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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

This slice-of-life novel by Rachel Renee Russell is the third in the " Dork Diaries" series published by Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division.

Tales from a Not-So-Talented Pop Star is written for kids ages 9 to 13. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Eighth-grader Nikki Maxwell isn't a rich kid like most students at Westchester County Day Middle School. She's there on scholarship because her dad does the school's bug extermination. But Nikki is feeling increasingly comfortable at the school, thanks to her girlfriends Chloe and Zoey, and her budding friendship with her crush, Brandon. Nikki's biggest problem is the mean and popular MacKenzie Hollister, who wants to sabotage her at every turn.

While baby-sitting her little sister, Brianna, at the mall, Nikki gets roped into singing a silly karaoke song at the pizza joint Queasy Cheesy. MacKenzie happens to walk by and capture the embarrassing moment on video with her phone. Talent show sign-ups begin at school, and Nikki plans to do a number with Chloe and Zoey, who are excellent dancers. MacKenzie is also planning a dance piece and wants Chloe and Zoey in her group. She assures Nikki that if the girls don't sign up with her rather than Nikki, the Queasy Cheesy video will go viral. Nikki tells her friends she doesn't want to be in the talent show after all, so they join MacKenzie.

The school's bug problem seems to be on the rise, which concerns Nikki immensely. If Dad is called in, with his truck topped with a giant roach and his uniform bearing their last name, the embarrassment will be too much. When the principal telephones to enlist Dad's help, Nikki purposely fails to give Dad the message. She discovers MacKenzie has been releasing bugs in the school building to bring Nikki's secret to light. Meanwhile, Nikki lies to the principal, saying Dad has been too sick and busy lately to handle the school's bug problem. Nikki is traumatized a few days later when she receives a tuition bill in the mail. It appears that since her dad isn't holding up his end of the deal, her scholarship has been revoked. There's no way the family can afford tuition without that scholarship, but Nikki doesn't want to leave Westchester County Day. Nikki then sees the talent show audition posters. Prizes include tuition scholarships. Seeing the answer to her problems, Nikki holds auditions for a talent show band. Despite MacKenzie's attempts to sabotage the tryouts, Nikki gets a band of other self-proclaimed dorks together. They're short a drummer, and one of the guys recruits a friend. To Nikki's delight, it turns out to be Brandon.

The band sounds amazing, almost immediately. Chloe and Zoey, who have had enough of MacKenzie, her dance group and her treatment of their friend, quit and join Nikki's band. MacKenzie nearly gets Nikki's group kicked out of the contest on a technicality, but they're reinstated at the last minute. They sound great, but still lose to MacKenzie's dancers. The same night, Nikki learns MacKenzie's friend, who works in the school office, sent the fake tuition bill. Nikki's scholarship hasn't been revoked. The competition judge, who hosts a talent-search TV show, wants to release Nikki's group's song. And Brandon almost kisses Nikki before Brianna interrupts them.

Christian Beliefs

None

Other Belief Systems

None

Authority Roles

Nikki's mom and dad repeatedly try, and fail, to create family bonding moments. Her dad looks inept in Nikki's diary, which is written from her perception of her situation. He buys a canoe at a garage sale and takes the family out in it with no paddles. Then he rigs up a sail using his shirt and a stick. Another time, they roast marshmallows. Dad swings his flaming marshmallow stick around wildly, trying to put it out; it lands on his pants and burns a hole in them. Mom douses him with water to put them out, making it look like he's wet his pants. Mom makes him take off the pants in the garage so he won't make a mess in the house. But the police show up because neighbors report a man running around with no pants. Nikki's beloved grandma comes for a visit. She is eccentric, fun and supportive of Nikki's talent-show ideas.

Profanity/Violence

The abbreviation OMG is used frequently. The words butt, heck, darn and crappy also appear.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

None

Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • What kind of message does Nikki's band and their talent-show song send?
  • What are the benefits of being yourself rather than trying to fit in with the popular crowd?
  • How do you try to blend into your crowd?
  • In what ways are you able to be yourself, but as a result, stand out from the crowd?
  • Are there some times when it's OK to blend in? Explain.
  • Are there some times when it's OK to stand out? Explain.

  • Why doesn't Nikki want anyone to know about her dad's job?

  • How does her embarrassment about his work get her into unnecessarily stressful situations?
  • How does it cause her to be deceitful?
  • How could she have handled her circumstances more effectively?
  • What things about our family embarrass you when at school?
  • What things about your school embarrass you when you're at home?
  • How might you blend your home and school life so you won't be overly embarrassed about either?

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying and deception: When the school principal calls, Nikki purposely doesn't give her dad the phone message. She also tells the principal her dad has been sick and busy, and the school should probably get someone else to take care of the bugs. Mom says if Brianna wrecks any of Nikki's clothes with her paints, she'll buy Nikki new ones. Nikki decides to get herself a new wardrobe and gives Brianna her clothes to paint on. MacKenzie lies and manipulates as she puts together her act and tries to eliminate Nikki's act from the school talent show. She has a friend send a fake letter to Nikki's family so Nikki will think her scholarship is being revoked. MacKenzie plants bugs at the school so everyone will learn Nikki's embarrassing secret.

Theft: Brianna wades in the mall fountain and digs out loose change. Nikki is pleased to see her sister has collected enough for them to get lunch, and she takes Brianna for pizza.


This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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