Confession: I. Loved. This. Book. While reading, I longed for the youngest Fletcher brother, Frog, to come to life so I could adopt him. (I used to fantasize about kidlit characters [mainly Harry Potter] coming to life so I could date them. I guess this means I’m getting old…) The point is, I wasn’t reading this book as “critically” as I typically do––mostly, I was having fun. But I’ll still share a few things I took away from this sweet tale of a school-year-in-the-life-of four young boys and their two dads.
1. Be hilarious.
Family Fletcher was laugh-out-loud funny on several occasions, and there are grin-worthy moments on nearly every page. Frog’s imaginary (and not-so-imaginary) friends are a big source of this humor, as are his attempts to be like his older brothers––or at least, to be listened to by them. The humor is endearing. We’re captivated by laughter, and just a few pages in, Levy has us eating out of her hand. We’re ready to follow this family anywhere.
2. But don’t shy away from the heavy stuff.
Levy weaves in race and multiculturalism, generational misunderstandings, and a homosexual couple raising four adopted boys without making Family Fletcher a book that can be defined by any of those things. This isn’t a “race book” or a “gay book” or a “develop compassion for the crotchety old veteran living next door” book. The Family Fletcher is only partially defined by its racial makeup and the sexual orientation of the parents––just like we’re all only partially defined by those things.
Mostly, the Fletcher boys worry about trying out for the play while still getting to soccer practice on time; why a friend is more into talking to girls all of a sudden; and whether a new school for “gifted” kids is really all it’s cracked up to be. Through the day-to-day, we explore all those other issues––and it’s those quotidian, true-to-life concerns that make that exploration all the more powerful.
3. Break the rules––but do it well.
Family Fletcher begins on the first day of school. This comes shortly after “waking up from a dream” and “looking at myself in the mirror” on the List of Places You’re Not Supposed to Start Your Book. But for Family Fletcher, it works. The novel’s entire structure is built around the school year, with the rhythm of the weather and the daylight and the academic calendar and the sports seasons informing everything the boys do. And that’s how life is when you’re that age. It’s part of what makes the book feel authentic, and it wouldn’t have made sense to start anywhere else.
Part of writing well is knowing when to follow the “rules” and when to break them. Levy does that to great effect here, and it’s something we can all learn from.
To sum it up: I can’t wait until the second Family Fletcher book comes out in spring 2016.
Want to chat more about Levy’s lovely debut novel? Find me on Twitter at @beckererine.