In Boy Bites Bug, a single incident develops into a school-wide situation and an insightful look at fading friendship. Ages 10-15
Boy Bites Bug by Rebecca Petruck. Amulet, 2018, 250 pages (plus recipes)
Reading Level: Middle grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 10-15
Who could have thought an absurd incident would blow up to such weirdness? It all started when Darryl, one of Will Nolan’s best friends, called the new kid, Eloy Hernandez, a disparaging name related to Hispanics. Will reacts immediately—everybody knows bigotry and name-calling is no longer cool. The conversation escalates until Will impulsively eats a stinkbug and challenges Darryl to do the same. He immediately regrets it—stinkbugs have their own ways of fighting back—but the incident earns him a nickname (Bug Boy, of course), a new friendship with Eloy, a growing rift with his old friend, and escalating consequences for the wrestling team, the science fair, and eventually the whole school.
The bug situation is a bit hard to swallow (sorry), but hey—it could happen. The depiction of friendships going sour, especially in the middle-school transition years, is spot-on and guy-specific:
“Sometimes,” Dad said, “people outgrow each other. It doesn’t mean we stop caring or forget the good times, but maybe we realize we need different things, things that we can’t get from each other anymore.”
Will has good instincts, but a tendency to overreact and say things that can be easily misinterpreted. Fortunately the adults in his life, both parents and teachers, are more help than hindrance, while allowing him to work through his problems. Even his sister turns out to be not so bad. If the story sparks your curiosity about insect cuisine, be sure to try out the author-tested recipes in the back!
Cautions: Language (mild vulgarity, especially “crap”)
Overall Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 3.5
- Artistic value: 4