Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf

Common Sense Media says

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay 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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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
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
Kid, 11 years old August 11, 2011

I haven't read it but seems good

It seems like a great book for a girl.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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