Dork Diaries was a complete impulse buy. After leafing through a few pages and deciding to take it home (mostly because I thought the drawings were cute), I zipped through it in an afternoon.
The story recounts, in gory detail, how fourteen year old Nikki Maxwell is adjusting to life in her new school. She comes from an average middle class family, but the school is an upper class haven; she only attended because her father received the pest extermination contract and cajoled a scholarship for his daughter. Of course, if anyone--especially MacKenzie, the uber-rich mean girl and leader of the CCP (Cute, Cool & Popular crowd)--found out that she was the daughter of the man driving around town with a GINORMOUS cockroach on his van, her life would be over before it even began.
Nikki's mother, in an attempt to open her daughter's lines of communication, gets her a diary. Of course, Nikki was expecting a new iPhone, so she had a minor meltdown. But as she warms up to the idea of writing in a diary, we come to see who Nikki is as a person, and ultimately, what matters most to her. She's a multi-dimensional (and far from perfect) character, which made her charming.
She was artistic, creative, sometimes self-centered, and sometimes self-conscious. I found myself relating because people don't always see the forest for the trees, and we become paranoid that our friends aren't being true friends, that the world truly will end if we don't fit in with the popular people, and lose sight of what's important. And we watch as she matures through her various experiences and learns valuable lessons: the grass isn't always greener on the other side, be true to yourself, don't judge a book by its cover, and running away from problems won't solve them.
The writing itself was pleasant and witty, but sometimes the overzealous use of all-caps wore on me. The illustrations throughout, which highlighted Nikki's commentary, were adorable. One in particular--when she's forced to reveal the cell phone she purchased for $12.99 on eBay--was hilarious; I laughed until a tear sprang forth. Unfortunately, the subsequent illustrations didn't illicit the same reaction, but they were still well done and comical. I did make one other observation about the artwork and its continuity--sometimes Nikki was right-handed and sometimes left. It's possible she's ambidextrous, but somehow I believe it was a minor oversight.
All-in-all, this was a delightful and quick book. Although I don't believe too many boys would be interested in Nikki's story, I would certainly recommend it to girls who are coming of age and even adults who want to reminisce.