Monday, November 14, 2011

Audio Review - Schooled by Gordon Korman

I'm a sucker for the fish-out-of-water novel, mostly because I think there's not a kid or adult alive who hasn't felt that way. Especially in middle school, when it's kind of a revolving door of outside-inside, where every day brings a fresh new opportunity to end up labeled a complete loser. And in Schooled, Gordon Korman gives us a doozy of kid out of his depth, in the character of Cap Anderson.

Cap -- as in short for Capricorn -- does that give you a clue why this boy might be a bit of an outsider? Cap's grown up on Garland Farm, a commune run by his grandmother Rain, and it's the only world he's ever known. Garland's kind of small -- in fact, Cap and Rain are the only members left -- and so when Rain has an accident and has to go into the hospital for a while, there's no one for Cap to turn to. Suddenly Cap finds himself living with a social worker and her snarky daughter, and enrolled at Claverage Middle School, better known as C Average by the student body. Can life get any weirder? As it turns out, it can, when Cap's elected 8th grade president, has to plan the Halloween dance, and starts teaching a high schooler to drive. Oh, and becomes the greatest philanthropist in the history of middle school.

Just when you think you've figured out where Korman's going with this one, he throws another twist in the mix. And while the cast of characters is huge, the audio sorts this out nicely by having a different actor voice each part. (Even so, I'll admit I occasionally got lost and forgot who was who.) Cap is a wholly original character, a blend of modern kid with a whole lot of sixties hippie thrown in for good measure. The way he approaches life is unique, but believable in the context of a boy who has grown up only knowing one other person, his grandmother. And the lessons Cap teaches his fellow middle schoolers follow right along with his worldview, that of a boy who's never seen television and honestly thinks he needs to learn every students name.

Schooled moves along at a rapid clip, with plenty of hilarity along the way, but manages to wrap in some important lessons too -- about being true to yourself, sure, but also about being true to others, and being the kind of friend we all really need.

Schooled by Gordon Korman, published by Hyperion Books
Ages 10-13
Source: Library
Sample quote: "Something tingled directly beneath the peace sign I wore around my neck. I was developing a sixth sense for when trouble was coming my way. But what good was advance warning? Advance warning of what? I wasn't going to understand it anyway."

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