Thursday, December 21, 2017

How to survive middle school by Donna Gephart

Full confession: I have been recommending this book for years as a funny read without ever having read it. However, having chosen it for my new book club, Book Explosion, and our inaugural genre of humor, I felt that I must read it. Whereupon, I made a discovery. I didn't think it was funny. I actually got a bit teary-eyed at one point.

David Greenberg has plans for the best summer before middle school ever. Hanging out with his best friend, making funny utube videos like his idol, Jon Stewart, and not thinking about how his mom left. But then his best friend has changed and not only is summer ruined, they have a big fight right before school. David manages to make a new friend, Sophie, and suddenly his videos are popular! But with his mom gone, bullies on his case, his old best friend being mean to him, and his sister trying to kill him, will David ever survive middle school?

So, just so you know, the hamster dies. Seriously. David makes funny videos with the hamster, the last thing his mom got for him before she succumbed to her crippling agorophobia and ran away to live with a beet farmer. And the hamster dies. His best friend has a crush on a girl and ditches him for the whole summer and then hangs out with the school bully who has beat them both up in the past. Sophie was previously homeschooled and her mom is still taking out her own anxieties about being left by her husband on hovering over Sophie. David's dad writes an advice column. I'm is this funny?

And yet.... it kind of is, if you like the realistic, "my life sucks but I'm going to deal with it through humor" kind of thing. I've definitely had plenty of 5th and 6th graders tell me they thought this book was hilarious. So I think I'm going to chalk this one up to not being a good fit for me as a reader (I'm going to have trouble recommending it as a funny book now that I know the hamster dies though).

Verdict: A fun book to recommend for kids who want something about the angst, drama and general misery of middle school. The references to Jon Stewart are going to eventually date it though, if they haven't already, so this one has a shelf-life. I wouldn't purchase it new at this point, but I wouldn't weed it either.

ISBN: 9780385737937; Published 2010 by Delacorte; Purchased for the library

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