Rafe Khatchadorian has enough issues around his family life, without throwing his first year of middle school into the mix. Luckily, he’s got an incredible 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 Code of Conduct. Having gum in class scores him 5,000 points, running through the hallways, another 10,000 points and pulling the fire alarm, 50,000 points! But not everyone thinks that Rafe’s game is a good idea, especially the teachers, parents and other students at the school, so 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. http://www.jamespatterson.com/books_middleSchool.php#.UWY9FFdstN4 Middle School the Worst Years of My Life is written by James Patterson and is a realistic fiction book that takes you through the journey of Rafe’s first year at middle school, dealing with the awkwardness of crushes, bullies, and family issues as he tries to break every rule in the school’s Code of Conduct.
The book features many different pictures that tell you what’s going on as well, and is considered a graphic novel. Middle School the Worst Years of my Life received a critical acclaim from the most reviewers, it won the YALSA 2012’s Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers award and James Patterson got nominated for the Children’s Book Council’s Author of the Year award. James has written well over 50 books, a lot of them being in series, and has won many awards. Middle School the Worst Years of My Life is the first book in the Middle School series. The setting of the Middle School series is in middle school.
There is no specific day or time that this book is set in, other than it being during middle school. A lot of the time the rules that are broken are broken within the school timing, but there are one or two rules that get broken out of school times. I think the setting has been chosen well, and believed it suited the book well. The novel starts with Rafe entering sixth grade at Hills Village Middle School. Beginning the new school year with a negative mindset means that Rafe starts the year bored and believes that ‘it was a prison Pilgrims back then, but not too much has changed. Now it’s a prison for sixth, seventh and eighth graders.’ Rafe quickly understands that he will be stuck in middle school for 3 years, and invents “Operation R.A.F.E.” with his best friend Leonardo the Silent.
The plan was to break every single rule in the schools handbook. He also has to put up with the issues in his home life. His mum is always working double shifts at a diner and never gets time with her children, Rafe, and Rafe’s younger sister, Georgia. He has a verbally abusive stepfather (Bear) who looks after him when his mother is away. Then, there’s Jeanne Galletta, who Rafe is madly in love with. Jeanne is a doubtful of Rafe’s plan and wishes he would spend more time on school work then his games. Operation R.A.F.E’s consequences consists of many detentions with his English teacher, Ms. Donatello.
This creates tension between Rafe’s family, and after having a fight with Bear about Leonardo and how he is a bad influence on Rafe, we discover that Leonardo is Rafe’s imaginary friend. Rafe’s actions eventually lead to bad grades, getting himself suspended, and then forced to be tutored by Jeanne, whom he had been trying to avoid because she doesn‘t like him. While the tension in the family gets stronger, Bear throws Rafe’s mother to the ground and moves out, Rafe gets expelled for spraying graffiti on the school walls, but Ms. Donatello see’s the potential artist within him and comes up with the idea to send him to art school. The final part of the book reveals that Leonardo is Rafe’s dead twin brother. An exciting part of the novel is when Rafe graffiti’s the school wall at four in the morning.
‘The next morning, I left a note for Mom saying that I had to go to school extra early to work on a project, which was basically true. I just left out the part about how early meant four in the morning and project meant highly illegal activity. “You’re not going to regret this,” Leo kept telling me. The way he saw it, the whole point of Operation R.A.F.E. was about breaking rules, so why should I let a little thing like losing the game stop me from doing the part I’d been looking forward to the most? Like I said before – genius…………I unpacked my new flat black marker, a big old camping flashlight, and some of my latest practice sketches. I’d drawn these ones on graph paper, which is kind of like a brick wall, to show me how big everything would need to be. But Leo was feeling impatient, “You don’t need those anymore,” he said.
“The clock’s ticking. Stop thinking so much and just go.” So I did. I set up the flashlight on a rock so that it was shining right at the wall. Then I picked up my marker and started. It was king of slow-moving at the beginning. I wasn’t sure what to draw first, or what order to do things in. But the more I kept going, the more I got into it, and then somewhere along the way everything started to flow……….After a while I was running around like crazy, working over here, working over there and getting up on an old trash can to reach the higher parts when I needed to. The whole thing started to get so big that I felt like I was inside it, even while I was still drawing. It was like Leo had said – I wasn’t thinking anymore.
I was just doing it, like the marker was just another part of me, and the lines and shapes and pictures were coming right out of my hand.’ After a while, the police show up, and are surprised that a kid had done all that work, but then again, it was illegal, so into the cop car went Rafe and Leo. I like this part of the novel because I felt as if I was in the actual scene. It was as if I was Leo and I was scared we’d get caught. This scene, although it’s short, it was intense. You didn’t want Rafe to get caught, but you wanted to know what would have happened when he got caught. I just believe that the way this chapter/scene has been written makes it believable and makes you feel like you’re there.
