Diary of a Wimpy Kid’: A Perpetual Nightmare

By Andrew Lin, age 13, Upper Canada College, Toronto

Greg Heffley, everyone’s favorite wimpy kid, has burned through years worth of diaries — sorry, journals — yet has never shown growth or change. His life, in the form of this series, is a perpetual nightmare, propelling itself forward with sequel after sequel, repeating itself over and over, but progressively getting less worth reading. When Greg complained about being “stuck in middle school,” maybe he was talking about “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

Since its 2007 release, the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series has churned out 15 books, four movies and several spinoff books, standing out for being written in the form of Greg’s journal and containing his (mostly negative) remarks on school, family, friends and everything else that Jeff Kinney, the author, throws at him. The books don’t follow clear-cut story lines — as expected from a middle schooler’s journal — but end with climactic scenes, be it confrontation with bullies or narrowly escaping an angry mob by drifting a camper an into a bridge, “Fast and Furious”-style. The latter, however, is an example of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid’s” problem.

The first few books were successes, spinning jokes, commentaries and illustrations together in a way that was relatable to their audience, leaving kids asking for more. Kinney tried to give them more, but he had lost his spark; to keep the series going, he resorted to ridiculous over-exaggerations, to absurd jokes, to repetition, repetition, repetition.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” relies on Greg being selfish and having a flawed view of his world; as he said in the first book, “I’ll be famous one day, but for now I’m stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons.” This started out humorous and sometimes even relatable — but, 14 sequels later, Greg is still the same cynical, socially clueless wimp. The other characters haven’t changed either — and neither have the ideas. The only difference is that the characters have now been simplified, losing their relatability, and that the jokes and stories have been inflated to ridiculous proportions. Even the youngest kids will notice this and grow tired of Greg’s suffering and complaints. Someone needs to confiscate Kinney’s air pump before another sequel arrives.

Yet “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” still sells. Every year, a new audience enters the target age group and discovers Greg’s journal for the first time, then begs their parents to buy them a copy. Unlike other series, which search for longtime fans, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is being kept alive by the very thing it discarded: growth.

Maybe I’m being too harsh; maybe the series just isn’t right for me. Or maybe I inevitably did what our wimpy kid doesn’t. Grow up.