Dork Diaries 2: Tales from a Not-So-Popular Party Girl

Dork Diaries 2Unable to get my hands on the first book at any of the libraries available to me, I started with the second book, Dork Diaries 2: Tales from a Not-So-Popular Party Girl. The books seem to stand alone just fine—I didn’t feel at all lost starting with the second one.

The Dork Diaries are the daily reportings of Nikki Maxwell about all the things that happen in her life as a typical middle schooler. The book is in a hand printed font on lined paper and filled with drawings of people who are based on stick figures. It’s full of texting abbreviations (OMG!) and emoticons. It’s very cute and a quick read.

In the second book, Nikki is trying to balance organizing the Halloween dance, helping with the Halloween party for her little sister’s ballet class, and being fair to her two BFFs—Zoey and Chloe—while trying to deal with the fact that her crush actually asked her to the dance!

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid

Not much, really. It’s a cute diversion that my daughter really enjoyed. Here are a few things to keep in mind, though.

OMG! Everything is SO dramatic!

This is Nikki’s diary where she reflects on all the things that went well and, mostly, poorly during her day. Things tend to be over the top and world ending, in ways that, for the most part, feel like I remember middle school. My daughter felt that it was occasionally a bit much, and she’s actually in middle school right now, but since we see everything through Nikki’s eyes, she could understand this approach.

At first my daughter was a little bothered by how awful Nikki’s life is. Why would the author ruin things so much for her? But when we talked about it, it didn’t take her long to realize that Nikki’s life isn’t actually all that horrible; it’s just the way Nikki perceives it. And if you perceive everything as a crisis, then life seems pretty rough.

Mean Girls

Nikki’s nemesis is MacKenzie who has the locker right next to hers. MacKenzie is a CCP (Cute, Cool & Popular), which, in Nikki’s mind, makes her Nikki’s exact opposite. MacKenzie definitely says and does some nasty and underhanded things. She does seem to be as vain as Nikki suspects. But even seeing everything from Nikki’s point of view, as a reader I started to wonder if Nikki was being particularly harsh in her interpretation of some of MacKenzie’s actions. My daughter noticed this as well—she thought MacKenzie might even be a likeable character if the story were told from someone else’s point of view. If you read between the lines, there’s opportunity for MacKenzie to be a complex and nuanced character.


Nikki and MacKenzie both have a crush on Brandon. Zoey and Chloe have crushes on Ryan and Jason. There’s angst over who will get asked to the dance, and plenty of angst over what to do if no one actually asks you. Nikki is tongue-tied around Brandon which makes it much harder for him to finally ask her to the dance.

Everyone will hate me

Nikki believes that any positive relationship is fragile. She thinks she’s one wrong step from losing her BFFs or making Brandon despise her. She goes to great lengths to hide what she thinks are failings from the people around her, often keeping secrets or deciding not to tell the truth. It culminates in a near-fiasco at the dance when she’s trying to be in three places at once without letting anyone realizing they aren’t the center of her attention.

When it all falls down around her ears, she learns that she didn’t actually mess everything up and that Zoey, Chloe, and Brandon all would have been happy to help her out. She needs to have more faith in her friends.

There are a lot of situations that wouldn’t be nearly so bad if Nikki was just open about them. It goes over the top into sit-com slapstick, but it fits the genre both because it’s Nikki’s version of events and because books like this tend to go to extremes for the sake of humor.

I do appreciate that it’s clear that things aren’t as bad as Nikki imagines them to be. People rarely react as poorly as she assumes they will. Most people aren’t looking for excuses to hate her. She’s not as unpopular as she thinks she is. I think this is a good reminder for many kids…maybe many people of all ages.

Putting the fun in funeral

Nikki has to go to a funeral of one of her father’s colleagues. She gets the hiccups quite loudly and imagines that everyone is horrified (and perhaps she’s not totally wrong—the person giving the eulogy brings her a glass of water from the pitcher on the podium). She imagines the corpse sitting up and telling her to stop hiccupping. This scene is kind of funny, but doesn’t tie into the story as a whole. My daughter wasn’t sure what to make of it—she felt awful for Nikki, but it was also pretty funny, so was she supposed to laugh or not? It definitely makes light of death, which might be something to keep in mind depending on what issues your kid is currently wrestling with.


Although it’s an easy read, the issues that Nikki deals with are very suitable for middle school readers. I had trouble finding these books in two middle school libraries, although the one librarian I talked to said she’d be ordering them as she’s started realizing they aren’t just aimed at elementary school kids. My 13yo daughter found it to be a wonderful diversion, and we’ve requested the first book from another library. With amusing illustrations that go a step past the text (sometimes contradicting the text in funny ways), this is a great book for reluctant readers.

There are six books in the series so far, with several tie-ins and a 7th on the way. Based on my starting with the second book, it seems like you don’t need to read them in order. However, I think they go very chronologically—book 2 ends with October 31, and the teaser for book 3 starts on November 1. But the overall plot of book 2 stood alone enough that I didn’t feel at all like I was lost by not starting with book 1.

Dork Diaries 2: Tales from a Not-So-Popular Party Girlby Rachel Renée Russell
Published in 2010 by Aladdin
Second in the Dork Diaries series
Borrowed from the local library



  1. My daughter’s liked this series and we own a couple. However, I think they were more of a one-time read. A similar style that they read over and over was the Ellie McDoodle series.

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