Catie Conrad: How to Become the Most (un)Popular Girl in Middle School is Angie Spady’s second installment in The Diva Diaries series, a middle grade fiction offering for girls. It’s essentially the Christian version of the girls’ secular series, The Dork Diaries, and the oh-so-popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Catie Conrad is a middle schooler who loves fashion, loves her friends, loves God, and loves her family (while, however, perpetually battling impatience with her younger brother). I love how even when she’s filling her diary pages with relational crises, middle school drama and how annoyed she is with her brother (AKA The Germ), she turns every diary entry into a prayer that God will help her learn, trust Him and be more grace-filled with those around her. I have to say, I didn’t love the fact that she calls her brother “The Germ” in the first place or harps on how terrible he is in page after page of her diary. Although, it allows for her to grow in grace in the book and learn to be more patient, compassionate and loving, which is definitely a good lesson for a teenage older sister.
Catie does seem to treat everything like a national crisis and the end of the known world. The worst that the ‘mean girl’ in the books does is spread a rumor that Catie cheated on a test and tease her about being part of the academic team. Yet, you’d think Catie was on the receiving end of bullying of the highest magnitude. When Catie’s little bother pet-sits for a bearded dragon whose owner is away with his family, Catie’s reaction seems way over-the-top, like it’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to a middle school girl. Here’s the thing—as ridiculous and overblown as most of Catie’s responses seemed to me as an adult, I have to admit, tweens and middle schoolers do tend to treat every situation with the highest magnitude of drama possible, so I’m thinking Angie Spady has gotten this absolutely right!
My daughter enjoys The Diva Diaries series, but even she picked up on the fact that the ‘mean girl’ really isn’t much of an antagonist. I think to a certain extent Catie does live in a Christian ‘bubble’ that makes this book faith-friendly, but keeps it from really reflecting what so many of our kids are facing out there. It seems like all of Catie’s friends, teachers, and family acquaintances go to church and apply Scripture to the situations they face. It’d be interesting to see how Catie handled a more real-life problem or how she handled evangelism and standing up for Christ even when others don’t. Catie seems so reactive to the smallest situations, would she be able to stand strong against true antagonism?
Still, the Christian ‘bubble’ that exists in the books does mean Catie is surrounded by positive adult influences and supportive friends who point her to God’s Word and prayer as the answer to her problems. Catie’s parents especially are compassionate, wise, and relatable, which encourages Catie to go to them for advice or to talk to them about what she’s going through. The reminder that God’s Word is applicable to our lives and the message that ‘you’re not alone’ are definitely ones any tween/middle school girl needs to hear.
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.”