Study Guide

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Family

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So mostly I don't trust anybody. Except my mom, Jules. (Most of the time, anyway.) (1.4)

Well, at least Rafe's got his mom…sometimes, at least. Jules is a pretty great mom. She obviously loves and cares about her son, even if she can't always be there for him.

Bear and Mom had just gotten engaged that summer, over Fourth of July. That's when Bear moved in. Mom asked Georgia and me what we thought about it before she said yes, but what were we going to tell her? "You're about to get engaged to the world's biggest slug"? I don't think she would have listened, anyway.

Now Mom was working double shifts at the diner all the time just to make enough money, and Bear was spending 99 percent of his time on our couch, except maybe to go to the bathroom or to collect his stupid unemployment check.

Bottom line? My mom was way too good for this guy, but unfortunately neither of them seemed to know it. (8.16-18)

The whole Mom and Bear situation is tough for Rafe and Georgia. Bear's living with them now and he's supposed to become a permanent part of their family. The trouble is, he really isn't a good dad or even a nice person. He makes their whole house tense and the kids can't stand him. But how can they tell their mom that? They want her to be happy, right?

"And Rafe? You haven't… seen Leo lately, have you?" she asked.

Ouch. I didn't see that one coming.

Leo's kind of a touchy subject in our house. This was the first time in a long time I felt like I had to tell Mom a 100 percent lie, so I just shook my head no. Somehow it seemed better than lying out loud.

Mom looked relieved— which is exactly why I lied, so she wouldn't worry.

"Okay, then," she said. "Remember, if you ever need to talk about anything—"

"I know, Mom. Thanks," I said. (19.19-24)

Rafe trusts Mom…but not totally. He doesn't tell her the truth about Leo, but can't bring himself to totally lie in words. Mom isn't mad at him though when she asks. She's pretty compassionate and understanding. She loves Rafe and wants to help him. Maybe he should tell Mom the truth?

"Does Leo have anything to do with this?"

I probably would have told her the truth, but Bear decided what he thought about it before I could even open my mouth.

"Again with the Leo thing?" he yelled at me. "I've had it up to here with that! I don't want to ever hear the name Leo in this house again, understand? You… freak!"

"YOU'RE THE FREAK!" I shouted back. (24.17-20)

Bear, on the other hand, is not so compassionate and understanding. He's pretty much the opposite of Jules when it comes to parenting. Instead of trying to talk to Rafe, he calls the kid a freak and forbids him from talking about Leo. (Which is pretty messed up considering Leo is actually Rafe's dead twin brother.)

"You kids can go ahead and order," she said. "Bear called to say he couldn't make it. He's got somewhere else to be."

"On your birthday?" I asked, which I probably shouldn't have. Mom was trying to pretend like it didn't matter, but she's an artist, not an actress, if you know what I mean. (31.7-8)

Just more confirmation—Bear is the worst. On the plus side, Rafe and Georgia get to have dinner without him.

"Actually, scratch that. I don't care if you work it out or not. Rafe, this is the new arrangement. Carl will be checking your homework, and that's that."

I expected her to say something else, like "And as for you, Carl…" but she didn't. She just got out some eggs and started making breakfast, like nothing had happened.

Like she hadn't just turned me into bear food.

And I thought, I gave up my mission for you.

Mom had always been the one real person I felt like I could trust. Even after Bear moved in with us, I figured she'd still be on my side when it really counted. Now I didn't know what to think anymore, except—GET ME OUT OF HERE! (44.27-31)

Okay, so Rafe feels pretty betrayed by Mom here. He gave up Operation R.A.F.E. because it was making her sad and now she's putting Bear in charge of his homework. Come on, Mom? But in Mom's defense, what is she supposed to do? Rafe is falling behind in school and she's not home to make sure Rafe is doing his schoolwork. Bear is. So, the job falls to him. She in a tough place because she's trying to help Rafe, but she also loves Bear (for some reason). What's a Mom to do?

Mom and Bear got into a big fight that afternoon when she told him what had happened. He kept yelling about how she wasn't "hard enough" on me, and she kept telling him to back off. I just stayed in my room, wishing for it to be over. (48.1)

Obviously, Mom and Bear aren't on the same page when it comes to parenting. Rafe feels a little responsible for this, but Bear is so over-the-top that it's hard to understand why Jules doesn't kick him out of the house.

What do you suppose Bear did when the Hills Village Police brought me home just after sunrise that morning?

  1. He bribed the cops to go away and forget this ever happened.
  2. He took me out for a delicious breakfast.
  3. He went ballistic and started chasing me all over the house until I locked myself in the bathroom and Mom told him to calm down or she was going to call the police back herself.

Answer: Let's just say it's a good thing I'm fast on my feet. (67.2-6)

Yeah, that's about how we thought Bear would react. Rafe's lucky he's quick.

"Just look at this stuff! I'm telling you, that kid's nothing but a little hoodlum."

"Don't talk about him that way," Mom said, "and lower your voice."

"Are you kidding me?" Bear said. "Listen, if you're not
going to do something about this, I will. In fact, I'm going to get him right now."

"No, you're not. Not like this," Mom said.

The front door slammed, and they started arguing outside. I couldn't understand what they were saying anymore, but it was obviously about me. My blood started to pump.

The next thing I heard was Bear roaring. "DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!"

Then Mom said something I couldn't hear.

Then, "SHUT UP, JULES! JUST SHUT UP!" (68.7-14)

This is a really scary scene. But it's an important one, because domestic violence is a real thing that happens in kids' homes every day. We're not totally shocked that Bear finally shoves Jules and hurts her. The dude has always had a temper. Even though Jules says he didn't mean it, it's clear he crosses a line and it's good that she calls him out on it and refuses to take his nonsense for one more second. Get it, Jules.

"Jules, call me," he said. "Here's the number. Five-two-four—"

Mom hit the ERASE button before he could even finish. It made me want to cheer […]

"Things are going to change around here," Mom said. "Bear's not going to be living with us anymore, and hopefully that means I can afford to stop working double shifts at the diner too." (70.4-5, 8)

Finally, Mom comes to her senses and dumps Bear for good. It took quite a bit, but he finally stepped over the line. Mom realizes that Bear has been bringing their family down for too long. Her kids need her and that's what she's going to do.

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