Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Author: Jeff Kinney
Publication Date: 2008
Length: 217 pages
Genre: graphic novel, humor, diary fiction
TW: bullying (largely from the protagonist, though you could say he receives a fair bit from his older brother)
So, there are a lot of things that frustrate me as a teacher: grading papers, paperwork, staying late for meetings. The worst however, is the fact that the annoying kids in any sort of media, whether it’s movies, books, whatever, are no longer just annoying, but downright infuriating at times. Okay, so infuriating may seem a little strong, but deal with thrown pencils, cruel comments, and distraught students (a lot of times from said comments/behavior) for long enough and you’ll see what I mean.
A lot of people along the line forget or choose to ignore the fact that kids are jerks. I unfortunately do not have that luxury. Thus I have very mixed feelings about Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.
Because wow. Yes, this story about a 7th grader dealing with everything, from parents trying to force sibling togetherness time to asshole big brothers who lock you in the basement during their (totally not allowed) party, is very true to life in a lot of ways- and with a certain frame of mind, is kind of amusing. But at the same time, Greg Heffley, the protagonist of the series, is an absolute jerk. Beyond standard kid jerkiness. And I mean, I don’t expect some saint. I’ve seen that before and that’s just boring, but I would expect something to let me know this kid isn’t just an asshole. That never happened.
Which is frustrating, because the book does have a lot of things that I like. I’ve always loved comics and graphic novels and I’m always up for books that combine visual elements with writing. This series does that in a really interesting way, since the writing is set up to look like Greg’s journal, notebook lines and all. The illustrations, inserted into the text, almost feel like they could have been drawn by Greg himself. If it weren’t for a few more-detailed drawings, plus the addition of some of Greg’s own comics, I would have assumed they were meant to be. It’s that style of storytelling I think that drew me to the book to begin with. I love slice of life types of stories- letters and diaries and such- and despite its flaws, this series is a really good example of that. Also, I’ve heard it’s done great things for reluctant readers and that always a plus in my book.
I just wish that I could connect more with the main character. It’s not that he’s unrealistic, but rather that he’s the sort of person I would have steered clear of as a kid because he just doesn’t seem to care about anyone but himself. I’ve had to deal with that enough in my life without reading about it. Which is also the reason this one probably won’t find its way into my classroom library- because I’m not about to make my life more difficult than it already is, and I have a feeling this book, while some of my kids would enjoy it, would only ramp up a bad situation.