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Middle School: Born to Rock
Illustrated by Neil Swaab
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- ebook $9.99 $12.99 CAD
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It’s not easy being Rafe Khatchadorian’s sister. He’s got quite a reputation around school, and Georgia’s got it hard enough as is! With a super secret crush on her classmate Sam Marks, a Rube Goldberg machine challenge to dominate, and constant confrontations with vicious Missy Trillin and her evil Princess Patrol to look forward to, Georgia can’t help but throw all her energy into the one thing that makes her happy: her kick-butt, all-girl rock band, We Stink!
My Name is Georgia Khatchadorian (But You Probably Already Knew That, Didn’t You?)
I’ve wanted to be a famous rock star for a long time now. Then the other day I got my wish.
Believe it or not, I’m famous now. Everyone in my hometown knows who I am. In fact, it feels like everywhere you look these days—there I am again.
Just not in a good way.
More like a ruin-your-life, wish-you-could-crawl-in-a-hole-and-never-come-out kind of way.
And if you know anything about me and my family, then you won’t be surprised when I tell you this is all my big brother Rafe’s fault.
Have you ever heard the story of King Midas? He’s the guy who turned everything into piles of gold just by touching it. Well, my brother is like the opposite of that. Everything he touches turns into huge, enormous piles of disaster.
Like, for instance, my life.
For the record, I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, and I’ve had some Titanic-sized disasters of my very own. But none of it erases the fact that trouble follows my brother around the same way that an awful smell follows a skunk everywhere it goes.
Don’t worry, I’m going to tell you all about it. But to do that, I really need to take a step back and start this story where every story starts. At the beginning.
And this one begins with a single, solitary egg.
The name of the assignment was the Great Egg Drop Challenge. Our science teacher, Mrs. Hibbs, said that everyone had to design a capsule that would protect an ordinary egg from breaking when it got thrown off the roof of Hills Village Middle School.
Kind of cool, right?
For my capsule, I used a shoebox. Inside it I put a block of Styrofoam with an egg-sized hole cut out, and I tied five purple helium balloons to the outside.
Those balloons were my secret weapon. If this worked, my capsule was going to float gently down to the ground like it was made of feathers. I was really careful about the way I designed the whole thing and spent a lot of time putting it together for a few days before it was due.
As for my brother, I think he started his project about ten minutes before we had to leave for school that morning. I could hear him crashing around in his room while I ate my pancakes.
“What’s he doing in there?” Grandma Dotty asked.
“Just barely scraping by,” I said, because it’s true. The last time Rafe got his homework done ahead of time was… never.
“Rafe! If you want me to drive you to school, now’s the time!” Mom yelled.
“Here I come!” he said, which is when his project came rolling down the hall.
Have you ever seen Raiders of the Lost Ark? You know that part where a giant boulder goes tumbling after Indiana Jones and it’s so big it takes up the whole tunnel? Well, that’s about what our hallway looked like just then. Except instead of a boulder, it was a giant ball made out of Bubble Wrap. Miles and miles and miles of Bubble Wrap.
“That’s your egg capsule?” I said.
“When in doubt, think big!” Rafe said.
Basically, that’s my brother’s motto. But he also has a history of BIG-thinking his way into BIG trouble. Which is why my motto is more like, “When in doubt, do the opposite of Rafe.”
“It’s not even going to fit in the car,” Mom said.
“That’s what this is for,” Rafe said, holding up some rope. “It’s going on the roof.”
I couldn’t tell if Rafe’s capsule was going to pass the challenge or if his egg would wind up like Humpty Dumpty Junior on the sidewalk. And to be honest, I didn’t really care. I just wanted to get an A on my own project.
IMPORTANT FACT #1: There are some things you’re going to need to know for this story. The first is that Rafe and I are in some of the same classes, even though I’m younger than him. Mom says we all have our own special talents. Being smart wasn’t one of Rafe’s.
But you know what else? If I’d known about the Mount Everest–sized trouble that egg was going to cause by the end of the day, I would have faked sick, stayed home, and skipped the whole thing. Too bad for me—I’m better at science than I am at seeing into the future.
So I got in the car with Mom and Rafe and headed off to school to begin the craziest, best-worst, most up-down and awful (but also awesome… but mostly awful) day of my life.
Sam and Eggs (Get It?)
Here we go!” Mrs. Hibbs yelled from the roof of the gym. “Let the Great Egg Drop Challenge begin!”
And just like that, it started raining egg capsules.
