Study Guide

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Rules and Order

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Rules and Order

People always talk about how great it is to get older. All I saw were more rules and more adults telling me what I could and couldn't do, in the name of what's "good for me." Yeah, well, asparagus is good for me, but it still makes me want to throw up. (5.20)

Rafe kind of has a point here. Getting older does mean more responsibility and more rules to follow. And some of those rules are totally pointless. (Seriously, we're removing our mattress tags. We don't care what they say.)

Did you ever hear the expression "breaking every rule in the book"?

That was it. That was my Big Idea. Break every rule in the book. Literally. (6.1-2)

This is basically the entire premise of Rafe's story. He's going to break all the rules and fulfill his destiny as the rule-breaking-est kid that ever lived.

First of all, it needed a name. I thought about it for a while and came up with Operation R.A.F.E., which stands for: Rules Aren't For Everyone. (12.1)

Hmm. We've got a little quibble. Is Rafe really saying he's above the rules? Are rules for other people, but not him? Or there shouldn't be rules at all? Or…just that he wants to break rules and wants a slogan that matches his name?

By Friday, I could tell something was missing. Just breaking the rules by itself wasn't going to cut it. I needed something more. I needed a boost in my game.

I needed… (wait for it)… Leo-izing!

He caught up with me at my locker just before eighth-period English. And of course he knew right away what I should do. Leo always does. (14.5-7)

Let's face it—not all rule-breaking is glamorous. Chewing gum in class is kind of boring. Running in the halls? Amateur hour. If Rafe really wants to get a real breaking-the-law rush, then he's going to have to up the ante.

"Call it the Don't Be a Bear Rule," Leo said.

"How about just the No-Hurt Rule?" I said.

"Good enough," Leo said, and I wrote that down in the notebook too.

I'm not saying I'm some kind of saint. I'm not even saying this made me a better person, whatever that means. (I'm still trying to figure that one out.) But if putting the No-Hurt Rule into the game could make me even a little bit less like Bear, then I was all for it.

Because Bear was all about hurting.

This is actually a pretty good idea. Some of the things Rafe is doing might end up being dangerous or pulling other kids in, so he's smart to start thinking about some of this stuff now. If he gets in trouble, fine: but he's not going to knowingly bring other people down with him.

Leo shrugged. "Could have been worth some good points. "Section Nine, Rule Eleven: Students will not bully, harass, or fight one another anywhere on school property."

"No fair," I said. "Just 'cause I didn't fight him doesn't mean I should lose a life! You never said—"

"I said I'd keep things interesting," Leo told me. "You've got your job, and I've got mine."

It's true: Leo does like to keep things interesting. And maybe he's kind of right. Rafe does end up fighting Miller later in the book. Would an earlier fight have made Miller back off? Or would it have made the bully even madder?

"There's no rule against ninjas," I said. "And believe me, I checked."

"Consider it our newest regulation," Stricker said. "No ninjas allowed, at Halloween or anytime. You're going to have to take that off."

"Okay, okay," I said, like it was a big deal, but this was actually the part I'd been waiting for. Phase two: double points! (27.18-20)

Bad news is Rafe got ninjas outlawed. Good news is he's about to break way more rules—by taking the costume off. Taking it all off. Hey, he was just following Mrs. Stricker's instructions.

"You're right," I told her. "It is stupid. Just as stupid as some of these rules." I don't know why Jeanne was talking to me, and I don't know why I always told her everything I was thinking. Still, she didn't walk away, so I kept going. "No hats? No sunglasses? No pants that are too big or shirts that are too small? Do you really think all these rules do anything to make the school a better place?"

"That's not up to me," she said. (30.10-11)

Rafe's kind of right here. Some rules are kind of dumb. Does a kid wearing a hat really affect the ability of everyone else to learn? But Jeanne just accepts the rules for what they are. Rafe, on the other hand, isn't content just to sit back like a robot. Hey, even if you're not cool with breaking the rules, you can at least question them.

"The point is," Jeanne said, "nobody got hurt and nothing really happened. I mean, it's not like any rules got broken. Not really."

"A very important rule was broken the moment you went into that restroom," Mrs. Stricker said. "I'm afraid after-school detention is mandatory in this case."

"What?" Jeanne said.

"Come on!" I practically yelled. "That's totally unfair!"

And now Jeanne sees these stupid rules for what they are. She's right—no one got hurt by her standing in the boys' bathroom for a few minutes—but rules are rules and it's detention for her. You'd really think Mrs. Stricker would let this one slide, but she's being awful rule-abiding here. Looks like Rafe had a point, after all.

"You're not going to regret this," Leo kept telling me. The way he saw it, the whole point of Operation R.A.F.E. was about breaking rules, so why should I let a little thing like losing the game stop me from doing the part I'd been looking forward to the most?

Like I said before—genius. (64.2-3)

Leo is kind of a genius. Operation R.A.F.E. might have rules, but who cares? Rafe eats rules for breakfast.

A minute later, the copies of my notebook were spread all over Mr. Dwight's desk. It was all right there—the rules for Operation R.A.F.E., every school regulation I'd broken, and all those stupid pictures Leo and I had drawn along the way. Now everyone could see exactly how much of a juvenile delinquent I was. I just stared at the floor.

"Well, this explains a thing or two," Mrs. Stricker said. (73.1-2)

Yikes. There it all is for everyone to see. All Rafe's rule-breaking glory. Sure, Mom means to show off Rafe's artistic abilities, but Rafe figures this means he's toast. This is the evidence against him. Luckily, his teachers see it for what it is and don't freak out. Sure, he's still expelled, but he gets bonus points for creativity and isn't shipped off to juvie.

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