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Literature / Dear Dumb Diary

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Now, by the power vested in me, I do promise that everything in this diary is true, or at least as true as I think it needs to be.
Jamie Kelly

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 and parodies of common School Tropes. The main characters Jamie, Isabella, and Angeline 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.


In 2013, there was a musical film adaptation of the series made for TV, premiering on Hallmark Channel.

     List of books in the series 

Year One

  1. Let's Pretend This Never Happened
  2. My Pants Are Haunted
  3. Am I the Princess or the Frog?
  4. Never Do Anything, Ever
  5. Can Adults Become Human?
  6. The Problem With Here Is That It's Where I'm From
  7. Never Underestimate Your Dumbness
  8. It's Not My Fault I Know Everything
  9. That's What Friends Aren't For
  10. The Worst Things In Life Are Also Free
  11. Okay, So Maybe I Do Have Superpowers
  12. Me! (Just Like You, Only Better)

Year Two

  1. School. Hasn't This Gone On Long Enough?
  2. The Super-Nice Are Super-Annoying
  3. Nobody's Perfect. I'm As Close As It Gets
  4. What I Don't Know Might Hurt Me
  5. You Can Bet on That
  6. Live Each Day to the Dumbest
  7. Dumbness Is A Dish Best Served Cold

This series provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Angeline is popular, beautiful, smart, and multi-talented and could have anything she ever wanted...but the way people perceive her as perfect bothers her and she expresses a desire to be seen as a normal human. She's overjoyed when more substantially recognized as a "best friend" in school voting rather than being voted prettiest, and she grows resentful of her peers using her as a paradigm in a project about etiquette.
  • Adorkable: Discussed in "School. Hasn't This Gone on Long Enough?" when Angeline puts on a pair of glasses to read poetry. Jamie feels that since Angeline is beautiful, she's not allowed to be dorky, as that attribute belongs to people who aren't beautiful. She even uses the same portmanteau as this trope name to describe the result.
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  • Alpha Bitch: Angeline… according to Jamie, anyway. Yes, she's ridiculously beautiful and has tremendous influence...but 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 when she does, it's generally for good.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comparison: Jamie does these frequently across the series.
  • 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.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Jim Benton's name is written in Japanese on page 32 of the sixth book.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Angeline's portrayal at the beginning is like this, before it's revealed that she has Hidden Depths and Jamie realizes that she's not a bad person after all, and that she never was one to begin with.
  • Brain Bleach: Jamie's walked in on her naked grandma and claims her eyeballs were fried from the horror.
  • Brainy Brunette: Isabella, but less in the sense of academics and more in the way of evil genius.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: This line from Can Adults Become Human?
    My social studies teacher never smiles. I know that's hard to believe, because everybody smiles about something, right? Isabella smiles when her brothers get in trouble. Angeline smiles when she thinks about how much prettier she is than a waterfall or a unicorn. I smile when I think about a unicorn kicking Angeline over a waterfall.
  • Call-Back: When Angeline finally fixes Jamie's hair in book 8, the last time it was offered (which was in book 3) is mentioned.
  • 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.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Jamie.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Very frequently with both Jamie and Isabella, and Jamie's constant misconceptions about what's going on are what allow the books to have a longer plot.
  • Cool Aunt/Cool Big Sis: Carol is Jamie's cool aunt, but, seeing as Jamie is an only child, and Carol is younger than Jamie's mom and doesn't have any kids of her own yet, she fills the Cool Big Sis role too.
  • Couch Gag: Each book starts with a slightly different notice from Jamie to the reader about not reading her diary, and a different postscript about the consequences of doing so.
  • Deconstructive Parody/Deconstructor Fleet: Of fiction taking place in middle school. Everything is written by Benton in a tongue-in-cheek manner that winks to older readers, rather than the sincerity of many similar series.
  • Diary: Well, duh.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The early books are a bit different from the later ones, mainly in terms of the art and the characterizations.
    • Isabella is less of the schemer she is in later books, and is more frequently drawn with translucent glasses.
    • Angeline has much stronger alpha bitch traits here than in most of the other books, and she is made out to be artificially pretty rather than naturally beautiful.
    • An unnamed principal who doesn't appear in the later books appears as the school's authority figure instead of Assistant Principal Devon, whom is absent in the first book.
    • Stinker is not yet the Gasshole he is in later books.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Mike Pinsetti is known to give these out. One particular example is "Butt Buttlington", who's been referred to as "Butt Buttlington" for so long that nobody even knows what his original name was. It apparently got so bad that even his mother referred to him as "Butt". Eventually Mike Pinsetti gets his own horrible nickname when Angeline calls him "Pin-Heady".
  • 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 wearing contacts she put marker on, 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: In the baby assignment above, Isabella uses the rubber snake they've been given to launch the baby instead, because they're not throwing it by hand. Angeline, for her group, cheats the assignment within minutes by pretending the doll is defective and asking the teacher to deliver it to Hudson on the other side of the room to see if he agrees. By doing so, she just got the baby across the gym within the rules without the teacher knowing it was the trial, and he's forced to accept it as their run.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: Jamie's mother uses this on her when scolding her for her poor math grade. Jamie despises it and describes it as feeling it burned into her ear.
  • Funny Foreigner: Subverted with Fléurrål in book 9. She's very Scandinavian and sticks out like a sore thumb in Mackerel Middle School, but Jamie admits she lacks the cultural context to know if she's normal or weird, so she withholds judgment.
  • 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. She also thinks areas within miles of her city are foreign enough to have completely different cultures.
  • Goth: Nadia, one of the people in the "friend auditions" in book 9.
  • 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 has beautiful blonde hair and is one of the nicest people around... it just takes Jamie a very long time to realize this.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Isabella, in spades. For all intents and purposes, she's frequently the antagonist of the books, despite also being a genuine best friend.
