Book Review: Middle School – The Worst Years of My Life

Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life

What is it about middle school? It seems like every book down the pike these days with “middle school” in its title or theme is focused on how terrible, awful, horrendous the experience is (ie, Wimpy Kid series, How to Survive Middle School, etc.). OK, so I admit that my sixth graders have to navigate some difficult social and cultural changes that come as they hit adolescence, and our expectations of them as students is pretty high. But I just put down James Patterson’s Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life and I am thankful I am not a character in Patterson’s book nor that I teach in the kind of school that Patterson portrays.


His main character, Rafe Khatchadorian, is a sixth grade mess who tries to stake out some ground by systematically breaking every rule in the book to earn points for his own “game” of points. His family is a mess, too. I wish I could say I liked Rafe a bit more than I did (because I wanted to), but I felt so removed from his character by his attitudes and his voice that I had trouble connecting sympathetically with him. Which is not to say this book is not without its humor. Told in illustrations and text, the novel nicely navigates the inner mind of a character in turmoil (with the stereotypical bully, and both caring and evil teachers, etc.)

What saved the book, for me, is the emotional twists put in towards the end, when we realize a few things about Rafe (which I won’t give away here) and which gives us a more complex character to root for. That element came a little too late for me, but I was glad Patterson did so anyway. I put down the book  hoping Rafe’s future had suddenly gotten a bit brighter, thanks in part to one of his teachers.

Peace (in the muddle),



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