Greg Heffley, that most profoundly unlikable of antiheroes, is back with another litany of complaints.
The book opens with a lengthy lampoon of the efforts of overeager parents to produce genius children (completely fruitless, as Greg’s post-utero experience clearly demonstrates) and ends with an enormously unpleasant Valentine’s Day dance. In between, Greg schemes for the upper hand, as always. The recession brings a cautionary example to the household in the person of his loser uncle Gary, who crashes on the couch while recouping losses from the purchase of cartons of misspelled souvenir “Botson” T-shirts. Oh, the irony: Though Greg recognizes his uncle as a creepy jerk, he does not see in Gary his inevitable future self. Will readers? Seven books into the series, one would expect to see some growth in Greg’s character, but no. He's as self-serving and manipulative as ever, possibly even more so, and by this point, there are few laughs left to mine. One’s left wondering, what is the enduring appeal? Given that Kinney’s oeuvre has spawned an entire subgenre (though he did not originate it—Marissa Moss' Amelia’s Notebook and its sequels combined faux-handwritten journals with drawings beginning in 1995), it's mystifying that kids are not flocking to the many alternatives now available.
It’s time for the Wimpy Kid machine to grind to a halt. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)