By Becina Ganther
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel has arrived, and readers are in for an experience comparable to the original book that started the series phenomenon.The 7th book in the series authored by Jeff Kinney, The Third Wheel chronicles the next chapter in the entertaining life of protagonist middle-schooler Greg Heffley. Readers will laugh at Greg’s humorous narration as he reflects on his early childhood and tackles his first Valentine’s Day Dance. A great book for readers of all ages, The Third Wheel deserves five stars for its tact at finding comedic treasures in middle school experiences.
One of the main reasons why this book will appeal to readers is the relatability. Anyone who has been through middle school may recognize some of the laughable situations Greg gets into, or be thankful that they were never in his position. For instance, UAHS students may find a familiar ring in Greg’s narration concerning his school’s chocolate bar fundraisers. “Lots of families like mine had to write a check to the school just to cover the cost of the candy bars their children ate. It’s possible that nobody sold a single bar” (88). Manys students have participated in a fundraiser selling treats, whether in the role of buying or vending the products.
The next most relatable subject discussed in The Third Wheel is the middle school dance experience. Greg’s failed attempts to find a date for the Valentine Dance may strike a chord with students who remember too clearly the pain from their first rejection. One of Greg’s date-hunting methods involves passing a note to a girl in his class with his invitation to the dance. At the bottom of the note, he writes, “P.S. If the answer is no, please hand this to Julia Barros, who is two seats to your left” (112). Greg’s cluelessness about the opposite gender is both laughable and relatable to anyone else who has ever felt this way.
A major section of the plot is dedicated to Greg’s interactions and feelings about his Uncle, Gary, who takes refuge at the Heffley home after his business scam fails. Students who have had a relative stay overnight will relate to the inconvenience such a visit could place on the family. They may feel the same annoyance as Greg, who says “I’m starting to wish Uncle Gary would get a job, too, because lately he’s been spending a lot of time in my room playing on the computer” (91).
Any book with sibling relationships should address the trouble with hand-me-downs, and The Third Wheel definitely delivers- “I’d say about 90% of everything I wear is a hand-me-down from [my brother]Rodrick… all you have to do is check the tags in my underwear for proof” (128). The underwear tag has Rodrick’s name crossed out and Gregory written below it. Readers with older siblings will laugh along as they consider any hand-me-downs they have in their own closets.
Along with Greg’s opinion on hand-me-downs, readers will expect to see familiar drawings from the six previous books that they know and love, and they won’t be disappointed. Opening to the cover page, one can see Greg’s entire family making a reappearance. The cast of characters includes Greg’s buck-toothed little brother Manny, and Rodrick with five short spikes of hair. Greg’s mother is drawn with glasses that appear to make her eyes invisible, while dad has his usual 2 strands of hair. And of course, no reader could ever forget Greg’s signature look with 3 wavy strands of hair on the top of his head. Joining the family on the cover is Rowley, Greg’s best friend who is drawn with wide teeth in desperate need of braces. A new character, Uncle Gary, is introduced with shaggy hair and an unkempt moustache.
Like the characters, detailed drawings help exaggerate the humor in the sticky situations Greg finds himself in. One scene that shows this in particular is the dinner date at Corny’s which Greg describes as a total zoo. To exaggerate this claim, the drawing next to the text includes a boy throwing a plate of food at another boy, and the plate has the word “fling” written next to it to emphasize the action. Off to the right, a boy jumps off a chair and prepares to land on top of another screaming boy. A shirtless kid eats pizza while sitting atop his dad’s shoulders, and a pre-teen girl chats on her phone amidst the chaos. This drawing effectively demonstrates the humor in the stereotype of young boys going crazy and girls’ obsessions with technology, while also making Greg’s view of his dinner situation seem hilariously worse than it actually is.
Older readers should not be wary of the fact that half the book is drawings, because the content of the drawings will amuse every age. Besides, the purpose of the drawings in this book, unlike most children’s literature, is to add another dimension to the plot, not to simply regurgitate the text. It can even be argued that the book can stand alone with just the drawings, because they tell a story unto themselves. An example of how the drawings add to the plot is the scene in which Greg is attempting to speed up the breakup between Julie Webber and Ed Norwell, in the hopes that he can convince Julie to go the dance with him. The drawing is of Greg crouching behind Julie, whispering “YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN HIM!” (117). No written explanation is provided, as the drawing speaks for itself.
The seventh installment in Jeff Kinney’s series will be a treat for readers who enjoyed the previous books, or any newcomers to the series looking for a good time. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel will have thoughtful and whimsical readers alike both falling off their chairs laughing and reminiscing their own middle school experience.