Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Review: The Dirt Diary by Anna Staniszewski

Title: The Dirt Diary
Author: Anna Staniszewski
Published by: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (2014)

My Rating: ✭✭✩✩✩


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:

WANTED: Maid for the most popular kids in 8th grade.

Cleaning up after the in-crowd gets Rachel all the best dirt.

Rachel can't believe she has to give up her Saturdays to scrubbing other people's toilets. So. Gross. But she kinda, sorta stole $287.22 from her college fund that she's got to pay back ASAP or her mom will ground her for life. Which is even worse than working for her mother's new cleaning business. Maybe. After all, becoming a maid is definitely not going to help her already loserish reputation.

But Rachel picks up more than smelly socks on the job. As maid to some of the most popular kids in school, Rachel suddenly has all the dirt on the 8th grade in-crowd. Her formerly boring diary is now filled with juicy secrets. And when her crush offers to pay her to spy on his girlfriend, Rachel has to decide if she's willing to get her hands dirty...


My Review:

This was an incredible disappointment.

Rachel Lee is an 8th grader. 
Okay, then why does she still act and speak like a third-grader? I mean, for goodness’ sakes, Holy avacado dip? Not that I’m in favor of characters actually swearing—because I’m not—but when an 8th grader says things like “Holy mango sorbet,” you get the feeling she’s more than a bit juvenile for her age.
All of the characters in this book are this way, actually. They interact no differently than fourth or third graders. 

Plot/Writing: The plot of this book was five hundred percent predictable, and rather annoying. Oh no! She’s cleaning Briana Riley’s house, her absolute nemesis. Guess what the next scene is?—Cleaning the house of another enemy. No variation at all. It got kind of tedious at times, and here’s why I say that. Either her life is moving along so fast that she speeds through five weeks in less than a page and I can’t keep track of anything, or she’s spending six pages describing how anxious she is when she’s looking at her crush. Her life went back and forth between rreeeeeaaalllllyyyyyyyyyyy slllloooooowwwwwww motttiiioooonnnn and sofastyoucanbarelykeepup.
It seemed that everything lined up just right, every time, to either make Rachel’s life perfectly miserable—or perfect. I’ve never read anything so unrealistic; there was no middle ground. Everything’s either perfectly horrible or perfectly wonderful. 

The Dirt Diary element was actually uninteresting. The whole element of her parents’ divorce, and her trying to bring them back together, was much more compelling. Ironically, the book would have undoubtedly been much better without the whole Dirt Diary aspect. About the Dirt Diary: it annoyed me. This is one of those books that you know the author came up with the title before writing the book. Why else would Rachel call the diary “her Dirt Diary” and capitalize the letters like so? The point of the Dirt Diary bothered me as well, especially when Rachel never even seems to acknowledge the wrongness of her actions.

Characters: Rachel as a character was incredibly unlikable. You can’t figure out if she’s kind or unkind, good or mean. One minute she says she doesn’t hang out with a certain girl because she’s known for gossip, and the next minute she’s collecting all this exact gossip in her book for a payment. She’s selfish, and doesn’t really care for anyone other than herself. She doesn’t stop, ever, to ask herself about others’ feelings. It just doesn’t matter to her. Rachel’s entire world revolves around being “cool” and not being a “loser”. While this is a valid theme in YA, it shouldn’t be promoted from the perspective that it’s GOOD to be popular, and I feel that’s exactly what this book was saying.

Ending: Let’s talk about the ending, too, an ending in which everything happens perfectly to Rachel’s advantage and even though she technically “repents” and decides never to do anything like spying again, she never apologizes, forgives, or is forgiven. Everything just ties up neatly in a nice little bow and even though Rachel never confessed or apologized about her Dirt Diary, she still gets a happy little ending. What makes matters even worse is that she DOESN’T stick to her pledge to never spy again—from what I’ve read, she returns to her Dirt Diary in Book #2. 

Writing:
Not only was this incredibly juvenile writing, but I got the feeling that the author had no idea what she was doing. This is what I mean by that: Almost every time I saw a word unknown to the general audience, it was used in the wrong context. Here’s two examples to prove my point:

Page 53: “ ‘Um. Er,’ I articulately reply.”
When you say “Um” and “Er” that’s generally implying you’re mumbling or nervous. 
“Articulately” means the complete opposite: having or showing the ability to speak fluently and coherently. If you’re articulate, it means you are pronouncing Each Word Very Carefully.
“Um” and “Er” and not generally words you directly pronounciate. Plus, the context of this line is Rachel talking to her crush, so she’s going to be nervously mumbling. NOT articulate.

Page 107 — “ ‘My mom found it during her latest cleaning tirade.’ ”

Okay then. What she’s trying to say is about the last time her mom went crazy cleaning, or some kind of big cleaning day, and during that major clean she found the photo albums. Wonderful, except for the fact “tirade” matches none of those descriptions. A tirade is a long, angry speech of criticism or accusation. So what she’s saying is: during my mom’s last angry speech, she found a photo album. Not while she was cleaning. While she was yelling.

Again, it really didn’t make any sense whatsoever. I couldn’t ever figure out Rachel’s true opinions for the life of me—she switches so much. I couldn’t grasp the point behind the Dirt Diary, I didn’t understand why her major crush was such an important part of the story when he really didn’t contribute at all, and I didn’t like the way Rachel was so clueless and juvenile about her parents’ divorce. Really, it honestly sometimes felt like the author was just putting in all these pointless subplots and elements just to make her book seem “cooler”.

Negatives: My overall opinion to sum it up? The story is strange and focuses on negative elements of lying, deceit, drama, and gossip. It was horribly written, easy enough that an eight-year-old could read it and understand it just fine.  Though at first glance this looks interesting enough, it was not worth the time I spent reading it. Sure, it’s fun, so to speak, but it doesn’t go any deeper than that, and when it comes down to it, reading a fun book isn’t worth it when I could be reading an excellent one.


Very disappointing.

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