  • Hidden Depths: A theme of the series is that everyone has them, with Jamie coming to see almost every character she doesn't understand or like as more three-dimensional human beings.
  • Hot for Student and Hot for Teacher: The Squick inherent in these tropes is lampshaded in the third book.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Due to the comic-like style of the drawings, we have to take Jamie's word on it when people are described as significantly more attractive.
    • Angeline, good gods, Angeline. Jamie just can not stop talking about how pretty she is.
    • Colette, a brunette whom Jamie describes as even prettier than Angeline.
    • Ms. Anderson, the most attractive female teacher.
  • 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. And when the younger girls change week by week, they're clearly not different children, but the same ones plastic-surgeried back and forth by the rich dad!
    • Isabella too, like when she rationalizes Jamie's will to kick her in the face as a result of a radioactive baby-bite that's turning her mind into a boy's and that's why she also understands the way they think.
  • 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). The meat loaf she makes is even worse than the school's meat loaf that students complain about on a daily basis.
    • Isabella's mother is notably the only one to subvert this, as her meat loaf is said to be so delicious, it's probably a cow's second wish to become said meat loaf. (The first wish, of course, is to stay alive as a cow.)
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Invoked by the title of the first book, and later when Jamie mentions getting to eat ice cream for breakfast after accidentally walking in on her mom trying and failing to put on a miniskirt from her glory days, with the implicit understanding that Jamie is to "forget" about the incident.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Unless they're stated to be dressed differently in the story, Jamie only draws people with one constant outfit.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The book series' marketing treats Jamie as a real person.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Isabella, almost to the point of parody. In the words of Jamie, "I'm pretty sure that if Isabella had been born a cute little antelope, all the cute little antelopes in Africa would be hunting and eating cheetahs by now. As well as elephants. And human beings."
    • 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.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Angeline's name does double duty, connoting both physical perfection and moral goodness, both of which she exhibits throughout the series, to Jamie's disgust.
    • Emmily is a parody of this—her name has two "m"s because it reminds her of candy—no, not because of M&Ms (she thinks those are "w"s or "3"s) but because she says "mm" in enjoyment when she eats sweets.
  • 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.
  • Monster Clown: A fear of Jamie's, not helped by her bad experiences with real clowns. She regards all of them as soulless demons, and they're frequently mentioned as objects of horror.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Jamie's fear of clowns. One book implies it came from Jamie walking in on a clown changing while a later book says it's because Isabella dared Jamie to sleep all night near the gravestone of a clown that died.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The series practically runs on this, with the things that are vital social issues to the characters looking ridiculous to an older audience. This is, of course, entirely the point.
  • Mystery Meat: Apparently, this is all the school cafeteria serves on certain days. Even the cafeteria monitor who gets upset when it isn't eaten draws the line at students consuming multiple servings.
  • No Name Given: Downplayed, but of the main trio of girls, Angeline is the only one whose last name we never learn. Likely deliberate given Jamie's initial distance from her and reluctant friendship later on.
  • Not What It Looks Like: In "My Pants Are Haunted!", Jamie keeps finding perfectly circular holes in the seats of her pants and assumes her dog Stinker chewed them up. It turns out that her mom was using a special kind of bleach to try and fade them for Jamie so they'd be trendier, but the bleach was just eating through the fabric.
  • Off-Model: A lot of the drawings. Justified as they're the doodles of a 12-13 year old girl.
  • 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.
  • Pstandard Psychic Pstance: Jamie assumes a couple of them to test her newfound superpowers and see what her crush is thinking (long story). All it does is get people concerned about her health.
  • Rule of Funny: So many things, like the bizarre metaphor Jamie opens book 7 with.
  • Running Gag:
    • The meat loaf which is the school's Thursday lunch, and is absolutely disgusting.
    • Wheretheheckistan, a conglomeration of nations that Jamie envisions when her mother complains about wasting her privilege, i.e., the place where the "starving children" are who could benefit from the food she doesn't want to eat.
    • Jamie's mother's horrible cooking.
    • Jamie's aggressively unspecial hair.
    • Angeline's apparent Sueness, which only Jamie sees.
    • Isabella's relationship with her unseen older brothers, who have hardened her to the junior mastermind she is.
    • Jamie references many incidents in her past that involve her walking in on people in various embarrassing situations.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Isabella knows how to deliberately achieve this, and in a downplayed example, her glasses are mostly drawn as opaque throughout the series.
  • 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.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Jamie calls a kid at her school "T.U.K.W.N.I.F." for "That Ugly Kid Whose Name I Forget". When temporary-transfer student Colette reveals that she found out about the school from a student's mother she dubbed "T.U.L.W.N.I.F." for "That Ugly Lady Whose Name I Forgot", Jamie knows exactly which student she was the mother of from the nickname alone.
  • 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, and have their own TV show.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: In book 9, Jamie auditions for a new friend to pair off with Angeline so she can have Isabella back to herself. We see several strange applicants, though Jamie does give each consideration.
  • That Came Out Wrong: A non-innuendo variety occurs in book 5 when Jamie comes up with some unintentionally disturbing analogies, like "smooth as gravy through a grandma".
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • You Are the New Trend: In book 12 Jamie finds herself being copied by her peers, and is intensely annoyed by it, so she constantly shifts her public interests, and to less pleasant things, to try and throw her imitators off, though they just keep following her example. Turns out, it was engineered by Angeline as a gift. She thought Jamie would appreciate some time with social influence, and so copied Jamie, and because she's Angeline, everyone copied her copying Jamie.

Example of: