"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Schooled by Gordon Korman

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Summary: A home-schooled teenager raised by hippies is thrown into a modern-day middle school. Classic fish out of water story.

You need to be an adult to appreciate the humor of a 13-year old boy spouting off 60s commune propaganda. I giggled thru most of this novel. Capricorn Anderson was raised on a commune by his grandmother Rain.

“Rain always said that anger upsets the balance inside a person. So when you yell at somebody, you’re attacking yourself more than whoever it is you’re yelling at. Falling out of the tree must have made her forget this. Because when the nurses finally let me in to see her, she was screaming at the doctor at full volume. “I can’t do eight weeks of rehab! I can’t do eight days.” “

When Rain falls and breaks her hip, requiring eight weeks of rehab, a social worker invites Cap into her home and has Cap attend the local middle school. On the first day back, rising bully Zach Powers removes the L from the sign, reducing Claverage Middle School to a sign announcing C Average Middle School. Throwing a hippie into a modern day middle school is one of the most unique (and humorous) plot devices I’ve read. When Zach shows Cap his locker, Cap responds, “When we lock things away, we’re really imprisoning ourselves.”

The best part about this book was how true Cap remained to his values, despite the social pressure middle school has. It seems that peer shame contributes to a lot of middle school misery. Every year, the students select the nerdiest person to be elected school body president. This year, they select Cap and expect to mock him unknowingly all year. Since Cap is clueless, the kids enjoy making up impossible tasks for him, and watching him try to accomplish them. One running joke is that he has to learn all the names of the 1100 students in the middle school.

Yet Cap is charming and clueless as to how the real world works. Cap, honest as can be, is given a school checkbook to pay for the school dance. When asked for donations, he freely writes checks, because he doesn’t understand how a checking account works. “It was funny – a money-obsessed world was the main reason Rain had dropped out and formed Garland. Yet, in my experience, money was really excellent, and every time I spent it, someone ended up smiling.” Giving away this money makes Cap very popular, but it doesn’t affect his personality at all.

The sheep mentality of middle school becomes so great that when they don’t hear from Cap (he’s gone back home to Garland) his friends hold a memorial service for him. Cap missed his friends so much and never even got to say goodbye, that he decides to visit, right in the middle of his own memorial service, of course.

And during his memorial service, he says goodbye to every single student by name. Perfect scene.

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