Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story” as Want to Read:
Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book

Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  184 ratings  ·  55 reviews
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 creati
Paperback, 343 pages
Published September 14th 2015 by Laughing Fire Press
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Developing Minds, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Jonathan LaPoma Sorry, no ghosts. I'm aware that the subtitle of the book may seem misleading, but it has more to do with the thematic content of the book than it…moreSorry, no ghosts. I'm aware that the subtitle of the book may seem misleading, but it has more to do with the thematic content of the book than it does its plot. DEVELOPING MINDS is a story of people who feel lost and not quite "real," hence the title.

If anyone is looking for a book on ghosts in the more literal sense, you won't find any here.

Thanks for the question, Michael! Let me know if you have any more!

Jonathan LaPoma My first novel, UNDERSTANDING THE ALACRAN, is set in a small Pacific coast Mexican town, but it's not Zihuatanejo--close though. Almost close enough…moreMy first novel, UNDERSTANDING THE ALACRAN, is set in a small Pacific coast Mexican town, but it's not Zihuatanejo--close though. Almost close enough for the characters to take an afternoon trip down to visit Red and Andy Dufresne for a few bottles of Mexican suds and still have time to get back for dinner.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  184 ratings  ·  55 reviews

Sort order
Pearl Angeli
3.5 Stars

At first I really thought this book has something to do with ghosts and scary stuffs, but there weren't any. The attached "ghost story" in the title is purely metaphor. Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story is actually a coming-of-age contemporary story that presents college graduate Luke Entelechy who came to Miami with his friend Billy to dive into the world of teaching. Despite his reluctance to the profession, and despite the fact that he originally wanted to be a writer, he acc
Archit Ojha
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

Luke Entelechy and Billy Lalina are trying their luck in career in Miami as teachers. Their work becomes demanding and that's when the story begins.

This book, for me, was an honest and heart-wrenching reality presentation of what happens in American schools. The background story was informative yet heart-breaking to know.

Developing Minds is a book that arrested my attention since the sta
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“They inspire you, they entertain you, and you end up learning a ton even when you don't know it”

----Nicholas Sparks

Jonathan LaPoma, an award winning American author, has penned an heart-wrenching and a thoroughly enlightening story about two teachers in his book, Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story that unfolds the story of two twenty-something men trying their luck in the department of teaching in Miami but their journey to educate young minds turns out to be extremely challenging as
**I don't assign star ratings to books I don't finish.***

Luke Entelechy, a young man fresh off an adventure in Mexico and burning with the desire to write, takes his first full-time teaching job at a poorly rated middle school in Miami to support himself while he hangs out at the beach and writes. He convinces his gay friend Billy to come with him for the job interview, and Billy lands a job too. And thus begins their year of being roommates and working in one of the most notoriously bad public
Trang Tran (Bookidote)
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's actually a 4.5! WOW! I loved this book! First, let's clear things up, this Stargaze Literary Prize Finalist is not a paranormal story. There's no “physical” ghost involved. I should say that the ghost in the title is a metaphor for all the things we cannot see, for what's behind the curtains, hidden. The dialogues are funny ( really nice hitback lines too haha) , wise and a lot of them make you think about your own life . I can relate to a lot of quotes in there and I was impressed with the ...more
Don Sloan
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In Developing Minds, Jonathan LaPoma details the sordid, real-life underbelly of the American urban education system today. And it's a picture straight off Picasso's Cubism palette -- all jagged edges and outsized caricatures that are, unfortunately, reality for U.S. classroom teachers today.

Luke Entelechy has just arrived in Miami with his friend Billy on a whim. They have both suddenly decided that teaching in New York was not the right fit for them, so they have motored on down to the south o
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Developing Minds is a wildly entertaining book that gives a raw, unveiled perspective on contemporary inner-city education from the viewpoint of an appropriately troubled young man entering emerging adulthood. 24 year old Luke Entelechy's story is rife with curse words and raucous personal situations in which no explicit detail is spared. This authentic voice covers the span of coming-of-age tribulations while grappling with the greater institutional darkness of public education.

The language, es
The Book Eaters
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gem, reviewed
This review, and many other reviews and features, can be found at

Luke Entelechy and his best friend Billy are recent graduates trying to write a book together, but life keeps getting in the way. So they decide to head to Miami almost on a whim and take teaching jobs hoping that the routine and the decent holidays will give them time to focus on writing.

One of them starts working in an A rated school, the other in a school on the edge of failing but both are beset with pro
Yari Tabares Villafuerte
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The first thing that I noticed was that this novel was different from many that I’ve read. It was honest, raw, and just plain uncensored. A few people have stated that the novel is too graphic which i don’t agree with. One might not think that teachers do drugs and have sex, but guess what? They’re human too and as such are submitted to temptations. The novel also provided a deeper understanding of how different people cope with stress. It was about time an author made educators more human and ...more
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
‘Together we were going to design America’s revolution.’

