Release Date: 2014 in UK; March 24, 2015 in US
Publisher: Hot Key Books in UK;
Feiwel & Friends in US
Ben Fletcher must get to grips with his more 'feminine' side following an unfortunate incident with a lollipop lady and a stolen bottle of Martini Rosso from Waitrose. All a big misunderstanding of course. To avoid the Young Offenders unit, Ben is ordered to give something back to the community and develop his sense of social alignment. Take up a hobby and keep on the straight and narrow. The hot teacher he likes runs a knitting group so Ben, reluctantly at first, gets 'stuck in'. Not easy when your dad is a sports fan and thinks Jeremy Clarkson is God. To his surprise, Ben finds that he likes knitting and that he has a mean competitive streak. If he can just keep it all a secret from his mates...and notice that the girl of his dreams, girl-next-door Megan Hooper has a bit of a thing for him...Laugh-out-loud, often ridiculous, sometimes quite touching, and revelatory about the knitting world, Boys Don't Knit is a must for boys and girls...(courtesy of Goodreads)
Hilarious and sweet! I first heard great things about this book right after it was published in the UK. When I went to England in November, it was the first book that I purchased - even though I knew that it was soon to be released in the US.
Boys Don't Knit is basically three different books in one - maybe even four. You have Ben's requirements for his probation, which stems from something stupid he and his friends did that he got all the blame for. You have Ben's relationship with his friends, which is pretty toxic at times. You have Ben's newfound love for knitting. You have Ben's wish to get a girlfriend, whether someone his own age or an elusive older woman. And you have Ben's sometimes challenging relationship with his family, mostly his dad. So actually, it's five books. But of course they all link together in the end.
Ben is the type of boy whose head you enjoy inhabiting over the course of the book. He's very normal. Neither smart nor stupid. Neither popular nor hated (well, he is hated by some). He leans towards the geek side. And is awkward to the max. All in all, he is a nice kid who tries to do the right thing. The kind I would have been friends with.
I had trouble deciding about his friends. It often seemed like he didn't like them much. And they didn't like him. Perhaps like many teenagers, he stuck around them because there was no one better available. Or because he needed protection. But at times, they seemed like real friends to Ben. So perhaps the good and bad equal out.
Then there's the knitting. Ben catches on to knitting and becomes really good incredibly fast. Perhaps a bit too fast to be believed, but I'll set that aside. As a lapsed knitter, this made me want to take up my needles again. It's so much fun to here about the various patterns or stitches, but you don't need to be a knitter to enjoy it. Mostly I loved reading about the joy that Ben gets from knitting. How it allows him to escape from the difficulties of his every day.
The book is full of humor. Some intentional, some not. Typical teenage boy. And it also seems stereotypically British too. There's also a good deal of physical humor towards the end. It gets a bit silly for my taste, but I was able to go with the goofiness. The humor keeps the poignant moments from feeling sticky sweet. I loved seeing Ben grow as he learned to love knitting and even as he did his probation requirements, even though he didn't deserve to be on probation. He's a great guy and I liked seeing people realize that.
Speaking of British, the book feels very British. I'm curious to see how much they change in the American edition. I asked the author and he tweeted back that he didn't think much would change. The references to British culture, education, sports, and everything else is a large part of the book's charm for me, so I hope not much changes.
Boys Don't Knit is such a fun book. There aren't enough humorous, contemporary "boy" YA fiction. The closest comparison I can think of is Swim the Fly by Don Calame (which is a must-read). I'm so happy I picked this book up in London. It definitely lived up to my high expectations. And I'm even happier that I bought the sequel while I was there.
Here's How to Buy the Book!