REVIEW: Unplugged by Gordon Korman
From New York Times bestselling author Gordon Korman comes a hilarious middle grade novel about a group of kids forced to “unplug” at a wellness camp—where they instead find intrigue, adventure, and a whole lot of chaos. Perfect for fans of Korman’s The Unteachables and Masterminds series, as well as Carl Hiaasen’s eco mysteries.
As the son of the world’s most famous tech billionaire, spoiled Jett Baranov has always gotten what he wanted. So when his father’s private jet drops him in the middle of a place called the Oasis, Jett can’t believe it. He’s forced to hand over his cell phone, eat grainy veggie patties, and participate in wholesome activities with the other kids whom he has absolutely no interest in hanging out with.
As the weeks go on, Jett starts to get used to the unplugged life and even bonds with the other kids over their discovery of a baby-lizard-turned-pet, Needles. But he can’t help noticing that the adults at the Oasis are acting really strange. Could it be all those suspicious “meditation” sessions?
Jett is determined to get to the bottom of things, but can he convince the other kids that he is no longer just a spoiled brat making trouble?
Dear Mr. Korman,
The image of Needles is what made me perk up and read the blurb for this novel. He looked like fun and the book looked like fun so here we are. As I read it though, I felt that the story had more than a bit of a “Scooby Do” feel to it.
The four main characters do come across as the twelve year olds they are. They see the things they’ve done and are involved with – Jett’s outrageous stunts, Grace’s belief that Oasis is so wonderful, Brooklynne’s secret – as much more important and serious than they actually are. But to twelve year olds, that’s how they still view things. The main plot carries you along and for the most part, never feels too out of control. Live without your electronic devices? Yes, for today’s generation, that would be torture. Go to a super healthy living summer camp in Arkansas? For Jett that would be torture. The degree of intensity of the summer health camp is kind of a little out there but still plausible.
The adults are all sort of unbelievably clueless and the kids get away with a lot of things even before they must save the day. Seriously, no one in the nearby town, as small as it is, realized what was going on? I find it hard to fathom that no adult got home from a summer at Oasis and didn’t realize that they’d done something they shouldn’t have done – which I’ll avoid going into details about as it’s a spoiler. But since the audience is intended to be middle schoolers who probably haven’t learned the joy of managing a bank account yet, I’ll move on.
I figured out a few of the secrets, missed another one, caught some of the “Chekhov’s pistols” that had to be used by the third act, but found a few other events to be silly from the POV of an adult.
But it does have heart and humor. Twelve year olds don’t do more than most twelve year olds would be capable of doing. Two characters change in good ways and discover more about themselves. The wrap up was a little fast with some characters having seemingly miraculous changes of heart about the truth of the mystery going on. The denouement ending was totally unbelievable as LEOs would never have not started questioning people right then and there but again, that’s the adult in me speaking. It’s on the light side but it kept my attention and I wanted to not only know more but how it was going to end. C+