Dork Diaries 1: Tales from a NOT-SO-Fabulous Life

Book review by
Kristen Breck, Common Sense Media
Dork Diaries 1: Tales from a NOT-SO-Fabulous Life Book Poster Image
First in diary series thick with materialism, thin on plot.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 41 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 183 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Reluctant readers may appreciate the relatively short chapters interspersed with drawings.

Positive Messages

May get tweens to think about popularity and what we value in our culture -- especially in middle and high school. But a materialistic, often mean narrator makes for a muddled message.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Brandon, a side character, is the best role model in the story because he is true to himself, doesn't follow the crowd, and is kind, helpful, and thoughtful. Chloe and Zoe are good friends to Nikki, working hard to make Nikki feel good and to help her win the art contest. Nikki does ultimately earn attention for being her dorky self -- but readers may be too turned off by her product name-dropping and popularity obsession to really care. 


Nikki's little sister bites her and kicks mean girl MacKenzie. 


Plenty of boy-talk. Nikki and her friends rate boys on a "cuteness-scale," read Tyra Banks's magazine for advice on getting boys to notice them, and believe boys love girls who wear makeup, especially lip gloss.


"Suck," "butt," "puke," "crud," plus slang stuff like "glamtastic," "I was like, OMG!," "CCP" for "Cute, Cool and Popular," and "G-G-G-ing" for "giggling, gossiping, and glossing."


Lots of references to products, celebrities, fashion designers, and TV shows, and while there are too many to mention here, a few are: iPhone, eBay, Juicy Couture, Godiva Chocolates, Starbucks, Nick Jonas, Justin Timberlake, Google, Teen Vogue, PetSmart, Tyra Banks, Jimmy Choo, Hannah Montana, America's Top Next Model, JCPenney, Walmart, CSI Miami, Olsen twins, Rachel Ray, Sears, The Price is Right, Food Network, Paris Hilton, Fruity Pebbles, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this Wimpy Kid-like book is filled with references to pop culture, including fashion labels and designers, celebrities, TV shows, food products, makeup, and magazines. While some side characters prove to be good friends, the main character, Nikki, is fairly shallow, dramatic, and self-centered. The blend of short text with illustrations may make this book appealing to reluctant readers. Parents could use it to talk about popularity and materialism with their kids.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykidosophically ... July 11, 2016

Want to dumb-down your daughter? Get her this!

Please read the first few pages before giving this to your daughter. The message of this book: girls are superficial, empty-headed, trite, social morons who onl... Continue reading
Adult Written byStingRae July 8, 2020

Shallow, stereotyping and stigmatising

On first look this series appears to be good easy reader books with fun pictures showing the trials and tribulations of a young girl finding her way in a new sc... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byamortentia December 31, 2013

When I Was 10 I Enjoyed It...

I remember reading this book series in 5th and 6th grade, and I thought it was great. The illustrations were nice, and it was sometimes funny.

A few years lat... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old October 28, 2011

dork diaries sucked hard

The first Musketeer of the 3 Musketeers of Failure, the top 3 worst books I've ever read. Not only does it shamelessly decoy Wimpy Kid, but it can't h... Continue reading

What's the story?

When Nikki Maxwell starts eighth grade at a new school, her mother gives her a diary, Nikki would rather have a new iPhone so she can impress her schoolmates, but instead, she begins to chronicle her life through words and drawings. Readers learn about Nikki's irritating little sister, her crush on Brandon, her friends Chloe and Zoey, the popular mean girl, MacKenzie, and her tattoo art project for the art competition. The book does not follow one particular plotline, but instead, meanders through the daily life dramas of angst-ridden Nikki. It does culminate with some exciting developments -- both at the art show and with her heartthrob science lab partner.

Is it any good?

This book and its sequels may draw in fans of Wimpy Kid books, but while the formula is similar, the protagonist here is not as appealing. While some kids may find Nikki's daily dramas humorous, her obsession with fashion, tech gadgets, pop stars, TV, and makeup make her come across as shallow. Even at the book's end, it is hard to know what is actually likable about Nikki. Other characters remain stereotypes: the jocks, the mean, popular blond girls, the irritating little sister, the embarrassing parents, the dorky good friends, the one honest guy. Reluctant readers may appreciate the relatively short chapters interspersed with drawings -- and the book may provide short-term light enjoyment for some tweens. But is not likely to leave a meaningful or lasting impression.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about popularity. What makes a person popular? How do material things -- like the iPhone Nikki wants -- impact status?

  • What do you think about the book's title? Why do we often hear stories told by outsiders, like dorks and wimpy kids? What can their stories teach us?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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