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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story is a contemporary fiction novel written by Jonathan LaPoma. Luke Entelechy has been a student teacher and has subbed, but his teaching career is really about to begin when he acts on his impulse to go down to Miami for a teaching fair. He was planning on going by himself until his friend Billy decided to go along with him. Billy's been teaching at PS490 in Queens, an F-school, and he figures anything's got to be better than that. The fair is a maelstrom of over-eager and desperate job seekers, including Luke and Billy. Billy manages to snag a prime teaching spot at Little Havana Elementary. He figures the woman who approved him has romantic designs on him and dreads the day she finds out he's gay. Luke doesn't get hired on the first day and doesn't harbor much optimism about his chances on day two, so he's surprised when Karen Dawson, the Vice-Principal at George Washington High in Opa Locka, hires him. It's an F-rated school, but Billy says it's got to be nowhere near as bad as PS490 was. After a few days of settling in and exploring the beach, their school year begins.
Jonathan LaPoma's contemporary fiction novel, Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story, should be required reading for anyone who is considering or has ever considered teaching as a career. The author is a secondary school teacher, and his character's first year at George Washington is filled with the nightmares, the moments of despair, and the occasional glimpses of satisfaction that keep teachers doing what seems all too often to be an unappreciated and thankless task. I was fascinated by the story and found myself unable to tear my eyes away from the text as Luke learns to read his students and to understand where they are coming from. LaPoma's characters are sharply defined and feel like real people, from the needy and mercurial Billy to the philosophical Professor. I also loved getting to know Miami and southern Florida through the author's eyes. Developing Minds follows Luke and Billy as they work through that first year's teaching assignments in Miami, and it's marvelous vicariously experiencing their triumphs, trials and frustrations. Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story is most highly recommended.