From the first, I had the feeling this was one of the WWC series, expanded. This was the first time my son has bought a Walliams' on day of publication, as he's such a fan of every other by the author (we've only missed out Awful Auntie). It's taken around 10 nights for me to read it to him, and he's enjoyed it.
So this review is not from his perspective - an 8 year old will love this: bum/poo jokes, lots of noises and silly creatures, things being destroyed, lists. It's also half the length of most of Walliams' recent novels, but still with regular Tony Ross sketches, so does speed along. No, it's great for the target market.
But as an experienced reader and librarian, it's pretty weak I'm afraid. This is the author's first novel with no hero/heroine. As Myrtle is a World's Worst Child in all but book title, she's actually also a minor character for most of the book. Spoiled by her librarian parents (oh what a terrible example they set for my profession!), she's a stereotype of an indulged brat with no personality anyway - nobody will be dressing up as her next World Book Day.
And Mr and Mrs Meek themselves are spineless simpering cliches, calling each other 'Mother' and 'Father'. There's nothing to them and they don't grow or do anything of note throughout the entire book.
***** SMALL SPOILER AHEAD *****
The story itself is ridiculously simple: brat wants 'Fing' as pet. Parents acquiesce. Parents find said potentially destructive pet. (SPOILER!!) Destruction occurs. A World's Worst Children-like 'serves-you-right ending for spoilt brat' also occurs.
***** END OF PLOT SPOILER *****
While my son found this entertaining, and I did enjoy some moments (list of unusual creatures in the MONSTERPEDIA being one), it just didn't feel as though it had been created with much love or care as some of the author's others clearly were. Even Fing himself has no character - he's an eating/pooing being, no emotion besides a lot of 'grrrr'ing. So I didn't care for the girl, her parents, the pet - there's no 'enemy' or battle... it really is just a reject from World's Worst Children or one made longer.
We spotted our beloved Raj twice (once as a graphic on a bus, and once Walliams shoehorns him in, even saying he's done it to place the much-esteemed newsagent in the story). Always a highlight, but certainly not enough to help raise this up from 'meh' rating to the bestselling status it will instantly earn without the merit of Walliams' previous heartfelt and genuinely funny inventions.
For ages 7-11.