Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf



Seventh grader documents her struggles in clever scrapbook.

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable

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.

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.

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?


Readers will be amazed at how effectively this seemingly random collection or receipts, notes, lists, etc., 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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Jennifer L. Holm
Illustrator:Elicia Castaldi
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Ginee Seo Books
Publication date:July 24, 2007
Number of pages:128

This review of Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf was written by

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
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  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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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 dont know why but it just did. As soon as you start sixth grade you should think about reading this :)
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
Kid, 8 years old January 3, 2011

Perfect for children 8 and up

I think it is very funny, educational, and very unusual. I love it but I didn`t expect it from Jennifer L. Holm, the writer of Babymouse books. Babymouse is a funny yet appropriate for all ages. This book is only good for children ages 8 - Teen. However, I give this book five stars!
What other families should know
Great messages


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