My 9 year-old has been nagging me so hard to finish reading these books so we can discuss them together, which has been an experience at once delightful (he wants to discuss books with me!) and disconcerting (someone is nagging me to read?) So I’ve been slipping several of these into my schedule and am slowly catching up with Jms, tho not as quickly as he’d like, if we’re being perfectly honest.
Since I’ve been reading these slightly out of order, I thought I’d go back to the beginning and fill in the gaps from there, starting with the series’ debut. Honestly, I’m glad this wasn’t where I started, because the titular wimpy kid of Book One is insufferable. Lazy, mean and entitled, following Greg Heffley’s adventures in this volume is an exercise in tamping down my desire to constantly remind my kid that this is not how good, considerate people behave. That said, I do feel that this is an oddly accurate recounting of the author’s growing up experiences (here in Silver Spring, MD!) some decades ago, particularly in his father’s aversion to his sons doing anything remotely “girly”. Not that I know of this as fact: it just rings with an authenticity that’s hard to fake.
Having already been disappointed with Book Two, I was starting to feel rather desperate about getting back to the same storytelling I’d enjoyed in Book Ten, which also happened to be the first of these books that I read (I’ve also read Books 9, 11 and 12 but couldn’t muster up enough to say about each to review them here, soz.) Luckily for me, the Greg of Books 3, 4, 5 and 6 has mellowed considerably from Books 1 and 2, and is much easier to root for.
In The Last Straw, Greg’s dad’s desire to toughen up his kids has him threatening to send Greg off to military school, something I felt very deeply, having suffered through boarding school myself. I actually hadn’t read this book when, in a fit of semi-sardonic chagrin, I’d threatened to ship Jms off to boarding school, at which he suggested Boy Scouts instead. So I laughed myself silly when Greg does something similar in these pages, even as I cheered on his constant outwitting of his dad’s obsession with getting him to be more “manly.” Also, as a night owl who loves daytime naps, I began to find Greg much more relatable here than I had in the first two volumes.
The fourth book, Dog Days, was also very relatable to me as an indoor person. It’s summer, and Greg is looking forward to playing video games indoors all vacation long. Living the dream, I’d say, but his family has other ideas. Add a new family member and his ongoing interest in girls, and you have another volume where Greg is fun for me, as a reader and a parent, to spend time with.
This interest in girls plays a large part in Book Five, The Ugly Truth, as well. I often feel that this is an under-explored facet of being a middle school boy in literature, gosh even in entertainment, world-wide and through the ages. Usually, boys Greg’s age are depicted as being disinterested at best, while girls are busy giggling and mooning over their indifferent counterparts. It’s thus pretty refreshing to see Greg portrayed as having always been into girls, even as he continually fails to elicit their interest. The Ugly Truth expands on this while also exploring the rift that’s grown between Greg and his best friend, Rowley, presenting in total a fascinatingly layered friendship that sure does feel like some I had as a kid.
Finally, Book Six: Cabin Fever. Jms actually woke me up to read this, so enamored is he of the series, and my memories of it are still pretty blurry. I do remember being extremely impressed with how Greg’s mom manages her kids while trapped alone with them at home during a blizzard, especially after they break her glasses. If it had been me, I would have just sat down and cried.
So after a not great start with the first two installments, I can say with confidence that this series definitely gets stronger, at least for me as a parent. Ofc, my 9 year-old pretty much loves everything about these books, so it’s nice to be able to go over them with him and point out where Greg and the other characters are fallible, even as we bond over the parts we both unreservedly enjoy. It’s also nice that he feels passionately enough about these books to evangelize them to me: as a professional book critic, it makes me feel weirdly validated in my life choices.
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney is an on-going bestselling series that has been in publication since 2004. It’s available from all good booksellers, including
Want the books now? For the Kindle versions, click on each book cover or here.