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Book Review

Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the eighth book in the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Middle schooler Greg Heffley is having a tough time since his best friend, Rowley, got a girlfriend. Now Rowley's not around to carry Greg's books or help Greg avoid landmines left by a dog on their route to school. Greg's well-meaning mother tries to offer advice for making new friends, but she has no idea what it's like to be a boy Greg's age. Greg decides to take the strange neighbor, Fregley, under his wing. He hopes he can train Fregley to do all the things Rowley used to and be the perfect sidekick.

Greg writes about colorful family members and gatherings in which relatives fight over and hunt for the recently deceased MeeMaw's wedding ring. While sleeping on his brother's floor so his cousins can have his room, he discovers a Magic 8 Ball and starts consulting it for all of his life decisions. He gets in trouble when he uses it to come up with answers on a test at school. As the principal talks to Mom, he mentions that Greg is doing poorly in every subject and will require summer school if he doesn't work harder. This threat propels Greg to improve his grades significantly.

Greg finds Mom's parenting books in her closet and learns about reverse psychology. He decides to use it on his parents to convince them to give him a phone. He tells them he's not ready for that kind of responsibility, and they take the bait by giving him Mom's old cell phone. He accidentally drops the phone in the toilet, rendering it useless.

The 8 Ball tells Greg to join the yearbook staff, so he starts taking pictures for the publication. When he needs a good science fair project to improve his grades, he considers buying an old one on the school's black market. He backs out at the last minute, realizing he doesn't want to get involved with shady kids like those selling the recycled projects.

When Greg's 8 Ball breaks, he throws it into Gramma's backyard. Then Rowley's girlfriend breaks up with him, and Greg needs help deciding if they should be friends again. As he goes to look for the 8 Ball, he finds an old Easter egg containing MeeMaw's wedding ring. He hides it in Mom's closet and decides — without the 8 Ball's help — to be friends with Rowley again.

Christian Beliefs

Greg's family goes to church at Christmas and Easter. He likes Christmas better because he doesn't have to stay in his church clothes all day as he does at Easter.

Other Belief Systems

Greg's Aunt Audra believes in crystal balls and horoscopes. She won't do anything without consulting her psychic. Mom gets upset when she learns Aunt Audra took Greg with her to a psychic. Mom says it's a bunch of hocus pocus and a waste of money. In light of this, Greg thinks it's ironic that Mom always credits Gramma with having ESP. Greg mentions having bought a rabbit's foot on a trip, only to get food poisoning and sprain his ankle. He promptly got rid of it. He says horoscopes he sometimes reads in the paper and fortunes in fortune cookies are useless. At a family gathering, relatives go through MeeMaw's photo albums because Aunt Audra's psychic said MeeMaw's wedding ring was there. Greg is convinced his brother's Magic 8 Ball can provide the answers he needs in life.

Authority Roles

Mom tries to help Greg make new friends and improve his grades. She stays up late one night to type up his science fair project. She has a closet full of parenting books to help her raise her sons. She emphasizes the value of family, even though she and her sisters don't get along well. At family gatherings, greedy relatives fight over and hunt for valuables belonging to Greg's deceased great-grandma.





Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Cheating: Greg pays Rowley in peanut butter crackers to do his cursive homework. A handful of kids at Greg's school run a black market operation where they sell old reports and science projects. Greg starts to buy one of these science projects but changes his mind.

Bathroom humor: Greg talks a lot about poop, like how Rowley used to help him avoid stepping in it or how the boys spent all day watching people avoid a pile of it at a Fourth of July celebration. One of his illustrations shows a dog crouching in preparation to poop. Greg and his brother make the sound of passing gas in front of Gramma's dog to make the dog perk up and sniff his own rear end. Greg is sitting on the toilet playing with the phone when one of his aunts calls in to video chat.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12




Jeff Kinney






Record Label



Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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