California author Jonathan LaPoma not only writes novels (two to date) but also screenplays, poetry and songs! He earned his BA in history and a secondary education credential from the State University of New York at Geneseo, gathered ideas or seeds for future novels from his travels both the US and Mexico, began writing and winning awards for his works, and now teaches secondary school in San Diego. The handsome young artist explores theme
Cathy Beyers
Aug 29, 2015 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What I enjoyed most about this novel was its realism.

This is not your typical teaching story that ends with a generic happy ending (think "Dangerous Minds," "Freedom Writers Diary," or "Good Will Hunting".) The main character in the novel is likable and I felt empathy for him; I definitely wanted some miracle to happen by the end of the novel to transform his journey as a teacher. Rather, the internal changes and growth he personally experiences is the focus at the end of the novel- not fixing a
Underground Book Reviews
Apr 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Developing Minds follows the journey of graduate teacher Luke and his friends, as they struggle through their first year of teaching. I found the start to be a little on the slow side, as I waited to find out if I was going to like or empathize with these characters. However, once Luke and his friend Billy set up home in a rough area of Miami, the drama began to unfold very quickly. The story is told from Luke’s point of view, as he struggles to survive as a teacher in an extremely violent and d ...more
Desirae Brown
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well I did enjoy this book, however, I was expecting a ghost story but I did not get one. But Later on the title does make more sense to me. This book helped shine a light on how challenging it is to work in the public school system, which I really must say I had no idea was that bad. I got a "Freedom Writers" vibe from it, but not so much considering the characters in the novel were always drunk or high. It took me a couple pages to really get into it, but once things started to pick up I could ...more
Patrick Murtha
Jul 12, 2015 rated it liked it
There are at least two competing ways of sizing up Jonathan LaPoma's very entertaining novel Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story, and both have merit.

(1) It is a scathing comic novel about the failures of American urban education, sort of a M*A*S*H for Miami schoolteachers.

(2) It is a Bildungsroman about the personal growth of a young man who happens to be a Miami schoolteacher for a year.

Complicating matters is that subtitle, to which only a handful of passages in the actual text directly
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Disclaimers: The synopsis section is ©Goodreads but the rest of the reviews are completely my words and of course the quote section is obviously from the book reviewed.

Highly recommend...

Also on my Blog Tomorrow @ 6am...

“We stood like man and woman on the opposite sides of a wall built by the hatred of those warring men who'd long ago died, but whose legacy of terror still reigned.”

Disclaimers: I received an ARC of this from the author in return for an honest review. MINOR unmarke
Reader Views
Feb 02, 2016 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenny Lambert
I was excited when I got this book, wondering how the author was going to combine both a coming of age novel and a ghost story.
Only to find out that it's neither.

First off, I was really annoyed that the author did false advertisement. This is NOT a ghost story. It has nothing to do with ghosts or paranormal activity.
It honestly has nothing to do with coming of age either.

The main character, Luke, is probably the worst character. 24, new teacher, does drugs, is stuck up, believes he's better th
Pam Truax
Aug 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story by Jonathan LaPoma is the story of Luke Entelechy. Luke is 24 and basically floudering in life. His passion is writing and he is well on his way writing a book when he upends all and heads to Miami to interview for a teacher's position. At this point Developing Minds becomes not only Luke's story, but the story of the Miami public school system. Developing Minds is a very real account of the demise of America's public school systems.

Luke up until this po
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Do you like reading about…

Social inequalities?
Drug use?
Black out alcoholism?
Psychedelic freak-outs?
Parties that Bacchus would envy?
Poignant teaching moments?
Budding friendships?
Heartfelt tearjerkers?
Personal struggle?
Finding one's voice?
Ups and downs of long term relationships?

If you like biting comedies, drama, and rated R (nearly X) movies, then this book will satiate all of your needs. You might be turned off at first by Luke, the narrator who doesn't know what he wants. However, thanks to th
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, reviewed
"No place on this earth is a paradise"
Two friends move to Miami for a year to soak up sun, scenery and the space to work on their writing (and have some fun along the way). To finance their time there, both take teaching jobs, and this is the first person recounting of their experiences.
Beautifully, and very readably written, often funny, honest and sometimes naughty, but overall very human, I found it difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at so much of what was encountered within the school
Adam Lottes
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book! It definitely exceeded my expectations. When I cracked it open I didn't know what to expect (I didn't read the jacket description - I know, shame on me). I thought it would your typical ghost story, something like a haunting in a school. But instead I was treated to a different type of ghost story, one much more real and much more relatable.

