Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review! The School for the Insanely Gifted

9780061138737Author: Dan Elish

304 Pages--Ages 8-12

Published by: HarperCollins on Hun 21, 2011


Summary (from amazon.com):

Daphna Whispers is insanely gifted.

At age two and a half, she composed her first sonata.

At age eight, she completed an opera.

And now, at eleven and three-quarters, she is orchestrating a piano rhapsody.

With a résumé like that, it's no wonder she is a student at the prestigious Blatt School for the Insanely Gifted. But as sixth grade draws to a close, Daphna's mind is far from the upcoming "Insanity Cup" competition. She's preoccupied by her mother's disappearance two months ago.

When a mysterious man breaks into Daphna's small New York apartment, Daphna discovers that her mother's disappearance wasn't a random accident. Her mother knew something—and now somebody is after Daphna. What starts out as a simple fact-finding trip to the basement with her friends spirals into an international expedition. And while Daphna hopes to uncover the secret of her mother's disappearance on her global trek, the last thing she expects to uncover is an outrageous secret about the Blatt School.

And one insanely shocking secret about herself.


I picked this book up totally on a whim (it seems to be a common trend these days) when I saw the title. I usually enjoy stories about smart/resourceful kids who have to go on adventures (like The Mysterious Benedict Society). Also, the cover really reeled me in. I mean come on, a flying car with kids driving it? As for the expectations I have for this book, I just want something fun to read with likable characters.


For a free sample of the book visit: http://www.harpercollins.com/9780061138737/the-school-for-the-insanely-gifted

[caption id="attachment_1075" align="alignright" width="225"]The author, Dan Elish. The author, Dan Elish.[/caption]

I want to start off this review by saying that despite all the negative comments I’m about to discuss down below, I didn’t actually think that this was a terrible book. This book was definitely more than the sum of its parts; I didn’t really like any of the parts particularly, but overall the book wasn’t that bad it just wasn’t that great either. Even though I didn’t like the book, I can see how other people would like it so I still recommend it for younger readers just probably not for older audiences.


Okay, now onto the discussion about why I wasn’t fond of this book. First, I found the characters to be less than satisfactory. The protagonist Daphna doesn’t really have a well-defined personality and she’s insanely flawed (not in the good way). For example, at the beginning of the book when someone breaks into her house and clearly intends to hurt her she doesn’t call the police or tell her adoptive family because she feels that whatever the intruder is looking for is valuable information that shouldn’t be shared with other people. Instead, she confides in her two genius friends and creates a plan to find what the intruder was looking for. And here’s the real kick in the shins: it’s one of Daphna’s best friends, Cynthia, who betrays her in the end! To top it all off, after betraying her friends Cynthia gets redemption way to easily in the end. I really dislike it in stories when the characters make irrational choices that seem only to move the story along. Decisions like that do nothing to build character and they seem to just be there to irritate me.

[caption id="attachment_1076" align="alignleft" width="251"]The back cover of the book. The back cover of the book.[/caption]

Another character that I found to be unsatisfactory was Ignatious Peabody Blatt. I felt as if his diabolically twisted personality came out of nowhere, which made him out to be kind of a cheap villain. Blatt’s motive for his evil behavior is that he wants to take over the world, of course. His reason? He’s an ego-maniac. What else could it be? It just didn’t really work for me.

Despite everything that I have mentioned above, the thing that bothered me the most was that it was way too hard for me to suspend my disbelief throughout the novel. The gadgets are impressive, but they are insanely unrealistic. When I read the back cover summary I thought the book would be more about a bunch of genius students outwitting the bad guys with smarts not with fix-all gadgets. This makes the gadgets seem like elements from magical realism rather than science fiction. I could accept that Thunk can build a working go-kart (it’s really a car) out of used taxis. I can accept that he can remodel it into a useable aircraft that can endure a transcontinental flight. I could not accept that he can do all of that in less than an hour while bad guys are maliciously chasing him. To me that was the equivalent to waving a magic wand and having them arrive on Mount Kilimanjaro. They call Thunk a genius in engineering; that is not engineering, that’s sorcery.

Like I said in my first paragraph, despite everything I didn’t like about this book it really wasn’t a bad book it was just sort of meh for me. It’s the kind of story that kids would love—lots of action with some pretty wacky gadgets. So overall, I would recommend this book to younger readers.


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