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review 2016-10-30 04:57
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life - Laura Park,Chris Tebbetts,James Patterson

Rafe isn't thrilled with the way his first year of middle school started. At the suggestion of his best friend, Leo the Silent (the guy who rarely speaks and usually communicates via drawings that are incorporated into the book), Rafe comes up with Operation R.A.F.E. (Rules Aren't For Everyone). The whole thing is based on the school rules. Each rule that Rafe breaks earns him points depending on the level of danger, the amount of planning that went into it, who saw him, and what happened as a result of his actions. He does have one limitation, however, his “No-Hurt Rule” - Rafe's actions can't hurt anyone but himself. Unfortunately, things don't always go the way Rafe plans.

This book was a freebie I got at a library conference. I admit, I was expecting it to be awful, at least as bad as Michael Ledwidge and James Patterson's The Dangerous Days of Daniel X, and the first few pages fit my expectations. Like Daniel, Rafe's “voice” sounded several decades older than it should have. He referred to his mother as “Jules” and described one of the students at his school as “a real nice kid” (24). The chapters bounced from one thing to the next (Miller the Killer, Leo's introduction, then school again), as though Rafe had had a little too much sugar prior to telling his story. I also wasn't thrilled that Jeanne, the first female character Rafe wasn't related to, was instantly the object of Rafe's fantasies.

The whole premise had issues, too. Operation R.A.F.E. was alarmingly self-destructive, and Rafe's “best friend” didn't exactly help. Rafe seemed completely blind to the fact that Leo had suggested a game that required that he take all the risks while Leo got to sit back and enjoy the entertainment.

I'm going to guess that the first few pages of the book were the ones Patterson paid the most attention to, because the believability of Rafe's POV improved dramatically as the story went on. I found myself caring about Rafe and his family, which meant I spent a lot of the book wishing I could tell Rafe to stop doing stupid things just because Leo said he should. I seriously hated Leo.

Rafe was a fascinatingly unreliable narrator, and I enjoyed trying to read between the lines. I could usually guess what the adults around him were thinking, but there were occasional mysterious conversations that caught my interest and had me wondering what else was going on. I had some guesses, but they turned out to be nowhere near the truth.

I really felt for Rafe and wanted things to somehow turn out okay for him. At the same time, I liked that certain things weren't handed to him on a platter. Jeanne, for example, was thankfully not Rafe's designated future girlfriend (at least in this book – I have no idea what happens in the later ones). She had thoughts and ideas that didn't necessarily have a thing to do with what Rafe wanted from her.

This could have been a really good book, if it hadn't been for the ending. It felt like everything fell into place too neatly and easily, and the final revelation seemed like overkill. That said, this was still way better than I expected. The story and characters had me hooked, and I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next, even as I worried about Rafe and his mom. I also thought that the illustrations were a nice, fun touch.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2016-08-29 07:32
Reading progress update: I've read 281 out of 281 pages.
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life - Laura Park,Chris Tebbetts,James Patterson

Huh... This is one of those books where the last few pages has me debating my star rating. That final revelation was a bit sudden.

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text 2016-08-28 16:57
Reading progress update: I've read 206 out of 281 pages.
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life - Laura Park,Chris Tebbetts,James Patterson

I hate that I have to start getting ready for work in a few minutes, because this has turned out to be much better than I expected. Two thumbs up to Chris Tebbetts. I'm just worried about the ending. Rafe's instinct, when he's dug himself into a hole, is to keep making it deeper, because he feels like his efforts to climb out never accomplish much.   :-(


Although it's all from Rafe's POV and he isn't exactly the most reliable of narrators, I can totally imagine what most of the adult characters are thinking. Here's hoping Ms. Donatello's efforts pay off.

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text 2016-08-28 00:43
Reading progress update: I've read 94 out of 281 pages.
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life - Laura Park,Chris Tebbetts,James Patterson

I got this at a conference a few years ago and decided it was finally time to read it.


Reading James Patterson's stuff is always an odd experience for me. I can't seem to help looking for the dividing line between Patterson's influence and his co-authors' writing (I just assume the co-authors did the bulk of the writing).


The first few chapters of this reminded me a bit too much of the awfulness that was The Dangerous Days of Daniel X, but thankfully Tebbetts appears to be better at this than Michael Ledwidge. Rafe, the main character, has switched to calling his Mom "Mom" rather than Jules and sounds less like an adult imitating a middle schooler. 


The illustrations are a nice touch. I don't like Leo, Rafe's best friend, though. Rafe doesn't seem to have realized his and Leo's game has him taking all the risks while Leo gets to sit back and be entertained.

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url 2016-01-14 20:29
2016 Young Adult Adaptations

Hello, everyone! Last month, I gathered a round-up of adaptation news from the past six to seven months that I had covered in my bookish rounds posts. The six to seven months was an arbitrary number, and I had missed some adaptation news in choosing that limit.

I had also, however, gotten a few things wrong. For one, I had originally written that The 5th Wave adaptation was releasing January 15th; a week later, I realized that the date was set at January 22nd. I edited the post, but it turns out that I wasn't the only one with a mistaken idea of the release date. One of my friends, only a week ago, said that she had seen something that said January 15th. I assured her it was the 22nd, but that was the last straw. Certainly, there are a number of articles about reading the book before you see the movie, yet some of them also include movies that don't have set release dates. I thought that it would be useful to create a calender infographic of the upcoming 2016 young adult and middle grade adaptations.

*Note: Not all of these are strictly Young Adult adaptations -- some are more "kidlit" (e.g. The Little Prince, Tuck Everlasting, etc.) and some had franchises in MG/YA but may not be anymore (e.g. Harry Potter & Cursed Child, Fantastic Beasts, etc.), but I thought that all would be relevant to the YA community.

And for the rest....
A Calender of 2016 Young Adult and Middle Grade
Adaptations. Click to enlarge the image.
*For these movies, the release date is listed as 2016, but the actual date has not been confirmed. Whether they will actually be released this year is yet to be determined.
*Can't make a calender of adaptations without nodding to the successful ones that are still running!
*Note: Since Alex Skarsgård is playing Tarzan and has bulked up for the role, I figured that his character was probably not meant to be like the Disney version anymore.
If you're wondering where I got all this information from, again last month, I gathered a round-up of adaptation news from the past six to seven months that I had covered in my bookish rounds posts. Those posts have all the links to trailers, posters, etc.
So those are the 2016 young adult and middle grade adaptations! (Or at least “relevant to the YA/MG community” since HP & Cursed Child, & Fantastic Beasts may not be technically YA/MG). Which ones will you be watching / seeing this upcoming year? Are you going to withhold your judgment on others? Let me know!
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