The Dirt Diary

( 4 )

Overview

Eighth grade never smelled so bad

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 ...

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Overview

Eighth grade never smelled so bad

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...

"Holy fried onion rings! Fun from beginning to end." —Wendy Mass, New York Times bestselling author of 11 Birthdays and The Candymakers

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/21/2013
Confidently addressing a number of common tween troubles that include bullying, parental divorce, and peer pressure, Staniszewski (the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series) introduces a determined eighth-grader desperate to get her separated parents back together in this humorous problem novel. It isn’t the love of bleach and toilet brushes that drives Rachel Lee to help her mother with her weekend cleaning business. Rachel needs money fast to replace the $300 she borrowed from her college-fund account in order to visit her father in Florida and “talk some sense” into him, hoping to persuade him to come home. One unexpected bonus of her new job is gaining access to the homes of some of her classmates. While cleaning up their messes, Rachel discovers a few dirty little secrets—ammunition that could bring her extra cash, win her the notice of the boy of her dreams, and take down her A-lister nemesis. Predictably, Rachel’s schemes cause more pain than gain, but readers will likely forgive her errors in judgment as she sincerely attempts to make amends. Ages 10–14. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
""Confidently addressing a number of common tween troubles that include bullying, parental divorce, and peer pressure, Staniszewski introduces a determined eighth-grader desperate to get her separated parents back together in this humorous problem novel." " - Publishers Weekly

""Staniszewski neatly captures the pain of a shy young girl with newly separated parents . . .The quick pace and creative storyline will attract those in the mood for an undemanding, light read."" - Kirkus

""Rachel's situation and feelings ring true . . .This realistic read is likely to appeal to middle schoolers and reluctant readers." " - School Library Journal

""It's laugh-out-loud funny and one of the most fun books I've read all year."
"an inspiring book for anyone who has ever been bullied."" - Justine

""Rachel's voice is entirely teen authentic in its self-centeredness . . .there is still heart and humor here, so readers looking for a heroine as flawed as themselves will commiserate with Rachel."" - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"another appealing series that promises more goofball humor blended with the real issues of early adolescence." - Booklist

School Library Journal
12/01/2013
Gr 5–8—Fourteen-year-old Rachel's parents separated, her father moved to Florida, and she stole from her college fund to pay for a plane ticket to visit him. She hopes to win the hundred dollar award at the Spring Dance bake sale, but as another way to earn back the money she volunteers to help her mother with her new business, cleaning houses. When Rachel realizes that their first client is Briana, the most popular girl in her class and Rachel's enemy, things feel as if they can't get much worse. Writing notes in her diary about "the dirt" she learns about her classmates while cleaning their homes makes her feel better, as do baking and creating new recipes. Despite Briana's weekly creative cleaning tortures, Rachel finds herself developing a relationship with the girl's twin brother, Evan. Her friend Marisol, a fashion whiz, provides much-needed emotional support, but when they have a fight and rumors start flying that could only have come from the diary, she has to figure out how to stand up to Briana and come to terms with some unhappy truths about her family. Although Rachel's situation and feelings ring true, she often comes across as selfish and whiny. Her character is redeemed when she finally faces the truth about her parents, makes amends with Marisol, and finds a way to face Briana. This realistic read is likely to appeal to middle schoolers and reluctant readers.—Kefira Phillipe, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-13
What could be worse than cleaning other people's toilets on the weekends? Cleaning the toilets of the two most popular girls in eighth grade, that's what. Rachel Lee needs to raise $300 fast, having stolen it from her college fund to buy a ticket to Florida to convince her father to return to the family. In order to pay her fund back before her mother finds out, she enlists as a helper in her mother's new cleaning business. As she gains access to the bedrooms of some key people in her middle school, Rachel makes some decisions that come back to haunt her, escalating the very problems she is trying to solve. After causing untrue rumors to start and accepting money to spy on someone, Rachel finally learns that honest conversations with parents and true friends seem to be the best tonic. And yes, the mean girls are really mean--but Rachel discovers reasons for that as well. Although most of the issues that confront Rachel seem two-dimensional, Staniszewski neatly captures the pain of a shy young girl with newly separated parents. Written in Rachel's voice, the plot is predictable and the language simple. The quick pace and creative storyline will attract those in the mood for an undemanding, light read. (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402286360
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 221,067
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Staniszewski lives outside of Boston with her husband and an adorably crazy dog. She was named the Boston Public Library's 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Discovery Award. When she's not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and not cleaning her house. Visit her at www.annastan.com.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"Rachel, what are you doing with that toilet brush?" Mom calls as she comes out of the house with a mountain of paper towels in her arms.

"Um, practicing?" I say, realizing I've been absently twirling the brush like a baton. I give it one more dramatic spin before chucking it into the back of our dented minivan. Really, I was distracted while calculating how much money I need to earn in the next month ($287.22) to keep from getting in huge trouble, but that is definitely not something I can admit to Mom.

"All right, are we ready for our first day?" she says as she slides the minivan door shut. She's grinning so widely that the skin by her ears is wrinkling.

