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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Georgia Rocks! Middle School: My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar by James Patterson and Lisa Papademotriou

"IT'S SO GREAT THAT YOU AREN'T AFRAID TO HAVE GREEN HAIR," Rhonda gushed. "YOU AND I ARE A LOT ALIKE--WE'RE NOT AFRAID TO BE DIFFERENT, RIGHT, GEORGIA?"

Rhonda was talking at an even higher volume than usual, and a few people stared as we made our way down the hall.< "I'm not trying to be different," I snapped.

"YOU'RE JUST BEING YOURSELF!" Rhonda crowed. "WE ARE WHO WE ARE!"

"Rhonda! We're not alike, okay? So can you please just stop following me around?"

Rhonda froze up. Her eyes filled with tears
.

It's not like Georgia has great expectations for her first day at Hills Valley Middle School. After all, her brother Rafe had practically brought the school down in his year there, attempting to break every rule in the book. And then, there's no way she can slip in under the radar with a last name like Khatchadorian. And in a payback prank, Rafe slips some green dye into her shampoo and she has to face the first day of school with green hair.

Rafe may have gone off to Airbrook Arts School, but his name is still anathema at HVMS. Every table in the cafeteria seems to be a Khatchadorian-free zone, and Missy Trillin, pop princess queen-bee and her interchangeable followers Brittany and Bethany zero in on her as their chosen victim-of-the-month, ridiculing her clothes, her limp, and of course her hair. Teachers turn into trolls when they see her name on the roll, and the only friendly face she finds is Rhonda, a super-sized middle-school loser straight from central casting who latches onto her like a barnacle onto a barge.

At least Georgia has her friends from Airbrook, Nanci, Patti, and Mari, and their as-yet-unnamed rock band. Sure. she is just learning her first three chords, but Georgia has high hopes. That is, until she discovers that Rafe has malevolently signed them up for the upcoming Battle of the Bands at the HVMS dance, presided over by (who else?) Dance Committee Chairperson, Missy Trillin. "We STINK!" Georgia moans, but Rhonda, who has tagged along for rehearsal, thinks We Stink is a killer name for the group. She even offers her services as band singer. She won't need a microphone, Georgia admits, with dread.

James Patterson's latest in his best-selling Middle School series, Middle School: My Brother Is a Big, Fat Liar (Little, Brown, 2013), has all the elements in place for a middle-school serio-comic trauma tale.  Giving the distaff side a chance in her very own book, Georgia is an appealing narrator as she deals with the world's most annoying big brother and the travail of the school scene, struggling to keep her A+ super student status with all the cards stacked against her. Although most readers will suspect how this one will turn out, it's fun getting to that delicious denouement when Missy gets her just desserts (rice pudding and all) and a literal putdown as We Stink rocks and rolls right over her. Patterson throws the readers an interesting curve with his introduction of Georgia's sudden realization that she is adopted, and that Rafe is, after all, NOT her brother. Or IS he? Although this serious side note introduces a new element into this sibling story, it is well foreshadowed and adds a bit of depth to the warring sibling theme.

Patterson's earlier books in this series, all illustrated in pseudo-Rafe drawings by Neil Swaab, are Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life and Middle School: Get Me out of Here!

And wait! There's More! Summer vacation is coming and it seems those opposing siblings Rafe and Georgia are off to Camp Wannamorra, with remediation for Rafe and enrichment for Georgia and all the usual suspects of summer camp just waiting for them in the forthcoming-in-June Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill.

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