Mrs. Hibbs sure knows how to make science class fun. She’s one of my favorite teachers because of her awesome project assignments. And it was especially fun to see my own capsule touch down at about zero miles an hour. And let’s just say, some of the landings weren’t as graceful as mine was. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said it honestly looked like some capsules exploded on contact.
I held my breath the whole time it took me to retrieve my shoebox, but when I looked inside, my egg was still whole, not a gloppy mess. Yes!
Mine wasn’t the only one, either. About half of the eggs made it through the challenge, including Rafe’s. His giant Bubble Wrap ball got the most attention when it dropped and bounced a few times, but it definitely wasn’t the best capsule. The best one was Sam Marks’s. He made a whole self-deploying parachute for his, which was a bit like my balloon idea, but better. And more sophisticated. And cooler.
Which brings me to…
IMPORTANT FACT #2: I have a big fat crush on Sam Marks.
Sam is the cutest boy I’ve ever known. He’s also really nice. Nice to be around. Nice to look at. Nice to everyone he knows, including me. And it doesn’t even seem like he’s pretending!
We even danced at a school dance one time, but I didn’t know if that meant Sam liked me the way I liked him… or not.
That’s the problem with nice. It can mean all kinds of things!
So anyway, I was putting my capsule away after class, and Sam came right up to me at my locker.
“Hey, Georgia,” he said. “Cool capsule.”
“Thanks!” I said. “But yours was better. My balloons will only last for—”
“Twelve to twenty hours,” he said. “I know. I thought about using them, but then I came up with the parachute instead.”
I haven’t even mentioned yet how smart Sam is. He’s kind of a geek, but that’s one of the reasons I like him. I’m kind of a geek, too. Which makes us perfect for each other. Sam probably just hasn’t realized it yet.
I didn’t get any closer to finding out, either. Because that’s when the first really bad thing happened that day. And it was really, really bad—almost as if a dark, evil shadow that brought pain and suffering to everything it touched just happened to cross my path at the exact wrong moment.
And this time, I’m not even talking about Rafe.
Princesses on Patrol
That’s when Missy Trillin came slithering by.
At school, Missy is the Queen of Mean. The Duchess of Darkness. The Sultan of Snobbery.
Missy makes it her full-time business to make sure everyone knows how much better she is.
“Oh, look who it is,” she said. “Tell me, you two. Which came first? The geek or the egg?”
Which is when her two friends started cackling like they were at a junior witch convention. I call them the “Princess Patrol,” because the princesses keep changing so there’s no point in using their names. These days, Alicia and Chloe are on patrol, but Missy Trillin switches best friends the way other people change their underwear.
The thing about the Princesses is, you can’t avoid them. They’re just an unfortunate fact of life. Like diseases. Or tornadoes. Or that boiled vegetable medley they serve in the cafeteria.
Boy, do I hate that vegetable medley. It’s like Alicia and Chloe are the mushy carrots and corn and Missy is the lima beans, which are twice as bad as both of the other two put together.
Before Sam could answer Missy’s mean little joke, I glared right at her. “Buzz off, Lima Bean,” I said. “We’re talking here.”
“Did you just call me Lima Bean?” Missy said.
The other two looked at me like I’d spat on the Queen of England. Or, at least, the Queen of Hills Village Middle School. Nobody talks to Missy that way, but I gave up worrying about her a long time ago.
Still, I probably shouldn’t have made that “buzz off” comment. And I don’t mean because it was rude or uncalled-for—I mean, I shouldn’t have said it the same way you shouldn’t poke a hornet’s nest with a stick.
So there I was, standing between the nicest boy at HVMS and the meanest, most vile collection of girls on the face of the earth, not knowing what to do next, when something else came along and changed everything… again. I told you this was a roller-coastery kind of day, right?
Because that’s when the world’s coolest news hit like a ray of sunshine made out of hundred-dollar bills and unlimited Skittles.
But you’re just going to have to turn the page again to find out what I mean.
Best. News. Ever!
Before Missy could pounce, and before Sam could say another word, my friends Nanci, Mari, and Patti came running up the hall, grabbed me by the arm, and just kept on moving, sweeping me right along with them.
“Come with us,” Mari said.
“What’s going on?” I said.
“Something good,” Patti said. “See you later, Sam! Georgia has to go now!”
They totally ignored the Princesses. But as we were flying away, I heard Chloe behind me.
“Why did Georgia call you Lima Bean?” she asked.
“Shut up, Chloe,” Missy said.
“See you later, Georgia!” Sam called, and just like that I was gone with the wind. I mean, with the band.
