Tuesday, May 1, 2018

MG Realistic Fiction Review: Boy Bites Bug by Rebecca Petruck

35888422Boy Bites Bug by Rebecca Petruck
Format:  ARC Paperback
Publisher: Amulet Books
Number of pages: 272 
Publishing: May 8th, 2018
Source: Giveaway hosted by Amulet Books on Twitter

Opening Line:  "The intrusion of stinkbugs clumped on the ceiling in a back corner of the library, a splotch like crusty dried mud."

For the past seven years, Will, Darryl, and Simon have been the best of friends, they always have each other's back.   Then one day while in the library, stink bugs fall from the ceiling onto the desk.  Darryl thinks it would be funny to squash them but Eloy says that'd be crazy, in response Darryl makes a racist comment directed toward Eloy.  Will is really taken aback by Darryl's comment, but at the same time, he feels like he should cover for his friend, so he eats one of the stink bugs.  Unfortunately, from there everything goes downhill.   Will's stunt closes the library because of the smell, his parents ground him and he worries that his wrestling coach might be upset when he gets the news.  It's his first time trying out for the JV wrestling team and he doesn't want anything to interfere with it.  

The next day, Will is pleasantly surprised when the kids at school treat him like a celebrity, playfully teasing him with creative insect-inspired foods he should try next and they even start referring to him as "Bug Boy."  Will embraces his sudden popularity and nickname.  When Will's science teacher assigns a project on insects and their role in the environment, Will asks Eloy for help and together with Eloy's father sets out to create a dish inspired by insects to share with the class.  Will is passionate about his new idea but also takes shortcuts, like not getting the proper permission or listening when Eloy said that the grasshopper project can't be a joke.  Will not only ends up offending Eloy but also upsets Darryl with all of this talk about bugs.  To try and fix things with Eloy and Darryl, Will asks Eloy for help one more time to raise money for cancer, and together they organize a Buck-a-Bug bake sale.  Will this be enough to mend some fences with both Eloy and Darryl? 

Petruck has such a knack for balancing the weightiness of her plot themes (In this case a boy making a racist comment) with humorous moments.  Will knows what Darryl said is wrong and struggles with how to deal with it.   Will's friendship with Simon and Darryl is a part of who he is.  Initially, he reacts by eating a bug, but he's also upset by what Darryl said.  At the same time, he's also concerned about hurting Darryl's feelings. The story really hits those middle-grade feelings of wanting to fit in while also wanting to be true to your friends or loyal.   Knowing they have your back and wanting to reciprocate.  Simon provides much of the comic relief and tries to keep the peace between Will and Darryl.   He seemed to be concerned that Will is pulling away from Darryl over his actions, but also disagree's with what Darryl did.  It's an interesting look at how these boys friendships change with many questions for the reader to ponder.  Like "Shouldn't a real friend not make you feel crappy for trying to be a decent person?  And shouldn't they want to be decent too?"  Also whether it's ok for two friends to call each other "dorks or jerks? " Or is that just perpetuating the same behavior?  The story illustrates the challenges when people outgrow each other or the impacts when two friends beliefs and ideas aren't the same anymore.   

 By nature, I'm not usually a squeamish person. There is that one time that I picked up a dried up earthworm thinking it was a piece of string and almost slipped on the stairs, but that was because I was expecting to have a piece of string in my hand the whole thing just took me by surprise.  Petruck does make entomophagy or using insects as a source of food sound intriguing.  Incorporating Will's presentation to the class into the story really highlights how livestock is becoming a strain on the environment, how other cultures already have their own form of edible insects and the important role that insects can play as an alternative food source.  The details were very interesting to read and really makes you think about the kind of impact that humans are having on the environment.  Plus given the subject, you can only imagine the amusing moments that these three boys can have with insects.     

Aside from entomophagy, Boy Bites Bug also touches on wrestling.  Will and Eloy are going to try out for the wrestling team.  Initially, Will makes a few assumptions about Eloy and his culture and is threatened by how Eloy is more muscular then he is.  But in the end,  Will apologizes and tries to do better each time. They're both nervous about being the youngest two on the team and develop a lovely friendship.  There are many details about them practicing for their first match, the importance of cleaning the mats, performing skin checks and even some of their workout routines, giving me a new appreciation for the sport.   Overall this was a truly thought-provoking book with a very positive message of following your gut.  If you're the adventurous type there are even recipes to try from The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook, by David Gordon at the end of the book. 


  1. This would do well in my library! (Especially when I booktalk it by telling them that my husband ate fried crickets and says they tasted like hash browns!)

    1. I bet that would be a huge selling point. I'm really hoping that lots of kids get the chance to read this. Such a wonderful story.

  2. I haven't heard of this one. It sounds unique. I can't quite imagine eating a stink bug- though I am fine with bugs and they don't scare me.

    1. I'm not sure how I would handle eating a bug. It's not something I would choose to try, but I'm pretty sure it would depend on what kind of bug it was too.