I nod and try to smile back. I can't believe I actually volunteered to give up my Saturdays to inhale bleach, but my efforts will all be worth it in the end. Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed.

We pull out of the driveway and head toward one of the fancy housing developments across town. To stop my feet from nervously tapping in my sneakers, I focus on my baking plans for the weekend. My mission is to create the ultimate to-die-for brownie. If that doesn't get everyone's attention at the Spring Dance bake sale next month, nothing will.

"I'm so glad you changed your mind about working with me," Mom says, pushing her honey-colored bangs off her forehead. "It'll be nice to spend some time together again."

"Yeah, it'll be fun," I say, my voice high and squeaky. "I looove Windex!" I find myself doing what could be a cheerleading hand motion to show her just how excited I am.

Mom's eyebrows scrunch together, and I tell myself to calm down. Mom miraculously accepted that I'd suddenly changed my whole attitude about her new cleaning business in the span of two days. She cannot know the reason why.

"Just remember that we need to make a good impression today, so try to be friendly, all right?" she says, glancing over at me.

Something stabs at the pit of my stomach. "You mean, try to act normal."

Mom sighs. "Rachel, why do you have to be so down on yourself? You're going to be in high school next year. It's time to get some self-confidence." Mom has never had an awkward day in her life, so she thinks being freakishly shy is just something you can switch off like an infomercial.

"I do have confidence," I insist. At least, I do in my ability to make an amazing dessert. Dad always says my recipes are a little piece of heaven on a plate. I just hope heavenly is enough to get the most votes at the bake sale this year.

Thinking about Dad makes a familiar ache spread through my chest. Ever since he moved to Florida two months ago-right before Valentine's Day, no less-nothing has felt right. Even Mom, who usually tries to smile and plan her way through every crisis, has been acting totally weird for weeks. That's why I have to make my Get-My-Parents-Back-Together Plan work, even if it means scrubbing every toilet in town. Our family just doesn't make sense without Dad.

A few minutes later, Mom and I pull into a neighborhood of gigantic houses. All the lawns and bushes are blindingly green, even though it's only the end of April. For some reason, I imagine the neon grass tasting like kiwi. Would a kiwi brownie be too weird?

We stop in front of a stone monstrosity with two towers, one on each side of the house. I can almost imagine archers camped out in the towers, on the lookout for intruders. A tiny brook winds around the house and under a bridge at the end of the driveway. That's right: these people actually have a moat.

After I drag myself out of the car, Mom loads me up with some cleaning supplies. I glance down at the mop in my hands. "Mom?" I say, pointing to a label on the end of the handle with the word mop helpfully written across it. "Am I going to have to take away your label maker?"

I expect her to at least crack a smile the way she normally does when Dad pokes fun at her Type A personality, but she just grabs the rest of our things and locks the car. I guess now is not the time to bring up how crazy-face Mom has been getting since Dad left. At least she'll have other people's houses to psychotically organize from now on.

When we reach the carved wooden front door, I suddenly feel super self-conscious in my ratty jeans and faded sweatshirt.

"Holy fish tacos, Mom. How do you know these people again?"

"My boss is friends with Mr. Riley. They play golf together."

Wait, Riley? I spot a gold plate by the door with The Riley Residence carefully etched across it. My stomach goes cold.

"Do the Rileys have a daughter?" I whisper.

Mom's face lights up. "That's right! I forgot Briana was in your grade."

Oh. My. Goldfish. Briana Riley. I scanned Mom's list of cleaning clients before we left the house. How did I not notice Enemy #1's name on it? I have to get out of here. If Briana sees me like this, it'll be even worse than the Fake Boyfriend Troy fiasco. That whole mess gave Briana enough ammo to use against me for months.

But before I can move, the door swings open and a guy about my age smiles back at us.

"Hi there!" Mom says in the chipper voice she uses to answer phones at the law office where she works. "I'm Amanda Lee, and this is my daughter, Rachel. We're here to make your house spotless!" She lets out a little laugh that sounds like a hysterical chipmunk.

I expect the guy to at least raise an eyebrow at the idea of Mom and me being related, since we look nothing alike, but he just says, "I'm Evan Riley. Come on in."

"Is your mother here?" Mom asks as she files into the foyer. I scurry after her, keeping my eyes down. I just have to get in and out of here without making a fool of myself.

"I'm the only one home," says Evan. "But I think she left a list in the kitchen."

"Great! We'll start there," Mom chirps.

Holy fried onion rings. I can't believe I'm in Briana Riley's house! And this has to be her twin brother. I've heard he goes to a private school for geniuses. So far, he seems a million times nicer than his sister. No one's ever mentioned how cute he is.

The minute the thought goes through my head, my face ignites. Why can't I even think a guy is good-looking without getting embarrassed about it? Of course, Evan isn't as cute as Steve Mueller. No one is. Steve Mueller is the hottest guy in the eighth grade, probably in our whole town. Unfortunately, as of a couple months ago, he's also Briana Riley's boyfriend.

"Rachel, come on," Mom calls, already down the hall.

I realize I'm still standing in the foyer, staring at Evan with my mouth open and practically drooling on myself.

