TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
"Schooled" is the story of Capricorn ("Cap") Anderson, a young teen who was raised in virtual isolation on the Garland Farm commune with only his grandmother, Rain. When Rain falls from a tree while picking plums, Cap's entire existence is radically changed. Because Rain will need at least two months of rehabilitation for her broken hip, Cap — for the first time in his life — must leave the commune, move to a house in town, interact with other teenagers, and attend a regular middle school. Mind you, Cap has never seen a television, computer, cell phone, or ipod. He has no idea how people use money, checks, and property. In fact, he can't even understand why someone would need a school locker!
Cap is placed at the suburban home of social worker Flora Donnelly and her beautiful, somewhat bratty high school age daughter, Sophie. Many years before, Flora's parents had been members of the commune, so Flora knows full well just how jarring it is to be thrown into modern life all at once. As for Sophie, she either ignores the "freakazoid" or, in her more evil moments, dumps water on him while he practices tai chi on the front lawn.
Unfortunately, Sophie's "freakazoid" label, while harsh, is also fairly accurate. To his new classmates at Claverage (nicknamed "C Average") Middle School, Cap might as well have landed from a different planet. With his tie-dyed shirts, hemp sandals, and long hippie hair, Cap is literally stuck in the 1960s. Even beyond his appearance, Cap's behavior — his desire to learn all 1100 students' names, his complete failure to get ruffled by bullies or teen pranks — is completely foreign. Unlike his peers, Cap literally sees only good in people, regardless of the situation.
Cap's classmates, including football jock Zach and popular girls Naomi and Lena, immediately size him up as an easy target. They conspire, successfully, to get Cap elected 8th grade class president, thinking the results of putting someone so clueless in charge will be hilarious. But what begins as a cruel joke eventually becomes a life-changing experience for both Cap and his peers. Slowly but surely, he wins them over with his simple innocence, generous spirit, and refusal to compromise himself.
This book's theme — an outsider teaching conformist teens the true meaning of individuality — reminded me of Jerry Spinelli's "Stargirl." But this book is so much more gentle and lighthearted in its tone. While author Gordon Korman is clearly trying to impart a lesson, he does so in a thoroughly entertaining, enjoyable manner. I also liked the use of rotating narrators, which allows the reader to understand Cap's story from his perspective as well as those of his classmates, Flora, and even Sophie. The actions of a mean-spirited jock look awfully different when you see exactly why he's behaving the way he is.
I really liked this book. It's a quick read, and I found myself chuckling in delight quite a few times. And not to give anything away, but the ending is truly heartwarming. Plus, this is a completely clean book, with no harsh language or adult situations, so it'll be great for readers in grades five and up. I hope you like it, too!
FROM A KINNELON LIBRARY TEEN REVIEWER:
The book "Schooled" was hysterical. I enjoyed it so much! The characters in the book were so unique. I loved reading this story.