How to Survive Middle School

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
How to Survive Middle School Book Poster Image
Funny middle school survival story for boys and hamsters.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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

What 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. 

User Reviews

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  • Kids say

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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 th... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old November 20, 2011

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, the videos 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 that boys 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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about books for middle grade boys. How is this book similar to or 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
  • Genre: School
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • Publication date: April 13, 2010
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
  • Number of pages: 256
  • Last updated: December 13, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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