Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
Rafe isn’t much good at anything, as his best friend Leo the Silent reminds him. He will never be president, not even class president. His grades were never that great. Top that off with a mother who works two shifts to pay for her dead beat boyfriend and a nosy little sister, and Rafe isn’t sure he will even survive sixth grade, especially since the beginning of the story begins with Rafe and his sister in a police car. So Rafe comes up with a plan, one that could make middle school history, he is going to set out to break every single rule in the school rule book. No foul language. Easy. No inappropriate dress. Do boxers count? But what if your rule breaking hurts someone else? And what if it means not graduating?
In this witty, insightful, and surprisingly deep novel, the reader is taken on a fun ride with a character that really knows how to draw outside the lines. Colorfully illustrated by “Rafe” and “Leo”, this is clearly a book that wants to appeal to the Wimpy Kid crowd and I think it is a perfect addition to this new graphic novel genre for middle grade readers.
Although I think the Wimpy Kid books are funny, I think this book pulled me in, in a way that Wimpy Kid didn’t. Rafe is dealing with more than lugheads, stinky cheese, and goofball moms. His mother is working two shifts and Rafe doesn’t hide his disdain of Bear, her boyfriend, who spends most of his time sleeping and the other portion of his time yelling. There is a menace there too, a silent fear that not even Rafe states, that Bear may actually have a bite to go with his bark. The other important thing about Rafe is that although he is a rule-breaker, he isn’t bad, mean, or selfish. He’s likeable, and I was really struck by how upset he became when he realized that his failing grades may mean repeating the sixth grade. Rafe’s reactions to the events surrounding him were honest and genuine, and although he may not be as goofy as the Wimpy Kid, he has real heart.
I do think the credit for this book should probably go to Chris Tebbetts (correct me if I am wrong) as I suspect it was he and not James Patterson who wrote this book. At this point I am quite certain that James Patterson’s name is being stamped on many books as a way to help sell a novel by a first time author or whatever. My cynical nature believes that James Patterson probably looks at the novel a few times and edits it and hands it back to whomever really wrote the novel, but that is about as far as he goes as being the “author” of these books. Whatever the case may be, this is a wonderful novel with a witty character and some really touching moments.