Study Guide

Leonardo "Leo" the Silent in Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

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Leonardo "Leo" the Silent

If we were Leonardo the Silent we'd draw you picture instead of writing you a character analysis.

But let's just say our artistic skills don't usually get us high points in Pictionary…so you get to read all about Leo instead of see all about him.

He's (Not) a Real Boy

If Rafe can be compared to Hamlet, Oedipus and other tragic heroes, Leo can be compared to the Kraken, the Unicorn, and non-terrifying tarantulas.

In other words: he doesn't exist.

Even though we don't find out until about a third of the way through the book, Leo is essentially a figment of Rafe's imagination. And we don't find out until the last few chapters that Leonardo was actually Rafe's twin brother who died of meningitis when the boys were only three years old. (Very sad) bombshell dropped.

In retrospect, this explains a whole lot about Leonardo the Silent. He doesn't talk, except to Rafe, and only once in a while. He goes to Hills Village Middle School, but no other teachers or students ever see him. He just sort of disappears when other people walk up to Rafe. Mom and Bear know about him, but they (or at least Bear) disapprove of his being around.

For the record, Rafe knows it's weird that he talks to someone who's not there. But if it helps him cope with the bummer that is his life, is it really so bad?

It's not like I think Leo's really there. It's more like, what if someone was there, talking back and helping me figure out stuff? Someone who's always on my side, you know? Like I said before, I'm not exactly popular, so I'll take my help where I can get it. (25.5)

His mom has kind of the same outlook. Besides, it must be tough to have to process that kind of grief. You lose a twin brother who you can't really remember and who you never got the chance to really get to know or mourn.

So Rafe reinvents his missing brother as his friend. Which is useful, because Rafe doesn't have a lot of real-life friends.

He's Quite the Character

When you have an imagination as powerful as Rafe's, your invisible friend is going to be pretty amazing…and more than a little confrontational.

Leo spends most of his time challenging Rafe—in fact, most of Rafe's really, truly naughty ideas come from Leo. Of course, Leo doesn't exist, so basically Rafe is just channeling all his mayhem through the funnel of Leo. He's sort of like the devil sitting on Rafe's shoulder…and there's no angel sitting on his other shoulder.

Check it out:

"You're going to regret this," Leo told me. "Besides, Jules doesn't want you to be normal. She just wants you to be yourself. Doesn't she say that all the time?"

"Yeah, well, myself made his mother cry tonight," I said. "I'm just going to lie low for a while, that's all. Just until things get a little better around here." (33.2-3)

Keep in mind, that conversation is really just taking place in Rafe's head. Those are the two thoughts he's struggling with. He really wants to keep breaking rules on one hand. But on the other hand, it's hurting his mom. What's he's supposed to do?

It fits that towards the end of the book Leo takes over more and more. He even draws a whole chapter explaining how Rafe should get back in the game. Basically, his argument is: who cares about the rules? just go vandalize the school.

But once we get to the final chapters, and Rafe is about to be expelled, Leo is all but gone. It's like Rafe starts to realize there's not much counter-argument needed. He's done for and there's not much he (or Leo) can do about it.

Maybe Leo will always be a part of Rafe's life. Maybe not. But we kind of agree with Rafe and Jules—is it so bad to have an imaginary friend to get you through the tough times? And is Rafe talking to his dead twin bro any weirder, than, say, ancient artists communicating with the muses?

We'll leave that answer up to you.

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