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The next thing I knew, she was talking about this kid named Greg like he was the brother she never had – how funny he was, how he was acting spoiled, and how his best friend seemed nice.
At first, I was a little confused, but after a while, I quickly picked up that these characters were people she could actually connect with.
It’s clear that author Jeff Kinney understands very well the preteen mind. Instead of falling into the easy bathroom humor I’ve come to expect from many preteen shows, I was surprised to find that the writing flowed extremely well and is clever. You get the sense that Kinney is a preteen while writing this, and while he definitely is not, you can also see that he has a lot of fun with the writing and drawing.
For a man who started in the business somewhat by accident – he initially wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist – he has found great success with the Heffley family. In fact, in the online version of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, Kinney has garnered some 80 million visitors and seen 70,000 kids a day reading his story about Greg and his family.
The book Diary of a Wimpy Kid offers readers young and old insight into the life of Greg Heffley, and with that insight, there is a certain degree of understanding for the preteen set and nostalgia for those who might be a little older. Let’s face it; those preteen years are tough, but Kinney tackles that uncomfortable time with humor and understanding about that time.
Greg Heffley is pretty confident that he is ready for middle school, and is pretty happy that his best pal, Rowley Jefferson, is there with him. Where Greg is pretty typical of your middle school student who has not hit the major growth spurt that many of his peers have, Rowley is cheerfully eccentric. He has always marched to his own drummer and plans to continue to do so as he continues through life.
Greg, on the other hand, believes he has a master plan to become a popular kid in middle school – a plan that often backfires and one that eventually sees Rowley become the popular kid that Greg obviously wishes he could be. Ultimately, Greg’s jealousy over his best friend’s growing popularity has an impact on the pair’s longtime friendship, and when Greg uses Rowley’s rising star status to his own advantage, things become even more strained.
Throughout the novel, we are introduced to the eclectic cast of characters that make up Greg’s family and the characters that have heavy influences throughout his life. This introduction and how Greg handles these people gives us more information about Greg instead of the people themselves, but the reader understands that life is also very much like that; our dealings with others shows us a lot more about ourselves than anything else we could possibly consider.
The novel flows very well as Greg himself takes us through a year in middle school life. We can groan at his behavior and learn from his mistakes. We can also celebrate his victories throughout the novel in much the same way we would a friend’s.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid focuses on Greg Heffley and his self-centered family, and that’s a good thing. We all have stories about those family relations that aggravate us and that annoy us, so why should this book be any different?
We also gain insight into the selfishness that preteens struggle with through Greg, and readers of any age can connect to the base desire that drives Greg throughout the novel – the desire to fit in and perhaps even become popular.
Greg is a self-centered creature, but he is also a product of his environment. His dad Frank is obsessed with how his boys look to his boss and his mom Susan will not let anyone make a decision about purchases without her giving her blessing.
He treats the kid who is supposedly his best friend unkindly, yet, Rowley being Rowley, simply accepts Greg for who he is – at least, until he can’t take anymore. It is then that the cons quickly turn into pros and the reader is able to see Greg mature.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a wonderful read for kids of virtually any age. Preteen kids today can enjoy it for Kinney’s quick wit and genuine understanding of just how those middle school years can be. While Greg can be somewhat of a pain in the butt at times, he genuinely is a product of his environment, as so many of us are. The reader understands this, just as he or she understands that Greg is basically a good kid with big plans that went horribly awry. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the book that started the love of reading among younger kids – again – and should be celebrated for its ability to connect with its readers in a very humanistic, kindhearted way.
While it’s a well-written book that reads smoothly and has enough action to spark the interest of preteens who may be going through similar crises to Greg, older kids may find the book a bit tiresome and irrelevant to them. On the whole, though, Diary of a Wimpy Kid has done what many parents could not – get kids reading again after Harry Potter took over the literary landscape.
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