Dear Dumb Diary Books: are they age-appropriate?
Mir reviews the breakout novel of this popular tween girl book series. Is it right for your daughter?
Dear Dumb Diary Series Book Review
By Mir Kamin of Woulda Coulda Shoulda
Jamie Kelly is just your average sixth grader, by which I mean that she’s constantly freaking out about something, and—lucky for us—she not only writes about it in her diary, she draws hilarious cartoons of her various fears and fantasies, as well. I don’t know how an adult male like author Jim Benton so perfectly captures the schizophrenic mind of the pubescent female, but he nails it. (Perhaps he was an angsty middle-school girl in a former life.)
The Dear Dumb Diary series is recommended for girls aged 9-12. I’d say that girls on the younger end of that range (9 and 10) are most likely to enjoy it, as it’s not particularly deep or complex. Consider Dear Dumb Diary a guilty pleasure akin to fashion mags, but for your tween.
On the positive side, girls reading about Jamie’s travails learn that bad things happen to everyone and life goes on (such as when Jamie attempts to dye her hair, screws it up, and after dying it back to her natural color sort of comes to accept it as not so bad), and also that sometimes we misjudge others (Jamie nurses a hatred of a fellow classmate who later does something very nice for her, unexpectedly). Benton manages to throw in enough twists to keep the reader intrigued and guessing, though, so it’s hardly a tired old “very important lesson.”
On the other hand, the book’s realism does include a fair amount of unkind words and thoughts. Benton does a nice job of making it clear that such vitriol is indeed the sort of thing one can only vent in a private space such as a diary, but more sensitive girls (or protective parents) may want to make this one a read-along between parent and child so that discussions of such things can be had.
Overall, this is the sort of book girls will gobble up with glee, and parents should feel comfortable letting them do so. It’s a quick read, so read it yourself, first, so you’ll be ready to casually chat about mean girls and locker politics, too. You know—just in case it comes up.