Rachel Lee is in the 8th grade. Her parents have just split up, and she's still recovering from a fake boyfriend incident the year before (Junior High kids can be so mean!) She doesn't think her life can get much worse...but then she has to help out with her mom's new business: a house cleaning service! One that caters to the families of the popular kids in her school. She discovers, though, that finding her classmates "dirty laundry" (see what I did there?) can be used to her advantage. What will Rachel do with this information?
When I started The Dirt Diary, I was expecting the typical Mean Girl vs. Outcast story (or maybe even something along the lines of Seven Deadlies). Burn Book gets found and spread all over the school, outcast girl becomes super-popular, ends up with football star. I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, there are some similarities, but the conflict doesn't go so horribly awry you feel sick/uncomfortable (which has happened with the last few Mean Girl/Outcast/Bully books I've read lately). It was nice in the way Napoleon Dynamite is nice [confession: memorized movie]. There are popular kids, not popular kids, and some conflicts- but none (okay, maybe most) of the characters were completely evil. It was very similar to my junior high experience.
First- I loved Rachel Lee. She captured me with her blurting of "Holy fish tacos" (something I'm pretty sure I've actually said). She continued to endear me with her fun little quips, and then when she turned to baking to ease her troubled soul? I gave her a mental hug. Food IS a language all in itself!
Second- I loved Rachel's friends. Marisol and Andrew are...well, if I could've put Andie and Ducky together in Pretty in Pink, that's how I picture Marisol and Andrew. And who wouldn't love that?
Third- Red Sox.
This was a super-fun read that would be great for middle grades! And apparently nearly 30-somethings, as I raved about this book to everyone I saw for two days after I finished it. I'm really excited to see how the rest of the series goes!
Sidenote: I read this while also watching the K-Drama Heirs. One of the characters is Yoo Rachel (but pronounced Rye-el). So, in my head that's what I called our Dirt Diary Rachel, unless it was explicitly pronounced otherwise ("Ray-CHUL!")
And now! I had the privilege of interviewing Anna as part of The Dirt Diary Blog Tour! (HUGE thanks to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, and Anna, for this opportunity!)
Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of My Very UnFairy Tale Life series, published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Look for the first book in Anna’s next tween series, The Dirt Diary, in January 2014, and visit her at www.annastan.com.