When the fifth Wimpy Kid book came out, I was a bad representation of its readership. The day is was released I skipped into work, made a beeline for the kids’ section, then asked my nearest co-worker: “Where’s The Ugly Truth?” “Not here yet,” said they, “but maybe on its way from the warehouse.” When the first delivery from the warehouse came, I almost leapt onto the trolley being pushed, yelling, “Is it in here? Is it in one of these boxes?” Then I tore them open, couldn’t find it, and sulked. HARD.
Finally I opened a box and there was a flash of purple. There they were, Jeff Kinney’s newest Wimpy Kid. And there was me, with hours left at work. I thought long and hard about leaving work early, or just hiding myself out in a quiet corner upstairs to read it, hoping no one would notice I was there. Instead I did the slightly more mature thing: I worked diligently the rest of the day, and shrieked about how excited I was to read the book to anyone who provoked me into conversation with something like “Hi, I’ll take this history book please.”
The Ugly Truth starts with our hero Greg about to start back at school but lamenting a fight with his best friend, Rowley. Greg is a little jerk to Rowley at the best of times, so you can’t help but feel glad Rowley has escaped—and has started hanging out with parent-hired mentor types to be a good influence on him. But Greg needs to find a new best friend, and no one’s quite up for the job. (For example: “Tyson is nice enough, and we like the same video games. But he pulls his pants all the way down when he uses the urinal, and I don’t know if I can ever get past that.”)
And Greg really needs a friend right now, because he is starting to grow up. There’s boy/girl parties to be had, instructional videos to watch at school (“Rowley didn’t even make it through the whole video. He passed out at the two-minute mark when they said the word ‘perspiration’.”) and awkward conversations with his family to avoid. So Greg does his best to reclaim his childhood by wanting to go to the pediatric dentist (slogan: “We cater to cowards!”)and trying out for ice cream ads only small children are required for, while simultaneously trying hard to come across as mature to the cool kids and pretty girls at school. Basically, it’s hard hitting puberty, especially when your ex-best friend still thinks it’s contagious and avoids older kids because of it.
The Ugly Truth is just as hilarious as you’d expect, but without Rowley for Greg to torment, and a surprise lack of Greg’s father around to do embarrassing things, it maybe wasn’t as good as last book Dog Days. It’s still better than a lot of other books I’ve read—grown-up ones included—and the pictures (at least one on each page) remain a perfect accompaniment to the text. It’s a great read for kids who are overwhelmed by a lot of writing but still like the idea of books, and it’s such a laugh that you’d be hard pushed finding a kid that doesn’t love it. The characters are all great—from Greg’s Gammie who quietly pranks her unloving family, to his uncle Gary whose fourth wedding Greg finds himself the “assistant” flower boy for. While there’s heaps of jokes that made me giggle uncontrollably, there also is a mildly discomfiting subplot involving a maid named Isabella who doesn’t do any work, too.
In summary: Meets Expectations, but almost Below, because I thought it would Exceed. Here, have a page from it to smile about goofily.