My eldest child has had his computer taken away from him this summer so he’s been spending a lot of free time not only re-reading his Diary Of A Wimpy Kid books, but also pestering me about my opinions of them. I’ve been trying to get him to read some new books, to no avail, but recently realized that I’d confused this installment with Cabin Fever and its absolute nightmare of poor Susan having to take care of three kids while snowbound and with broken glasses. Since I couldn’t very well urge him to read something new while neglecting to read some of his favorites, I sat down with him to go over this completely different wintry installment of the series.
Our Wimpy Kid Greg Heffley continues to navigate middle school with his usual mix of laziness and imagination. As the book opens, his area is experiencing a heat wave that has everyone thrown for a loop. School management has the heat up high despite the mild temperatures outside, leading to some uncomfortable and gross (but honestly hilarious) situations. When snow finally comes, Greg has to figure out ways to avoid the indignities it brings with it, not helped by his neighborhood dynamics.
The kids of Upper Surrey Street (where Greg lives) and Lower Surrey Street do not get along. Upper Surrey Street is built on a slope, whereas the lower part is on flatland. Thus the lowlanders get to enjoy all sorts of athletics, while the slope of the upper street makes summer — and spring and autumn — ball sports far more frustrating. Reveling in their advantage, the lowlanders refuse to let the highlanders play on their territory. The situation is dramatically reversed in the winter, however, when the slope makes for excellent sledding. The highland kids aren’t going to let the slights of the rest of the year go, and defend their land from any incursions.
Things come to a head when, inspired by tales of igloos, Greg and his best friend Rowley decide to build a snow fort on a vacant lot. This soon turns into a massive neighborhood wall against the lowlanders, followed by all out war. Will Greg and Rowley be able to survive with their skins, and perhaps more importantly their dignities, intact?
The Meltdown is one of Jms’ favorite DoaWK books, and I could definitely see why! Greg was much less whiny than he’s been in other books, and his laziness was very relatable. I mean, we’re all a little lazy, and people will go to great and understandable lengths to stay warm and avoid the general discomfort of winter. Greg’s shenanigans were wholly understandable in this book, and his observations of his schoolmates less mean than brutally honest.
My favorite parts of the book, however, involved oblique references to grown-up subjects like global warming and war. The former is mentioned without ever getting preachy, but with a matter-of-fact approach that isn’t entirely devoid of humor. The latter is where things get really meaty, resulting in a deliciously middle grade take on A Song Of Ice And Fire, with plot twists and betrayals abounding. I really enjoyed the humorous riff on fantasy battle sagas, as well as the characteristically optimistic ending.
I’m glad Jms got me to read this book, especially since it gave us the opportunity for further discussion and bonding. I hope this also gives me a little more leverage in getting him to explore other books, even ones that lack pictures. Wish us luck!
The Meltdown (Diary Of A Wimpy Kid #13) by Jeff Kinney was published October 13 2018 by Harry N Abrams and is available from all good booksellers, including