Dork Diaries 1: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell is written for readers age 9-13 which covers grades 4-8. So what is an OWG (Old White Guy) doing reading this book? First, it is very good entertainment. I don’t generally read this genre and the only thing I have to compare it to is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I found this written with more of a sense of enthusiasm for life than I found in Wimpy Kid. My fascination with this read extended beyond this singular work. I found thirteen books in this series alone. The author is an industry unto herself. There are activity books, translations in French, Spanish, and Italian (and probably more but I got tired of the search). There are books outside this series with equally engaging characters. Although I was entertained by the story itself, through it I found a different resource for reading material at low cost.
The Dork Diaries series is not cheap. Each book in the series is USD 9.99 on Amazon and there is no option for Kindle Unlimited. NB: the price of Kindle Unlimited is USD 9.99 per month. The price of a Scribd subscription is USD 8.99 per month and I can read all the Dork Diary books, other series by the author, the activity books, and I can download PDF documents with book excerpts, teachers’ guides for using the books in class, and lots of commentaries and critiques by other authors and publishers. I remain a fan of Kindle Unlimited because the Kindle app is much more user-friendly for annotations. I like to make notes and highlights for later review and the Scribd reader is incredibly clunky for that. Still, Dork Diaries and this review opened other resources for interesting reading.
Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life will appeal to YA readers but could also appeal to parents (‘rents) who want to break the code of school jargon. Nikki Maxwell wanted to be in the CCP (Cute, Cool & Popular) group while in the eighth grade but if she had to rely on the second-hand clunker phone she had things were not going to work out. She needed an iPhone and her Clinically Brain Dead mom was the rather unwilling route to get it. Her mom agreed she needed a way of communication so mom bought her a diary (did I mention this is Book One of a series?) Packed in a box that looked as if it might contain an iPhone, Nikki was briefly on an emotional roller coaster. Her father, noting that Nikki was less than thrilled, suggested she paper her room with peppy motivational posters. Nikki was happy that he hadn’t suggested pictures of his truck, the one with the huge roach on the roof, that advertised his bug extermination business. At least her friends at the expensive prep school she attended on scholarship had not seen her riding in the truck.
Nikki existed at two levels of dialogue. When she reacted in a social setting, there were things she wanted to say but she knew would produce unwanted consequences. She voiced other, more socially acceptable responses instead. This practice produced Nikki’s signature, unvoiced thought repeated throughout her story. When reacting to her dad’s suggestion of peppy motivational posters and sayings, Nikki wanted to call him a loser and mention that the article she read which said chemicals used for pest control probably killed off brain cells was true. Instead, Nikki offered a polite response and noted, “I just said it inside my head, so no one heard it but me.” (Scribd reader p. 27). This last thought will appear often throughout the novel.
Nikki is in eighth grade. I expect her to have friends that become frenemies. I expect her to be clumsier than others at some activities and others will laugh at her. That happens. I also expect that she will discover some talent that will allow her to be proud of herself. That happens. Her journey of self-discovery before entering the real world (high school) is exciting to watch. I would give this five Amazon stars but will not post this on Amazon as it is not an Amazon verified purchase. Hello Goodreads and BookBub.
Amazon lists the Kindle edition at 353 pages. The Scribd reader lists 226 pages. Neither figure matters because this is a short reading experience. Russell injects many line drawings into the text. They are amusing, clever, and intentionally funny so a reader should not skip over them. They add much to the character development of Nikki.