A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Unplugged is mostly a romp, but you will probably know more about the wilds of Arkansas and also about alligators when you're done. Lots of references to countries like Belize and Burkina Faso, where Jett's mom does charity work.
Amid all the crazy doings, strong messages of friendship, teamwork, respect for each other's differences and talents -- and, especially, a willingness to change your mind when you learn new facts. As Jett says at one point: "Never trust someone who always thinks she knows what the right thing is. They can justify anything." Also messages about being humble, keeping your word, being true to yourself, and making things right when you mess up.
Positive Role Models
Twelve-year-old Jett has made a career of being the biggest brat in Silicon Valley, but his neglectful, overachieving parents have a lot to do with it. Mayhem is a way of life with him, and rules made to be broken, so burglary and boat-stealing are all in a day's work. But a growing fondness for Needles the lizard and and for his newfound friends brings Jett a new perspective -- and also a determination to stop at nothing to investigate when something looks suspicious. Grace is a bit of a goody two-shoes and definitely a true believer in the founder of the wellness resort, but adjusts as things get more complex. Other kids are dealing with assorted issues of their own, and they all get their moment (often more than one) as their team develops. Guru type Magnus Fellini (who Jett immediately dubs Nimbus) is a bit over the top on the wellness enthusiasm but shows unexpected depths. A villain is getting rich by using mind control to fleece wellness patrons.
Violence & Scariness
A very bitey lizard bites his human caregivers and devours an unfortunate field mouse in one gulp. A kid violates the veg-only rules by killing a bug to feed the lizard. Kids are briefly caught and held captive by goons employed by a mysterious villain. There's a pool with hundreds of alligators -- being raised for their meat and hides -- who would be happy to eat any and everybody. A villain is using mind control to get money from their victims. In the past, when Jett's dad was a teen nerd with a computer shop, a mob boss sends goons to extort protection money; young Vlad hacks the mob boss' system so bad that soon they're paying him protection.
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A scene involves the kids' difficulties cleaning up lizard poop. Many butt references, from "save his sorry butt" to "I've always kind of wondered why my folks think the sun shines out of (character)'s butt" to "it's no skin off my butt." A kid describes the wellness resort experience as "the privilege of boiling their butts and subsisting on a plant-based diet." A character complains about the bloat and gas he's getting from the plant-based diet.
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Products & Purchases
Candy bars such as Mounds and Snickers are valuable in a wellness camp where they're completely forbidden, and a discarded label leads to trouble.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Unplugged is another fast-moving foray into tween mayhem by best-selling author Gordon Korman. This one involves the adventures of 12-year-old Jett, son of two overachieving Silicon Valley parents he never sees, who gets sent to a remote wellness retreat with no internet, no nothing, as punishment for his latest prank (a drone that shut down the San Francisco Airport). As often happens in Korman books, the main character meets a bunch of other kids (all with issues and minds of their own), alliances are forged, and skullduggery is uncovered. Also reptiles. A villain is using mind control to get money, and also raising captive alligators to kill them for profit. Goons capture the kids and briefly hold them prisoner. Amid a fair amount of butt and poop humor, as well as burglary, boat-stealing, black-market candy-bar sales, and other misdeeds in a good cause, there are strong messages of friendship, teamwork, standing up for what's right, and being able to change your mind and make things right when you learn new facts.
Is It Any Good?
Gordon Korman's novel finds a bratty Silicon Valley boy exiled for his misdeeds to a wellness resort in the wilds of Arkansas, with no tech devices allowed and the mantra "Be Whole" front and center. Young Jett may be Unplugged, but as a true hacker, he lives to overcome limitations. When he joins forces with the other kids to protect a baby lizard, things get complicated. It's a fast, fun read in which characters often have to change course when things don't go as planned. Like here, where Jett's just engineered a pedal boat accident to get himself thrown out of the resort, only to discover that the New-Agey founder is no pushover:
"Getting myself bounced from the Swamp Gas Hilton isn't a joke; it's a sacred quest.
"'Look, this is a hundred percent on me. What can I say? I'm a bad person. I do this kind of thing all the time. I totally understand if you have to kick me out.'
"'The blame is ours,' Nimbus insists. "We're pathfinders. If you haven't found a place for wellness within you, it's because we have not yet shown you the path.'
"I may be Silicon Valley's Number One Spoiled Brat, but I know right then and there I'm out of my league."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.