OK, I promised to stick with the wimpy kid, see if the second book was any better than the first, see if I could understand why all the kids like this series so much, etc. And yes, the second book is better than the first, although I still didn't think it was laugh-out-loud material.
Greg has survived the summer and is back in school. He still hangs out with his best friend Rowley and is still being tormented by his big brother, Roderick. Worse yet, he can't get Roderick in any sort of trouble because Roderick knows of a horrifying incident that occurred over the summer, something that Greg doesn't want anyone to know about. It would ruin what little reputation he has at school. It pretty much means that Greg is Roderick's slave until the secret is revealed or Greg can find some dirt on his big brother.
The book doesn't really have anything new in it. There's a party when the parents are away, which of course won't remain a secret forever. Greg tries to continue his torment of his baby brother, Manny, but everyone still thinks that everything Manny does is just super-cute. Rowley continues to be a bit on the dim side, but he's basically a good guy. And Greg? Well, Greg is still not what I would call a very nice kid. For example, one of the kids from the first book was supposed to move away during the summer. For reasons unknown, that never happened, so the kid is back at school this year. Greg decides to play a joke on him by acting as if the kid isn't there, asking if his friends heard anything when the kid speaks, acting as if he runs into an imaginary wall when he runs into the kid, etc. At first it's a bit funny, but Greg really does take it too far, encouraging his friends to keep up the joke (and practically the whole school gets into the act) for almost a week, by which time the kid is frantic and very angry. DUH! How would you feel if everyone acted like you weren't there? He gets to the point where he's screaming at his classmates that he IS there and he IS a human being, etc, leading to a visit to the Principal's office and an apology in front of the kid's parents. What's weird to me is that after all that, Greg and the kid are friends. WTF? I mean, I know it's been a long time since I've been in middle school (a long, long time.....) but I can't see just buddying up to someone who's been dissing me that much. Sigh.
Anyway, the cartoons are still kinda cute, and the story is OK. The ending was pretty good, as Roderick and his band, Loded Diper, perform in the school talent show with some surprisingly hysterical reactions. Overall, I guess I see why the kids like it. The adults aren't written to be very smart, which might be the big attraction. And yes, kids that age are cruel to each other, so maybe they enjoy reading about someone else getting theirs. Who knows?