It’s been 2 years since I picked up the first book in James Patterson’s series, MIDDLE SCHOOL THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE. It never made it here for a review because… well, I didn’t like it. The main character was a forgettable kid named Rafe that I could not attach myself to. His whole demeanor just didn’t sit with me well. Yeah, there were parts like him missing his twin brother that revealed some of his inner character, but for the most part I was disappointed and decided to avoid any future stories about Rafe.
So now MIDDLE SCHOOL – HOW I SURVIVED BULLIES, BROCCOLI, AND SNAKE HILL (the fourth book) had somehow found a home on my bookshelf urging me to read. It had been there close to a year. With the official day of summer this coming Saturday, I finally opened and read the first ten pages and was laughing out loud. Rafe had become the kid I expected to read about in the first book. His internal dialog is hilarious and the summer camp setting is a fast paced read for any reader, reluctant or not. How was the rest of the book? The story did not disappoint.
With book #6 set to release next week, MIDDLE SCHOOL – SAVE RAFE!, (thanks for the shorter title) this series has many happy fans. Not sure if the new one has a co-writer but this one does, Chris Tebbetts. Makes me feel pretty good that one of the most successful adult authors needs help from a second author to write a middle grade book. Yes, books at this level are hard to write! Kidding aside, great job on the collaboration.
PUBLICATION DATE:2013 LEVEL: 4.0 WORD COUNT: 34,646
FULL PLOT (From Amazon): Rafe Khatchadorian, the hero of the bestselling Middle School series, is ready for a fun summer at camp–until he finds out it’s a summer school camp! Luckily, Rafe easily makes friends with his troublemaking cabin mates and bunkmate, a boy nicknamed Booger-Eater, who puts up with endless teasing from the other kids. Rafe soon realizes there’s more to a person than a nickname, though, and Booger-Eater might be the kind of friend you want on your side when the boys from the Cool Cabin attack.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT MIDDLE SCHOOL – HOW I SURVIVED BULLIES, BROCCOLI, AND SNAKE HILL
- The various classic books thrown in along the way. When a non-reader like Rafe starts to think maybe these titles aren’t so bad, it’s a good thing for reluctant readers everywhere.
- Rafe isn’t the most perfect kid in the world, but this story gave meaning behind his misdeeds. It’s nice to know Rafe has a heart for those being bullied and seeks to do something about it.
- The plot is a writer’s guide in how to write one. There’s the beginning with the problem laid out and characters come to life. The middle that keeps pushing the reader to not put down the book. Finally the end where the problem is solved in a rather messy way, but it does get solved.
- Rafe’s friends in his cabin each have their own unique personality. It’s the secret Norman the bookworm is carrying around that had me cheering for Rafe and what he did to protect his new buddy.
- The pictures are funny and you can get lost just looking at all of the little jokes planted in each drawing. I’ve also been to camp as a kid, as a counselor, and as a teacher. Nothing like this ever happened but it felt good to bring back those memories. Whoops, I think I threw in a #6 there. Regardless, Rafe and this episode of the Middle School series is highly recommended for a summertime read.
FAVORITE LINES (There are so many, it was hard to choose just one. I let a 13-year-old pick the best from Rafe’s rambling thoughts):
- Maybe you already know this, but when you’re feeling like you’re about to blow chunks, it doesn’t exactly help to hear someone else doing the deed in front of you. It just kind of speeds things up.
- I’m not going to lie. All I thought when I saw him was, I hope this kid brought sunblock.
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.