Book Review: Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in my... by Adam Mansbach, Alan Zwiebel

Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in my... by Adam Mansbach and Alan Zwiebelis is a middle grade novel. This is the start to a most unlikely pen pal relationship between thirteen-year-old Franklin Isaac Saturday (Ike) and Benjamin Franklin. Before the fateful extra credit assignment that started it all, Ike's life was pretty normal. He was avoiding the popularity contests of middle school, crushing hard on Clare Wanzandae and trying not roll his eyes at his stepfather, Dirk-the-Jerk's lame jokes. But all that changes when, in a successful effort to make Claire Wanzandae laugh, Ike mails his homework assignment to Ben Franklin and he writes back. Soon, things go awry. After Ike has an embarrassing moment of epic proportions in front of Claire involving a playground, non-alcoholic beer, and a lot of kettle corn, Ike decides he needs to find a way to win Claire back. With some help from his new friend, B-Fizzle, can Ike get the girl and make his mark in history?
I really wanted to like Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in my... but I had some serious issues with it. I might be out of touch, but I do not think the middle grade set is sneaking out of the house with stolen alcohol or having parties that include alcohol pilfered from their parent's liquor cabinets and games of spin the bottle. These things are framed in a way that makes them look normal at best, part of the cool kid activities at worst. The book is being marketed for 10 to 14 year olds, and I just do not think that this is quite appropriate. I would not want to even encourage this or normalize it for high school students, who are much more likely to have exposure or heard talk from friends about similar activities.

Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in my... has some elements that I did like. I liked the idea of mailing a letter with an time appropriate stamp and having that mail reach a person from that time period. I liked that through the majority of the book readers, and the characters, are on the fence about if it is really happening or is someone, somehow is playing an trick. I like that Ike learns that he needs to be himself, and true to himself, in order for the people most important to him to trust him, and want to spend time with him. However, I found the disrespectful tone Ike often used, and the activities I found to be not age appropriate, really ruined the read for me. I think the concept has promise, and could have been done extremely well, but it failed here.  I was further frustrated when I pushed myself to finish the book only to have it end on a cliffhanger. 

I would not recommend Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in my. I found it frustrating on several levels, and rather sad because of it. 

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