Developing Minds by Jonathan LaPoma

Developing Minds

An American Ghost Story
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two unlikely friends learn about life and hard work through the students they teach.

Driving to Miami on a whim, 20-something Luke Entelechy and best friend Billy Lalina, both recent college graduates, embark on a life-changing journey in search of worthwhile jobs in education. Billy is beyond excited to flee southward and away from a teaching assignment at a menacing school in New York City. It’s likewise for Luke, an aspiring writer who became mired in a series of stagnant substitute positions in Buffalo. Initially, both men love Miami for different reasons: Billy, who is gay, enjoys the Cuban eye candy around the notorious City of Sex, and Luke appreciates the fresh start. Things get rocky quickly, but the men adapt. Billy scores a teaching position at highly ranked Little Havana Elementary, while Luke settles on a job at a lower-accredited inner-city school with high instructor turnover and classrooms full of rude, violent students. A trip to Key West refreshes him—a good thing, considering the coming weeks of trial and error Luke sees in his troublesome classroom of rowdy students who eventually (and miraculously) acquiesce to the idea of learning and succeeding as a cohesive group. Meanwhile, Billy frets that his homosexuality will cause a rift in his own employment as both men socialize with some of the more unrestrained teachers, like “Hurricane Margo.” Luke enjoys an unexpected, long-distance romance in Mexico and attempts to make the best of their time in Miami even though, working in the public education network, “every day was psychological warfare, and if you didn’t stay sharp, the system would grind you into human pencil shavings.” Inspired by his own travels, screenwriter and author LaPoma’s narrative is raw and edgy, effectively anchored by two protagonists whose brio and “same sense of adventure” keep the story alive. Luke, who principally narrates the novel, will resonate most with readers who sympathize and respect today’s teachers, who guide a greatly distracted generation of impressionable minds.

Entertaining and authentic look at the troubled American educational system, courtesy of two men propelled by perseverance and adventuresome spirits.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9674922-9-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Laughing Fire Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2015