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Book Review

Middle School, Get Me Out of Here! by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, with illustrations by Laura Park, has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the second book in the "Middle School" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

After a troubled sixth-grade year at Hills Village Middle School, Rafe Khatchadorian is ready to start fresh at a local art-centered academy. Then the restaurant where Mom works burns down, and she moves the family to Grandma's apartment in the big city 80 miles away. Grandma is a packrat, and her small apartment has barely enough room for Mom, Rafe and Rafe's younger sister, Georgia. Rafe sleeps on the couch and prepares himself for a horrible year. Then Mom surprises him by telling him she's found an even better art school for him in the city.

At his new school, the Cathedral School of the Arts, Rafe learns that students who don't excel aren't invited back for a second year. Rafe has an imaginary friend named Leo, whom he has created to fill the void left behind by the twin brother he lost at age 3. At Leo's urging, Rafe launches Operation: Get A Life. Rafe's mission is to do something every day that he's never done before. He will only succeed if these antics don't prevent him from getting back into Cathedral the following year.

Many of Rafe's new experiences are positive and enriching. He tries new foods, takes art classes, improves his grades and visits local landmarks. But when Rafe receives a scathing critique on his self-portrait from classmates Zeke and Kenny, fellow student Matty the Freak is eager to help Rafe get revenge. Matty and Rafe drop water-filled latex gloves on Zeke and Kenny, who retaliate by pouring paint in Rafe's locker. The principal questions Rafe about the water-filled gloves, and Rafe denies any involvement.

As Grandma goes through old boxes to make more space in the apartment, Rafe sees a picture of his parents in front of a barbershop called Hairy's. All he knows about Dad was that he left when Rafe was 4. Rafe can't stop thinking about his father and makes a trip to Hairy's to see what he can learn about the man. He meets a scary barber he later learns is his uncle. The barber won't tell Rafe anything without Mom's consent.

Matty shows Rafe how to sneak into R-rated movies and eat free dinners at a soup kitchen. When Zeke and Kenny create a cruel Web page about Rafe, he allows Matty to talk him into more revenge. Matty suggests they kidnap Zeke's and Kenny's art projects and hold them for ransom until the website is taken down. In the process of the art-napping, Rafe falls and destroys Zeke's sculpture. Matty avoids capture, as always, while Rafe gets in-school suspension and grounding until further notice.

Rafe uses his lock-down time to be creative and helpful. Back in school, he focuses on his project for the spring art show. On a class field trip to the art museum, Matty asks Rafe to hold his backpack. Matty has stolen a pen from the gift shop, and police surround Rafe when the alarm sounds. Rafe is tired of getting in trouble for Matty's crimes and tells officers the truth. Soon, he's on the wrong side of Matty's pranks. Matty's final act is to hack into Rafe's digital art project and alter it to cruelly mention Rafe's absentee father.

Angry and distraught, Rafe runs from the classroom, takes money from his mom's drawer and rides the bus back to Hills Village. There he visits Jeanne Galletta, a former classmate he liked. He realizes she doesn't share his feelings, but he thanks her for always being kind to him. Jeanne's parents make Rafe call his mom, who comes to get him early the next morning. She takes him to the cemetery where his father is buried, explaining that Dad was a war hero but not always a hero as a father and husband. Rafe feels some closure learning about his dad. He and Mom pass the diner where Mom used to work and see that it's been rebuilt after the fire. The boss offers Mom her old job, and the family, Grandma included, moves back to Hills Village. Rafe gets into the art school he was initially supposed to attend, and Mom's boss allows him to have an art show at the diner.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Mom goes to numerous job interviews in an effort to support her family. She demonstrates love and concern for, as well as frustration over, Rafe and his problems at school. Grandma, a kind woman with occasional mental lapses, allows the family to live in her small apartment. Rafe learns from Mom that his dad was killed in combat. Despite Dad's status as a war hero, Mom says he wasn't always such a hero to the family. Rafe's former teacher, Mrs. Donatello, helps him get into art school despite many bad choices he's made.


The words heck and butt appear several times.


Rafe sees an R-rated zombie movie in which a woman is naked throughout it.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying: Rafe frequently lies to Mom, Grandma, his principal and others.

Stealing: Rafe takes money out of his mom's drawer, leaving a signed IOU note. A pen is stolen, and he tries to steal Zeke's and Kenny's projects.

Bathroom humor: Rafe talks about farting and says he'd have told his teacher he was wearing ladies' underwear if it would have ended the lesson quicker.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

10 to 13


James Patterson, Chris Tebbetts






Record Label



Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group Inc.


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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