Published November 2011, Puffin. List price £12.99
Appropriate for ages 7-12
From the cover;
‘Greg Heffley is in big trouble. School property has been damaged, and Greg is the prime suspect. But the crazy thing is he’s innocent. Or at least sort of.
The authorities are closing in, but when a surprise blizzard hits, the Heffley family is trapped indoors. Greg knows that when the snow melts he’s going to have to face the music, but could any punishment be worse than being stuck inside with your family for the holidays?’
Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has spawned six novels, two full-length cinematic releases, a movie tie-in, activity book and a boat load of merchandise. To say it’s popular would be a gross understatement.
Cabin Fever begins with a discussion of the problem of Santa. Can he see you all the time? What if he sees something from the wrong angle and misconstrues nice as naughty? Can you be mean to people who don’t celebrate Christmas, since Santa won’t be looking over there? Unfortunately, this is the high point of the book, and it’s over within ten pages.
It’s worth ignoring the various criticisms of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise as histrionic pearl clutching. Yes there’s some irreverence and an undercurrent of anti-authoritarianism but this is not the reason to disuade your children from reading the books; disuade your children from reading them because they are, well, crap.
The plot is flimsy, the jokes are not quite as laugh-out-loud as we’ve been lead to believe, and the overall effect is of a slow puncture in an airbed – irritating and ultimately deflating. The occasional truism about modern living is not enough to pull the book from the gutter. So… blah is the book that it’s astonishingly difficult to find anything to say about it. This is not a case, you understand, of trying to find something complimentary to say, but to find anything at all to say. Cabin Fever is 216 pages of nothing. I’m surprised Kinney managed to get it to stretch that far.
It’s lucky, then, that Greg, the 13-year-old protagonist is such a brilliantly realised creation. He’s occasionally startlingly observant, selfish, egotistical, sometimes mean, vaguely witty and a little precocious. Indeed, it is Kinney’s characters that are his saving grace when it comes to Cabin Fever.Even characters we glimpse only briefly appear rounded and realistic. It is for this reason alone that Cabin Fever deserves 2.5 out of 10.