Review: A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner

Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner cover shows a boy walking to the right with a large black scribble cloud behind him.

A Work in Progress
Jarrett Lerner
Published May 2, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About A Work in Progress

A young boy struggles with body image in this poignant middle grade journey to self-acceptance told through prose, verse, and illustration.

Will is the only round kid in a school full of string beans. So he hides…in baggy jeans and oversized hoodies, in the back row during class, and anywhere but the cafeteria during lunch. But shame isn’t the only feeling that dominates Will’s life. He’s also got a crush on a girl named Jules who knows he doesn’t have a chance with—string beans only date string beans—but he can’t help wondering what if?

Will’s best shot at attracting Jules’s attention is by slaying the Will Monster inside him by changing his eating habits and getting more exercise. But the results are either frustratingly slow or infuriatingly unsuccessful, and Will’s shame begins to morph into self-loathing.

As he resorts to increasingly drastic measures to transform his appearance, Will meets skateboarder Markus, who helps him see his body and all it contains as an ever-evolving work in progress.

A Work in Progress on Goodreads

My Review

I feel like this graphic novel was an unusual choice for me, but the topic and the fact that it’s told in verse really made me want to read it.

The story itself has some truly heartbreaking scenes. It shows the terrible power words can have when they’re weaponized against someone. It shows the power the words we use about ourselves have over us, too. My favorite thing, though, is its message about the power of friendship. I loved the message about how being truly seen by another person can be a huge step toward healing.

I also love the message about all of us being a work in progress, that we are changing all the time. That we have the power to change. It’s such a powerful, hopeful message. This is definitely a book worth reading, whether you’ve experienced the kind of bullying or loneliness Will has or not.

A Work in Progress on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Characters are white. Will struggles with body image and disordered eating.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Will has a crush on a girl at school.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
A boy calls Will fat in a cruel way, and he begins saying cruel things to himself. He stops eating at one point.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of A WORK IN PROGRESS in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

Also, it’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! Check out the other MMGM posts at Always in the Middle.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

5 Responses to Review: A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner

  1. Brenda says:

    Yes, what a powerful story. This was my favorite read of this year so far!! Happy MMGM have a lovely week.

  2. I’ve seen this book on Jarrett’s site but didn’t know much about the plot. Thanks for the helpful background. I’ve added this to my future read list. Thanks for including your review on this week’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

    • Kasey says:

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy it. I just added a link back to your blog to the post, too. Thank you for hosting the list. 🙂

  3. It’s so true, we are all works in progress, and it seems a good reminder of the power of words, plus labelling and judging people. I love the fact that the story is told through verse and illustration. It sounds a thought-provoking and encouraging story. Thanks for sharing!