Rachel Rene Russell
Source: my classroom library
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I picked this up to see what all the fuss was about. Hordes of girls are reading this series and have been for a few years. I thought it was time that I found out a little more about it. It turns out that they're pretty hilarious, although I might think they're funny for reasons other than those that make my students laugh.
Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life shows us the world of Nikki Maxwell, drama queen, artist, and new girl at her Westchester Country Day Middle School. She's there on scholarship and she's devestated that she does not have a super cool cell phone like all the kids in her class have because she'll never be in the cool and popular group that way. The worse part of her new school is that her locker is right next to Mackenzie Hollister's, the "it" girl in school who also happens to be the meanest girl in school. Nikki's first few months of school are going to be pretty harrowing if she has to deal with her.
Nikki is smart and funny and dramatic. She's not smart in the sense that she has straight A's and doesn't have to study. She actually struggles with some of her classes and has to find time to study for her tests and even then doesn't always do super great, but she tries. She works hard. She's also a great artist and fills her diary (which we are reading) with pictures of what happened that day. The exaggerations of her experiences are quite humorous, as are the dreams with which she fills up her diary. Some things that I wasn't too thrilled about with Nikki's character is that although she's smart, I think she lets her intellect be swallowed up by the desire to be cool. She's ready and willing to accept an invitation from the cool kids in school, despite the fact that they're mean and even cruel towards her. It's as if she is ready to throw away who she is to be a part of that group. The melodramatic parts of her both make me laugh at the ridiculousness of her rants, but also cringe at them too. However, as a middle school teacher, I see some of the same dramatics on a daily basis, so maybe it's a little difficult to get past it.
Luckily Nikki learns about friendship in this book and what it means. Her friends aren't perfect either and they all learn a little lesson about being who they are and not ditching someone for a different crowd. So there are redeeming factors, and I'm certain that if I continued reading the series Nikki would continue to grow and learn some great lessons. I'm almost positive this is true based on some of my students' responses about different books in the series.
Although I will not be reading more of this series, I think that it's a great, fun read for middle schoolers. Nikkie's sarcasm and artwork show how she can be creative and smart and start to stand up for herself as well. If you have a middle grade reader in your life, I definitely recommend these--although you might be inviting more of the dramatic into your world!
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