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Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life

Review

Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life

written by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park

Starting middle school can be rough on anybody, but for Rafe Khatchadorian, the sixth grade escalates into an absolute nightmare. First of all, his middle school resembles an ancient, high security prison. Secondly, it's staffed with angry monsters, like the dragon lady who teaches English, the three witches in the cafeteria, the ogre gym teacher, and the principal named the Lizard King. Thirdly, there's a nine-foot-tall troll of a sixth grader called Miller the Killer who is out to get him.

Things aren't much better at home, with a bratty younger sister, a mom who works all the time, and a soon-to-be stepfather who sits around the house hogging the TV and is as much of a bully as Miller the Killer. At least Rafe has his best friend, Leo, who doesn't say much but has a great imagination. In fact, Leo is the one who gave him the best idea ever. To spice things up, Rafe creates a game with the goal of breaking every rule in the middle school's code of conduct handbook. He assigns points to each rule, with bonus points available for creativity, getting laughs and being witnessed by the cutest girl in the class, Jeanne Galletta.

Life definitely gets more exciting, but Rafe also starts spending a lot more time in detention, and his mom is very disappointed in him. Then the trouble and heartache start mounding up so heavily on Rafe's shoulders where even his best friend can't help much. When the police get called in, Rafe finally crumbles. Then he gets some help from a very unexpected someone, and life promises to continue being interesting, but in a different, more positive way.

James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts team up for this amazing adventure about one boy's attempt at surviving middle school. The first thing that stands out is how absolutely hilarious the book is. Rafe is a very likable character, and readers will love laughing along with him. His rule-breaking game is incredibly imaginative and dives headfirst into the danger zone again and again. Rafe does have to face the consequences of his actions, though he does attract the attention of someone who helps him find a way to work through his issues.

This unique and fast moving storyline also has a couple of surprise bombs dropped along the way that make it even more compelling. Also noteworthy are the intensely detailed illustrations of Laura Park. They support the story line as they are the work of Rafe's friend, Leo, plus they add even more humor to the story. Patterson, Tebbetts and Park make a great team, and the proof is right here in MIDDLE SCHOOL, THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on June 27, 2011

Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life
(Middle School #1)
written by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park