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Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life

Book review by
Barbara Lawrence, Common Sense Media
Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life Book Poster Image
Irreverent look at school life explores complex feelings.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 22 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

There is some discussion of Shakespeare's meter and rhyme.

Positive Messages

Like many kids, Rafe has a hard life, but he never gives up hope that he will be valued. He also shows compassion toward others, even his annoying little sister.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Even though Rafe is a rule-breaker and gets in trouble, he does show kindness and compassion.


There are two violent, angry characters in this book: Miller the Killer, the consummate school bully; and Bear, the aptly named boyfriend of Rafe’s mom. Miller threatens as well as pushes and pummels Rafe throughout the story. Bear is creepier, always criticizing Rafe and his little sister, Georgia, from the comfort of the living room couch, and at one point pushes Rafe’s mom down the front stairs.


Rafe has a crush on the most popular girl in school, who turns out to be a pretty nice girl who treats Rafe fairly.


An energy drink called Zoom -- "tastes like chocolate and Coke mixed together, and it has about eight cups of caffeine in every can" -- figures in the plot. Rafe also eats a Snickers in the school library.


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

No drugs or alcohol, but Bear drinks a lot of high-caffeine Zoom and keeps cases of it in the garage. Rafe sells Zoom out of his school locker to make money to pay off Miller.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life, by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts and illustrated by Laura Park, tells the story of Rafe, a kid who sets out to break all the school rules and is disrespectful to teachers and staff. The humorous drawings poke fun at teachers and just about everyone else at Hills Village Middle School. And Rafe suffers bullying at school and at home.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykaderb1 May 11, 2016

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life très très bon

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life , le nouveau film que j'ai eu la chance de voir et que je n'oublierais pas de si tôt, streaming Middle Schoo... Continue reading
Adult Written byTaylor13579 November 1, 2011


Its great gave it to my 9 yr old
Kid, 11 years old December 1, 2011


this book has captured what it's really like for middle schoolers. I read it and it was great, so great infact, that i read it in one sitting.
Teen, 14 years old Written byluckyconversekid9 February 17, 2013

Rafe Can Practically Get Away With Anything

I have yet to find a Patterson book that I have enjoyed. I read this in one night and I do not think the main character was a good role model at all. Oh, we... Continue reading

What's the story?

Like many middle school students, Rafe feels alone, different, and lost. He is just trying to serve his middle school sentence and move on. On his first day, his first encounter with another student is with Miller the Killer, the class bully. Rafe’s plan to try to "keep [his] head down, try to blend in, and don’t get on anyone’s bad side" doesn’t work, and Miller makes him his target. During the school assembly, Rafe gets the idea to systematically break every rule in the Hills Village Middle School Code of Conduct. He and his best and only friend, Leo the Silent, create a reality-show game with points and exciting twists. Rafe’s unusual friendship with Leo will surprise most readers.

Is it any good?

This irreverent story pokes fun at everything about middle school while creating a fresh, indelible character in Rafe. The wonderful cartoon illustrations by Laura Park (ostensibly done by Rafe's friend Leo) will attract Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans, but these detailed drawings also reveal much about Rafe’s character and how he views the world. Teachers and parents might be offended by the harshness and irreverence with which Rafe portrays Hills Village Middle School, but kids who feel as trapped and alone as he does will relate. Rafe sees himself as a geek, but readers will see his other side -- a sweet boy trying to do what's right.


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Rafe is trying to break every rule at his school. Rafe seems like a nice kid; what is happening in his life that causes him to be disruptive?

  • Rafe suffers at the hands of a bully. You might want to talk about how everyone plays a role in bullying.

  • Rafe is failing school and has a loser for a stepfather. Families can talk about where kids like Rafe find help and support. He talks to Leo the Silent; who else in his life can he talk to?

  • What alternatives do kids have when they don’t fit in and have no friends? How do you go about making friends at a new school?

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