The style of this novel is average pace. The novel begins out very slowly, and it doesn’t have much meaning, but once the novel gets a fair way into it, the drama begins, and the pace slowly picks up. At the end of the novel, things get more intense and more happens in a shorter amount of time, and by the end of the novel, so much has happened, that it takes a while to comprehend what has happened, but you realise that James wrote it that way for a reason, and to me, that reason was so that he could have a short book, that had a lot in it, and might eventually be able to make a movie, much like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies.
The Worst Years of my Life uses a lot of slang humour, but not so much that it’s over powering, it’s just enough that it creates the characteristics of the book. A genre is the category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter. There are several genre’s the feature in this novel, some more than others. The genres that feature heavily in Middle School the Worst Years of My Life are: Comedy
The genre that is featured in the book, but not as heavily is romance. Have you ever had a crush on someone and had them not like you back? Romance
is a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love. Rafe Khatchadorian discovers his feelings for Jeanne Galletta on one of his first days at school. They were all sitting in the school gym and she was one of the candidates for the student council representatives and part way through or speech, she offers to buy Rafe fries later that day, and that’s when he knew he liked her.
Towards the end of the novel, Rafe’s grades start to go downhill and the school as well as his Mum think it’s a good idea to get some extra help. Little did Rafe know that his dream girl Jeanne was going to be his tutor. Even though Rafe is a teenage boy who likes girls, middle school would not be any good without a sense of humor or a comedian mixed into the scene. The biggest class clown in the school is here, and his name? Rafe Khatchadorian. A class clown is the funniest person in the class who often gets in trouble. Rafe’s first year at middle school is spent trouble making and trying to make people laugh, but not everyone thinks that his plan to break every rule in the Code of Conduct. Miller the Killer was the school bully, and his new prey is Rafe.
Throughout Rafe’s middle school year, he comes into conflict with Miller many times. The biggest thing that happens to Rafe because of Miller the Killer is when he discovers Rafe’s notebook with all the Operation R.A.F.E. (Rules Aren’t For Everyone) and makes Rafe buy each page back off of him for a dollar a page, but Rafe discovers Miller’s plan with the notebook early on, and it isn’t pretty. Miller the Killer enjoys making Rafe’s first year at middle school hell, but Rafe enjoys the humorous side of school. School is tough on everyone, so what’s the best way to get through? Have fun! And that’s what Rafe intends to do by breaking all the rules in the Code of Conduct and earning himself points.
The catch is, he only gets given three lives, and if he breaks all three, the games over. All the seriousness aside, Rafe gives himself, and Leo a good laugh. The funniest scene in the book to me was when Rafe decides to break the schools dress code, and he was given the best chance to do this with Halloween just around the corner. Leo knew that it would only be a matter of time before Rafe was caught by a teacher, so Leo was giving him 10,000 points for every 50 yards of the school he covered in his costume. Rafe ran, as fast as he could in all black, with a pocket full of Cheerios as throwing stars, and nunchucks made from paper towel roles with rope knotted at either end. Yep, you guessed it. Rafe was a ninja.
‘I came tearing out of that bathroom at full speed and just kept running – through the first floor (10,000!), up the stairs (10,000!), down the second floor hall past all the lockers (10,000!), throwing Cheerios and swinging my nunchucks like crazy.’ Right before he got caught, Miller the Killer was right in his aim. ‘I made sure my mask was pulled down tight over my face. Then I took a big windup as I went by, and beaned him upside the head with one of the chucks (10,000!). “What the – ?” Miller turned the wrong way, just as I passed him. By the time he’d figured out where I came from and where I was headed, I’d already left him in the dust. He was twice as big as me, but I was twice as fast. Eat it, Miller!’ And then it happened. Caught right in the act. Yep, a teacher saw him… Well, he ran into the teacher. Games over Rafe. ‘And then – splam! I ran right into Mrs. Stricker. Literally. Let’s just say, she wasn’t in the mood for wrestling.’
But Rafe had another plan and it was going to earn him double points. ‘I went into the bathroom and came out a minute later without my ninja costume, running just as fast as before. Some kids got out of my way. Some even ran in the other direction. A few of the girls screamed when I cam2 through, but I don’t think they meant it. And a few people even yelled stuff like “Go, Rafe, go!” and “Don’t let ‘em get you!” Because, like I said, I wasn’t wearing my ninja costume anymore. In fact, I wasn’t wearing much of anything at all.’ No, he wasn’t naked, but he wasn’t wearing much… ‘Just sneakers, a pair of boxers, and a big old smile.’ Boy, did Rafe get in big trouble for that, but on the other hand, he did earn himself a lot of points! Rafe loves making people laugh, and I believe that the reason he does it isn’t for other people, but he does it to make himself feel good. I believe that the main theme in this novel is coming of age and growing up into a better person in a way.
