I finally bowed to the inevitable, started at the beginning, and read the whole thing. I've never read Middle School is Worse than Meat Loaf, although I frequently recommend it as a read-alike for Wimpy Kid fans. However, it's not necessary to read the first book to pick up the plot and get drawn into the story. It's surprisingly easy to pick up the plot from the sticky notes, emails, lists, pictures, poetry assignments and other "stuff" that comprises the book.
Ginny is excited about eighth grade. She has plans and everything is going great. But one by one things go wrong. Her mom gets pregnant, her older brother gets into serious trouble, her stepdad loses his job, and she feels sick all the time. With no money, her plans with friends get cancelled and it seems like nothing is working out. In the end, some issues are resolved, some are not, but Ginny has survived eighth grade and is ready for big changes like moving across the country and high school.
Ginny's stress is so real I started feeling sick along with her! It's easy for an adult reader to see her mistakes and some of her family difficulties coming, but Ginny's reactions and behavior are completely typical of a teen her age. I can look at her behavior and match it up perfectly with the attitudes of my after school middle school teens!
I went back and forth on where to place this book - eighth grade is really "teen" but I hate splitting series and there's nothing really inappropriate in the title. Kids tend to read up anyways, so we decided to put this one in juvenile fiction. I suppose it could have gone into graphic novels now that I think of it, but I'm not changing the spine label now!
Verdict: Whether or not you have the first title (and you should) this is a great book for reluctant readers or kids who like realistic fiction and want a fast read. Holm and Castaldi have done an excellent job blending their story and art together. Recommended.
ISBN: 9780375868511; Published August 2012 by Random House; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased for the library