizing.
The Unteachables is a hidden gem, this book is short and heartwarming. It’s also very easy to get through, as I flew through it in less than a day. While it is a middle grade book, I think it will suits all age as it gives me a sense of nostalgia and wishing we all have a teacher like Mr. Kermit.