Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dork Diaries

Ages: 9-13
Tentative Publication Date: June, 2009

Rachel Renee Russell answers Jeff Kenny’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid with a girl-power punch in Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life. The book is written in diary fashion, complete with manga-esque illustrations and comic strips which tell a story within a story.

Nikki Maxwell, the diary’s author, seems like an ordinary girl trying to make a place for herself in her new private school. But when she is assigned a locker next to MacKenzie, the most popular girl in school, trouble ensues. Nikki has to endure the snide remarks of MacKenzie’s CCP (Cool, Cute&Popular) friends, fight the crowd around her locker, try to make friends, find ways to interact with her crush, and keep up with school all at the same time!

The story is filled with comical and realistic situations which Nikki negotiates to the best of her ability. From getting stuck with shelving dusty books during fifth period to listening to the Itsy Bitsy Spider (Rihanna style) courtesy of her little sister, Nikki’s life seems to be getting worse by the day. However, Nikki does manage to make a few friends and begins to see that maybe she doesn’t have it so bad after all.

Russell seems to fully understand and accurately portray the thoughts, feelings, and world of a 14-year-old girl. The imagery of the “love roller coaster” is funny and when Nikki describes the term "butterflies" as an inadequate description of love, I’m sure many readers will agree. There is even a bit of a “gross factor” left in the text to accommodate those readers who still find snot and other bodily secretions funny (but Nikki rewrites the scene with sanitation in mind).

At times it seems as though Russell tries a little too hard to insert pop culture and lingo into Nikki’s diary. Yet, others times the diary seems to be a little out of sync (Michael Jackson and Prince William are both mentioned, but the younger readers might fear Jackson and crush on Prince Harry). What seems like name-dropping to older readers might be a younger reader’s way of connecting to a larger world, but it still limits the time frame in which Dork Diaries can be considered current.

Readers will fall for this clumsy and sometimes socially awkward girl who just can’t seem to achieve her perfect life. The intended audience will laugh, feel embarrassed, think about crushes, and fight the evil forces of middle school right along with the characters as they recognize themselves in the pages of Nikki’s diary.

Rating: 4 Pages

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