I found it incredibly interesting that Jeff Kinney made it known that Diary of a Wimpy Kid was originally intended for an adult audience because this is a book that is sophisticated in many subtle ways that I think often go over the heads of the children it is generally marketed to. While I was reading this book around campus, it got a reception that I couldn’t have ever anticipated—basically all of my friends with younger siblings gushed about how hilarious they found the books to be (when they stole them from their little brothers or sisters to read, of course). This left me wondering what exactly it was about Greg Heffley’s story that resonated with not only the elementary and middle school demographic I always assumed it was restricted to, but also with my college-aged peers and myself.
I think that at its core, Diary of a Wimpy Kid accesses a period of time in the readers’ lives during which they were exceptionally confused and uncertain of what they were expected to become. Adolescence is a time of continuous transition and oftentimes represents a point when a child must somehow realign their identity to fit with a newly maturing environment and social group. Kinney’s humor comes from the, more often than not, botched navigation of these uncertainties and insecurities. It is funny for us to see Greg struggle with issues of popularity and acceptance not because we enjoy his pain, but because we sympathize with it. It is a form of humor that is unaware of its self-deprecation, as Greg is too self-centered to see the hypocrisy of his actions and irony (a word he even defines for his reader) of the situations he finds himself in.