Title: Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid (Rowley Jefferson’s Journal)
Author/Illustrator: Jeff Kinney
Published: Amulet Books, 2019
Guys, guys, guys. I’ve been putting off writing this review for two weeks. Every time I start, I stop.
This is a really tough one for me.
See, I love Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Or, I loved it. Love? Loved? I don’t know. Because Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid has changed my view of the ENTIRE series.
Let me back this review up. Pump the brakes. Give you some backstory.
I fell in love with Diary of a Wimpy Kid when Greg Heffley existed only online. I worked for a children’s website at that point, and we kept an eye on our competitors. I found DOAWK one day and read it all in one sitting. I thought Greg was an awkward, snarky, geeky character who occasionally did kind things. He was never, ever what I’d call a bully.
I own every single DOAWK book (truth: my husband buys me the latest one for Christmas every year). And, yeah, they’re not ALL totally amazing, but they’re fun to read and book 3 (The Last Straw) has one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen in an MG book. (Spoiler alert: it’s all about how Shel Silverstein looks more like a pirate than a children’s author. It’s hilariously funny. I laughed out loud when I first read the book.)
Which brings us to now.
Safe to say, I was excited to discover Rowley’s diary in the Scholastic book order.
Excited, but a bit nervous.
See, Rowley has had his moments in the series, but mostly he’s sort of the Rod/Todd Flanders to Greg’s geeky Bart. Rowley hasn’t ever shown a great deal of personality (beyond being a major goody-goody) – and definitely not enough to make up an entire book.
So, in my mind, Jeff Kinney had two choices:
- To give Rowley a personality.
- To run with the fact that Rowley doesn’t have much of a personality, but to put him into situations that are funny/interesting, and test his goody-goody nature.
Apparently there was a third choice:
3. Create a book that ignores 13 prior books and ventures into totally new territory.
The book starts with Rowley introducing Greg almost immediately. He tells the reader that although Greg is his friend, his parents don’t like Greg (I feel you, Jeffersons). It’s very clear why. On page 7, Greg ‘whaps’ Rowley upside the head with his own diary.
This is just the start of Greg’s immense jackassery. Here, in no particular order of jerkiness, are some of the things Greg did in this book:
- Egged Mr. Jefferson’s car.
- Made Rowley write his (Greg’s) biography, instead of a book about himself (Rowley).
- Stole Rowley’s bike.
- Made Rowley the butt of his jokes.
- Ditched Rowley in the woods at night and went home to watch TV.
- Tricked Rowley into thinking a burglar had broken into his house, then got mad when Rowley freaked out and fought back (with a tennis racket).
- Chased Rowley with a slug.
- Created fake awards for Rowley to make him his own personal servant.
- Was a complete and total monster at the library when they were meant to be studying.
- Cheated from Rowley on a math test.
- Wrecked the ONE nice thing he did for Rowley by telling him that he (Rowley) owed him (Greg) a ton more favours.
- Lied to Rowley about random things.
- Locked Rowley outside at night.
- Laughed at Rowley’s creative ideas.
- Nicknamed Rowley “Stoop.”
- Licked Rowley’s food.
- Wouldn’t let Rowley use the bathroom at a sleepover.
- Whapped Rowley with a book again.
All of these things paint Greg in a REALLY negative light. Like, who on earth would want to read 13 books about this kind of bully? I don’t know why, as an author, you’d throw out 13 books of canon and just…start over? Make up completely new characters? I mean, Greg has never been a saint…but…he’s never been like THAT either. Why, Jeff Kinney? Why? Where’s the funny, dry humour combined with absurd situations we’ve grown to know and love? (The one decent part of this book was the series of “Zoo-Wee Mama” strips. They felt like OG DOAWK).
One more thing…
I know a kid who’s been bullied this year…a LOT. I know what it’s done to him and his family. Some people will argue that the events in DOAAFK are just kids being goofy. But here’s the thing: it’s a completely unbalanced relationship. Rowley rarely, if ever, gets Greg back. It’s all one-sided and Rowley’s the victim. And formerly geeky, snarky, not-awful Greg is now a complete bully and total ass. I am SO behind the Jeffersons – they’re right: Rowley needs new friends.
So, what next?
Welp, if it was me writing this, I’d pretend DOAAFK never existed and go back to writing about Greg being the kid he’s always been. And, truthfully, I’d wrap up the series. Better to leave on a high note than, well, something like this.
Mama’s Review: Man. I’m so disappointed. I don’t even have a clever rating system for it.