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Middle School Monday – Me and Miranda Mullaly by Jake Gerhardt – Guest Post and Review

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Me & Miranda Mullaly by Jake Gerhardt goes on sale tomorrow, January 26th. Today, Jake joins us to provide a little insight into his own middle school experience.

The Dance

            When I was in middle school my friends and I went to a lot of dances. Our school, Elkins Park, held a handful of dances. They were great fun, and like the Penn Valley depicted in Me and Miranda Mullaly, the dances were held in the gym. It’s also true that one half of the gym had a pretty good basketball game going.

My friends and I really loved to dance, so we hit the dance floor almost the entire time. Duran Duran was really popular then, and when one of their songs was played all the girls danced together, singing the lyrics to each other. This was very awkward for us boys, and I loathed when I had to dance alone. I was extremely self-conscious when this happened, and could feel everyone’s eyes on me. This was a situation I tried to avoid at all costs. Fortunately when the Duran Duran song was over things would return to normal and I was right back into it, happily jumping up and down to non-Duran Duran songs.

The trouble was, and always would be, when the slow songs played. If you didn’t have someone to dance with, you had to walk off the dance floor. And I rarely had someone to dance with during the slow songs because that meant you were “going out.” So when I heard the beginning to Phil Collins’s “Against All Odds” or Journey’s “Faithfully” I strolled off the dance floor the way the president walks from Marine One into the White House. I didn’t want to look like I was rushing, but I wanted everyone to think I was off to do something important. I waved and smiled just like the president does.

I had much better luck at the Knights of Columbus dances. These were held once a month at the Knights of Columbus (surprise!) social hall for the students who went to the area Catholic school. My best pal and I never missed one of these.

There were a few reasons why the Knights of Columbus dances were better. For one thing, there was nowhere to go once you were in the hall besides the bathroom. There was a side room where they had some hot dogs (not hot enough to hide the congealed fat they were floating in) and sodas. But the room was a little creepy because the old guys who were supposed to be watching us were sipping cold beer, in their own little worlds, probably listening to Harry James in their heads.

Another plus was that the girls we went with were from St. James, a small school which had only twenty kids in the eighth grade class, eleven girls and nine boys. The St. James boys were all checking out the girls from Seven Dolores and St. Luke’s and Immaculate Conception, so my friend and I were, at least in the eyes of the girls, different, which translated to mysterious and cool. Even my clothes (and I basically wore the same clothes every day) were chic in the eyes of the girls who had to wear uniforms to school and saw me only once a month.

As soon as we got there we danced and we danced and we danced.

Before I knew it I had a girl to dance with. She had blonde hair and appeared to be pretty. (I never did see her in the full light of the sun.) The best thing was that she danced with me during the slow songs and when they played the final song, which for some reason was always “Stairway to Heaven” and everyone seemed to know it intimately besides me. (My father was a Barry Manilow man.)

It was pure bliss to have a girl to dance with during the love songs. After about five minutes of dancing I was covered with sweat, which tended to be similar to the slime one usually finds on an amphibian. But my blonde girl didn’t seem to mind as we danced to the greatest love songs ever produced. Has there ever been a song with more passion than Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”? And then there was “Endless Love,” that wonderful duet by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross. My goodness, it’s a wonder we didn’t run off and elope after that passionate masterpiece of pure bliss.

But we didn’t. In fact, although I lived in the same area as the blonde, I don’t think our paths ever crossed again.

When you read this novel, you’ll see why the above story provides so much insight into the background behind the novel, as will the information that Jake played football and basketball, ran track, performed in the school musical, and was a member of the student council when he was in middle school. Continue reading below for my take on it.

Miranda Mullaly must lead a charmed life to have not one or two, but three boys fall in love with her at the same time. Or she 25894020must be irresistibly charming. In fact, neither is actually the case. The reality of this story is that it hinges on one crucial truth – your first crush is often an incomprehensible mystery, especially when it happens in middle school.

The three boys in question are vastly different types with one thing in common, they all fall for Miranda at the same time. As Sam, the class clown, Duke, the class brainiac, and Chollie (think Charlie without the ‘r’,) the class athlete, each seek to gain the interest and attention of Miranda Mullaly, hijinks ensue. Following the advice of different people in their lives, the boys join activities Miranda shows interest in, such as the school play and student leadership roles. Chollie is excited when he and Miranda are assigned as science group partners, and all three engage in a fight over who is going to shovel Miranda’s family’s front walk when it snows.

I’m of two minds about this story, to be honest. I was somewhat bothered by how unlikable many of the characters (but most notably Duke and Miranda) are. The school librarian in me was appalled by the frankly derogatory way most of the characters viewed the teachers and administrators at their school. The lack of empathy displayed by many of the characters was disturbing. But I think most of that has to do with me viewing the story through the eyes of an adult who works with children this age.

My other opinion is that my students who read this novel will probably recognize themselves, their friends, and their peers within its pages. It is engagingly well written with enough humor to sustain the interest of even the pickiest of readers. I think it will do very well with the crowd of students who enjoy the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

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