I snorted with laughter many times while I was reading this quirky twist on a novel about prejudice. 17 year-old Ben Fletcher is put on probation after knocking down a lollipop lady (aka crossing guard) and is obliged to write a journal which, along with correspondence with his probation officer, forms the narrative. As part of his punishment, he is obliged to take a class at the local community college, and opts to take knitting, which it turns out he not only has a natural talent for, but it also helps soothe his anxieties. Of course, he is mortified by the thought of friends, family and the girl he has a crush on, let alone the school bullies, knowing that he is knitting. So, with a wink to more serious addictions and secrets, Ben takes his knitting underground – lying to everyone, keeping his knitting in a box under the bed and hiding his copy of Knit! in a lad mag.
Ben writes with warmth and a sharp wit, recording all this along with his parents’ embarrassing double-entendres, the larks with his friends that always seem to end up with Ben in trouble, his efforts to Give Something Back by helping the mowed down lollipop lady, Mrs. Frensham, and his hapless attempts at romance, complicated by the amorous young women from his knitting group. Inconsequential to the main story, but very entertaining, is his mate Joz’s attempt at authorship, Fifty Shades of Graham:““Graham,” Daisy sighed breathlessly, “I’ve not seen one that big before.” I smiled ruthlessly and put the egg whisk down.”
This is a British book, and the ARC I read was stuffed full of Britishisms and cultural references (Boris buses? Martini Rosso? and I’m not sure Graham has quite the same connotations) that could possibly go over the head of many American teen readers. There were a few attempts to Americanize things – custard creams suddenly became Golden Oreos and Heston Blumenthal is qualified rather clunkily as an “experimental chef” for example, but I don’t know how much further the published version will have changed.
Though this looks and reads like a middle grade book, there is some fairly raunchy content. However, and because “everything has to have a knitting analogy,” it will have teen readers in stitches.