Book Review: Unplugged by Gordon Korman

What happens when the son of a tech icon gets sent to a no-screens wellness center as a punishment?

Jett Baranov is the bratty child of a fictional combination of Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs: an ultra-rich, smart, innovative kid who is constantly getting into trouble. When he steps out of line, again, his punishment is extreme: six weeks at a wellness center in Arkansas, where all of his screens are confiscated upon arrival.

Jett revels in spreading his misery throughout the compound, until a tiny lizard is rescued. This little reptile proves an unlikely ally in forming friendships, and motivates Jett to use his smarts for good for the first time in his life. When the adults begin behaving suspiciously, Jett turns his intelligence on them, and may just uncover something bigger than him or the wellness center.

This middle grade novel is full of humor and likable characters. The narrator varies from chapter to chapter, from the unlikable Jett to the allergy ridden fellow camper to a bully Jett got on the wrong side of to a coder turned Jett’s keeper. The varying perspectives give readers a chance to solve the mysteries themselves while challenging them to examine the reliability of each narrator.

This novel is well paced, and will likely be enjoyed by readers of varying ages who like a good mystery. The hilarity of watching kids try to solve things without the internet is both funny and thought provoking, as they (and the reader) realize we may just be more reliant on our phones than we realize.

As the crew of unlikely friends solves the mysteries and helps an animal in need, they learn to see life from other perspectives and how to put the needs of another above yourself.

This novel was a delight to read and will enchant middle grade readers with its eco-mystery, puzzling characters, and unique setting.

Unplugged by Gordon Korman will be available January 5, 2021 from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Thank you to Net Galley and HarperCollins Children’s Books for the advanced copy to review this fun romp of a novel.


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