To me, I think this means that by using the resources that are around you (family, friends etc.) to become the person you are supposed to be. For Rafe, this is trying to get over his prank, funny, humorous stage, and into the more serious schooling stage. This can be hard for some people, especially when they don’t get along with their family, and when their only friend is in their imagination, but by the end of the book, Rafe has realised that even though he isn’t academically smart, he does have a gift with art, which sees him going to art school. Love is also in the novel, as Rafe discovers Jeanne Galletta, but it doesn’t impact on the story as much as growing up does. The main characters in the book are:
Rafael (Rafe) Khatchadorian – Rafe is the trouble maker in the story who is in his first year at Hills Village Middle School. Rafe is important because without him, there is no story. I like this character because he makes the book fun. Even though he isn’t an actual person, this character has a funny personality and a childish sense of humour.
I believe that James Patterson has described this character well. Georgia Khatchadorian – Georgia is Rafe’s annoying little sister who likes to be in everyone’s business and know what’s going on in Rafe’s life, especially when he is in trouble. She is also the family tattletale and always dobs Rafe in when she catches him doing something wrong. Even though Georgia annoys Rafe a lot, he also protects her, which is like all siblings love-hate relationships. I like her because I think I can relate to her because I am the younger sister in my family, and I like to annoy my older brother, but I also know that he will always be there for me. I think that Georgia is a main character in this story because she is a part of Rafe’s home issues because she never leaves him alone and always wants to know what’s going on in his life.
Carl AKA Bear – Bear is Georgia and Rafe’s, abusive, rude, obese stepdad who can be found on the couch. Bear is often yelling at Rafe after school. He also argues with Mrs. Khatchadorian, Rafe and Georgia’s mum, and one argument let Bear to accidently push her down the front steps, and when the police show up, it doesn’t look good for Carl. I don’t like him at all! He’s so rude and obnoxious, and I would hate to have a step parent as bad as him. Leonardo (Leo) the Silent – Leo is Rafe’s best friend, who we later discover is in his imagination. We also later find out that Leo was Rafe’s twin brother who died when he was still a baby. I think that Leo is the glue that holds everything together.
He helps Rafe with school, with home, and he gives him the motivation to keep going when things get tough. I really like Leo the Silent because even though he isn’t real, he is the perfect best friend. Jeanne (Jay-Gee) Galletta – Jeanne is Rafe’s crush. He is madly in love with her, but she is also the goody-two-shoes of the school, and she hates Operation R.A.F.E. I like her but I don’t. I feel like she tries too hard to be a good student, and doesn’t give herself enough freedom, which is why I don’t like her. I think that being a teenager, or getting to that stage means that you can manage school and social life, and to me, it’s like she has no social life. She’s important in the story because as we get older, we start to see people in different ways, and we start to like them, and I believe that Jeanne is important because without her, it’s not a real adolescent’s life. Ms. Donatello AKA the Dragon Lady – Ms. Donatello is Rafe’s English teacher, as well as his detention buddy.
Even though she is strict and can get aggravated easily, she also has Rafe’s best interest at heart and wouldn’t help him if she didn’t believe he was better than what he shows. I like her because I have had plenty of teachers that are hard on me, but they do it because they want what’s best, and without that push, we wouldn’t grow and evolve as people. I understand why Rafe doesn’t particular like her, but teachers always want what’s best, and he will eventually see that. Miller AKA Miller the Killer – Miller is the school bully, hence the name ‘Miller the Killer.’ He is constantly giving Rafe a hard time throughout his first year at middle school, and without the school bully, school wouldn’t be school. There is always that one person that puts people down to make themselves feel good, although not a lot of bullies take kids lunch money, but hurt them mentally, or even physically. I don’t like Miller because I believe that he hurts people because he can and he needs to get disciplined.
Without Miller, or a bully in the book, it wouldn’t be like school life, so I can understand why James Patterson included him in it. I’m not much of a reader, but I really enjoyed this book, and I found it easy to understand and comprehend because of the little sketches throughout the book. This book is much like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and I believe it is aimed at the same kind of age group. I think that I was too old to read this novel, but I didn’t find it so easy that I could just read it in a day, but not hard enough that it took me forever to read. It was a good balance, so I would suggest it for kids 13 years old and younger, somewhere between 9 and 13. To be honest, it was a good book, but it could have been made longer so not everything happened at once towards the end. In general, it was a good read, and I would recommend it to younger kids who enjoy having a good laugh and getting into trouble.
Courtney from Study Moose
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