Study Guide

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Dissatisfaction

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It feels as honest as the day is crummy that I begin this tale of total desperation and woe with me, my pukey sister, Georgia, and Leonardo the Silent sitting like rotting sardines in the back of a Hills Village Police Department cruiser.

Now, there's a pathetic family portrait you don't want to be a part of, believe me. More on the unfortunate Village Police incident later. I need to work myself up to tell you that disaster story.

This is a pretty intense opening paragraph…and a really good way to get the reader hooked. (We're all gluttons for punishment.)

The good news? Given the way things had started off, I
figured middle school could only get better from here.

The bad news? I was wrong about the good news. (2.29-30)

Wow. So, after his encounter with the biggest bully in school—Miller the Killer—Rafe finds out that there is no good news. Middle school is going to be torture. Awesome.

HELP! That's what I was thinking about then. Middle school had just started, and they were already trying to bore us to death. Please, somebody stop Mrs. Stricker before she kills again! (5.13)

We feel Rafe's pain here. Is Mrs. Stricker seriously going to read the enter Hills Village Middle School Code of Conduct out loud? Our brains our melting just thinking of how boring this must be.

Meet my future stepfather, also known as the low point of my day. His name is Carl, but we call him Bear. Two years ago, he was just this customer at the diner where my mom works. Now, somehow, Mom has a ring on her finger, and Bear lives here with us. (8.3)

If you had a stepdad-to-be like Bear, you'd be depressed too. The guy doesn't work, he's a jerk to his future stepkids…and he doesn't share his snacks. So, Rafe gets to come home from school every day and see this guy instead of his kind and loving mom. Double awesome.

If you've been reading carefully, you probably noticed a kind of pattern in my life. Just when things seem to be going okay… blah, blah, blah. (35.1)

Yeah, we did notice this pattern. Okay, so Rafe has given up playing the rule-breaking game, but then Miller the Killer comes along and snatches his Operation R.A.F.E. notebook away from him. Can't a kid get a break?

But here's the funny part. Even though I felt like I was still living in the Dark Ages, nobody seemed to notice. As far as Mom, and Jeanne, and even Donatello were concerned, I'd already turned over a whole new leaf. (38.11)

Rafe is trying to earn money to buy back his notebook pages from Miller and he's got a thousand other problems in his life, but he's keeping them all under wraps while he's trying desperately to appear totally normal to everyone else. For right now, it's working, but it's really stressing the kid out. Dark days, indeed.

I may have been dressed as a falcon, but I'll tell you what. I felt like the biggest Thanksgiving turkey in the world. (40.32)

It's tough asking a pretty girl out…then getting rejected. Rafe thinks that he and Jeanne might have a little connection, but she doesn't see things that way. Plus, he happens to be dressed in a giant bird costume which makes it a whole lot more humiliating. That'll hit you right in the feels.

The next forty-five minutes in that office was about as much fun as a day at Disneyworld— when it's pouring rain. And all there is to eat are hot-dog buns. And you get electrocuted on the rides. (47.5)

Way to make Disneyworld sound depressing, Rafe. He's just gotten in a fight with Miller and Mom has been called in to discuss his poor behavior (and his grades) and what can be done. In Rafe's defense—Miller is the worst and totally deserved it.

At least when I was playing Operation R.A.F.E., I had some fun while I was being miserable.

Hmmm… miserable and fun? Or miserable and no fun? You tell me. (48.4-5)

The kid has a point. He's been trying pretty hard to do the right thing—well, he's been trying kind of hard at least. Maybe he should go back to all that rule breaking? At least he wasn't totally bummed all the time.

"Hey, Khatchadorian!" he yelled over. "You get my package?"

Now, believe it or not, I'd almost forgotten about that envelope. I'd spent the whole night blaming myself for what had happened. I hadn't stopped to remember how it all had kicked off with that ring of the doorbell— just before Mom and Bear started arguing… and Georgia couldn't stop crying… and Mom ended up at the hospital. (71.4-5)

Wow. Miller just doesn't know when to quit. Seriously. This kid has caused so much trouble for Rafe and he just will not stop while he's ahead. Somebody needs to expel Miller.

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