Middle School Confidential 3: What's Up with My Family?

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
Middle School Confidential 3: What's Up with My Family? App Poster Image
Great graphic novel helps tweens love the family they have.

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The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn to develop relationships and get along with others, especially those in their families. They'll learn that families come in many forms but that all are important. Teens and tweens likely will find at least one character they can relate to with the struggles, disagreements, and embarrassments they have about their own families, and the app offers subtle advice on how to deal with family issues and complicated feelings. Middle School Confidential 3: What's Up with My Family? is another fantastic story experience that really communicates the tween experience and that will help kids appreciate and understand their own families and feelings. 

Ease of Play

Reading is very easy, and strips or panels can be zoomed in on. Pages advance with a swipe. The quiz offers commentary on both right and wrong answers.

Violence
Sex

A teen sneaks out of her window for a date, even though her parents have told her she's too young, but he breaks up with her via text before she leaves.

Language

In several stories, kids call one another stupid, but the overall message is that name-calling can hurt relationships.

Consumerism

Ads for the other two books in the series are featured in the info section.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Middle School Confidential 3: What's Up with My Family? is the third in an app-based graphic novel series written by anti-bullying activist Annie Fox. This book continues the story of six middle schoolers with diverse racial and family backgrounds who dealt with self-esteem in Middle School Confidential 1: Be Confident in Who You Are and learned about friendship in Middle School Confidential 2: Real Friends Versus the Other Kind. Now they learn how to get along with and appreciate the families they have, warts and all. The kids work through issues involving a new strict stepdad and goofy little stepbrother; a single mom and a new relationship with an estranged father's family; a big family that's embarrassingly close; a mom's pressure to lose weight; and a little sister who's always in the way.

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What's it about?

MIDDLE SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL 3: WHAT'S UP WITH MY FAMILY is a graphic novel made up of eight short chapters, each focusing on a different tween's relationship with his or her family. Kids will read the graphic novel themselves, either page by page or panel by panel. Each chapter ends with a short quiz, recognizing the challenge of each family dynamic as well as its positive aspects. The quiz questions present real scenarios and ask tweens how they'd handle them, and then explain why that would be a good method or not. Kids can zoom in on panels to get a closer look (which sometimes activates background sound effects that fit in with the story line), and they can also easily skip the quizzes by swiping past the quiz title page.

Is it any good?

Tweens and teens will be drawn to the easy-to-read graphic-novel style, and most will find at least one family relationship relatable. The watercolor illustrations are lovely but "cool" enough to be inviting to a tween audience. There's no option to have the text read aloud, which may limit the enjoyment of kids with special needs, but sound effects add to the mood of the stories, giving insight into characters' feelings.

The takeaway message is that no one's perfect -- not certain family type, not parents, not kids -- but that we can all work on getting along better with those we love. The characters are diverse, as are the family types -- from single-parent families and blended families to large, extended families and two-parent families -- which may help kids accept their own families, whatever they may be like, as "normal."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their own frustrations with one another. Do you identify with any of the characters?

  • Take the quizzes together and talk about the answers. Some of the scenarios have more than one "right" answer. Talk about those and encourage kids to try some of the techniques when they're in similar situations.

App details

Themes & Topics

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