Making It in Middle School: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
One of the best ways to survive early adolescence is to have a sense of humor, and Jeff Kinney's best-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid offers the chance for readers to see the humorous side of surviving the rite de passage of middle school. Indeed, what makes Kinney's main character Greg Heffley so funny is his inability to see how oblivious he is to his own cluelessness in the face of the challenges that face him. Perhaps readers who share his wimpy and somewhat self-centered view of the world can laugh and learn as they read.
Greg is a scrawny, socially untalented middle school newby who longs to be a popular and muscular ladies' man, but totally lacks the motivation to make the effort to get there. Instead he spends a lot of his energy trying to avoid schoolwork, get his hands on a video game called "Twisted Wizard," and hang out with his sidekick Rowley. Now, clueless as he is, Greg realizes that Rowley is still stuck in kidsville and admits that Rowley's status as "friend" is no sure thing:
"Rowley is technically my best friend, but that is definitely subject to change.
I've been avoiding Rowley since the first day of school, when he did something that really annoyed me.
We were getting our stuff from our lockers at the end of the day, and Rowley came up to me and said,"
"I have told Rowley at least a billion times that now that we're in middle school, you're supposed to say 'hang out,' not 'play.' But no matter how many noogies I give him, he always forgets the next time."
With friends like Rowley, Greg doesn't need enemies, but enemies he has, including his teen-aged brother Rodrick, whose chief joys are his garage band Loded Diper and finding ways to humiliate Greg. At school there are the various "gorillas who have to shave twice a day," who lay in wait for him everywhere, and his gym teacher whose "wrestling unit" pairs Greg with Fregley, the puniest and freakiest kid in school, who nevertheless takes him down in every match.
One of the funniest episodes has Greg and his sidekick Rowley trying to milk their last opportunity as cute costumed kids to bag a bunch of trick or treat candy. Finally shaking Greg's dad and toddler brother Manny, the two are happily bringing their treats home when they are zapped by a truckload of teenagers with a fire extinguisher. Thinking quickly (for him), Rowley uses his costume shield to block most of the water, and Greg can't resist yelling that they're calling the cops.
Whoops, it's the wrong time to go all law-abiding. The teen truckers chase the boys until they take refuge in Greg's grandma's house where, still feckless, they taunt the teenagers from the window. When they finally are forced to sneak through the backyards to get home, Greg's dad douses them with his favorite Halloween trick, a garbage can full of water. The rest of the year is spent as underground fugitives until the teenagers finally catch Rowley and make him eat the "the Cheese" a discarded cheese sandwich which has been ripening on the asphalt at the playground for a year.
It's a hard-knock life for Greg Heffley, recalling Ben Franklin's jest that "experience keeps a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other," but Kinney's characters and priceless cartoon drawings are absolutely drop-dead funny. But although the cartoons add much to the story, Kinney is such a great comic writer that the text would be hilarious even without them. His caricatures are both comedic and sympathetic, with everyone's foibles showing up eventually. Somehow, though, you can't help pulling for Greg along the way. For easy reading that will make you laugh so hard you almost drop the book, this one's a winner.