This guest review was written by Nathan Smith, age 11.
This book is about an 11-year-old kid who wants to be a video game designer but his evil siblings keep distracting him from doing it, which I can relate to. It is similar to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. It goes along with the whole idea of a person who thinks he is going to be rich. The art in this book is more three-dimensional than the art in Diary of a Wimpy Kid, however. The stories themselves did not compare very much; I thought this book was too innocent. I’m thinking he should have tried to be more mischievous because I think it would be better if he did stuff that was kind of breaking the rules because it would be funnier that way. Jacob is obviously a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Although the book acted like we would know when the Second Coming is, and we don’t.) I think they probably shouldn’t have taken a series and made it churchy because one series is good enough. I didn’t like it or dislike it; I was kind of iffy.
And now, the Mom’s review: I am somewhat suspect of the idea of taking popular secular books and Mormon-ifying them. I’m afraid it will send the message that the secular version is somehow wrong and it also can skate the line of plagiarism. (Malcolm Gladwell wrote a really interesting article exploring the paradox that our culture tolerates–even expects–people to plagiarize entire ideas, but goes nuts if someone plagiarizes four words in order.) And what’s the point of a “Mormon version” if it has scatalogical humor and booger humor in it anyway? But, flipping through this book, I was surprised at how funny it was and how much it was willing to poke at Mormon culture (“[Mom] says we’re supposed to have a ‘house of order,’ but I think she just likes making weird crafts. I think we have two family home evening charts, and there are like six different chore charts on the refrigerator.”) It was also surprisingly edgy in places (“In church today, we had a lesson about missionary work. Brother Juke said us boys should prepare to serve a mission when we turn 19. He told Amity she could be a missionary if she turned 21 before she got married. She said that was sexist.”) So I guess, in the final analysis, I’m kind of iffy on it, too.
Nathan–thank you for the review! And thanks for reading our book.
Julie–We knew when we started the project that it would likely garner some comments over its similarity to existing comic novels. Our culture does have a tendency to breed “read-alikes” and “play-alikes.” And for every “Settlers of Zarahemla,” there are sadly a half-dozen “Mormonopoly”s.
Fortunately, bestselling national-market authors James Patterson, Rachel Renèe Russell, and Lincoln Peirce all precede us in finding success with the “comic diary” format of middle grade literature pioneered by Jeff Kinney.
Thus, our aim was not to Mormon-ify any specific work so much as take advantage of an emerging (and highly popular) format–while simultaneously (trying to!) contribute a work of quality and value to our collective culture. Does that sound pretentious? Well, maybe it is, and maybe we failed, but anyway it was a goal. If you haven’t already, I would invite you to check out the parent’s guide we’ve posted at journalofdoom.com. I don’t know that it will have much impact on Nathan’s opinion of the work, but if I’ve done the thing properly, perhaps it will influence yours in our favor.
Regardless–thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts!
Julie’s review dubbing it “iffy” made the book more interesting than its “insert Mormonism into popular, money-making formula” cover. The rote and patronizing “Parent’s Guide” returned me to being uninterested. Sunday School is repetitive enough without inserting all its standard prompts into what I would hope would be a lively read. (Slight bonus points for a Joss Whedon reference, but not enough to revive my interest.)
I’m sorry that my pedantry served as a stumbling block for you, Bob! Of course, there is a reason we printed the book and merely offer the Parent’s Guide as an electronic add-on, rather than vice versa. ^_^
I read this book and found it really funny. Lots of great pop culture references and I thought the gospel touches we’re just right. Didn’t come across as just a ‘Wimpy Kid Knockoff’. That said, I have no boys in this book’s target age in my home, however, I do have the sense of humor or a fourth grader.