Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wimpy Kid and beyond

Rick Detorie’s The Accidental Genius of Weasel High (Egmont, April) comes hot on the heels of the latest movie adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s popular series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (currently in theaters). This paperback original will appeal to Wimpy Kid fans in both its format and its angsty content. Accidental Genius poses itself as the “notebook blog” (what we called "a journal" in the old days) of protagonist Larkin Pace—a project assigned by his freshman English teacher as a result of the students’ “overall poor writing skills and penmanship.” Larkin chronicles his ninth-grade, girl, and family dramas through witty entries and frequent lists of things he hates, e.g., “Ten Things I Hate About Being 14” and “Top Ten Things That Bug Me About My Dad” (#7 on the Dad list: “He’s old”). Accompanying Larkin’s “blogging” are cartoon illustrations similar in style and sophistication to Detorie’s nationally syndicated comic strip, One Big Happy. Though the drawings enhance the text, they tend to feel like the adult Detorie's art rather than teenage Larkin's personal sketches.

Larkin’s fourteen-year-old ambitions and cynicism will wet the whistles of Wimpy Kid followers who’ve been yearning for more every-kid heroics since the publication last November of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth (Amulet). Though Larkin bears more than a passing resemblance to Kinney’s Greg Heffley, Accidental Genius is far from a wimpy addition to pubescent boys’ bookshelves.

—Katrina Hedeen

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