Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Ungifted Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Wacky mayhem fills tale of troublemaker in genius academy.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn about brain-freezing, advanced math, and robotics. Ungifted also does a great job of illustrating the difference between academic brilliance and ingenious creativity and how both have their strengths and limitations.

Positive Messages

While quite a few of Donovan's adventures are of the sort that earned him the nickname "Don't Try This at Home," the messages of collaborative cleverness, teamwork, and the value of people having different interests and skill sets are strong.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Donovan has a penchant for comical mayhem but is also responsible enough to feel bad about the impact that his misdeeds have on his family and to want to do better. He uses his creative problem-solving to help the gifted kids and his family. The gifted school students offer a believable mix of positive qualities and extreme cluelessness. Robotics lab teacher Mr. Oz is a good teacher and supportive of the kids; Dylan's family members love him and help keep him from serious trouble.


Donovan whacks a bronze statue with a board. There's chaotic mortal combat between robots. Donovan's brother-in-law is deployed in Afghanistan, and his sister worries about him.


The academy students have a required Sex Ed course; Donovan persuades his pregnant sister to become the subject of a class.


Minor crude language, e.g. "butt" and "pee," the latter in the context of pregnant women and dogs.


Donovan refers to his distant ancestors and his fascination with Ancestry.com, and YouTube figures prominently in the tale.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ungifted is another page-turning middle-school comic adventure from prolific, kid-pleasing author Gordon Korman (The 39 Clues, Pop). Class prankster Donovan Curtis is definitely "ungifted," at least compared with his high-IQ classmates at the academy for gifted children, where he's sent by mistake. But as it turns out, in a wacky tale incorporating Afghanistan, pregnancy (of Donovan's sister, whose husband is deployed), robotics, bronze statuary, a cranky Chow Chow, and much more, he and the geniuses have a few things to teach one another. Expect a little crude language, robot combat, and plenty of comic mayhem.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byS-M March 17, 2021


Sexual content only appears in this story when Mr. Osborne is told that his students have to go to summer school for sex ed.

I have always been a fan of Gordo... Continue reading
Parent Written byLinVA April 23, 2014

Great for parents and upper-elementary or higher kids

This book was so much fun that I wanted to keep reading even after my son had gone to bed. It has some humor that he might have missed, but a lot that he under... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old April 3, 2018

Good book

Very motivating and uplifting story. It talks about human growth and development (just with pregnancy), so you might have to explain that to younger readers. It... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byNonsensical_Reviews December 17, 2020

One of my favorite books, with lots of humor, great messages, and likable characters.

Ungifted is a 2012 children's comedy book written by Gordon Korman.

Language: Some name-calling, but very mild.

Sex(1/5): Donovan's classmates are r... Continue reading

What's the story?

Middle-school troublemaker Donovan Curtis figures he's doomed when one of his pranks goes spectacularly bad. But instead, there's an administrative mix-up, and he's sent to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction, the district's school for the gifted. Donovan knows quite well he's "ungifted," but genius school is a good place to hide from the superintendent's wrath. Told from the perspectives of various characters, a tale emerges of how Donovan, the brainiacs, and Donovan's delinquent pals ensure that things are never the same at the academy again. In a good way.

Is it any good?

UNGIFTED once again shows The 39 Clues series author Gordon Korman's light touch and fine sense of the absurd. The varied characters and their perspectives on events in this page-turning wacky tale will resonate with kids and adults; the issues they confront -- from prankster mayhem to cheating on tests to just exactly what constitutes "gifted," anyway -- move the story along and offer interesting things to consider after it's over.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the various kids' feelings about being in a school for gifted students. Why does Noah the genius hate it so much, while other kids are right at home?

  • Why do you think books about middle school are so popular? 

  • What does Donovan learn from the kids at the academy? What do they learn from him?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love funny book and books about school

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