The Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney is extremely popular with the 8-12 year old crowd. I see librarians and book clubs frequently recommending it as the perfect book to interest reluctant readers. I read it for the first time the other day in a little over an hour; it is more comic book than novel so it’s a very quick read. And, I hated it.
The basic problem is that the protagonist, Greg Heffley, is a lying video game addict who manipulates his friends, disrespects his parents, and doesn’t show personal growth to speak of in the story. I’ll break that down with details for you.
Greg is a liar. He lies to his parents, his teachers, his friends, and his peers. He’s not just any liar: he’s a skilled, sneaky one. For example, when his dad tells him to go play outside, Greg goes to a friend’s house and plays video games. Then he soaks himself in a sprinkler so it looks like he’s been running around working up a sweat, thereby deceiving his dad. On another occasion, Greg deceives his friend’s parents by sneaking in a forbidden violent video game in the case of an educational one.
Let’s talk about the video games. Greg lives for his video games, and he prefers violent ones. He describes car-racing as too babyish, and resents his friend’s contentment with such boring games. The more violent the game, the cooler for Greg. When Christmas comes, he sulks about not getting the particularly violent video game he wants and is ungrateful for all his other presents.
Greg has a rather sweet, slightly immature best friend, Rowley, whom he manipulates and bullies. He beats up Rowley using all the same moves his own brother used to beat him up. He makes fun of Rowley’s simpler tastes in video games and humor. On one occasion, he convinces Rowley to ride a big wheel down a hill repeatedly while Greg throws a football at his head to try to knock him off. This is the great friendship in the book, and I actually found it truly sad to read.
Greg has a abysmal view of adults in general. He considers them dumb and easily tricked. Unfortunately, in this story the adults are rather dumb and easily tricked. He repeatedly gets around video game grounding by sneaking off to game at his friend Rowley’s house. He tricks Rowley’s parents by sneaking in video games they have expressly forbidden in their home. Greg’s teachers are also sometimes taken in by his lies.
The ending of the book is supposed to provide a shade of redemption in one area of Greg’s life at least: he finally does something kind for Rowley. But here’s the problem: the kind act is telling a lie to get Rowley out of an embarrassing predicament. At this point, I was asking, really, Jeff Kinney? That’s the best redemptive moment you can come up with?
There are miscellaneous other problematic areas of the book. One that really bothered me was a scenario where Greg’s older brother left a bikini pictures magazine laying out and Greg’s littler brother took it to show and tell. This is supposed to be hilarious; it’s most certainly not what I want my 8-12 year old laughing about.
There is also extensive potty humor, lots of bullying at the school, a scene where the angry dad throws objects at Greg, and really resentful sibling relationships. All things considered, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is one of the last books I’d ever give my child to read. Don’t fall into the trap of believing junk food books like this are all is out there for your reluctant reader! There are so, so many better books out there! Check out my lists for 8 to 9 year olds , 10 to 11 year olds, and Graphic Novels and Comic Books for some awesome alternative options!
9 thoughts on “Review of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid””
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I watched my now 8-year old grandson go from reading the type of books you recommend to reading Captain Underpants and now the Wimpy Kid books, both of which are provided each week by his school library. I abhor those books that contribute nothing toward his growth as God would have it. I spent an hour searching for anyone to agree with my judgement, but only found accolades. And I learned there are 14 of the Wimpy Kid books! After shutting down my computer, it suddenly occurred to me to ask for a Catholic review and I found your website. Thank you. I am going to pass it on to my son, the father of said boy, who has never been a reluctant reader, but now he’s reading junk!
I’m so glad you found this review helpful! These books definitely have a way of spoiling a child’s ability to appreciate wholesome, classic books. I think most parents have no idea the messages these books are conveying. I hope your grandson rediscovers his love for good books!
These books are horrible! My sister-in-law keeps buying them for my son, and my husband won’t agree to just ask her to stop. The worst part? Our son eats up the piggish, amoral, irreverent humor. They are a true reflection of what our society is coming to, and they glorify the opposite of all the values I am trying to teach. 😦
That’s a tough situation! I agree they are simply horrible books. I hope you can find a way to get them out of your home!
Thank you for this review! I saw the author of the Diary of A Whimpy Kid series, on EWTN news and it sounded like it was a fun but good Catholic series. I went out and bought the whole series for my 9 year old grandson. I am very upset with myself. I am very close to my grandson. He loves the series. At least now I know I need to have a conversation about them with him. Thank God, He led me here.
oh my goodness! i never realized how terrible these books are. my 17 year old is so into these books but now i will have to stop buying them. i will remove them from the household as i don’t want my child to be learning about manipulative liars. thanks brittany.
This is an invaluable review. Thank you!
My children were reading those books when younger, I wish I had read the before, but, oh, how much you rely on what the school recommends! It’s completely opposite to how I brought them up… So sad. I wonder what the author was like when younger and what brought him to write the series…