When Mr Dog Bites,
by Brian Conaghan (Bloomsbury, RRP $29):
Life for the average 16-year-old can be pretty tough, and for Dylan Mint, it is tougher than most.
Dylan isn’t particularly average. In fact, he has Tourette’s and his life is a constant battle to control his swearing, his tics, and – when he’s under stress – his howling like a dog.
Could things be any worse for Dylan? Well yes, they could. During a routine hospital visit he overhears a conversation between his mother and the doctor and believes he is dying.
On the strength of that he draws himself up something of a bucket list and proceeds to attempt to tick off the most important goals he has for his short life in the form of his list of three “cool things to do before I cack it”. What his list lacks in length, it makes up for in ambition: have real sex with a real girl (not on a train), find a new best mate for his best mate, and get his dad home from the war before it happens.
Dylan’s journey to complete the list is as hilarious as it is touching, with touches of beautiful ridiculousness punctuating the compelling story of one teenage boy trying to conquer his hormones, his bucket list, and his fears. It would have been so easy for this book to turn into something a bit preachy or maudlin, but it didn’t. Instead, it offered an upbeat story with some genuine laugh out loud moments along with some genuine sadness.
Another fine example of a beautifully crafted piece of writing for the young adult reader market that is equally at home in the hands of a somewhat older reader.