Unplugged

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Unplugged Book Poster Image
Kids shake up tech-free wellness resort in fast-moving romp.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Stands out for positive messages.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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

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.

Sex
Language

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.

Consumerism

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byenneperclan April 16, 2021

Intriguing Adventure

This book was a fun read! I enjoyed the idea behind it as we are a very low tech but high adventure family. The characters were each so different but also unite... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old September 30, 2021

Cool book

Nice book. Gets a little strange at the end.
Teen, 13 years old Written byPeej72407 March 15, 2021

Amazing Book

Just depends on your child's reading level. Great story.

What's the story?

Loathed by every adult supervisor in Silicon Valley, 12-year-old Jett, soon to become UNPLUGGED, never sees his wealthy, overachieving parents. (Dad's a computer genius who invented practically everything and got rich; Mom runs Orthodontists Without Borders, which keeps her away from home a lot.) Lacking neither brains nor resources, he's always found plenty of ways to get into trouble and bedevil his keepers, but when his prank with a drone shuts down air traffic at San Francisco Airport, his absent dad packs him off to the Oasis -- a wellness resort in the wilds of Arkansas whose guests are required to surrender all their electronics on arrival.  With him is Matt, an adult employee of his dad who signed on to write code but found himself in charge of Jett and keeping him under close supervision. Jett's plans to make the place too hot to hold him don't go quite as planned -- but they do shake things up with the other kids who, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, are also sharing the Oasis experience. And when Grace -- the truest of true believers -- adopts what she thinks is a poor helpless baby lizard, when pets are as much against the rules as satellite phones, bitey little Needles brings together an unlikely support team. Also, he's the first of many hints that all might not be quite as Whole as it seems at the wellness resort. With chapters narrated by the various kids, wild events are soon to follow.

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."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about main character Jett in Unplugged.  He has unbelievable amounts of money but no friends, no pets, and not much to do with his mighty brain. What other stories do you know where the hero seems to have a perfect life, but that's not exactly the truth? 

  • If you had to go without electronics for a month, would you be fine with it or would it drive you crazy?

  • Have you ever known anyone who tried to keep a wild animal as a pet? How did it turn out?

Book details

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