“Meet Ben Fletcher: Accidental criminal. Liar. Master of mohair.” So proclaims the cover of UK author T.S. Easton’s delightfully silly YA novel Boys Don’t Knit. Ben Fletcher is a 17-year-old good kid and worrier, who gets drawn into an act of juvenile delinquency by his misfit friends. Ironically, considering he was the most reluctant participant, and due in part to a series of unfortunate circumstances, Ben winds up in the most trouble when they’re caught. Placed on probation, Ben is required to keep a journal (hence the diary-format of the novel) and to take an evening class at the local community college.
Due to limited choices, he winds up as the only male student in an introductory knitting class. (Other options included a car maintenance class taught by his father; pottery taught by the mother of a female classmate he has a crush on; and Microsoft Office for beginners, which he describes as being “for grannies and people who’ve just arrived in civilization after having been raised by wolves in the Appalachians.”) The challenge for Ben is how to keep his participation in the knitting class a secret from his father, who wants Ben to share his manly interest in soccer, cars, and World War II, and his classmates.
Of course, Ben winds up being a natural talent at knitting, so much so that he is drafted to participate in the regional heat of the All-UK Knitting Championship, in the junior category. He also ends up REALLY LIKING knitting, not only the social aspects of class, but also the calming effect it has on his mind. It begins to take over his life: He listens to knitting podcasts; furtively reads knitting magazines at the store (hiding a girly magazine inside the knitting magazine when he sees his friends approaching so they’ll think that’s what he’s really looking at, when it’s actually the other way around); and even sets up an Etsy shop. Eventually, despite his best efforts, he’s “outed” at school by an administrator wanting to capitalize on his success as a young entrepreneur. As you can imagine, this leads to constant ribbing from friends and enemies alike, and while it is painful to Ben it makes for amusing reading.
There is a lot of humorously cringe-worthy material in this book (intentional on the part of the author) which we, the readers, get to experience along with Ben (though as readers we are in a better position to be tickled by it than Ben). This includes conversations between Ben’s parents, which are filled with food-based double entendres that used to go over Ben’s head but now cause him no end of psychic pain. We also get to read excerpts of his friend Joz’s horribly-written novel-in-progress, titled Fifty Shades of Graham, which he’s having Ben proofread. It contains winning lines such as “Her large chest heaved angrily at me.” All in all, Ben has a lot of crosses to bear. His voice, as he shares his experiences with us via his diary entries, is as delightful and appealing as can be, making this a wonderful romp of a read.
Easton, T.S. Boys Don’t Knit (In Public). New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2015.