IMPORTANT FACT #3: I’m in a band. Like an actual, real band. That’s a big part of this story, too. It’s pretty cool, but probably not as cool as it sounds. For starters, the band’s name is We Stink.
Obviously, this had something to do with We Stink—but what? Whatever it was, it had to be some kind of high-security matter, because we headed straight for the bathroom. And believe me, nobody goes in there for the cozy atmosphere.
“Look at THIS!” Nanci said, as soon as the door swung shut behind us. She held up her phone and pressed Play on a video of a commercial.
“Why are you—?” I said.
“Just listen!” Mari said.
The voice in the ad said: “Okay, all you young rock stars and mock stars out there, start warming up, because Lulu and the Handbags are looking for a warm-up act.”
I’m not sure what it said next, because I was too busy screaming. It was like my ears blew open, my brain caught on fire, and my stomach filled up with popping corn, all at the same time.
Lulu and the Handbags is one of my three favorite bands, and Lulu is my number one idol. She’s totally cool, and talented, and she’s not a supermodel or a princess or any of those other things. She’s just Lulu.
And Lulu is AWESOME.
“It’s open to anyone under sixteen,” Nanci said. “First, you have to post a video on the contest site. Then the top twelve vote-getters will be invited to the live auditions. And the winner of that round will be the warm-up act for Lulu’s big show in the city—”
“And win a thousand bucks!” Mari said, and we all screamed again.
To be honest, I don’t like all that girly stuff, like screaming when you’re excited. But for Lulu, I made an exception. If anything was worth screaming over, I’d say that a chance to meet my idol and warm up for her band was it.
This was turning out to be the best day ever!
For about another twenty seconds.
Caught in the Act
I was just about to start watching that ad on Nanci’s phone again when the bathroom door swung open.
Our principal, Mrs. Stricker, was standing right there looking at us like she’d snared four little chipmunks in her trap.
“Section three, rule two, from the Hills Village Middle School code of conduct!” Her voice echoed off the slightly slimy tiled walls. “No unauthorized cell phone usage is allowed in school except for emergencies!”
I broke in, “But Mrs. Stricker—”
“Is this an emergency?” she said.
Patti tried to get a word in. “Well—”
“No, it is not,” Mrs. Stricker said. “Was there any reasonable cause for all the screaming?”
“Kind of,” I said.
“No, there was not,” Mrs. Stricker said.
“Are those detention slips?” I asked, once I saw the little pink pieces of paper in her hand.
“Yes, they are,” Mrs. Stricker said. “Unless someone’s hair is on fire or a wild animal has been set loose in the halls, there is never any reason for that kind of screaming in my school. Not to mention the cell phone.”
Believe me, I know what a detention slip looks like, and it’s not because I’ve had so many of them. It’s because Rafe could wallpaper our whole apartment with the ones he’s gotten.
I couldn’t even argue with Mrs. Stricker. The fact was, we had broken the rules. Mom wasn’t going to be too happy about this, either.
Rafe, on the other hand? He’d probably be proud of me.
As we came out of the bathroom, Missy and her regal court of butt-kissers were standing right there, watching us.
“Oh, was that you in there?” Missy asked. “I thought it was a bunch of stray cats dying. So I thought I should report it to Mrs. Stricker. Sorrr-eee!”
“I knew it was them,” Chloe said. “But I thought all that screaming was their ‘band practice.’”
“How can you tell the difference?” Alicia said. “They stink!”
“It’s We Stink,” Nanci said.
“Same thing,” Missy said, and the other two cracked up like Missy would immediately dump them if they didn’t laugh their heads off.
I could still hear them laughing as Mrs. Stricker marched us toward the office. And all I could think about was sticking the Princess Patrol into a giant egg capsule, attaching it to a weather balloon, and sending the whole thing out over the Pacific Ocean.
Hopefully never to be seen again.
The Detention Song
A Walking Disaster
As soon as detention was over, the girls and I agreed to race home, get our stuff, and meet at the We Stink studio. Which is really just my garage.
The deadline for contest entries was coming up fast. We had to pick a song, make our video, and get it online, ASAHP (as soon as humanly possible).
So I definitely had a lot on my mind. I also had a lot in my hands, including my backpack, my lunch bag, and my egg capsule, with the egg still inside.
All of which means I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going as I hurried home.
IMPORTANT FACT #4: For me, hurrying is a little slower than it is for some people. My left leg is two centimeters shorter than my right leg. When I’m standing around with bare feet, I call myself the Leaning Tower of Georgia. I have to wear special shoes to make up the difference. My doctor says I’ll probably outgrow it by the time I’m an adult. But in the meantime, I limp a little bit when I walk.
