Middle School: Get Me Out of Here is the second graphic-infused novel by James Patterson (he, of many many books) with writer Chris Tebbets and illustrator Laura Parks about the middle school life of Rafe Khatchadorian, a budding artist with an incredibly imagination matched by an incredible ability to get himself into extreme trouble. Here, Rafe is starting seventh grade at an arts magnet school but his family is in upheaval, as the diner where his single mom works has burned down and mom has lost her job. So Rafe, his sister and his mom need to move in with his grandmother in the city, and start anew.
Perhaps it was because I already knew Rafe (from Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life), but I liked this book better than the first. And as with the first, the illustrations by Parks are wonderfully detailed, and provide a great partner to the written story, too. The pictures don’t just complement the text; they advance the story, and bring the reader into the mind of Rafe, with all of his quirks and imaginative ideas brought forth on the page. So, even as the story advances along linear lines, the illustrations provide various jumping off points for the reader. Here is a perfect example of a book that would not hold up without the illustrations.
I won’t give the story away, but suffice it to say that like the first book (where we slowly learn that Rafe had a twin brother who passed away when they were both three years old), this book has a family story that slowly unfolds, opening a window into the heart of Rafe and allowing him to see the world, and his own place in it, a little differently. I appreciate that in a book. The setting of middle school, particularly the seventh grade, gives Patterson and Tebbetts plenty of room for Rafe to feel isolated and connected and confused about a lot of things that come with the pre-teen years. It is Rafe’s art, and Parks’ illustrations, that give him, and us, balance.
Peace (in middle school),