Book Review: Knucklehead by Matt Lennox

Title: Knucklehead
Author: Matt Lennox

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

KnuckleheadI’ll admit I was skeptical when I started this book. It’s the second out of my eight picks from the Canada Reads 2017 longlist. The first one I read, Fifteen Dogs, was a bit of a bust in my opinion, and Knucklehead by Matt Lennox didn’t seem to be the kind of book I would normally read.

But once I got into it, Knucklehead started to grow on me. The book tells the story of Ashley Rosco, a small-town meathead kind of guy who works as a bouncer at the local bar and enters body-building competitions in his spare time. He’s in love with his cousin, who also happens to be dating his unsavoury friend Darren.

The whole novel is almost like a stream of consciousness from Ashley’s point of view. At first, I found it difficult to get used to the complete absence of any punctuation on the dialog. It was difficult at times to tell the difference between what Ashley was saying out loud and what he was thinking to himself in his head. But after a while I could see that it was kind of clever. Ashley is often kind of confused. He’s slowly piecing together what his friends are up to, his love-interest cousin has gone missing, and at the same time he’s trying to find his own place in the world and in his family.

I thought it was nice to see a guy being obsessed with his body in a novel, instead of a woman. Maybe it’s because I tend to gravitate towards books with female protagonists, but it seems like there are a lot more women who are fixated on their looks in the books I read than men. In this story, Ashley is often weighing himself and critiquing his figure in front of the mirror. He seems to do this even more so when he’s feeling bad or apprehensive about something else, which I also found interesting.

I also found that this book presented characters and a theme that I knew absolutely nothing about in a really accessible way. I don’t know any guys like Ashley, but it was great to get into his head and see that some of the ways he thinks are not that different to the ways I think (although some of them are quite different too). Then there was the theme of the drug trafficking and addictions. Again, I don’t really know anything at all about this topic, but it didn’t turn me away from this book.

To sum it up, I did enjoy reading this book. There was a real nail-biting scene near the end that had me turning pages and continuing to read on my way up the escalators when I got off the subway. But do I think this book is worthy of the Canada Reads theme “What is the one book Canada needs now?” No. I think it’s an intriguing story, but I’d be surprised if this one made it to the shortlist.

The next title on my list of picks for Canada Reads 2017 is Quantum Night by Robert J Sawyer. Review coming soon.


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