Ben Fletcher is on probation – the criminal variety. Following a certain incident with a stolen bottle of Martini Rosso and a lollipop lady, he has been ordered to keep a journal, Give Something Back (to the community), and attend an extracurricular class. The options are pretty dire (worst of all being car maintenance with his Dad), so he decides to go for knitting, without telling anyone. But how long will he be able to keep his new hobby a secret, especially after finding out that he’s actually quite good at it?
I started reading Boys Don’t Knit while I was volunteering at the London Short Story Festival. I’d already giggled several times on the way to the events, but didn’t get to read very much until my lunch break. The restaurant at Waterstone’s Piccadilly, 5th Story, is quite fancy looking. There’s a bar and a view and the jacket potato costs about twice as much as it should (though it is delicious). It’s filled with the sorts of classy-looking people that you’d imagine would go for lunch at Waterstone’s Piccadilly.
And there I was, cackling at Boys Don’t Knit for half an hour. I must have really lowered the ambience.
Boys Don’t Knit is very very funny. Basically, it is a sports movie, in book form, with knitting instead of sports and with most of the earnestness switched for comedy. It has all the right ingredients. Seriously, if you’ve read Boys Don’t Knit, look up Sports Story on TV Tropes. It’s all there. It’s a Billy Elliot Plot in which a teenager who is dealing with difficult life situations tries to get out of an Awkward Father/Son Bonding Activity, becoming an Accidental (knitting) Athlete, and in the end, everything rides on the outcome of the Big Game (knitting championship). There are more, but they would be spoilers.
Because it is essentially a sports movie, Boys Don’t Knit didn’t have the most unpredictable plot of all time, but I don’t think that matters. Firstly, it is not a thriller, it is a comedy. The humour is the point. Secondly, I don’t think every story needs to have an entirely unpredictable plot. Most don’t. Once you’ve consumed enough stories in their varied and wonderful forms, you are usually able to make a reasonable guess at what will happen in the end when you’re only halfway through. I think it’s more important for the plot to be coherent than surprising.
So I love that Boys Don’t Knit is a sports-free book version of a sports movie. I know next to nothing about most sports, but I do know about knitting, so all I got all the references to the craft and could imagine Ben’s struggles and successes easily. It’s also very British. There are lots of references that people from outside the UK might not get. However, I don’t think you need to know anything about yarn, needles, or British politics to enjoy it, again, because of the humour.
The characters are daft but loveable, and quickly I found myself cheering on Ben and enjoying the downfall of his enemies. I won’t tell you any more, because I want you to discover all the weird and wonderful people in Ben’s life for yourself!
I would recommend Boys Don’t Knit to those who love comedy, especially if you’ve read The Hunger Games! I am really looking forward to reading the sequel, An English Boy in New York.