In 2012, a documentary crew descended upon Westside Middle School to detail the life of an average seventh grader and his classmates.
What they uncovered, though, was far from average. Mostly, it was upper average along with moments of extreme average, highlighted by several minutes of total epicness.
This is the story...
Trevor Jones--perfect attendance award recipient, former neurotic (he hopes)--has been preparing for the start of seventh grade his entire summer.But he is NOT ready for the news his best friend, Libby (proud neurotic, in a color-coding sort of way), drops on him: he must ask a girl to the fall dance. By the end of the day.
Trevor decides he would rather squirt hot sauce in his eyes than attend the dance. Everything changes when he meets mysterious new student Molly (excessive doodler, champion of unnatural hair colors). Trevor starts to think that going to the dance maybe wouldn't be the worst thing ever. But what if she says no to his invitation? More important, what if she says yes?!
Libby Gardner and Cindy Applegate are smile-without-teeth friends, but they are fierce rivals when it comes to politics. Cindy owned the student council elections in fourth and sixth grades, while Libby came out on top in fifth. Now, they both hunger for the prestigious title of seventh grade class president.
But middle school elections have their own rules...and pressures. When Trevor Jones is forced to join the presidential race, he devises a plan to make sure his best friend Libby wins. That all changes when he discovers that Libby has oh-so-sneakily gone behind his back by hiring Molly Decker to be her campaign manager. Now, he's in it to win it. And things are going to get ugly.
Join Trevor, Libby, Cindy, and the whole Westside contingency (along with the documentary film crew) as they explore the ugly underbelly of middle school politics.
Here's Robin's answers to some of my questions:
The Classroom series is geared toward a younger audience than your debut YA book, DITCHED. How is writing a middle grade novel different from YA?
With middle grade, I have my characters working on how they fit in this world, even with all their differences and quirks. While with young adult, my characters are figuring out what sets them apart and learn to accept their uniqueness.
Writing middle grade is also different because I listen to a different playlist of music. I tend to go for lighter dance music with MG, and listen to the grittier stuff when writing YA. But my writing snacks are the same and usually include far too much Pirate's Booty.
A great definition of YA versus MG. And I, too, love me some Pirate's Booty! In our last interview, we talked about humorous stories. What do you like most about them, and what makes them fun to write?
I used to teach middle grades and when I read stories out loud to them in class, they would always request another funny story. And another. They were insatiable. There wasn't too much out there at the time, and I ended up reading Sideways Stories From Wayside School over and over. I made it my life goal to write funny books for kids. It's an absolute blast to write and I pinch myself every morning because I can't believe I get to do this for a career!
A great way to fill a niche--and I hope there will be many more stories to come! Trevor is a great protagonist--did he come to you fully fleshed or has his character developed as you've gone along?
Here's the truth: I started writing about Trevor in the very first novel I ever wrote, which was about ten years ago. He is a combination of many students I've known, plus a little bit of me thrown in there. And then a bunch of stuff I made up. So his character came to me pretty fleshed out, but as I've been writing this series, I've discovered a lot about him--mostly his family dynamics. (His mom--love her!)
It's great that he continues to develop as the series does--and it sounds like you've built some unique secondary characters too. The Classroom looks like a good choice for reluctant readers. In what ways might they relate to the series?
There are a lot of school problems Trevor must deal with. Dances, eighth graders, popularity, how to read a school map. It's all in there. The illustrations Stephen Gilpin did will also appeal to reluctant readers and they are hysterical!
What current projects are you working on? More books in The Classroom series? Will DITCHED have a sequel?
Book two of THE CLASSROOM (STUDENT COUNCIL SMACKDOWN!) releases on June 25th. And I'm currently finishing up book 3. Here's a hint for book 3...think: disco ball. Yep, book 3 brings the bling.
And I'm also finishing up edits on my next teen novel, BUSTED. A girl takes a job running errands for an eccentric couple and finds herself involved in the crazy world of LA nightlife but after a misunderstanding lands her in jail, she has one fateful night to clear her name, help a rising movie starlet avoid the paparazzi and find Adam, the coworker who is quickly stealing her heart.
Thanks, Robin! You have some excellent new stories coming down the pike--and I'm looking forward to seeing the "bling"!
To purchase Robin's books for yourself, click on the links below: