September 5, 2016

Middle school survival guide

Surviving Middle School: Navigating the Halls, Riding the Social Roller Coaster, and Unmasking the Real You
by Luke Reynolds

Reynolds begins his book with a hilarious account of his first day of middle school and how awesome it was. Sadly, his fond memories are shattered by members of his own family, who reveal the harsh truth: his middle school experience was awful. But somehow, it didn’t stop him from returning – this time as a middle school English teacher.

Using personal observations from his years in the classroom, Reynolds urges his student readers to always be true to themselves and resist the evil forces (he calls them space gnomes) that try to bring them down. These forces include competitiveness, peer pressure, grade obsession, romance, and scary teachers. He wants his students to be resilient and persevere – traits that he calls “caked dirt”, which is difficult to remove. This sense of determination and self-worth should guard against loss of confidence, which he emphasizes through end-of-chapter writing exercises designed to foster self-awareness and acceptance.

Reynolds’ sense of humour, affection, playfulness, and honesty will be appreciated by his young audience, unless they don’t like garlic bread (which represents their inner selves). Reynolds really really loves garlic bread – an obsession that soon gets tiresome. He's also a bit wordy at times, which may challenge some readers. But his advice is sound and will definitely help in navigating the perils of middle grade. 

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