Book Review · Dork Diaries Review

Dork Diaries: Party Time

Headline: Another worthy Best-seller

4/5 Stars

Originally posted May 21st, 2015

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful

Before I begin this review, I just want to come clean about a few things. First of all, I’m male. Second of all, I’m in my early 20s. And thirdly, I did buy and read this book. If you want to know why, please read my review of the first ‘Dork Diaries’ (‘How could it be anything else but a best-seller?’). It will explain everything.

With that said, what is it about this party-themed diary I found so intriguing? Let’s start with the story.

Continuing where the last entry left off, ‘Party Time’ carries on the life of 14-year-old, Nikki Maxwell. Although she’s finally settled into her new life at WCD private school, she still considers herself a total dork. After hearing about the upcoming Halloween dance, she and her BFFs, Chloe and Zoey, decide to sign up for the clean-up crew, hoping it will increase their chances of getting dates. Unfortunately, Nikki’s arch-rival, MacKenzie Hollister, is chairperson of the event and she leaves the three in a difficult bind. Now Nikki has to find a way to save the dance AND juggle her own teenage problems – with hilarious results.

In regards to the story itself, I found ‘Party Time’ as enjoyable as the first ‘Dork Diaries’, thanks to its unique writing style. The way it’s presented as diary entries with drawings, smiley faces and big bold capital lettering, makes the narrative feel like it was genuinely written by a 14-year-old. This not only helps the story feel believable – especially with the more outrageous scenes – but it allows the reader to connect with Nikki on a personal level. Whenever she’s shocked, angry, sad or happy, so are we. Which is good because there are many emotional moments.

Also, like the original ‘Dork Diaries’, there were two highlights of the book for me. The first was the humour. Although I didn’t find all of the jokes funny, there were several that made me giggle. An example is when Nikki explains how her mother always wanted to do ballet when she was younger, so now she forces her daughters to do it. There’s some funny dialogue, too (e.g. “cry me a river, build yourself a bridge and get over it,”). I’m starting to think it’s impossible to read a ‘Dork Diaries’ book without laughing at something.

The second highlight was the pop-culture references. As with the first ‘Dork Diaries’, there are so many real-world references, it’s hard to believe the story is fictional and not a real diary. Throughout the book Nikki mentions celebrities like Justin Bieber and Jessica Simpson; movie characters like Darth Vader and the Terminator; and other things such as YouTube, Twilight, Dora the Explorer, Fruity Pebbles, a phone call prank (obviously inspired by ‘The Simpsons’), Disney World, Barbie, Hello Kitty, Tickle Me Elmo, BlackBerry, Mickey Mouse, ‘My Super Sweet 16’, and more. That’s what makes the book so memorable and unpredictable – you never know what Nikki is going to reference next. Chances are if you read ‘Party Time’ you’ll recognise at least one thing you love.

Another memorable aspect is the characters. Admittedly, they do feel like the same stereotypes they were in the previous book: Brianna is still the annoying little sister; MacKenzie is the popular/mean girl; Brandon is the love interest; Chloe and Zoey are Nikki’s equally dorky friends; etc. But the story gives them all minor development to keep their characters fresh. Chloe and Zoey are crazier with their ideas; Nikki’s parents are goofier, to the point where she thinks they need serious marriage and parenting advice; Brandon asks Nikki on their first date; and MacKenzie goes from being whiny and rude to selfish and cruel – seriously, some of her actions are so wicked they’re scary. All the while, the narrative helps introduce these characters to new readers, without relying too much on information from the previous book.

In fact, that’s another highlight of ‘Party Time’. Although it references numerous events from the first ‘Dork Diaries’ (e.g. the art contest, Miss Penelope and Brianna’s tooth fairy problem) it works well enough on its own.

Overall, I felt ‘Party Time’ was just as entertaining as the original ‘Dork Diaries’. However, the reason I’ve given it 4-stars is because I have minor issues with it. Namely its repetition and predictability. 

