Thursday, December 13, 2018

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-so-Fabulous Life

Dork Diaries #1: Tales From A Not-so-fabulous Life. Rachel Renee Russell. 2009. 282 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
First sentence: Sometimes I wonder if my mom is brain dead. Then there are days when I know she is. Like today.

Premise/plot: Nikki Maxwell, the heroine, is a self-professed dork keeping a diary. A diary wasn't her idea--it was a gift, a gift she HATED. But it's a gift that becomes super-practical as the book progresses. If it's practical to keep a log of every angst you experience in your life that is! Nikki has enough angst to spare. She doesn't like her mom, her dad, her younger sister, her new school, etc. The school mean-girl has a locker next to hers--her name is MacKenzie. Nikki would have us believe she is evil through and through. (From what we can gather, she almost is.) The only thing Nikki does love is ART. That's not quite true, she also has a HUGE crush on a boy named Brandon. But is that love? Perhaps.

This first book in the series chronicles her angst in September and October.

My thoughts: There comes a point in every life when reading about middle school angst is too trivial to be authentically enjoyable. A few things annoyed me about Nikki: 1) she hates books and thinks reading is boring. 2) she is super-disrespectful to her parents and dismissive of her sister.

I don't expect every heroine to love, love, love to read or even to like to read. But it's a far cry from being a non-reader with a couple of other hobbies that take up all your free me-time to being anti-book altogether. Yet at the same time a character who doesn't like to read is a beloved heroine in a book. The series--the characters--are getting kids to enjoy reading.

I can understand being embarrassed by parents in front of your peers. Like not wanting your parents to drop you off at school. Like not wanting to be seen hugging your parents. Like wanting your own space and some privacy. But I don't understand how in her own home she can dislike--dare I say hate--her parents so much? Same with the sister. She is so selfish and self-centered. She begrudges her family the air they breathe. Yet. Perhaps she is using her diary to vent. Maybe her worst feelings and reactions are saved for print, for her diary. Maybe she's getting it all out of her system in a way that doesn't hurt others.

The book also is a bit dated. If I had a dollar for every time Tyra Banks and/or the Tyra Banks talk show was mentioned, I'd have enough money to buy the next book in the series. The show was canceled in 2010. I'm guessing that most of the people reading this book today would have been born circa 2008-2010. I would further guess that most kids know her more from America's Got Talent.

All that being said, almost any book that get children--tweens--reading is a good thing. Be that Dork Diaries for later generations or Babysitter's Club for my own generation.

Series books can be satisfying for readers of all ages. There is great comfort to be had in knowing that there is more to come. Binge-reading can be just as giddy-making as binge-watching. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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