November 5, 2011

Throwback to Childhood • Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 27, 2011
Source/Format: Gift bag at book event || Paperback

Rafe Khatchadorian has enough problems at home without throwing his first year of middle school into the mix. Luckily, he's got an ace plan for the best year ever, if only he can pull it off: With his best friend Leonardo the Silent awarding him points, Rafe tries to break every rule in his school's oppressive Code of Conduct. Chewing gum in class-5,000 points! Running in the hallway-10,000 points! Pulling the fire alarm-50,000 points! But when Rafe's game starts to catch up with him, he'll have to decide if winning is all that matters, or if he's finally ready to face the rules, bullies, and truths he's been avoiding.

Despite being more of a middle grade read, I was thoroughly charmed by Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. If my suspicions are correct, it might have a little to do with the surprising depth of the story and a lot to do with the amazing illustrations.

From the cover art, you already know that it's going to be an interesting book visually -- and one of the best parts about it is definitely the illustrations. Every time I turned a page and saw a new drawing, I examined it for long minutes, fighting back to the urge to color and to obsess over them. I thought they were quite cleverly done!

But it wasn't only the illustrations that I enjoyed; the story was also really good. The book is written as though it's the autobiography/journal of Rafe Khatchadorian, a brand new middle schooler, who's determined to make the most of his year. After a bad first period, he and his friend Leonardo the Silent come up with a plan - Rafe's going to attempt to break every single rule in the code of conduct! And so the adventure ensues - Rafe breaks so many rules in the book, which I kind of get a kick out of though, I would never encourage rule-breaking in schools to that extent. It's an entertaining plot to follow and I enjoyed being surprised by which rule he'd break next.

Though in the process of rule-breaking a lot of silly, imaginative stuff happens, there's also some surprisingly sensitive issues tackled in there - stuff that has to do with family and friends. It was very unexpected for me to spot these things in a novel like this, but I thought it made the whole book seem more realistic and relatable. There's one twist in particular that definitely came out of left field (and you'll find out about it towards the end if you pick up the book!).

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is definitely worth a read because it's fun and wonderfully written. James Patterson has done it again!


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