A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
There is some discussion of Shakespeare's meter and rhyme.
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
Even though Rafe is a rule-breaker and gets in trouble, he does show kindness and compassion.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Rafe has a crush on the most popular girl in school, who turns out to be a pretty nice girl who treats Rafe fairly.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, is the first volume in a best-selling series by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts and illustrated by Laura Park. It 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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.