Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth
Book review by Monica Friedman
Greg Heffley Fails to the Learn the Facts of Life in the Latest Installment of the Popular Wimpy Kid Series
If you enjoyed the smug, self-important slacker attitude of wimpy kid Greg Heffley in the four previous Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, by all means, read on. If you were disturbed by the popularity of a character who asserts that he is pretty much the best person he knows, despite the absence of any evidence in favor of this hypothesis, you might prefer to pick up a book in Rachel Renee Russell’s Dork Diaries series, which is superior to the Wimpy Kid books in terms of artistic and literary merit as well as in its depiction of a sympathetic protagonist: a rip-off that improves greatly on the original.
But, if you’re keen to know what Greg is about to learn in regard to personal responsibility, the physical development of the adolescent, and what it means to have and be a friend (hint: not much), then keep reading.
In the last book, Greg’s domineering and ungrateful behavior toward Rowley, one of the few kids in middle school more socially inept than Greg (but still cool enough, by Greg’s standards, to hang out with, because he’s obedient), caused him to lose his only friend. He’s convinced Rowley will come crawling back, but, much to his chagrin, Rowley seems fine without him, and is perfectly happy playing with the positive teenage role model that his parents pay to hang out with him.
Meanwhile, people seem to be making a lot of noise about growing up, but no one can explain growing up to Greg’s satisfaction. In health class, they only learn about “zygotes and chromosomes” and spend lunchtime arguing about what they were actually taught. When Grammie gives Greg “the big talk” he finds out that “getting older is no walk in the park and that getting to be her age REALLY stinks.” As far as he can tell from his mom, growing up involves boys smelling like a sewer. The only adult he wants for his role model is his most irresponsible uncle, and at the end of the book he concludes, “I guess I’m just not in a big rush to grow up right now.”
What’s good about Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth is that it is precisely the sort of book that encourages reluctant readers to want to read. Any kid who’s ever felt left out, unheard, or treated unfairly can identify with Greg Heffley, who, illustrated as a sort of glorified stick figure with dots for eyes and three hairs on his head, can stand in for most undeveloped adolescent boys.
As with Dav Pilkey’s popular Captain Underpants series (reviewed on this site), the handwritten text and copious, cartoonish illustrations are a draw for those who feel oppressed by the small text size and number of words in the serious chapter books they’re required to read for class. It feels very much like a story a boy might tell about his own life, smarting at small stings, exaggerating small accomplishments, and embellishing at will. And Greg, in the end, is not a completely horrible human being.
While he never apologizes to Rowley, he does realize that they “have a really long history together, and there’s no point in throwing that away over something dumb,” and starts hanging out with him again (but he refuses to wear the broken-heart “best friends” locket that Rowley gives him). Plus, he even learns to appreciate his mom, just a little bit.
Read more of Monica's reviews.
Webmaster's note: Read the take of another reviewer on the first book in the Wimpy Kid series.
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