Friday, September 16, 2011
Book Review: Middle School - The Worst Years of My Life, by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts (Little, Brown, 2011)
Recommended for ages 10-14
Rafe Katchadorian is having a tough year: his mom is working double shifts at her diner job in order to support him, his sister, and her lazy, unemployed fiance, and he's already attracted the attention of the school bully during his first week of middle school. What's a kid to do? Make a name for himself, of course!
With some prodding by his best friend, Leonardo the Silent, Rafe decides that he's going to break every single rule in the middle school code of conduct. There are guidelines to follow, though - he's got to have witnesses every time he breaks a rule; he's got three "lives" - he loses one if he passes up an opportunity to break a rule - and finally, he can't hurt anyone in his quest to break the rules. How bad can a good kid get, and how far is Rafe willing to go to break all the rules? Will he end up breaking his own rules in the end?
I started this book expecting a light, humorous story, and was amazed at the punch Patterson and Tibbett packed into this middle school story. Rafe's family issues aside, there are a multitude of issues going on in his life - he is a truly at-risk tween, and as I read the story, I saw a need for this boy to have a more supportive group of adults in his life. There are two major plot developments that will take readers by surprise, but it is good for tweens and young teens to have this kind of storyteller bringing these stories to light - children with similar life stories will likely be grateful to have a literary figure they can relate to, and other readers will have a glimpse into another kid's world - and maybe start a dialogue among themselves, or even develop a sensitivity that may not have previously been there.
Chris Tebbetts is a YA author whose love of books and libraries began as a child. His website suggests links for writerw and readers, and provides a list of Good Reads for young readers and teens.
James Patterson is best known for his Alex Cross mystery series, but he is a Children's Choice Award-winning author, receiving the award in 2010 for his book Max, one of the books in his popular Maximum Ride series. His Daniel X series has been praised by Good Morning America as being some of the best books for boys, and the first book in his Witch & Wizard series spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Patterson's website, ReadKiddoRead, is dedicated to getting kids reading and suggests titles for all ages and interests.