Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story (Look Inside!)
By: Jonathan LaPoma
Format: Paperback, 351 pp.
DEVELOPING MINDS: AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY follows a group of recent college graduates who struggle with feelings of alienation and their addictions as they try to survive a year of teaching at two dysfunctional Miami public schools.
A poetic and insightful coming-of-age novel, DEVELOPING MINDS is centered on 24-year-old Luke Entelechy, an aspiring writer who sees his creative output suffer when he begins teaching at one of Miami’s most challenging middle schools. As the year progresses, however, Luke begins to relate to the neglect and abuse his students suffer, and is faced with a “haunting” decision: continue to let his dark past destroy him, or rise above the struggle to realize his potential as an artist and a “real” human being.
Equal parts disturbing and humorous, DEVELOPING MINDS offers a brutally honest look at the American public school system and the extreme measures many teachers take to cope with working in it.
DEVELOPING MINDS has been nominated for a National Book Award in fiction.
Praise for DEVELOPING MINDS
“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.”
- Kirkus Reviews RECOMMENDED REVIEW
“Reading this story is a real hoot, made of good literature and impeccable refined style for adults who find the dandy lively and captivating comedy theatre and the lash of ironic aphorisms . . . a humorous parody, typical of the American tradition which reflects the typical pattern with a progression of suspense until the climax.”
- Kalyan Panja, Booktica
“Poignant, engaging. . . a frighteningly accurate depiction of inner-city schools . . . a full-bodied work of fiction that will ring true with both students and teachers and provide a point of hope in an industry that has become increasingly profit-minded and complex.”
““. . . readers will be gripped by the many dimensions the plot has to offer. The author captures the moments between the teachers and the students beautifully, making them real and tangible. Billy and Luke have been portrayed well and their struggle trying to cope with the harsh school system resonates well with readers. The story is honest, authentic, entertaining and poignant, and the contrasting images of a young man trying to grow in his personal life and the failures of the Miami school system have been woven together well without sounding forced. Along with that, the friendship of the two guys also gives the plot another dimension. The author’s writing style is fluid and the story has a good pace and movement. Jonathan LaPoma weaves all the sub-plots into the main plot seamlessly, making the book an engaging read.”
- Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite
“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 [the main character] 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: An American Ghost Story is most highly recommended.”
- Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite
“DEVELOPING MINDS is a raunchy, yet captivating story of two best friends, one gay, one not, who decide to spend a year teaching in the dysfunctional Miami school district … Jonathan LaPoma is an extraordinary writer.”
“Sometimes the meat of a title lies not in fire and flames, but in simmering passion. Such is the nature of the coming-of-age experience depicted in Developing Minds, which offers a multi-faceted exploration of growth, maturity, and eventual transformation on the parts of all involved.”
– D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“. . . thoroughly absorbing, and it definitely gives one a lot to think about.”
“I was quite impressed . . . The humor was quite well-done, I found myself laughing out loud . . . As a young adult myself, I find Luke’s personal life so relatable and realist. We learn how to get out of toxic relationships, to be able to move on and to recognize true friends or, simply, the friends that are not good for you anymore. The author puts it in a subtle and smart way . . . The character development was rightfully done . . . don’t miss it!”
–Trang Tran, Bookidote