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



First in diary series thick with materialism, thin on plot.

What parents need to know

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

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
Not applicable

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Rachel Renee Russell
Illustrator:Rachel Renee Russell
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:June 2, 2009
Number of pages:288

This review of Dork Diaries 1: Tales from a NOT-SO-Fabulous Life was written by

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written bymomreader November 8, 2011

Bad for Girls!

This book is very popular in my daughter's second grade classroom. I picked up a copy from the library to read with her and I was very disappointed. I'm glad that I am reading it to her because I frequently have to edit the language used in the book. The messages so far are awful and young girls should be insulted by the characters portrayed. I would highly recommend the Baby Mouse series instead of this trash. The themes are similar but MUCH more positive and funny with a healthy message.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Adult Written byhamstergurl09 April 6, 2013

Very Shallow, Uninteresting, Girl Rip-Off of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"

I read this when I was about eleven years old (I am fifteen now). I was hoping it would be sort of like a female version of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," a book I very much enjoyed. Unfortunately, I found this book to be incredibly bland. Nikki is not a likeable character. She is very stereotypical: boy crazy, obsessed with popularity, materialistic, etc. I found nothing to be charismatic or unique about her. She sort of made girls look bad. The book is not funny or interesting. The drawings are inconsistent in their style (I think there were multiple illustrators?) which was kind of annoying and a little confusing. You should really just read "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" instead.
Parent Written byomega man March 1, 2013

Get these books if you want to teach your kid the value ($$$) of ripping off a successful franchise.

Just what the world needs: A book for young girls that glorifies being a vapid, know-nothing twit that's obsessed with fashion and expensive gadgets that their 'stupid' parents won't buy for them! If you want to get an idea of the mindset you are thinking of exposing your daughter to, then read the author's acknowledgements chock full of childish adjectives she uses while profusely thanking the people that helped her rip off the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise. This book is blatantly cashing in on the confusion of unwary grandparents, aunts and uncles that get suckered into buying it because it has the word "Diary" in the title, has something to do with an underdog, and chooses a typeface and illustration style that is indistinguishable from the Wimpy Kid series. The only real differentiator is the series' lack of wit and intelligence, but unfortunately that requires reading this drek. By far the worst lesson this series teaches is that shamelessly ripping off other people's work actually pays. Clearly that lesson is lost on many of the kids reviewing here, and that's a shame.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much consumerism


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