Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: A Novel in Cartoons (Jeff Kinney)

Ever since I've begun The Daily Genoshan, everywhere I go I've been looking for new and exciting books to review. I am no longer reading for pleasure, but for the benefit of all mankind, so I've gotta be on the lookout. For example, I was in Target the other day, and saw Diary of a Wimpy Kid in the surprisingly large book section they've set up, so I decided to make it the very first book read specifically for all of you faithful Genoshans out there. All of the previous books reviewed I had either recently finished or recently begun at the time of TDG's creation.

This is a momentous day for us all, and could possibly be an official holiday in the future.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: A Novel in Cartoons is an interesting little book. That second part of the title, "a novel in cartoons", is really what the book is all about. Jeff Kinney sets up the "novel" as the journal (diaries are for girls) of middle schooler Greg Heffley. Greg is a sometimes aspiring cartoonist, so the journal entries frequently include stick figure depictions of whatever event Greg is complaining about. The journal begins with the first day of school in September and ends with the last day of school in June, chronicling all of Greg's failed attempts at becoming popular—or just avoiding unpopularity—in the process.

So, it's a 12 year old's diary, with stick figures. Did I mention it's a #1 New York Times Bestseller? Yeah, it surprised me, too.

This book isn't bad, it's cute, and a lot of fun at times, but it's really not all that spectacular. I wouldn't even say that I might've enjoyed more if I was a little bit younger than I am, because I read a lot of children's/young adult books, have taken classes on children's literature, and have tried my hand at writing it a little as well. I enjoy reading children's literature, it's just not a great book. The premise is cool, the pictures are quirky, and some of the jokes from September come back in January or May, which is fun, but it's not a very compelling story, and there are times when I don't even like Greg all that much. Sometimes bad stuff happens to him and I feel bad, and other times he's just a little too angsty. He's a complete jerk to his best friend, but never really feels bad about it. His parents do something really nice for him, and he doesn't care that much. He always finds something to complain about, which might be realistic for the age of the character, but gets annoying after a while. There's never any character growth, or change, so it reads like a textbook that happens to be funny sometimes. It's okay for a little light reading or as an example of a way to present your own stories in a unique format, but it's not something I would necessarily recommend to anyone over the age of 15.

I liked the idea, but it disappoints. Bummer.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: A Novel in Cartoons
by Jeff Kinney

Jeff Kinney hits most of the major highs and lows in the year of a middle school student, but does so with flat and often cliched characters.

I've never seen "a novel in cartoons," so it has that going for it. It's trying very hard to not be a comic book, and succeeding, theoretically. Too bad the idea is better than the actual writing.

Sometimes it's light and fun, sometimes it's boring and annoying. I wouldn't expect to see this one on any Top Ten lists.


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