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Literature / Help! I'm Trapped...

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Jake Sherman is an Ordinary Middle School Student, who is condemned to help his Mr. Dirksen, his grouchy science teacher, finish his experiment as part of a routine detention. However, when lightning strikes the house, Jake gets knocked out, and wakes up in his teacher's body. After that, his middle school life is pretty much doomed to wackiness and hilarity.

Written between 1994 and 2001 by Todd Strasser, the series achieved some popularity, but was largely overshadowed by the monumental popularity of series like Animorphs and Goosebumps.

This series provides examples of:

  • Amazonian Beauty: In Help I'm Trapped in My Gym Teacher's Body, the gym teachers girlfriend is a pumped out bodybuilder with a pretty face. Unusually, all the muscles turn Jake off (when initially he'd just seen a head photo of her).
  • Bluff the Impostor: Jessica (Jake's sister) tries a blending of these tropes on Jake and Mr. Dirksen, to see which is which. Finally, she asks Jake a trick question to see if it's really him, and he answers it correctly.
  • Briar Patching: In Help I'm Trapped in My Camp Counselor's Body, the protagonists are caught trying to sabotage a menacing rival group of campers who discuss dangerous ways to keep them injured or detained until after the competition. A character who read Bre’r Rabbit keeps muttering that those sound better in the briar patch, and sure enough, this inspires their captors to throw them into a briar patch, which they get out of after a few minutes. However, since they aren’t as small as a rabbits, they also get cut up a lot more by the briars than the rabbit in the original story.
  • Class Princess: Amber is the prettiest and best-liked girl in Jake's grade. She is smart enough to skip a grade (she declines the honor, though), is embarrassed about getting special privileges, and is quick to give bullies the What the Hell, Hero? treatment.
  • Cool Teacher: Ms. Rogers is an understanding and hands-on teacher. Mr. Dirksen too. Eventually, in some of the later books.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip:
    • All but two of the books. Usually it's Jake, but occasionally his friends Andy and Josh get in on the action.
    • Jake himself ends up in the bodies of Mr. Dirksen (his science teacher), the President, his sister, a dog, his uber-muscled gym teacher, a movie star, an alien, Santa Claus...
  • Fridge Logic: In-universe, a case happens to Jake. When he gets stuck in his dog's body, he dreads eating dog food, mainly because he thinks the food contains chicken lips. As he's about to be discovered by his sister, he quickly thinks "Do chickens even have lips?"
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: If it's not a "Freaky Friday" Flip, it's this. Only happened twice though; once in the first day of school, and in the first day of summer camp.
    • In the first one, it introduces some very important recurring characters, and a massive amounts of Character Development. The second one, he helps the Butt-Monkey gain confidence to stand up to a bunch of bullies, some character development that has already happened a few times, and finally remembers to brush his teeth after many repetitions.
  • Halloween Episode: Help! I'm Trapped in A Vampire's Body!, where he switches bodies with a seemingly normal janitor who turns out to be a vampire.
  • Heroic BSoD: In Help! I'm Trapped in the First Day Of Summer Camp, Jake suffers a mild case of this partway through the book. Without breaking away from his BSOD, he demands to be taken away from the camp (his parents would get the refund), and threatens his sister (she ate his doughnuts). All Played for Laughs.
  • Hidden Depths: Idiotic bully Barry Dunn is the one to come up with the solution of balancing the vending machine snacks and the lunch ladies (rather than getting rid of one or the other) at the assembly in Help I'm Trapped in My Lunch Lady's Body. In the book where Josh and the principal switch bodies, Barry also is deeply touched about the faith Principal Blanco shows in him by allowing Barry to skip a grade (not knowing that it was a clerical error) and makes an effort to become a better student as a result.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Thoroughly lampshaded in the final book when unattractive Granola Girl Amanda spends most of the book putting down supermodel Lanny Shanks and the culture she represents but doesn't pass up the chance to try and take Lanny's body with Mr. Dirksen's machine so she can have that lifestyle.
  • Madness Mantra: In Help I'm Trapped in a Camp Counselor's Body, one of the other campers says her uncle went to Camp Grimerly and it changed his life. And that's the only thing he's ever said, over and over again, for the past couple decades whenever they visit him at the mental asylum.
  • Mundane Utility: The body-swapping machine has enormous implications on the nature of intelligence, psychology, and the soul. Jake and his friends use it to spend a day as a celebrity, to keep Jake's dog out of obedience school, and to get the local bully expelled.
  • Never Trust a Title: Most of the time, the "I" in the title refers to Jake. But with Help! I'm Trapped in Obedience School!, it's Andy switching bodies with the dog. Later on there was Help! I'm Trapped in Obedience School Again! where Jake does the dog switch, so he's not really trapped "again", like the title says.
  • Shipper on Deck: In the first book, Jake actively ships for Mr. Dirksen and the hot teacher, Ms. Rogers.
  • Shout-Out: Help I'm Trapped in the First Day of School opens with Jake having a dream about a groundhog named Bill.
  • Sibling Triangle: Mr. Dirksen used to date Ms. Rogers' sister Ellen and they both had crushes on each other but never did anything about it out of respect for Ellen (who has since became a nun).
  • Only Sane Man: Amber Sweeny (an occasional love interest of Jake's) is probably the most consistently down to earth of the recurring kids, and is also the best student in their grade.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The vampire Jake becomes in Help! I'm Trapped in a Vampire's Body is mostly standard but it is discovered that drinking V-8 calms down his thirst for blood.
  • Tag-Along Actor: In Help! I'm Trapped in a Movie Star's Body, the eponymous movie star tags along after the Ordinary High-School Student protagonist.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Alex Silver in the second book, taking Jake away from his old friends and encouraging him to be even more obnoxious and selfish. Jake dumps Alex at the end of the book, although later books have Alex mellow out a bit and the two still kind of friends (although not to the point where he ever finds out about Mr. Dirksen's machine).
  • Vice President Who?: In Help I'm Trapped in My Principal's Body Josh in the principal's body orders his secretary to call someone interesting as a test of his power. A few minutes later she announces she has the Vice-President of the United States on the phone.
    Mrs. Hub: Well you said you wanted someone interesting but not too interesting.
  • Who's on First?: In one book, Josh tries to expel the local bully, Barry Dunn, while in the principal's body. After their plans fail, the bully starts to gloat, and Josh interrupts "Are you done?" The bully responds with "Of course I'm Dunn," and continues to gloat. This happens two or three times before Dunn starts insulting Josh's intelligence. And Josh expelled him.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: In Help I'm Trapped in the President's Body, Jake has this reaction to learning the president doesn't know how to spell Republican. His aides claim it's a mental block from frustration.