Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Book Review: When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan

Dylan Mint has Tourette's. Being sixteen is hard enough, but Dylan's life is a constant battle to keep the bad stuff in – the swearing, the tics, the howling dog that seems to escape whenever he gets stressed... But a routine visit to the hospital changes everything. Overhearing a hushed conversation between the doctor and his mother, Dylan discovers that he's going to die next March. So he grants himself three parting wishes or 'Cool Things To Do Before I Cack It'. But as Dylan sets out to make his wishes come true, he discovers that nothing – and no-one – is quite as he had previously supposed. 

My Review:
I so much liked the sound of this book, especially with the setting being pretty close to where I live, so I had high hopes for the book. And it was a HUGE disappointment.

I really don't like Dylan at all. He is a very immature and annoying character who is more like 6 than 16 year old and I don't really think it's related to him having Tourette's, just being a strange invention by the author. So let me give you a few examples. Some of his favourite phrases are things like 'wowee zowee', 'bonkerinos', 'holy moly'. He sounds more like Robin in the old Batman tv series! He refers to the love of his life Michelle as 'sex on wonky donkey legs'. Yes Michelle has different sized legs so I get the so called pun but it is mean of Dylan to say this when he gets upset at him and Amir being called horrible names by the school bully. So no, I don't much like him.

He also throws in random Scottish words to remind us that Dylan is Scottish, a reminder we need in amongst the weird things he says. Then random cockney rhyming slang a lot which I thought was bizarre for a boy from Glasgow plus he refers to himself as a geezer who likes to chillax and we get random foreign phrases too. Right, whatever. I don't think the author could make his mind up what nationality he wanted Dylan to be so made him a strange mix of everything. And for me it didn't work on any level. In fact it was a relief when Dylan had a Tourette's outburst because it was the only bit of language coming from him that I found in any way believable.

And of course every conversation was sex related. I swear that the author wanted to get in every possible word used to describe any kind of sex and I found this boring on every level. Yes kids talk about sex but really, do we need it on pretty much every page? It doesn't really add to the story, it just makes it drag along. I also got a bit annoyed at the amount of name dropping from British pop culture that seemed to appear randomly in the conversation. Yes I did recognise who was being talked about and that's a change from reading American books and wondering who this presenter or comic is that the characters talk about. But I felt there were too many mentioned and for no real purpose than to just mention them. This didn't add anything to the story.

I was also pretty mad that Dylan was slagging off Scottish sprinter Allan Wells who won Olympic Gold in the 100 metre final in Moscow, who was my childhood hero. In fact he was the childhood hero to lots of kids growing up at my age, watching him on TV. So to have a Scottish boy slagging him off by saying he only won because of the boycott really made me mad. It doesn't matter that it was true, as the nations who chose not to compete are irrelevant to Allan Wells achievement as he still had to beat everyone who was there that day! Does it mean less to win gold because a rival can't take part due to injury or whatever? No because stuff like this happens and I get sick of the attitude of downplaying our achievements because we like to put fellow Scots down. Allan Wells inspired a generation and I don't care who wasn't there in the race that day! HE won, end of! And it was a damn proud day for Scotland!

It's a pity that I found so much annoying in the book because I believe more should be written about things like Tourette's to get people to see behind the condition to the person. I thought the Tourette's outbursts were actually well written. Dylan's family discoveries were interesting and Amir's racism worries could have been further explored. These things should have been the focus of the book rather than the dumb sex plot. It would have been a better read.

This book is regarded as young adult but I'd caution parents about giving it to young YA readers. It has a very high sex and swearing content and that is in the bits without the Tourette's. Caution advised.
 
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2 comments:

  1. So glad I have skipped this one. I think I almost picked it up once and now am so glad I didn't. It doesn't sounds like something I would want to spend my time on at all.

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    1. I felt this book was so mixed up...that the author wasn't sure what he wanted it to be. Really not my kind of book!

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