Ben Fletcher is not the kind of kid who gets into trouble. His friends, however, are. Which means that Ben has turned into the kind of kid who seems to find himself swept up in trouble, and then picking up the pieces of his friends’ messes. And right now, Ben is finding himself in the biggest mess of all: on probation. To fulfill the terms of his probation, he needs to keep a journal, Give Something Back to the community, and join a weekly class at the community centre. He already keeps a diary, he’s set up to Give Something Back to the lady who beat him over the head with her giant lollipop, and in order to avoid the mechanics class taught by his father, Ben decides to take the knitting class offered by his hot teacher. Things don’t always work out the way you expect them to.
Oh my goodness. This book was hands-down hilarious. Ben is a highly entertaining narrator, who views the world with a wonderfully dry and absurd sense of humour. His family sits on the bizarre side of normal (his mother is a professional magician!), and his friends are perfect caricatures of ridiculous 17 year old boys.
But I think the best part of this book was the way that it broke down toxic masculinity and gender roles in the most fun, good-natured way possible. The way in which Ben comes to terms with his amazing talent for knitting, and what this means for his masculinity was so refreshing. Yet, even though this entire book is essentially about confronting traditional gender roles and the confines that they place upon us, there was enough subplot and humour to make it feel like a fun novel, rather than a didactic text teaching us lessons about feminism and equality.
I highly recommend this book, especially to a high school audience. The short text lends itself to appeal to reluctant readers, as does the humour. If you enjoy the work of Jesse Andrews, I definitely suggest giving this one a look.