David Greenburg is 11 years old and about to start middle school. He’s not too worried until his older cousin Jack tells him about the horrors he may face, including a toilet-bowl swirlie on his birthday. David has other worries on his mind too: his mom left the family to live on a farm in Maine that has no electricity or phone service, his best friend Elliott no longer speaks to him, and his older sister Lindsay is hostile a lot of the time. The only good thing he has going is his grandmother, Bubbe, the TalkTime videos he records and posts on YouTube, and his pet hamster.
Things start to look up when he meets Sophie on his first day of school. Sophie is just starting public school after being taught at home by her mom, and she loves David’s videos. When she spreads the word about TalkTime through her homeschool network, David’s videos suddenly become way more popular than he is, leading to consequences both good and bad.
How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart is a funny and poignant look at a trying time of life for most adolescents. The comforts of elementary school are gone, some kids are maturing way faster than others, teachers are stricter, and new friendships are forming while old ones may be falling away. Bullies may be more of a problem. Gephart does a great job of showing how conflicted David feels about so much going on around him.
Mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 12 will find a lot to talk about here—friendships, family relationships, relating to parents after divorce, pets, YouTube, and both the rewards and pitfalls of growing up. You may also want to serve Bubbe’s Jewish Apple Cake (recipe included at the back of the book) when you get together to talk about this book.
I laughed a lot and cried a little while reading How to Survive Middle School, and I highly recommend it. You may also want to check out the YouTube video of HammyTime.
The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.