Updated: Mar 2
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a mainstay of elementary school book fairs. My friends and I worshiped these things back then, following the release of a new book as one would follow the new Marvel movie coming out. We even had competitions to see how fast we could read them. I may have fond memories of the books, but lots of negative ones also come to mind. And most of all, feelings of frustration with how stupid I found Greg Heffley to be most of the time. My thoughts on this book are convoluted and muddled, but they interest me greatly. How did the fandom as a whole react to these books as they came out? Do the books evolve as they go on? Most importantly, do these books hold up?
To analyze the evolution of this collection over time, I’ve read the 1st, 8th, and 12th books in the series.
Book 1, Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Claps all around to Diary of a Wimpy Kid writer Jeff Kinney because this book holds up surprisingly well. Maybe this is just because these books are easy to read in like 2 hours so I didn’t have time to get sick of it, but I can see why so many kids loved these. This book serves as our introduction to the diary of a wimpy kid series, which means the introduction to the menace to society that is Greg Hefley. We follow Greg during his first year of middle school and laugh at his pathetic attempts to become popular. While Greg is the protagonist of this story, he is not the hero and is quite possibly one of the most unlikeable main characters in recent history. Almost every action he takes negatively affects the characters around him.
Despite the genuine hatred I have for Greg, this book does have some decent moments. Typically the good moments come when Greg is the butt of the joke, and while these moments do happen, I wish they were far more plentiful. The book is also fairly well-paced, and it never seems to linger on a plotline for too long. Most of the other jokes fall pretty flat, although to be fair, they might work better for the intended age audience. Overall this book was a pleasant surprise and an exciting start to the series.
Book 8, Hard Luck
This was… disappointing. I used to read this one religiously when I was younger. At some points, it was even my favorite book in the series. Unfortunately, there are some major issues littered throughout the book. The first problem is that Greg has gone from being a naive and narcissistic middle schooler to a downright demonic and dumb cretin. The number of insane things Greg will believe in this book purely for a gag gets to be a bit excessive. In searching for more comedic moments, this book ends up dragging on with pointless and unbelievable gags that do nothing but separate the reader from Greg. To make matters worse, Greg is by far more prominent in this book than in the last, and there are much fewer characters for him to interact with.
This book spends most of its time putting Greg in bad situations and seeing how he lives through them. This book is also a lot less linear than the first one, which hurts the pacing quite a bit in my opinion. Compared to the first book, most of the problems Greg finds himself in are situations outside of his control, so now the comedy comes less from Greg’s hypocrisy and foolishness, and more from the stupidity of those around him. Greg has become more of a “straight man”, just a really evil one. The issue with this is that it’s a lot more boring. I don’t know if it’s because Jeff Kinney just isn’t as good at writing this type of comedy, or if it’s because the series simply isn’t suited for this kind of story. That being said, the book isn't all bad, it has some pretty interesting and original gimmicks. I especially enjoyed the Magic 8-Ball section of the book. Amongst the fandom, Hard Luck seems to be the generally agreed-upon point where these books tend to go downhill, and I agree. It’s a much more bloated and boring experience compared to the first one, and I don’t see what 8 year old me saw in it.
Book 12, Double Down
Double Down is bad, like really bad. It’s a pointless meandering story jumping from one pointless and ridiculous subplot to another. Greg Hefley is more annoying than ever before, but now there are no other characters with enough screen time to offset it. While Hard Luck was at least somewhat linear in its story, this book has no real overarching storylines, and it doesn't pull it off. This series has gone from a somewhat exaggerated but mostly grounded story to a cartoonish insanity fest with almost no redeeming qualities. While this book is packed to the brim with different splintered stories, it’s far more boring than the last two books combined. None of the storylines have anything close to a lasting effect on me. All other characters of note have been stripped away in favor of giving us more Greg, who has by now become one of the most annoying and frustrating main characters in literary history. I see no reason to linger on this book any longer, as it sucks. No wonder it’s the most hated one in the fandom.
To truly understand the feelings regarding Diary of a Wimpy Kid, we have to look at the fandom’s opinion of the series. One clear consensus of the fandom is that everyone hates Manny. The feelings of pure hate and malice people have against this weird demon baby are astonishing, and the amount of hate this creature receives on a weekly basis is enough to make anyone cry. The fandom is surprisingly active with how old this series has gotten, the subreddit even has over 100 thousand subscribers, no small feat for any book series.
Not my Rodrick
Rodrick is the most universally loved character to come out of the Diary of a Wimpy kid series, and he has accomplished the feat of spawning a whole new generation of simps. With this also comes not my Rodrick. To truly understand the origin of this phenomenon we have to delve into an area I have been avoiding so far, the movies. More specifically we have to look at two people, Devon Bostick and Charlie Wright.
Devon Bostick was the original Rodrick, the loved Rodrick, the admired Rodrick. He is single-handedly responsible for Rodricks love. Then, in a vicious attack, the role of Rodrick was ripped away from him, torn from his arms, and given to the evil Charlie Wright. Thus began not my Rodrick. An internet meme/campaign furious at this transfer of character portrayal. The online world was littered with different memes or posts mocking Charlie Wright and praising Devon Bostick. Eventually, not only the new Rodrick was attacked, all the new casting choices were mocked. The movie was hated before it even came out.
Eventually, though, the new movie came out, and it was bad. People relentlessly made fun of it. The movement fizzled out for the most part in the months after the movie came out. Charlie Wrights’ performance was forgotten. Devon Bostick’s version, the original, is still loved to this day.
The Fanfiction (CW suicide)
One of the most baffling things to come out of the fandom is the fanfiction. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, 25 years after. This 20-page work of art shows Greg’s life 25 years after the books, taking a much darker and more serious tone. Greg is down on his luck working a dead-end job that he hates. His only connection left from middle school is Bryce Anderson, the used-to-be popular kid who is now Greg’s boss. I won’t go too in-depth to avoid spoilers, but this fanfiction is a 20-page epic exploring death, sexuality, mental health, and homelessness, and it’s so horrendous it’s wonderful.
Is Diary of a Wimpy Kid good?
No, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is not good. It’s inconsistent, often boring, and often frustrating to read. It’s packed with unfunny and ridiculous bits half the time. But it’s not all bad. At its best, it's a grounded story about a middle schooler just experiencing life. It can be a genuinely funny graphic novel, and I just can’t bring myself to call a series that has had such an influence on so many people “bad”. Diary of a Wimpy kid is an intensely complicated and confusing series, but I kind of love it for it.