Friday, November 13, 2015

The League of Unexceptional Children by Gitty Daneshvari, 2015

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Are you average? Normal? Forgettable? If so, the League of Unexceptional Children is for you! This first book in a hilarious new adventure series is for anyone who's struggled to be noticed in a sea of above-average overachievers.
What is the League of Unexceptional Children? I'm glad you asked. You didn't ask? Well, you would have eventually and I hate to waste time. The League of Unexceptional Children is a covert network that uses the nation's most average, normal, and utterly unexceptional children as spies. Why the average kids? Why not the brainiacs? Or the beauty queens? Or the jocks? It's simple: People remember them. But not the unexceptionals. They are the forgotten ones. Until now!

(240 pages)

This is a pretty cool idea, isn't it? I love how it mixes the usual "kid secret agent" theme with a message about how the ordinary kids can be special too, and turns it into a fun romp with a secret agenda of its own: to give "average" kids the confidence boost that comes with seeing the fun potential of something they might otherwise see as something to be ashamed of. It reminds me of Rick Riordan's books in a way, except instead of taking ADHD and dyslexia and turning them into superpowers (signs that you're a demigod), Daneshvari takes averageness and turns it into a spy skill. I mean, how cool is that?

I can't say this is exactly my sort of book (I don't, as a rule, go out of my way to read books about middle-school spies), but this one was almost literally dropped into my lap - to be more accurate, it was out on a table at KidLitCon - and I couldn't pass up the opportunity when it was sitting right there under my nose.  I'm glad I picked it up, and I'll be even more happy to pass it on to one of my siblings who is actually part of the target audience. I enjoyed The League of Unexceptional Children well enough, but it really smacked of being written for someone who was - well, not me.

It's meant for a middle-grade-aged kid who feels overlooked and abandoned. It's meant to encourage kids who are just "average," meant to take their situation to ridiculous extremes (these kids can go anywhere! Do anything! Never be remembered!) and turn it into something to be proud of. I'm neither a middle-schooler nor an average kid (as a homeschooled high schooler who skipped a grade, it's hard for me to not stick out in a group). That's why I have a hard time critiquing The League of Unexceptional Children: though it definitely did feel flat in parts, I very much suspect that's more because of me than because of the book itself.

It's definitely a cute book. The best book I've ever read? No. But I think kids will still love it - especially kids who think of themselves as being "unexceptional."

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this book at KidLitCon.

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