I didn’t expect much from this book, which looked like a sloppy, lazy effort to get a cheap laugh and a quick buck from a young readership that doesn’t know any better.
But I was pleasantly surprised by Kinney’s take on the woes of life as a nerd in junior high. I found it insightful and sympathetic and refreshing.
Kinney’s sophomore effort was more of the same, but it suffers a little from the fact that his device of an illustrated diary is no longer novel. When we read the sequel, he can’t rely on innovation to distract the reader from the writing anymore.
Kinney’s writing isn’t bad, but he’s no C.S. Lewis, that’s for sure. It’s a good thing his illustrations are still moderately amusing.
One of my least favorite things in a book is when the author dangles a carrot in front of the nose of the reader to get them to keep plugging through the book. They promise a juicy plot point and build it up like it’s going to blow. Your. Mind. But then they reveal the secret, and it turns out that the carrot was cardboard all along. If you’re going to hype up that secret from the beginning of the book, you’d better deliver, Kinney.
However, my biggest disappointment with Rodrick Rules is that, in my opinion, Kinney bit off more than he was able to chew. He tried to deal with themes of fitting in, sibling rivalry, friendship, and secrets, but he wasn’t able to develop any of those themes as fully as he did in his debut effort. It’s the Curse of the Sophomore Album: The Literary Version. He tries to replicate the magic of the original, but his efforts come off contrived and hollow.
As a whole, I can still think of worse things to read out there. But, to be honest, the only reason I still plan to read the third book in the series is that I’m a little obsessive-compulsive when it comes to reading series. I have to finish, no matter how bad the series is (I’m looking at you, Francine Pascal).
And there’s also the fact that I won’t be able to refuse the kids who lend me these books. They look at me with those excited, young faces and I can’t help but to say, “Yeah, I’d love to borrow another 39 Clues book!”
I hope Kinney learned from his mistakes on this book and that Book 3 will surprise me.