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Welcome To Cringefest is the third book in The Private Blog of Joe Cowley series by Ben Davis. It was sent to me by Amazon Vine in exchange for my honest review.

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I’m delighted to see a book for teenage boys that isn’t just a dark and powerful novel exposing some kind of brutality or other, which is what a lot of novels for teenage boys seem to be like these days. There is a strong showing in terms of funny books for teenage girls, particularly in diary form, and it’s nice to see a contender here for the boys’ market that isn’t just Adrian Mole, although girls will no doubt read and enjoy this too.

I’ve read the previous two Joe Cowley books and enjoyed them. I thought the second book was much stronger than the first. This one however, was a little more patchy.

Each book continues the story of Joe, geeky, Star Trek nerd, reluctant dance music performer/manager and hopeless social failure.

In this book, Joe is reeling from the aftermath of his split with ex girlfriend Natalie, who is, he has decided, the love of his life. Thanks to some ill advised and largely unintentional snogging of a girl that Joe was obsessed by in the last book, Natalie has now dumped Joe, and Joe is heartbroken and determined to get her back.

Joe decides to do this by co-ordinating a series of increasingly desperate and ever more ridiculous grand gestures, which always get thwarted and leave Joe in a worse position than before.

It takes pretty much the duration of the book for Joe to come to his senses, and this is what I found difficult in this book. It is clear that Joe is socially awkward, but his persistent and relentless inability to see the obvious in terms both of his friendships and his relationships made this book a bit of a slog at times. Each grand gesture by Joe was amusing and at times downright funny, but things did get a little repetitive in the second half of the book and I found myself losing patience and sympathy with Joe.

Luckily, the last section of the book moves things forward and means that Joe reaches a level of self awareness that was incredibly welcome and which will hopefully make book four much more interesting. It’s good to see Joe develop as a character. Three books in and you are invested in him as a believable person, and so it is vital that he grows up, if only a little bit. It was also nice to see peripheral characters being fleshed out more, and I look forward to seeing them appearing as more than foils for Joe in book four.

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