Goodreads: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Series: Diary of a Wimpy Kid #1
Greg Heffley knows navigating middle school is tough, especially when you’re short and your enemies are big and muscly. Luckily he has his trusty diary–that is, his journal–to help him sort through his emotions. Or whatever it was his mother wanted him to do.
Normally I don’t pick up titles obviously marketed to middle school boys, as potty humor really isn’t my thing and discussions of cooties don’t relate to any of my own experiences. However, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is big enough of a phenomenon that I felt compelled to check it out in the interest of understanding what everyone keeps talking about. Though the book has one or two truly humorous moments, however, I closed it feeling that my self-assessment remains true–I really do not like books meant to be devoured by preteen boys.
I can understand the charm Greg Heffley has for certain audiences. His ironic view of life no doubt has amused many an adult reader while his terrible luck and the crazy situations into which it leads him no doubt appeal to the middle-grade audience. The miniature comics that illustrate the scenes often provide a touch of humor. Aside from the illustrations, however, these were the very elements that made me ultimately dislike the book.
Although apparently intelligent, Greg Heffley has very few other redeeming qualities, making his ironic assessment of the children in his class more mean-spirited than funny. (His observations also often soundlike an adult viewing middle school and not the actual ponderings of a child.) He proves, throughout the course of the book, selfish, dishonest, cowardly, and greedy. He feels sorry for himself because he has no cool factor at school and can only get the one friend, Rowley (whom he portrays as stupid and whom he obviously intends to ditch as soon as he can find a better offer). However, when you examine his actions, his lack of popularity seems perhaps less a result of his scrawny frame or unusual intelligence, but perhaps an indication that his classmates have realized he really is not that nice to be around.
Of course, few of the other characters have attractive qualities, either. From the teenage bullies to the know-it-all girl who likes to get other people in trouble, the book brims with Greg’s stereotypical portrayals of those around him. Lazy older brother? Check. Spoiled younger brother? Check. Overachieving mother, dad obsessed with “manly” pursuits, weird kid no one will talk to, etc, etc. The book contains them all and readers will probably not like any of them.
The obnoxious characteristics of Greg may make his circumstances more palatable to some readers. For, no matter what Greg does or tries, it always backfires on him. This makes sense from a narrative standpoint at certain times. For instance, when Greg attempts to cheat the neighborhood kids of their money, he deserves to fail and to get in trouble, from a moralistic view. However, even when Greg attempts something comparatively innocent, it always makes his life worse. Watching him fail again and again and again with little rhyme or reason just proves depressing over time. If I were reading an adult novel about the futility of life or its unfairness I would understand. I could even understand if the book if it was meant to be relatable to kids who have also experienced a lot of failure for no apparent reason. However, writing a book about a kid whose life is miserable and who is bullied, and asking children to find it funny is, to me, frankly disgusting.
One foray into the world of Greg Heffley has been one too many foray to me. I dislike Greg, I dislike his friends, I dislike his humor. Actually, some of the middle school humor proved so disturbing that I had to make a conscious effort not to think about the ending because it made me feel like I was going to be sick. I guess I will never understand why children delight in this sort of thing.