Monday, January 27, 2014


Title: The Dirt Diary
Author: Anna Staniszewski
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Genres: MG, YA
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
Source: From publisher via NetGalley
My rating: 3/5


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...


At its core, The Dirt Diary isn’t so much about a girl collecting sensational dirt on her fellow students, but more a story about her coming to terms with her parents’ separation and finding herself. From the book summary I was expecting a novel filled with juicy secrets, scandalous discoveries, and humiliating revelations that would make it an intriguing story, but at the end of the day – even though it was a good read – it wasn’t nearly as exciting as it promised to be.

Nonetheless, I do feel that this is a terrific story for preteen readers as it deals with so many issues younger readers will be able to relate to. None of the characters are noteworthy, but I have to commend the antagonist in this story, Briana, for the creative ways in which she terrorized Rachel, although her shockingly cruel inventiveness is no laughing matter. 

The storyline is what redeems this book as it’s all about friendship, taking responsibility, being honest, and learning when to draw the line. It tugged at my heartstrings how Rachel, an extremely shy girl, tried to get her parents back together. Growing up as a child of divorced parents, I understood her need to want her parents to save their marriage. Whether she’s successful or not, you’ll just have to find out for yourself.  

This is a short read and one I think will be enjoyed by kids who find themselves in a similar social situation as Rachel. She’s being tormented by one of the popular girls at school, she only has one friend, and her parents are in the process of splitting up – so basically, her life sucks. And if that’s not bad enough, she suffers one embarrassment after the other. One of the things Rachel learns is that every bully has a weakness, and because I feel strongly about children being bullied at school, I appreciate the positive and enlightening message The Dirt Diary offers its readers about accepting the things you cannot change, and changing the things over which you have control.

Final verdict: well worth the read!

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.



What secrets would Anna's middle school diary have revealed?

It might not surprise you that the author of a book about a shy, awkward 8th grade girl was once a shy, awkward 8th grade girl. Unlike Rachel, I didn’t keep a diary full of secrets (mine and other people’s) but if I had, here are a few things that might have been in it.

1.     The nerdy secret. I owned a pair of enormous purple glasses which I refused to wear because they were hideous. (And enormous.) That means I spent most of my time squinting and tripping over things. Anything was better than donning those purple monstrosities!
2.     The embarrassing secret. Even though I was a self-proclaimed band and theater geek for most of middle and high school, I must admit that I often secretly wished I was one of the cheerleaders. They were pretty, popular, and seemed to have such easy lives. They definitely never had to worry about wearing ugly glasses!
3.     The swoony secret. I had a crush on the same guy all through middle school—and no, I will not tell you his name! Of course, he didn’t know I existed. He probably still doesn’t. Don’t worry. I’m over it. J

Okay, I’ve shared my middle school secrets. Now it’s your turn. What secrets would be in your middle school “dirt diary”?


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. Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston, Mass, with her husband and their adopted black Labrador, Emma. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch.

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