A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
Stands out for positive messages.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- Author: Gordon Korman
- Genre: Humor
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: January 5, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: January 8, 2021
Our editors recommend
For kids who love humor and friendship stories
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.