Also, my head was so full of fantasies about meeting Lulu and the Handbags, I didn’t notice that I’d taken the “dangerous” way home until it was too late. And that meant I went right past the Trillin estate.
I’m not going to lie. Missy’s family has the nicest house in Hills Village by a mile. It’s surrounded by big, high gated walls, and out front there’s a big statue of Major Zachary Hills. He’s the founder of our town (we named it after him!), and also Missy’s great-great-great-great-grandfather. Of course.
“Nice walk!” somebody yelled out.
I looked up, and it was Missy with her dog, Benjamins, coming down the driveway and out through their gate.
“Do you use that strut on the runways in Paris?” Missy asked.
And I thought, seriously? This girl had everything you could possibly want from the catalog of life, and she still had to make fun of the way I walked?
I know it shouldn’t have hurt my feelings, because Missy is an evil troll. It doesn’t seem fair that someone who doesn’t have any feelings can hurt yours. But it did.
And that’s probably why I snapped.
Before I knew what I was doing, I popped open that capsule of mine. I reached in. I took out my egg. And I winged it right at Missy—and made a direct hit.
“You IDIOT!” Missy screamed. “Do you know how much this T-shirt cost?”
I’m not normally the type to throw eggs at people. Even at evil people. That’s more of a Rafe move than a Georgia move. But now I was going to pay a Rafe-sized price, because Missy was letting her giant Doberman off the leash and pointing him my way.
“Sic ’er, Benjamins! Eat the geek!” she said.
I may be a little slow, but I’m not bad at climbing. So I went for the nearest high thing I could, which was the wall around the Trillin estate. It’s all covered in ivy, and just like that, I was heading straight up before Benjamins could find out what I tasted like.
I also kept looking back. That was another mistake. Because at the top of the wall, there was a big concrete planter. It was the kind of thing you might look at and think, “I sure hope nobody ever bumps into that and knocks it off the wall.” You might not even guess someone my size could be strong enough to do that.
But you’d be wrong.
“Watch it!” Missy screamed, just before I plowed into that planter…
… and just before it tipped right off the wall…
… and landed on top of Major Hills’s statue…
… and knocked his head clean off.
I had just decapitated Major Hills, the village hero. Also known as Missy’s great-great-great-great-grandfather. And now his head was rolling to a stop in the Trillins’ driveway.
Something told me I wasn’t going to make it to band practice on time.
I’d always been curious about what the inside of the Trillins’ mansion looked like. But this sure wasn’t the way I wanted to find out.
When Mom showed up, I was sitting there, drinking water with a lemon slice in it, like I’d been booked into the world’s nicest prison.
Praise for Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life:A #1 New York Times Bestseller
A #1 Indiebound BestsellerA 2012 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young ReadersA 2013 Hawaii's Children's Choice Award WinnerA 2013 ALSC Summer Reading List BookA 2010 Oregon Children's Choice Award WinnerA 2014 Oregon Reader's Choice Award Nomine
- * "As Patterson artfully weaves a deeper and more thought-provoking tale of childhood coping mechanisms and everyday school and family realities, readers are drawn into a deeper understanding of and compassion for the main characters."—School Library Journal, starred review
- "A keen appreciation of kids' insecurities and an even more astute understanding of what might propel boy readers through a book.... a perfectly pitched novel."—Los Angeles Times
- "Cleverly delves into the events that make middle school so awkward: cranky bus drivers, tardy slips, bathroom passes and lots of rules.... Hopefully, this isn't the last we hear from Rafe Khatchadorian."—The Associated Press
- "It's a chatty, funny, engaging book.... filled with energetic cartoons... that will appeal to your little rebel, depicting teachers as dungeon-keepers, matadors and flying dragons. Patterson... knows how to structure a plot and builds in some surprising--even touching--twists.... Rafe is the bad boy with a heart of gold."—New York Times
- "The book's... dynamic artwork and message that 'normal is boring' should go a long way toward assuring kids who don't fit the mold that there's a place for them, too."—Publishers Weekly
- "Incredibly detailed and imaginative illustrations... add depth and humor.... an enjoyable story that even the most reluctant readers should enjoy."—Library Media Connection
- "There is substance as well as appeal here.... Patterson deftly manages the pace of revelations that take readers deeper into Rafe's fragile trust.... Readers ready for something else in the same vein but more substantive than Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Peirce's Big Nate should be introduced to Rafe."—The Bulletin
- On Sale
- Mar 5, 2019
- Hachette Audio