Since there doesn’t seem to be a “books” subcategory, I’m just gonna put this in the general Entertainment category.
So you all know what Diary of a Wimpy Kid is, right? It’s been a part of my life for ages. Ten years ago, when I was in fourth grade, my mom bought me the first book, and I immediately fell in love with it. I read the sequels and then, when the first movie came out, I went to see it with a friend for my birthday. And as more books came out, I continued to read them and laugh my head off at them. Even after I had finished my own middle school years, I continued to read the books as they came out. And, unfortunately, they have been taking a slide in quality.
It was around book 10, Old School, that this started. Book 9 started to show signs of the series’ decline, but it was still an overall good book. My mom has suggested that, since I’m getting older, I have a different perspective on the tone of the books. Maybe she’s right to some extent, but the series has still undergone some major problems.
1.) ignoring the books’ premises. Book 10’s synopsis told potential readers that Greg was giving up modern technology and going back to the old days. This, along with the title and cover, made me believe Greg would be interacting with old-school technology like cassette tapes/players and old hip-hop music. But this did not happen. In fact, the “Old School” premise didn’t seem to get much more precedence over Rodrick’s new job, the pet pig being freakishly smart (more on that later), Grandpa Heffley moving in, and especially the antics at Hardscrabble Farms. Book 10, I’m willing to forgive, because it was still a pretty good book. But book 11…ugh. That one had virtually NOTHING to do with movie-making at all! And when it finally did get to it (IN THE LAST ENTRY OR TWO!), boy, was it underwhelming. There was some semblance of a plot with Greg dealing with Halloween, playing in the school band to get invited to a party, and making a new awkward friend, but it was heavily bogged down by…well, this is a perfect segway into the next point.
2.) Filler. Boy, the filler. Book 11 is especially guilty of this. In the more recent books, whenever Greg tells a story about something that happened to him when he was little, or gives his thoughts on stuff, it goes on FOREVER. Sure, he did that in earlier books, but back then, it would only take a couple pages as opposed to ten or twenty.
3.) Dragging things out. Expanding on the above point, it seems like most everything goes on for some time. In the most recent book, there seemed to be a lot of entries that went on forever. In earlier books, the entries were shorter and more concise. But lately, it feels like every school day or sleepover has to be dragged on for as long as possible. (Diary of an Awesome, Friendly Kid is guilty of this as well.)
4.) Diary of an Awesome, Friendly Kid. Boy, this book had a lot of wasted potential. When I heard about a book written from Rowley’s point of view, I thought that sounded interesting. We could go back to the events of book 1, where we’d see what Rowley really thought of the whole Safety Patrol mess where he got kicked off. Or we’d see how he felt about having a girlfriend in book 8. Gosh, this is writing itself! But the book we actually got was a bunch of random, unrelated events strung together to make a book. The only plot semblance was that Rowley wanted to write a biography about Greg, so he tells a lot of stories about things he did with Greg. I guess that in and of itself isn’t inherently bad. But what was bad was that the book was WAY too mean-spirited. If I had to take a guess, I’d say about 80% of it was Greg pranking Rowley, or insulting him, or both. It’s true that Greg is a bad person, but making the book as mean-spirited as it is just makes it hard to read.
5.) The cartoony tone. The books started out as a realistic fiction, and it worked really well for the first eight books. But like I said, book 9 was where things started to get ruined. The Beardos were SO cheesy as false antagonists. It’s a tough pill to swallow that 1.) the Heffleys keep running into the Beardos, and 2.) Greg believes that the Beardos would steal his family’s luggage and ram into his family’s car simply because he berated their kids for making a bunch of noise at night. And the pig. He wasn’t that corny or unrealistic in his introductory book, but in the next two books, he started doing things that were very unrealistic. Like, he’d walk on his hind legs, and write like a person and open a glass jar’s lid. It was definitely for the best that he was written out in book 12 onward, because he definitely overstayed his welcome. But book 12, I think, was when the cartoony tonal ■■■■■ became more glaring. It seemed like everything that went wrong was just a series of idiocy and sudden plot twists. Not to mention-why does Greg has to be scared of EVERYTHING? Seriously! He’s freaked out by merely the thought of flying in a plane, swimming in a kid’s pool, swimming around a reef, going out in public because of an embarrassment…the list goes on. And the one scene where he sees an iguana and runs so fast he skips across the water? [scoff] Yeah right. Book 13…I can’t think of anything glaringly unrealistic there. But in book 14, Manny Heffley, a three-year-old kid, is able to build a two-story, fully functioning house with electricity and a sprinkler system.
[slaps forehead] Stop it, Jeff Kinney. Just…just stop.
6.) Speaking of stopping, the series just refuses to end. Common knowledge is that book 3 was supposed to be the last book in the series before the publishing company made Jeff Kinney write even more books. Though I cannot find any official word on whether this is true, there is a lot of evidence. By my count, Greg should be starting his fifth year of middle school in the next book. Jeff Kinney’s reason is that Greg is a cartoon character who never ages, but he didn’t start claiming that until midway through the series, so I think he’s just making excuses. And the fact that we’re going on fifteen books with no end in sight…wow. Jeff Kinney can’t keep this series going forever, can he? Sure, the books still have some laughs every no and then, but I think, at the end of the day, there’s only so many times you can capture lightning in a bottle.
What do you guys think? Do you think Diary of a Wimpy Kid is redeemable, or should it just stop before things get really hectic?