If you were like the 99% of kids (according to the blurb) who hated middle school, then this book is full of ouch. Actually, even if you were one of the 1% (the cool kids who were not only popular but had neither academic nor family problems), then this book is full of at least second-hand ouch.
A compilation of short comics written and illustrated by a variety of cartoonists, most of whom are about my age or a little younger, so I could relate to the 80s setting of most of the stories, this book is basically all about how middle school sucks. I guess this is supposed to comfort the target audience, to tell them that they are not alone in being awkward, miserable, unpopular, inferior, and lonely?
Of course with an adult's perspective we know that for most of us, the trials we imagined we were enduring were not really that bad, that everyone else was too preoccupied with their own issues to be giving us nearly as much attention as we thought they were, and that every adolescent ever has been awkward and embarrassed and self-conscious.
The stories are your usual trials of middle school hell: being the new kid, the outsider, the freak, the geek, the loner, experiencing the betrayals, the drama, the discomfort, the creepy old teachers and the well-meaning teachers who are equally annoying to kids who want nothing to do with adults, the parents who range from loving and understanding to abusive but who likewise are always the last people on earth you want to associate with when you are 13. So much of it was familiar, of course.
But while there were some amusing and touching stories in this collection, nothing was really laugh-out-loud funny, nor was anything truly poignant. We have all been there and done that and know that middle school sucked, and mostly what the stories reminded me of was how absolutely inane and self-absorbed most kids are. Not their fault - I was certainly inane and self-absorbed. But I didn't really enjoy the stories that much, I was too busy wincing from Fremdscham
The artwork also ranged toward the sketchy and cartoonish. So, maybe this is a good volume to give your suffering adolescent child to let her know that she is not the only one in the world to feel this way and no, the whole entire world is actually not watching every move you make and judging how you eat and talk and walk. But I prefer longer stories with more of a moral than "Yup, sucks to be 13."