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Kids Book of the Week: Crush Catastrophe by Rachel Renée Russell

October 17, 2017

As Nikki Maxwell and her friends count down the days till summer break, drama in the form of a French exchange student named André begins to ensue.

Rachel Renée Russell returns to her endearing Dork Diaries series with Crush Catastrophe. For those who don’t know, Nikki is a self-confessed dork, whose diary, filled with funny illustrations and clever side notes, gives a goofy insight into the mind of this 14 year old.

Crush Catastrophe is the long-awaited twelfth instalment which explores the often playful, sometimes tumultuous difficulties of navigating your first crush. The novel begins begins with an excitable and self-assured Nikki Maxwell, who readers of the series will be very familiar with. Although quite mature for her age, when Nikki’s crush Brandon walks in the room, she gets a little giddy. She reminds us though that it is normal to get butterflies sometimes, especially when your crush is as charming as Brandon.

Nikki’s pals Zoey and Chloe are a picturesque example of tween friendship, evoking a sense of innocence in their willingness to accept their buddy Nikki for all her flaws and misjudgements! Of course she does the same for them, and they have all become an awesome support network for each other.

It’s not all butterflies and rainbows for Nikki though, as becoming a teenager can be really difficult, and author Rachel Renée Russell expresses these nuanced but oh-so-common predicaments with ease. Upon André’s arrival at school, local mean girls Mackenzie and Tiffany take their budding friendship as an opportunity to bully Nikki online, and hurt André and the others in the process. Mackenzie and Tiffany are a classic pair looking to take down the other kids when they can, emphasising the horrid shortcomings of teenage interactions, and how scary a place school can be.

Nevertheless, Nikki takes this opportunity to defeat the efforts of the bullies and stick up for her friends, whilst also juggling her blossoming relationship with Brandon, who has recently become overwhelmed by his workload with the Fuzzy Friends Rescue Centre now that Nikki is busy introducing André to life at Westchester School.

On top of this, she faces the inescapable challenge of cyberbullying. When she realises that letters addressed to Brandon and André explaining the mishaps were swapped and given to the wrong people, she is thrust into a position of leadership, forcing her to take the scandal in her stride.

Russell praises the potential of young people to rise up and embrace dorkiness, and forge an authentic path. All young readers deserve to hear of Nikki Maxwell and her struggles with early teenage drama, as she stands out amongst crowds of impressionable teenagers as somebody that is a selfless and generous friend. The importance of these books is everlasting, as they grasp the awkwardness and discomfort of growing up whilst still being a seriously positive source of advice for tweens making their way through the world.

Rachel Renée Russell is the author of the #1 New York Times Best Selling book series, Dork Diaries. She’s an attorney who prefers writing tween books to legal briefs. (Mainly because books are a lot more fun and pyjamas and bunny slippers aren’t allowed in court.) Rachel lives in Chantilly, Virginia.

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