I discovered why this book is a classic. The characters are fascinating, the situation is absurd, and craft is supernal. It is a great classic, and a wonderful way to get into Jules Vern's other writings.
I think the key to the book is not just the absurd bet that Fogg makes, but that Verne adds to the deadline tension by having this idiot Inspector Fix trail Fogg on his voyage around the world. Fogg not only has to combat the perils of global travel in the 1890's, but also Fix as he sabotages Fogg's journey. That is genius.
This book is all plot: you are whooshed along for the ride and it never eases up. The Chapters are short, adding to the sense of speed. The only thing offensive in this book are some of the stereotypes: Asians, Indians, Yankee Americans and Mormons are all misrepresented in this book. Alas, that is the bigotry of the Victorian era that somehow still lingers.
This is a great book for your boy who hates Jane Austin novels.