Literature: Dear Dumb Diary
Dear Dumb Diary
is a series of children's books
written by Jim Benton (also known as
the guy who created Happy Bunny
). The books are presented as the diaries
of Jamie Kelly
, a middle-school girl with a very interesting view of the world
The books, in a nutshell, are a mixture of plans
, strange events and humour just sailing on Rule of Funny
, and frequent deconstructions
of common School Tropes
. The main character, the unpopular brunette, is a rather selfish and mean-spirited girl (this goes quadruple for her best friend Isabella
), while the so-called Alpha Bitch
Angeline is consistently shown to be kinder, smarter and a more supportive friend. The three girls spend their seventh grade year getting into wacky situations
, whether it be (supposedly) haunted pants, student-teacher creepy crushes, money-raising schemes or teacher's relationships, often at the hands of a plot built by Isabella. In the end, Jamie learns a valuable lesson (though it may not be the one you'd expect)
As of the 10th book, Jamie has now finished her six years of the seventh grade
List of Books in the Series
- Let's Pretend This Never Happened
- My Pants Are Haunted
- Am I the Princess or the Frog?
- Never Do Anything, Ever
- Can Adults Become Human?
- The Problem With Here Is That It's Where I'm From
- Never Underestimate Your Dumbness
- It's Not My Fault I Know Everything
- That's What Friends Aren't For
- The Worst Things In Life Are Also Free
- Okay, So Maybe I Do Have Superpowers
- Me! (Just Like You, Only Better)
- School. Hasn't This Gone On Long Enough?
- The Super-Nice Are Super-Annoying
- Nobody's Perfect. I'm As Close As It Gets.
- What I Don't Know Might Hurt Me
- You Can Bet on That
This series provides examples of:
- The Ace: One book's plot is essentially about an Ace showing up: somebody who (by Everyone Looks Sexier If French) is prettier than Angeline, more vicious and destructive than Isabella, and more spontaneously artistic than Jamie. She eventually turns out to be a legendary outcast who rendered her school uninhabitable in a desperate gamble to go somewhere nobody had heard of her and make friends.
- Alpha Bitch: Angeline... according to Jamie, anyway. Of course, she has no clique, hangers-on or regular friends (until you can count Jamie), is friendly to all the school "losers", shows no concern over her social status, and while an excellent manipulator, uses said power rarely and generally "for good".
- Beautiful All Along: Parodied on two separate occasions. The first time, Jamie and Isabella give a makeover to an unpopular girl named Margaret and as a result, end up becoming Unwitting Pawns in another girl's plan. The second time, it turns out that the only reason Jamie isn't considered pretty is her unflattering hairstyle.
- Berserk Button: Do not make fun of Isabella's name. Or the shape of her head. Actually, don't make fun of Isabella in general.
- Big Brother Bully: Isabella's two older brothers, although she has gotten more than her fair share of revenge.
- Bilingual Bonus: Jim Benton's name is written in Japanese on page 32 of the sixth book.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Angeline shows signs of this before it's revealed that she has Hidden Depths.
- Characterization Marches On: In the first few books, Angeline was more like a stereotypical popular girl, and Isabella was spacey and awkward instead of cunning and manipulative.
- Chekhov's Gun: Being surprisingly tightly plotted is one of the strong points of the series. It's a good bet that everything is one, and trying to figure out just how some offhand comment or minor event is going to recur and become a plot element is a good part of the appeal to adults.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Chip.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Jamie.
- Cool Big Sis: Carol is technically Jamie's aunt, but she fits otherwise.
- Deadpan Snarker: Jamie, so freaking much.
- Deconstructive Parody / Deconstructor Fleet: Of fiction taking place in middle school.
- Diary: Well, duh.
- The Ditz: Emmily. Poor, sweet, clueless Emmily.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The early books are very different from the later ones.
- Epic Fail: In one book, Jamie, Isabella, Mike Pinsetti and TUKWNIFnote are put into a group in gym where they are given an assignment to get a plastic baby across the gym using a rubber snake, a shoe, and a pot without it or them touching the floor (throwing it isn't allowed). Their plan is to use the snake as a catapult to launch the baby across the gym. Sounds good, right? Wrong, oh so horribly wrong. Isabella's aim is thrown off due to her new contact lenses and she launches it in the wrong direction. Pinsetti, who is supposed to catch the baby from across the other end of the gym, ducks on instinct ("a month of head injuries had him spooked") and the baby sails through the window, falls onto the asphalt, and gets run over by a school bus.
- Exact Words: When the gym teacher says each group needs to get a plastic baby across the gym without them touching the floor and throwing the baby is not allowed, Isabella uses the rubber snake they've been given to launch the baby instead.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: This is a literary form of family entertainment, meaning it's good to read to kids and won't bore the reader.
- Global Ignorance: "Wheretheheckistan", Jamie's catch-all term for any foreign country she is unfamiliar with.
- Good Is Dumb: Emmily.
Jamie: She's the selfless kind of person people are before they know any better.
- Grossout Show: Though slightly less so as the series went on.
- Grotesque Cute: Jamie's drawings sometimes fall into this.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Angeline
- Heroes Love Dogs: Jamie and her beagle Stinker (although the term "hero" is being used rather loosely here).
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Isabella, in spades.
- His Name Really Is Barkeep: TUKWNIF, Jamie's acronym for "That Ugly Kid Whose Name I Forget", turns out to be actually named Tucker.
- Hot for Student and Hot for Teacher: The Squick inherent in these tropes is lampshaded in the third book.
