Review: The Unteachables

I read pretty much all genres, all age levels — but I am discerning. Like the child I once was, who would have picked up this book in a heartbeat, I read what I consider quality writing and illustrations.

So I know what I like — and I truly enjoyed Gordon Korman's The Unteachables. It is a delightful and worthy read, even for those close(r) to (early) retirement. 

Zachary Kermit can see early retirement from his desk at Greenwich Middle School. While his classroom changes every year, his goal does not. Early retirement has been his goal for decades, as he was moved from classroom to classroom, subject to subject, after a crushing disappointment in his early years of teaching.

And what a teacher he was! Fierce, engaging, supportive, and driven. Nothing like the silent, coffee-swilling shell of an educator sitting at the front of the class in Room 117. School Superintendent Dr. Thaddeus, worried about budgets, sees Mr. Kermit's family's longevity and cringes: the school district could be in for 50+ years of payments to a man he loathes.

Solution: SCS-8, also known as The Unteachables, a motley crew of underachieving students who don't have a place in any other classroom. The school has given up on them, and they on themselves. They are the answer to Dr. Thaddeus' prayers. One last mess-up, and the superintendent can fire Mr. Kermit.

But as with everything involving The Unteachables, nothing is easy.

The charm of this book is in the characters, each of whom is vivid and engaging on the page. Everyone has a role in the story, and a chapter in the book, and readers grow to understand them and cheer for them. 

Characters include, but are not limited to: a boy who can drive a truck but sees the world in jumbled letters. The daughter of an actor on the cusp of stardom staying with her father and stepmother — and their new baby — for a few weeks, until filming is done. A redheaded fireball and a giant, quiet fear-inducing sequoia of a girl. A jock who skated along on his athleticism until an injury knocked him off the field. An artist who sleeps through class. And Mr. Kermit, who cannot get past the disastrous turn his life took decades ago that cost him his self-respect, his love, and his career.

Even the peripheral characters — Gram, Chauncey, Principal Vargas — are fully formed and have pivotal roles in the story.

The dialogue is sharp and interesting, and readers can picture everyone as they move around the classroom, the school, and even the town of Greenwich.

I found myself reading way past my bedtime, just one more chapter, and enjoying every page (even if I squirmed with discomfort for educators and students alike). I am anxious to share the book with the rest of my family. And friends. And strangers. I may have to purchase copies for local Little Free Libraries.

This book is perfect for all ages, for all reading levels. I strongly recommend this book for all readers who want a book with suspense, humor, and a lot of fun. 

Then you'll start looking for other books by Korman, as I have. Haunt your library, peruse bookstores, just find this book, read it, and share it — and see what else this author has in store for you.