Sometimes I’ll hear parents say, “I don’t care what they’re reading, I’m just glad they’re reading something!” But not all reading material for tweens and middle schoolers is created equal. Even when I was scanning the library shelves as a ten-year-old, my mom was on the alert for inappropriate content and books that were less literature and more teen dating soap operas on paper. Now, parents need to be more cautious than ever! So, I was excited to see that Angie Spady has a new series out for tweens and middle school girls called The Desperate Diva Diaries.
Her first installment in the series Faith, Friendship, and Fashion Disasters! introduces us to Catie Conrad, a Christian middle school girl who is creative and funny and hopes to be a fashion designer. When her journalist-dad gives her a blank diary, Catie starts filling it with her thoughts and her crazy experiences along with her drawings. She stresses over art projects, a mean girl at school, a brother with a pet skunk, and all of the drama of an upcoming dance. Catie turns to her diary, to Scripture and to prayer to help her through.
The book is funny and Catie herself is a great character. She isn’t perfect, and she knows that. When she struggles with jealousy of another girl at school or anger and impatience with her brother, she admits it and even adds it to her prayer list or finds a verse that helps her give it to God. I love the way the book points girls back to God in whatever problems they face. Catie also is blessed by a great family with loving and wise parents and supportive friends, a helpful church network and teachers who believe in her. I love that Catie’s family goes on a missions trip together, and that experience helps change her perspective on the circumstances she faces back at home and at school.
My nine-year-old daughter has read The Dork Diaries, as well as this first book in The Desperate Diva Diaries series, so I asked her which she likes better. She didn’t even hesitate and said that The Dork Diaries were more original and ultimately funnier. She’s a great Christian kid who keeps her own diary and has that supportive church network and family that Catie has, so it’s not like she’s tainted by the world. I think she enjoyed this book, but she hit on the same exact issue that I found: So often Christian books and Christian music offers us little more than copies of someone else’s original idea. I’m afraid that’s one of my only quibbles with The Desperate Diva Diaries and it’s what my nine-year-old daughter was able to identify also. Is it a fun read? Is it a ‘clean’ read that I’m happy my daughter is reading? Yes, absolutely! Was it truly original and creative? Well, not so much. It’s really just someone else’s idea with a Christian covering on it, and that’s a little disappointing.
It’s also forced and unrealistic at times, like the author felt that in order for this to be for Christian girls, it couldn’t just be quality writing, a good story, great characters with clean content…..it had to actually offer a Scripture verse and Bible lesson every few pages. I don’t think that’s true, and after a while, it gets a little ‘old.’ It also seems like everyone in Catie’s world lives in a Christian ‘bubble.’ Her teachers are Christian. All of her friends go to her same youth group. Her parents take her on missions trips. Even the mean girl in the story is just going through a hard time when her dad lost his job. It helps keep the story light and happy and ‘churchy,’ but the truth is that our kids are usually at school with non-Christians, sometimes actual bullies, and maybe their teachers don’t share their faith. Maybe that’s something Catie will deal with in future books.
All in all, this is a book I’d definitely buy for my tween daughter and would love to have my girls read. In a way, they have a role model right there on the pages of what it’s like to be a Christian girl who isn’t perfect, but who is growing in her faith and growing up at the same time. Moms and daughters can also read it together and let it open up their own conversations about friendships and goals and how God and faith guides are perspective, relationships and choices.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”