- I Have Brothers: Parodied (and taken Up to Eleven): "She has brothers" is basically Jamie's reasoning behind why Isabella is an Ax-Crazy Manipulative Bastard.
- Insane Troll Logic: Jamie's thought processes sometimes follow this pattern. Example: She sees Angeline with two younger girls who don't look like her. Obviously, they must be siblings, but they don't look like Angeline, which means Angeline's father did plastic surgery on her, which means Angeline is rich. Tadah!
- Jerkass: Isabella.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jamie and (possibly) Isabella.
- Kids Are Cruel: Or at least very shallow. The characters ARE in middle school where reputation is everything and can be destroyed over the smallest things.
- Lethal Chef: Jamie's mother (except when she's making hors d'œuvres).
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: The book series' marketing treats Jamie as a real person.
- Manipulative Bastard:
- Isabella, almost to the point of parody.
- In much quieter (but equally effective) fashion, Assistant Principal Devon and his niece Angeline have their moments.
- Meaningful Echo: The line "The first rule of the road is that beautiful things take time, and you can't rush glue" in Never Underestimate Your Dumbness.
- Men Can't Keep House: Jamie's father comes up with 'creative' ways to avoid dirtying any dishes when his wife is away and does not know how to use a washing machine (or even what the machine to clean clothes is called) and jokes that if he hadn't met Jamie's mother he would be living in a very dirty cardboard box.
- Mind Control: In two books, some way to control people's emotions and attitudes through scents is plot-significant, and seems to go a bit beyond Jamie's fertile imagination. A common early example of Jamie's imagination is her momentarily falling under Angeline's "evil spells", with descriptions almost bordering on self-Foe Yay.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The series practically runs on this.
- Mystery Meat: Apparently, this is all the school cafeteria serves on certain days.
- Nerd Glasses / Opaque Nerd Glasses: Isabella. Don't mention them.
- The Nicknamer: Mike Pinsetti. This is eventually revealed to show Hidden Depths: he's one of the most poetically inclined boys in that grade.
- Off Model: A lot of the drawings. Justified as they're the doodles of a 12-13 year old girl.
- Oral Fixation: Margaret, one of Jamie's classmates, has a conspicuous Character Tic of chewing on pencils. A lot.
"I don't want to say she's still eating a lot of pencils, but when she farts, I swear you can almost see a little puff of sawdust."
- Parody Sue: Angeline, though the sixth book shows that she could also be considered a Deconstructed Sue. The first couple of books may be one of the more complete subversions of the Canon Sue trope in literature. Jamie starts out obsessing about how Angeline is so obviously a Mary Sue (not by trope name) and how every little thing that happens is clearly all about Angeline. In fact, Angeline's only real relevance in the early plots is actually caused by this obsession. She only has the narrative spotlight because the protagonist is constantly throwing it at her.
- The Plan: Once per book.
- Pooled Funds: At one point in the second book, Jamie imagines Angeline taking a bath in pure money, complete with hot and cold running diamonds, jewel encrusted soap and a "rug of extraordinary fluffiness".
- Popular Is Dumb: Averted by Angeline.
- Precious Puppies: This eventually becomes a plot point.
- Punny Name: Hudson Rivers.
- Rule of Funny
- Running Gag: The Mystery Meat, Wheretheheckistan, Jamie's mother's horrible cooking, Jamie's hair, Angeline's apparent Sueness, Isabella doing horrible things to her older brothers, etc.
- Satellite Love Interest: Hudson Rivers exists so Jamie and Angeline have a guy to fight over.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Isabella knows how to tilt her glasses to achieve EYELESSNESS.
- Shout-Out: When Jamie's dog, Stinker, and Angeline's dog, Stickybuns, have puppies, three of them resemble their mother, with the fourth being the only one who looks like her father.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Angeline thinks of Jamie and Isabella as friends and either isn't aware of their scorn for her or just ignores it. It takes Jamie eight books to realize this.
- Stalker with a Crush:
- Jamie, toward Hudson Rivers.
- Eventually, Hudson to Isabella. This is even portrayed in the ninth book with several similes.
- Suddenly Always Knew That: Almost a Running Gag. At the end of a book where a skill is plot-relevant (speaking a foreign language, playing guitar in a band, maintaining an automobile), it tends to turn out that Angeline had said skill the whole time and didn't bother to mention it.
- Take That: The Whisker Brothers, a three-boy band whose lyrics seems manufactured to make a middle school girl like them. Sounds like The Jonas Brothers.
- The Film of the Book: Dear Dumb Diary received a 2013 film adaptation. The bad part? It was a Made-for-TV Movie on the Hallmark Channel. The worse part? It was a musical.
- Toilet Humour: Recurs. In particular, Jamie's dog Stinker is a magnet for this type of joke. As often as not, Stinker's bodily functions even drive the plot.
- Token Evil Teammate: Isabella has no trace of empathy and a very utilitarian concept of friendship. In fact, it's safer not to be her friend because — well, it's safest not to be anywhere near her. She is still unquestionably a True Companion.
- Uncatty Resemblance:
- Unreliable Narrator: Very, very heavily implied, to the point where it's the source of a lot of the comedy.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Jamie and Isabella are very much aware of this, while Angeline is less aware of Jamie's vitriol.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Jamie is not afraid to admit this.
"THINGS THAT JAMIE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT: Endangered animals that are mean and gross"
- X Must Not Win: The instance of deliberately sabotaging one's own campaign to split the vote shows up in one book (it works perfectly... and still doesn't turn out at all the way it sounds).