He looks back at me with an uncertain smile. I can't help noticing that his eyes are the same shade of green as his Celtics jersey. "Are you okay?" he asks.

I try to nod and move forward at the same time, but that just makes me lose my balance. I stumble forward and-

Crash!

The mop and broom fly out of my hands and land on the floor, followed by several bouncing rolls of paper towels.

"Booger crap!" I cry, stooping to gather everything up. Wait, did I just say that out loud?

"Here, let me help," says Evan. As he kneels beside me, I catch the scents of peppermint and laundry detergent. "Did you just say booger crap?" he adds.

I nod, mortified. Why do Dad's goofy swears always have to pop out of my mouth at the worst times?

But Evan laughs as he gets to his feet, his arms full of paper towels. "That's funny. I think I might have to use that sometime."

I try to say "okay," but for some reason it comes out in slow motion. "Ohhhhkaaay." This is even worse than the one time I tried to talk to Steve Mueller!

Evan just laughs again, in a way that makes me think he isn't laughing at me. He grabs one of the rolls of paper towels and balances it on top of his head as he walks alongside me. I can't help smiling.

When we get to the Rileys' kitchen, I almost drop everything all over again. Every surface gleams like it's covered in nonstick cooking spray. If we had this kind of kitchen at home, I'd be able to bake all the time without Mom complaining that I'm taking up too much space. I mean, they actually have three ovens!

"Thank you, Evan," says Mom, rushing to take the cleaning supplies from him. "We don't want to be in your way, so just pretend we're not here."

He shrugs. "I'll be in my room if you need anything. Don't worry about cleaning in there today." Then he glances at me and flashes a crooked grin. "See you later, Booger Crap."

Great. Perfect. Just the kind of nickname you want a guy calling you.

Ten minutes on the job, and I've already made a total fool out of myself. At this rate I won't even survive until lunch.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 21, 2014

    Rachel is a young girl trying to deal with the destruction of th

    Rachel is a young girl trying to deal with the destruction of the world as she knows it. Her parents split up, she's desperate for money, and now she's started cleaning houses. It wouldn't be so bad if the houses she cleaned didn't belong to the kids she goes to school with.

    I feel like Rachel's character is very accurate for a girl that is going through all the life changes that she experiences. Like most teens, she is pretty self-centered and mostly concerned with how all these changes affect her own life. Only later does she stop to think about the effects on others. She is an interesting character that many girls will be able to relate to. Her super shy personality is quirky, lovable, and believable.

    I really liked the idea of her keeping a dirt diary, and I wanted more of the story to center around that. I wanted her to be a bit more devious and put some of the information she collected to use.

    The snowballing lie story has been done a thousand times before, and it is hard to put a new spin on it. I didn't particularly like that part of the book, mostly because I've seen it so many times already. The best friend that never lies was another cliche that I've seen too much of. However, the book was still a lot of fun to read. Tweens and younger teens especially will enjoy this book.

    Content: Clean

    The Cover: I love the cover. It is super cute and promises a light, yet kind of serious story. The title font is really fun!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2014

    At its core, The Dirt Diary isn¿t so much about a girl collectin

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2014

    This is my new favorite Anna Staniszewski book! Rachel's parent

    This is my new favorite Anna Staniszewski book!

    Rachel's parents are separated, but she's certain she can get them back together if she could just get to Florida to talk to her dad in person. But her mom checks the balance in her college fund every month, so she only has a month to replace the $287.22 she "borrowed" from her account for a plane ticket. Between the money she makes each Saturday as an employee of her mother's new cleaning business, scrubbing the toilets of the most popular kids in the eighth grade, and the money she hopes to win in the school bake sale competition, Rachel's sure she can pay it back before mom notices.

    But her fabulous desserts keep flopping, and the money she earns cleaning houses isn't adding up fast enough. So when her crush offers to pay her to spy on his girlfriend, Rachel's seriously tempted to get her hands dirty.

    Once again, Staniszewski has created realistic characters that practically leap off the page. I loved Rachel and wanted to step inside the pages to be her friend. Her dessert creations had my mouth watering (I really want some of those recipes!), and my heart ached for Rachel, as she struggled to decide how far she was willing to go to fix her family.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2014

    A yummy read with surprising moments, this humorous tale is sure

    A yummy read with surprising moments, this humorous tale is sure to be a hit.

    Rachel has a plan--she borrows almost $300 from her college savings account and is on a mission. Her mission seems simple--she wants to get her parents back together. The money is being used to go to Florida where her father has moved. To earn the money back, she must win the baking contest while she also helps her mother in her new business cleaning houses. Little does she realize she will be helping clean the houses of her fellow classmates. During this time she keeps a diary--her dirt diary--of all her secret thoughts and feelings. 

    Ms. Staniszweski has captured this age perfectly--the awkwardness, the feelings of not fitting and also the interaction between both peers and grownups. Rachel is reluctant for her mom to move on from her dad and I could feel and relate to her pain through her interactions with Mr. Hammond. Laugh out loud moments fill this delightful book and it will leave readers wanting to read more books by Ms. Staniszweski. Be sure to have on hand her My Unfairy Tale Life series too.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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