How to Survive Middle School Book Poster Image

How to Survive Middle School



Funny middle-school survival story for boys and hamsters.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Good choice for reluctant readers, especially tween and teen boys. David's experience becoming a YouTube sensation could lead inspired parents to discuss their rules for viral videos.

Positive messages

David faces loneliness but is resilient in this coming-of-age story, thanks in large part to his supportive friends and family.

Positive role models

Readers will find it easy to identify with endearing David and his middle school anxiety. The main adults are engaging and supportive, as they help David navigate through the harried time that is middle school.  


There's a fight at school, threats of violence, and stories of bullies hurting kids.


The majority of the relationships are simple middle school boy-girl "in like" relationships. There are several adults who have engaged in adultery and left their families for others.


Mild name-calling, such as "moron" and "jerk."


The main character wants to have his own show like Jon Stewart, so celebrities are mentioned as he does mock interviews.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this coming-of-age story is set in middle school, so there are bullies, threats of violence, mild name-calling, and boys and girls who "like each other." Readers -- even reluctant readers -- will quickly work through this book; they will find it easy to identify with endearing David and his middle school anxiety. 

Parents say

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What's the story?

David Greenberg has a lot going on. His mom took off a few years ago to live on a farm somewhere, his dad is distant, his best friend has suddenly turned into an enemy, and he's found a great friend in a...girl! Other things on David's top 6 1/2 list -- survive middle school and become famous like his idol Jon Stewart. When David's new friend Sophie tells her homeschool network about his videos Talk Time, which also star his pet hamster, they go viral and a few people he never thought would see his videos are now watching them on YouTube. Can he survive middle school and local stardom?

Is it any good?


This is a delightful, funny, and insightful book. Main character David is a middle-school boy who is completely endearing, and readers will easily identify with him and his middle school anxiety. Gephart's book continues a great trend in children's literature, looking at a boy's view of middle school and the issues they face. There are great spots of laugh out loud humor, including tidbits on smelly armpits, zit forecasts, and top 6 1/2 lists.

One thing kids can take away from the novel is David's commitment to his passion. The other thing: be careful what you put online. Kids will really enjoy David's ups and downs, and the novel is wonderful for reluctant readers.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about books for middle grade boys. How is this book similar to/ different from Wimpy Kid books? Do you think the success of Wimpy Kid proves that there's a need for more books for middle school boys?  

  • Parents might want to discuss the YouTube videos that David creates -- and check in with their own kids about their behavior. Do you watch YouTube or make your own videos? What's fun about them -- and how can they be dangerous? Common Sense Media has some tips for good ground-rules.

Book details

Author:Donna Gephart
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Delacorte Press
Publication date:April 13, 2010
Number of pages:256
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12

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Kid, 11 years old May 24, 2013

Middle school

This is a great book for tweens 11-13 and kids starting middle school. Your kids should know the basics of puberty though. It has so much culture too. I love that he's jewish, like me!!1
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old November 20, 2011


What other families should know
Too much sex