Sunday, April 28, 2013

Rotten by Michael Northrop [Review]

Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Drama
Publication.Date  April 1st 2013 (Hardcover edition)
Published By:  Scholastic Press
WebsiteMichael Northrop 

My review copy:ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:

A troubled teen. A rescued Rottweiler. An unlikely friendship.

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.

We park on the side street near the 7-Eleven and climb out into another hot, hazy day. The air is different in Brantley. I can't say exactly why, but then Mars says, "Smells like butt sweat," and I guess that sums it up pretty well.
There's a bench outside the post office, just down the street. Rudy and I sit on it and plaster these responsible-citizen looks on our faces. The goal is to look friendly and positive without looking deranged or stoned. Rusy's T-shirt features skeletons arranged in all the major sexual positions, so it's a fine line. 
Rudy knocks on the door. I'm still half-asleep, so the first thing I say is really dumb: "Hey man. I was about to take a shower."
He shakes his head and says, "Well, I'm not  joining you, if that's what you mean." 
I know right away that this is bad. The blood is deep red and dangerous looking, and as I'm watching, a fat drop falls from the tip of his middle finger right into the crisscrossed laces of one of his fake Jordans. This is bad, bad, bad. Not many people lose their lives to dog bites these days. But lots of dogs do. 

     Emotionally affecting and thematically poignant, Rotten is a great, deliciously readable story. Despite the serious (often heartbreaking) subject matter, the overall tone of the book is light and easy to digest. Meaningful, but not heavy. This heartfelt and insightful tale teaches us about the importance of love, trust and friendship (whether it's between two people or a man and man's best friend), and that everyone deserves a second chance. A really heart-warming, deep and honest story, capable of being both funny and moving. Books like this one get my tail wagging! 

JR isn't even technically my dog. He's half my dog, and it wasn't that long ago that he felt like even less than that. But now that he's in trouble? Now that he gets taken away first thing in the morning and I don't even know if he's coming back? Now he feels like my dog. Because I know what that feels like. He's had it tough, and he didn't even mean it anyway, and no one really has a clue about him. So, yeah. Sounds like my dog to me. 

     When JD comes home after spending his summer "upstate" supposedly visiting his aunt, he finds a surprise waiting for him. A black, furry surprise with a sweet tooth for biscuits. JR (Johnny Rotten, like the lead singer of the Sex Pistols) is a big and dangerous-looking Rottweiler who is afraid of his own shadow. He's a rescue dog with abuse-filled past. JD's mom adopted him while JD was away. Of course, not one of JD's friends knows where he really spent his summer, though they all seem to agree on one thing: it wasn't with his aunt. When JR gets in trouble for biting one of JD's friends, the secret that JD is so determined to protect is about to be unveiled. JD might lose a whole lot more than just his face, though. He might lose his new-found friend. 

    Rotten is both very entertaining and thought-provoking. I especially loved the conversational tone of the narrative and the sparkly dialogues. The back and forth between JD and his friends is strikingly realistic and delightfully hilarious. I thought Michael Northrop did a fantastic job portraying teenage interactions! They're quirky, laugh-out-loud funny and painfully honest. I loved all the jokes and punch lines, and thought the dynamics of their relationships were very believable. The characters felt real, and that's what made this book shine in my eyes. 

     I really liked the lead character, JD. He is pretty much a regular guy, with a regular personality, but there was something about him that really made it easy for me to warm up to him. He's suspicious by nature, he doesn't trust easily and he often has a hard time opening to people. In that sense, he's a lot like JR, and that's probably why they connected so well. At the same time, he's very loyal and protective of both his mom and JR, which really made me love him a lot! He's been through some rough times himself, and so he understands and feels for JR. And he's determined to create a good, warm and loving home for him. He's definitely a good kid and a great protagonist! 

     Rotten is a book that really speaks to your heart. In my opinion, it's a story that can be enjoyed by both girls and boys, teens and adults alike. Animal lovers and realistic fiction fans will definitely love this one! I highly recommend it!

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