Although there aren’t so many mentions of lip-gloss, or cases of Nikki wanting to die of embarrassment, they’re still carried over from first book – as are her worn-out catchphrases “said it all in my head” and “how juvenile would that be?” She even comes up with some new catchphrases and develops repetitive behaviour – e.g. doing her “Snoopy Happy Dance” 4 times throughout the book (with the same drawing each time). But the biggest repetition is the story itself. 

The events of ‘Party Time’ almost mirror those seen in the first book: Nikki and her friends sign up for something, MacKenzie makes things difficult, Brandon tells Nikki not to quit, things go from better to worse to better again, Mackenzie fake-congratulates Nikki at the end, etc. The result is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it gives returning readers a sense of nostalgia and new-comers won’t feel like they’ve missed anything. But alternatively, fans of the first ‘Dork Diaries’ will recognise familiar scenarios (e.g. nightmares, home-made recipes, “Jazz hands”, meetings in the janitors closet, etc.), making parts of the story predictable. Also (spoiler alert), the climax is clichéd, too. Here’s the situation: Nikki is in a place where there’s three groups of people expecting her. The trouble is they’re all expecting her at the same time, wearing a certain costume. So Nikki tries to see them all at once, without leaving one group for too long. You can probably guess the result for yourself.

There are other issues, too, like the narrative forgetting minor details and making ask me questions: How did Nikki get her hiccups?, Where did her duffle bag vanished to?, and Why is there a drawing of a crescent moon when Nikki said “full moon”? However, this is a diary, so it’s logical to assume Nikki didn’t bother with those details or just forgot about them.

In conclusion, the second instalment of ‘Dork Diaries’ finds new ways of making me laugh and bond with Nikki. Her thoughts and reactions are somewhat overzealous at times, but they’re still funny and believable. You have to remember the story is being told from the perspective of a 14-year-old girl, so things such as wanting to change her name because of her sister, and thinking she’s more mature than her parents are natural teenage thoughts. When it comes down to it, though, it’s not about how believable or unbelievable the story is. ‘Dork Diaries’ is a humorous and unique take on modern teenage life, which doesn’t let the limitations of realism interfere with its creativity.

I would honestly recommend this book to anyone. Don’t let the target audience or cover-art fool you. I think the humour and pop-culture references can appeal to anyone who’s looking for a good read – even boys.

I’m hoping the third book will cut back on the copy/pasted elements, but I’m still looking forward to reading it. As well as the other sequels. ‘Dork Diaries’ is a series truly worthy of being an international best-seller.

After my last two reviews didn’t turn out so well, I was determined to make this one a success. Especially since it was a follow-up to my ‘Dork Diaries’ review – my magnum opus at the time. I thought the best strategy would be to use what made the latter work and then expand upon it. However, looking back on it, I realise I may’ve taken gone a bit overboard.

Shamefully, I have to admit this review’s content was half copy and pasted from my ‘Dork Diaries’ piece. I knew it was being lazy and uncreative. But to my defence, I felt that ‘Party Time’ was just a rehash of the first book anyway. So writing its review the same way strengthened my point. Nonetheless, it was impractical of me to rush my introduction by telling readers to read my ‘Dork Diaries’ review – most  of them wouldn’t have time for that. 

As for the ‘Party Time’ review itself, it was poorly-written in some areas, but I was happy with the outcome. Unlike my ‘Pom Poko’ and ‘Martial Hearts’ pieces, it got the basic premise across and discussed the characters in some detail. There were also paragraphs devoted to other aspects like the humour, pop-culture references and unique writing style – as well as my personal thoughts on them.

Overall, it may not have been as helpful as my first ‘Dork Diaries’ review, but it was better than the two that came before it. Plus, I was more eager than ever to read and critique the other books in the series.

 

That concludes this set of reviews (‘WrestleMania Mystery’‘Party Time’). I’m sorry it’s taken me a while to release them again, but I’m always happy to bring them to you when I can. Hopefully, as the reviews get better I won’t need to make quite as many edits in the reposts. In fact, it might be better not edit them at all. That way you can see my reviews in their rawest form (like on Amazon) and I can focus on writing my analogies of them. Please also visit my other blog (https://georgeharvey2015.wordpress.com). And, as always, stay tuned.

(Image courtesy of: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dork-Diaries-Rachel-Renee-Russell/dp/147114402X)

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