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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series about the life and times of Greg Heffley is an international bestseller. Seriously, these books have sold millions of copies and if you are not familiar with them ask any kid you know and I guarantee they will be able to clue you in. The publication of the newest Wimpy Kid book has gotten me curious about this entire phenomenon. Curious enough to go back to the first book in the series and see just what it is all about.

The seminal book the Wimpy Kid series titled Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the introduction into Greg's world. It is immediately clear to the adult reader just what it is that resonates with kids, Greg's world is our world thus their world. It's full of awkwardness with girls, homework, chores, and parents who just don't understand. My sister and I recently had a conversation about middle school and her claim that the middle school years are even more horrifying and cringe worthy than the high schools years really struck me. Middle school is a weird time. You've got sixth graders mingling with eighth graders and between those two is the onset of puberty. It's a veritable breeding ground for awkwardness, misunderstanding, and bullies.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid definitely gets the first two right. Greg is awkward, he thinks he knows much more than he does, and he has trouble relating to those around him because he is so wrapped up in himself. The honesty of Kinney's book might just be what I didn't like about it. Greg is described as being a real kid to the T and that includes all of the selfishness of kids at this difficult age. Greg writes in his diary about the bullies at school and how everyone else gets it wrong all the while the reader (at least the adult reader) perceives him as the biggest bully in the story.

The Wimpy Kid series and its popularity certainly aren't an anomaly. Kids latch on to certain characters for any number of reasons and Jeff Kinney's books are the most recent to really hit home. The fact that they are not really my cup of tea (judging by the first book at least) stems solely from the fact that I did not like Greg. It may be a tad too idealistic of me but I like the kids in children's literature to be role models. Flaws are necessary to building a realistic character, but I see little value in a character like Greg who has little to no redeeming qualities.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid was a cute book and the honesty about how kids navigate this difficult age is an obvious appeal; it just isn't for me.

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