Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Have you ever picked something up just because you've been told the author is amazing, and then after you start reading/listening to it begin to wonder if the world is crazy or if you just have no taste? That is what happened to me when I first started listening to this middle-schooler geared audiobook. Patterson is supposed to be a genius. So many people in my town rave about how amazing his stuff is. So what's wrong with me? Why can't I get into his stuff?
I knew I was in trouble when the intro music (an annoying electric guitar piece) continued even after the narrator started the story which made it difficult to focus on the words. The reader's voice (Bryan Kennedy) was beyond annoying, but I'll say more about that in a minute.
I picked this book up because I have 2 middle-schoolers; my oldest son (who now loves to read) has been stuck in the high fantasy/middle-ages genre. I was hoping this story would be suitable for him to read to get him out of the reading rut. Not that there is anything wrong with fantasy, just I'm running out of options for him at the library. I'm not sure if this book is actually in print or if it is only in audio format (I'm guessing the latter as the main character references the fact that he is talking to me-his listener-through his story on an audiobook--a device I found quite annoying personally) but it doesn't matter. I won't be getting this book out for him. It wasn't anything like what I expected.
What did I expect? Well, this is a James Patterson story, so I expected super short chapters. Score one for me. One chapter was only 1 sentence long. I also expected some cheesy, cliche-laden scenes and dialogue. Two-for-two, go Samantha! What I didn't expect was just HOW cheesy and cliched this story would be. I absolutely HATED the plot. The main character is annoying. Just about all the characters are annoying. Maybe it was the reader's voice that made them that way, but I have a feeling it was just the way the characters were written.
I think there are a few points I should make to explain why I feel this story is so bad.
1) The story is about a boy who is bored in school and decides to play a game he created to make school more fun. The game is to break every rule in the rule book. I know it's a work of fiction meant to entertain our youth, but could you send a worse message? Yeah, you could, but this one was bad enough. And the ending made it even worse.
2) The game the boy creates (Operation RAFE) is ridiculous. My 6th grade son started listening to this book with me and he looked at me and said, "Is this writer for real? Does he actually think a sixth grader would be like that? The kid seems more like a third or fourth grader to me." My 6th grade daughter chimed in her agreeance. I just about fell over at that. My daughter AGREED with her brother! And what they agreed on was that this book was ridiculous. She opted not to listen to it any more after disc 1 and asked me to turn it off when she was in the car with me. This from the book's target audience guys!
3) More about the game...the point system. ????? Really? And the rewards for a million points(?) are absurd. To be honest, I can't even remember them as they were only mentioned once and were so off-the-wall, over-the-top insane, it's just crazy. At this point, even my third grader was scratching his head trying to understand the point system and just what the point was for earning the points.
4) The reader's voice. Oh, the reader's voice. Grating. Annoying. I could say more unpleasant things, but I'll leave it at that. My first grader said the voice reminded him of Shaggy from Scooby Doo. I disagree with that but found it an interesting comparison.
5) If you look past the idiotic game (plot) and were able to suffer through the sound, you come to my next big issue...the ending. Okay, so the kid is a delinquent who is failing out of school, getting into fights, and trying to break rules. So, what should we do with a kid like that? Let's REWARD him with art school. Sure, he gets a punishment of getting expelled and has to complete sixth grade in his mother's diner, but he gets a huge reward with minimal punishment. The supposed authorities let a family tragedy which happened nearly a decade before excuse the kid's behavior and bad choices. I just feel this is giving a really bad message to our kids. Do whatever you want and, no matter how bad/illegal your choices are, everything will work out.
I wasn't the biggest James Patterson fan to begin with, but after this story, I'm even less of a fan. I listened to his Witches & Wizards story (The One Who Is The One - my hubby and I still joke about that) and read a couple of his adult books, but am just not impressed. I think this may be the last J.P. book I pick up.
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