Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

Tales From a Not-So-Talented Pop Star by Renee Russell has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the third book in the "Dork Diaries" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Eighth-grader Nikki Maxwell isn't a rich kid like most students at Westchester County Day Middle School. She's there on scholarship because her dad does the school's bug extermination. But Nikki is feeling increasingly comfortable at the school, thanks to her girlfriends Chloe and Zoey, and her budding friendship with her crush, Brandon. Nikki's biggest problem is the mean and popular MacKenzie Hollister, who wants to sabotage her at every turn.

While baby-sitting her little sister, Brianna, at the mall, Nikki gets roped into singing a silly karaoke song at the pizza joint Queasy Cheesy. MacKenzie happens to walk by and capture the embarrassing moment on video with her phone. Talent show sign-ups begin at school, and Nikki plans to do a number with Chloe and Zoey, who are excellent dancers. MacKenzie is also planning a dance piece and wants Chloe and Zoey in her group. She assures Nikki that if the girls don't sign up with her rather than Nikki, the Queasy Cheesy video will go viral. Nikki tells her friends she doesn't want to be in the talent show after all, so they join MacKenzie.

The school's bug problem seems to be on the rise, which concerns Nikki immensely. If Dad is called in, with his truck topped with a giant roach and his uniform bearing their last name, the embarrassment will be too much. When the principal telephones to enlist Dad's help, Nikki purposely fails to give Dad the message. She discovers MacKenzie has been releasing bugs in the school building to bring Nikki's secret to light. Meanwhile, Nikki lies to the principal, saying Dad has been too sick and busy lately to handle the school's bug problem. Nikki is traumatized a few days later when she receives a tuition bill in the mail. It appears that since her dad isn't holding up his end of the deal, her scholarship has been revoked. There's no way the family can afford tuition without that scholarship, but Nikki doesn't want to leave Westchester County Day. Nikki then sees the talent show audition posters. Prizes include tuition scholarships. Seeing the answer to her problems, Nikki holds auditions for a talent show band. Despite MacKenzie's attempts to sabotage the tryouts, Nikki gets a band of other self-proclaimed dorks together. They're short a drummer, and one of the guys recruits a friend. To Nikki's delight, it turns out to be Brandon.

The band sounds amazing, almost immediately. Chloe and Zoey, who have had enough of MacKenzie, her dance group and her treatment of their friend, quit and join Nikki's band. MacKenzie nearly gets Nikki's group kicked out of the contest on a technicality, but they're reinstated at the last minute. They sound great, but still lose to MacKenzie's dancers. The same night, Nikki learns MacKenzie's friend, who works in the school office, sent the fake tuition bill. Nikki's scholarship hasn't been revoked. The competition judge, who hosts a talent-search TV show, wants to release Nikki's group's song. And Brandon almost kisses Nikki before Brianna interrupts them.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Nikki's mom and dad repeatedly try, and fail, to create family bonding moments. Her dad looks inept in Nikki's diary, which is written from her perception of her situation. He buys a canoe at a garage sale and takes the family out in it with no paddles. Then he rigs up a sail using his shirt and a stick. Another time, they roast marshmallows. Dad swings his flaming marshmallow stick around wildly, trying to put it out; it lands on his pants and burns a hole in them. Mom douses him with water to put them out, making it look like he's wet his pants. Mom makes him take off the pants in the garage so he won't make a mess in the house. But the police show up because neighbors report a man running around with no pants. Nikki's beloved grandma comes for a visit. She is eccentric, fun and supportive of Nikki's talent-show ideas.


The abbreviation OMG is used frequently. The words butt, heck, darn and crappy also appear.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying and deception: When the school principal calls, Nikki purposely doesn't give her dad the phone message. She also tells the principal her dad has been sick and busy, and the school should probably get someone else to take care of the bugs. Mom says if Brianna wrecks any of Nikki's clothes with her paints, she'll buy Nikki new ones. Nikki decides to get herself a new wardrobe and gives Brianna her clothes to paint on. MacKenzie lies and manipulates as she puts together her act and tries to eliminate Nikki's act from the school talent show. She has a friend send a fake letter to Nikki's family so Nikki will think her scholarship is being revoked. MacKenzie plants bugs at the school so everyone will learn Nikki's embarrassing secret.

Theft: Brianna wades in the mall fountain and digs out loose change. Nikki is pleased to see her sister has collected enough for them to get lunch, and she takes Brianna for pizza.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

9 to 13


Rachel Renee Russell






Record Label



Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!