We meet Luke as he leaves NYC for Miami. On a whim he heads do the coastal city looking for a job with the Miami School District.
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I started reading this book with some high expectations and I must say that those expectations were met.

The book is about a professor named Luke, who is struggling to be successful in the school he’s teaching. He’s got a job in an F school – a problematic school – where he found the most unexpected students that try to be tough on the outside — not because they want, but because they are also struggling at home and trying to fit in the society.

As we follow Luke’s path as a professor, we also wat
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Entelechy is stretched to the end of his tether as he struggles to gain respect from the streetwise kids in one of Florida’s most notorious high schools.

To escape the week day teaching tribulations, Mr. En absorbs himself in a world of debauchery as he gets his rocks off amidst Miami’s nightlife, meeting some rather unsavoury characters along the way. A truly great read, both funny and forlorn, I read this book in a few days, picking it up whenever I had a spare minute.

I haven’t read any K
Terrilee Perry
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was looking for something new to read and remembered that Jonathan had written a book. I received my copy through Amazon and didn't put the book down. I didn't know what to expect but each chapter seemed to draw me in...the realities of everyday emotional struggles pulled at me. I will recommend this book. I can't wait to see what Jonathan writes next.
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, kindle
This book reveals plenty about the American educational institution and how it’s not designed to be the most appropriate system for troubled young minds from a troubled neighbourhood. The narrator, Luke and his friend, Billy groan and complain about having to teach and are sceptic about the whole system. More than once in this novel, they’re wondering why they’re even doing it.

What’s in a title? Sometimes, you can tell lots about a book just from its title. Developing Minds; I see this as both v
Sep 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Developing Minds captures one teacher's rise into deep caring and compassion for his students in impossible situations. As the seventh graders very gradually offer him the R-E-S-P-E-C-T he so desperately needs and wants and is unsure how to get, he is amazed at the heart and soul insights revealed.
La Poma's unique and often chilling descriptions of teacher behaviors in and out of the school unravel wonderfully. His personal friends are pretty much downers who need to evolve. It's impossible to
Denise MacDonald
Aug 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-s
This book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! I loved the subtle comparisons between the "school world" and the "real world". I liked how the title actually related to the entire book and everyone in it. It was a gritty, uncensored look at what teens have to deal with every day to become young adults who continue to deal with the same issues from a different angle. I loved how the author made it clear that teens have
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who wants to understand just how challenging it is to work in the public school system, especially in urban America, should read this book. DEVELOPING MINDS vividly captures the pains and frustrations of both teachers and students alike that feel as if they are "going into battle" in the test crazy American educational system. It's an eye opening journey that often shocks the reader into laughing out loud while at the same time feeling utterly disgusted. The protagonist Luke must adapt to ...more
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A compelling view of the American education system as can only be told by someone with experience from deep in the trenches. LaPoma delivers rich character development & exposes a vivid portrait of the South Florida lifestyle.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
  • The Initiative: In Harm's Way (Book One)
  • Spectacle
  • Another Kind of Hurricane
  • Teaching Diamonds in the Tough: Mining the Potential in Every Student
  • Nonprofit
  • The Lower Quarter: A Novel
  • Desire (Isaac & Maya, #2)
  • Sizzling 7: Super Sexy New Adult Romance Boxed Set
  • Crazy Love
  • Policeman Legros
  • Mind Mapping Step-by-Step Beginner s Guide in Creating Mind Maps
  • The Homespun Wisdom of Myrtle T. Cribb
  • Free Love and The Sexual Revolution: Finding Yourself by Removing Sexual Boundaries
  • Look into the Eye
  • Discognition
  • A Measure of Blood (Richard Christie, #7)
  • Chasing Daddy
  • Here Comes the Bride: Women, Weddings, and the Marriage Mystique
Jonathan LaPoma is an award-winning, best-selling novelist, optioned screenwriter, songwriter, and poet from Buffalo, NY. In 2005, he received a BA in history and a secondary education credential from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and he traveled extensively throughout the United States and Mexico after graduating. These experiences have become the inspiration for much of his writin ...more
“But that's just the way it was surviving in America's public schools. Every day was a struggle. Every day was psychological warfare, and if you didn't stay sharp, the system would grind you into human pencil shavings.” 6 likes
“So I returned to the northern strip of Miami Beach, the valley just far enough north to muffle the piercing South Beach celebratory voices, and just far enough south to dull the glittering lights of the Sunny Isles high rises, and I went to sleep in the city where exhausted people lived exhausted lives, but never stopped once to even ponder sleep--to even dream sleep an option, in the country that breeds ghosts, where the people can't understand why everything real always passes right through their arms. There was so much life out there for all of us, but so few would ever touch it. God, how I wanted to feel.” 3 likes
More quotes…