The Gifted, the Talented, and Me
Published October 13, 2020
About The Gifted, the Talented, and Me
Fifteen-year-old Sam isn’t special. He’s not a famous vlogger, he’s never gone viral, and he doesn’t want to be the Next Big Thing. What he likes most is chatting to his friends and having a bit of a kick about.
None of which was a problem until Dad got rich and Mum made the whole family move to London. Now Sam is being made to go to the North London Academy for the Gifted and Talented, where every student is too busy planning Hollywood domination or starting alt-metal psychedelica crossover bands or making clothes out of bathmats to give someone as normal as him the time of day. Can Sam navigate his way through the weirdness and find a way to be himself?
Laugh-out-loud funny and instantly recognisable – not since The Inbetweeners has a coming of age story been so irreverent and relatable.
I really, really struggled with this book. Some of it is super funny. I laughed out loud more than once. There are a lot of references to penises, and I get that it’s a thing that does occupy the mind. It was just a lot, sort of the same joke over and over.
If you’ve read many other reviews of this book, you’ve probably come across some discussion of the queerbaiting content, so I want to talk about that first. Basically, what happens is this: Sam’s brother, Ethan, joins a queer band (every band has to have a “thing,” he tells Sam), so he tells everyone he’s bisexual in order to be in the band. It becomes increasingly clear that Ethan is not bisexual, but he continues to use the label so he can continue with the band. Which is pretty clearly queerbaiting, and totally wrong.
In the story, Sam continually tells Ethan that what he’s doing is wrong and is going to catch up with him. Ethan does eventually face some consequences for his actions, though we don’t get a firsthand response from any queer characters. He does eventually have to own up to his identity and is pretty miserable about how things end up. It’s not great, and I would still say that there isn’t really a moment when he gets called out on the behavior by queer characters or anyone putting into perspective how harmful the behavior can be. But it is strongly condemned in the story as wrong and deceitful.
During Sam’s callback for the school play audition, he relates the performances of other students in a pretty derogatory way. I felt gross reading that section because he was both unkind in the way he described the other actors competing for the part he wanted, but he was also kind of superior and snobby, and none of that was ever called out as wrong.
For the most part, I really liked the dynamics of Sam’s family, especially in the scenes where they’re kind of all having snappy conversations that kind of run over each other. That felt really true to the experience of a big family with lots of funny people in it. I wish that his mom hadn’t been quite so over-the-top and such a largely negative portrayal of feminism.
On the whole, there were lots of funny things in this book, but readers may find the constant penis joke/awareness to be too much and may be troubled by the presence of queerbaiting, even though it’s condemned.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Most characters are white. A couple minor characters identify as queer. Sam’s brother falsely identifies as queer.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used infrequently. Crude humor used frequently.
Kissing between boy and girl. Two references to sexual touching. Some vague references to hoping not to be a virgin until age 30.
Two boys appear to be about to have a fight.
One student has a house party with alcohol.
Note: I received a free copy of THE GIFTED, THE TALENTED, AND ME in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog.