Monday, December 3, 2018

MG Realistic Fiction review of The Unteachables by Gordon Korman

38376037The Unteachables by Gordon Korman
Format:  E ARC 
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Number of Pages: 288
Publishing:  January 8th, 2019 
Source:  E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Opening Line: "It's no fun riding to school with Stepmonster-not with Chauncey screaming his lungs out in the back seat."

Mr. Kermit (AKA Ribbet)  has been burned out from teaching, ever since the cheating scandal incident some 30 years ago.  What made the whole episode worse is that it was one of his students who was accused of cheating, and Mr. Kermit knew nothing about it, yet still ended up being blamed for the whole thing.   Ever since that day, Mr. Kermit has lost his spark for teaching.  Now he just seems to go through his day doing crossword puzzles, drinking monster amounts of coffee and biding his time until he can take his early retirement.  But this year the superintendent has plans for Mr. Kermit, plans that might just derail Mr. Kermit being able to get his pension.  Mr. Kermit is being assigned to teach the kids in room 117, kids with such horrible behavioral or educational issues that they're called the "Unteachables."   

The Unteachable reminded a lot of the movie The Breakfast Club.  A group of kids from varied backgrounds holed up in a classroom each day.   There's Barnstorm who symbolizes the jock with the busted up knee; Rahim or the artist if only he could stay awake long enough; Mateo the brainiac or the encyclopedia especially when it comes to the Klingon language;  Parker, the struggling student, and the wheels, having received a provisional drivers  license so he can drive his elderly grandma to the senior center and run errands for his parent's farm;  Elaine (rhymes with pain) who's the muscle and has been known to throw a kid around just for looking at her funny; there's Aldo who has the temper of "the hulk;" and last but not least there's Kiana, who is like the invisible women, and is only supposed to be a "short-timer."  Or at least that's what she keeps telling herself.  She's only here until she can move back in with her mom.  She's not even registered for school yet and only ended up in room 117 by accident,  but still, she keeps coming back each day.  

Or maybe The Unteachables is more like the book Ms. Bixby's Last Day.  Ms. Bixby is what you would call one of the good teachers, the kind that is thoughtful, compassionate and cares deeply about her students.  Well, Mr. Kermit, he's the exact opposite, he lost his will for teaching a long time ago.  When the school bell rings, he goes into autopilot handing out worksheets and inching his way toward his early retirement.  That is until the moment that he shows an inkling of interest in one of his students being included in the school pep rally.  Does his demanding that his students be treated fairly show that he actually cares? 

Like Ms. Bixby's Last Day, the story is told in the alternating perspectives of the students from room 117 and Mr. Kermit.  Minus chapters from Elaine or Rahim.  I really liked this style,  Korman gives each character a distinctive personality and well thought out backstory.  Each chapter provides more information about how the kids relate to one another and with their teacher.  There's even a chapter from the perspective of the school principal and Jake Terranova (Mr. Kermit's former student involved in the cheating scandal).  It's humorous, heartwarming and makes me nostalgic for 80's movies.  A truly entertaining story that I can't wait to purchase when it's released in January.  


  1. I had a little trouble believing that Mr. Kermit would get away with quite so much, or that a student would get placed in his class accidentally. I could believe that Mr. Kermit's spirit could be so crushed! Did you see that Ms. Bixby is going to be made into a movie?

    1. I hadn't heard about the movie, but so exciting. Mr. Kermit is quite the card and agree with you about Kiana being able to hide as well as she did. Don't they take role in class?

  2. Glad you enjoyed this and the different POVs. Not many middle grade books can make it work when the POV alternates between kids and an adult.

  3. I like the alternating POVs in a lot of MG books and this one sounds interesting. I have read other books by Korman and enjoyed them- so I will be looking for this one in January. :) Great review!