My rating: 3 of 5 stars
With The Last Straw, Jeff Kinney recovers from a lackluster sophomore novel, Rodrick Rules, but is unable to recapture all of the magic of his original hit, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
This installment of the series picks up after the Christmas of seventh grade for the eponymous wimpy kid, Greg Heffley. He gets a series of predictably lame gifts from his family and his doofus of a best friend, Rowley. The rest of seventh grade unfolds in typical junior-high fashion, complete with awkward moments with the opposite sex, family strife, and that all-too-familiar sense of wanting to belong and not knowing how to make it happen.
The tone of this novel is closer to that of the first book in the series, which was a relief for me. I liked that the first novel was focused on being a painfully ordinary kid, as opposed to focusing on the circumstances surrounding said ordinary kid. The second book seemed more focused on the tough-luck circumstances of Greg’s life.
It’s not the circumstances that we identify with; it’s the character. We may not all get filmed hanging from a tree in Wonder Woman underwear, but we’ve all been embarrassed. The third book came back to that mentality a bit more. Sure, the circumstances are exaggerated, but they’re not the focus, really, which is what saved the book in my view.
I didn’t enjoy the first book because bad stuff happened to Greg. I enjoyed it because that bad stuff was a great backdrop off which to show Greg’s personality and character. It made me vividly remember my own struggles to feel comfortable in my own skin as a middle-schooler. That was the magic of the first book.
The Last Straw was a solid installment in the series, but the original recipe is still my favorite.