Jimmer "JD" Dobbs is back in town after spending the summer "upstate." No one believes his story about visiting his aunt, and it's pretty clear that he has something to hide. It's also pretty clear that his mom made a new friend while he was away---a rescued Rottweiler that JD immediately renames Johnny Rotten (yes, after that guy in the Sex Pistols). Both tough but damaged, JD and Johnny slowly learn to trust each other, but their newfound bond is threatened by a treacherous friend and one snap of Johnny's powerful jaws. As the secrets JD has tried so hard to keep under wraps start to unravel, he suddenly has something much bigger to worry about: saving his dog.
This book feels like it really is geared toward boys, but I do think that girls would also like it as well. But then again, I'm an unusual girl who loves big puppies... ;) It's also written simply so that MG readers wouldn't have problems with it, but it does depict boys 16 years and they do talk about sex and alcohol. So, it would depend on the kid. I would suggest parents read it first for younger YA kids. However, for the older kids, it's fine. Nothing graphic, just boys being boys. It's also a quick read and I also think that would appeal to those that may be otherwise reluctant to read (not that we can understand anything about that... LOL).
In a way this is a story about secrets and relationships. Not in a major philosophical way, but in a relatable down to earth kind of way. The plot is predictable, but still entertaining. JD, the main character has a major secret that he is keeping from his friends and even though he catches hell for revealing that secret, it is also freeing. It's also a relationship of a boy and his dog. Both reluctant to trust each other, but extreme circumstances slowly bring them together. Yes, you can safely say I loved that dog as well. :)
The secondary characters were also well drawn. There was even an urge to see the traitorous friend in a compassionate light. Although, I admit, at 16 I would be hard pressed to so easily forgive even knowing the circumstances. I should also mention something about that... reading the blurb and knowing that many of you feel the same way I did about animal books... here is a spoiler: *highlight to read* After a bite and a law suit, Johnny Rotten (the rottie) is being threatened to be "put down". He isn't... and all turns out well. *end spoiler* Yea, I did flip to the end of the book to know that. :D
There were just a few things that bugged me in the story which may be more specific to me personally (warning it's about dog training... non-doggy peeps might want to skip this):
- The dog needed training and I would have liked to have seen the novice dog owners (his mom and JD) get some professional help from a positive dog trainer. Positive training because the dog had fear agression which can also be quite serious. Also, at one time the mom and JD both grab Johnny's collar when he is upset at a new person in his area. That one bugged me the most because it's a good way for JD or his mom to get bit and kids could emulate it. They needed to learn specific techniques to calm the dog and I don't think it realistically could have happened in the way it was presented.
- There was a scene in which JD growled at Johnny to get him to pay attention. If a fearful dog doesn't take it as agression and want to defend himself, he might also take it as a play growl and you'd still get overexcited behavior. Neither is acceptable while trying to calm him down.
However, despite those problems, I did LOVE that the author took so much time to try to demystify the "bully" breed a bit. Loved that JD took the time to research how people and the courts often sentence a dog without knowing the circumstances.
I give this book 3 1/2 stars. I really think it is a good book for teen boys especially. The problems I had really run secondary to the story and if you aren't into dog training, it would not bother you in the least. It also has a cute puppy (yes, I said puppy... they are all puppies to me!) what more do you want? :)
I received this book from Scholastic and the blog tour and no compensation for my review was given.
This review is part of a blog tour! To see posts, reviews and giveaways do go HERE for the complete list of participating blogs!