Want personalized picks that fit your family?

Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.

Get age-based picks

Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf Book Poster Image
Seventh grader documents her struggles in clever scrapbook.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 12 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will learn from the examples of haikus, poems, class compositions, and science notes scattered throughout the book. Teachers may find the book's format an inspirational model for an exciting year's writing project.

Positive Messages

Ginny's story sends a realistic message about the importance of good communication between family members, and friends. Also, she learns that while setting goals and writing to-do lists is important, readjusting them is also part of reality. Ginny learns that when things don't work out as expected, you may feel disappointed for a while, but you should try to stay hopeful...and write a new to-do list.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ginny, the main character, seems like a real, down-to-earth girl. Things don't always work out for her but she is trying -- and learning.  She is compassionate and well-meaning, but she also has moments when things are too much for her and she makes a few desperate choices that seem out-of-character: she skips school, lies about the reason, and even slaps a girl.


Older brother Henry is a prankster who sets off cherry bombs and crashes the family car that he stole one night when he tried to break in to the local country club.  Ginny slaps a girl at school who says something mean about him. Also, Ginny describes how her father was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver who is a repeat offender.


A page of Ginny's life science notes reveal diagrams discussing fertilization. A poem she writes talks about how kissing is shown in movies and how it is different from her first kiss after the school dance.


No real product names are mentioned, but there are lists of things that Ginny wants: a certain yellow sweater, a bathing suit, hair dye, and so on, and cash register receipts for what she buys.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There is a brief reference to a girl drinking a wine cooler on the bus to school and then acting strange. Henry drinks whiskey and crashes the car.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book looks like a scrapbook; except for a few school compositions, it has very little straightforward narration. Most of the issues are typical middle school stuff, but others are a little more extreme. For example, Ginny’s older brother carries several not-so-harmless pranks a little too far, crashes his stepfather’s car while drunk and is sent to military school. Ginny herself is compassionate and well-meaning, but she also has moments when things are too much for her and she makes a few desperate choices that seem out-of-character: she skips school, lies about the reason, and even slaps a girl. In the end, she learns some important lessons about dealing with life, especially when it doesn't exactly match your dream.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3, 6, and 12 year old Written bymydaughtersalad... August 24, 2009

since when do middle schoolers drink? or drive?

that problems mostly in high school this book is good but a little innapropiate
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
Teen, 13 years old Written byfastpitcher77 August 4, 2011

One book i will remember

Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf is wonderful. I had to read it for school since it was on the list. This book really stood out and really related to me, I... Continue reading

What's the story?

Ginny starts seventh grade with a very hopeful to-do list including things like: get a new dad, look good in the school photo, get the starring ballet role, win something, and so on. As the year goes on, she does cross items off her list -- but reality doesn't always live up to her expectation. Starting with a disastrous hair-dyeing experiment, one thing after another goes wrong, and her middle school experience is far from what she had planned. Told completely through the “stuff” she has collected (notes, receipts, classroom assignments, poems, cartoons), this is the story of how she survives one very trying year of ups-and-downs that are “worse than meatloaf.”

Is it any good?

This seemingly random collection of receipts, notes, and lists effectively creates a complete narrative with a strong, intriguing storyline, well-developed characters, and emotional depth. Formatted like a scrapbook with cartoon strips, poetry, and classroom notes strategically placed to move the story along, this book is touching, and fun to read. Middle school kids will related to the issues in Ginny's life, and will enjoy reading back and forward through all the "stuff" that made up her year. Because this book is so visually engaging, it's a great choice for reluctant readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how this book compares to the author's other books, which include the Babymouse series, and also books like Turtle in Paradise. Have you read her other work? What do you like best?

  • Discuss the value of keeping scrapbooks, and just how the "stuff" you collect can tell the story of your life. Which things told you the most about Ginny's world?  Elizabeth Berkley also used a scrapbook format for her advice book Ask Elizabeth; what does this format do for readers? What would you include in your own scrapbook?

Book details

For kids who love coming-of-age stuff

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate