Thistle (thistle_chaser) wrote,

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Book #16 of 2015: The Good Dog

The Good Dog by Avi
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

The problem with most books about talking animals is that the animals know too much -- they're more like humans in animal shapes than real animals. When it comes to addressing that issue, The Good Dog is one of the best talking animals books I've ever read.

Set in Alaska, a malamute named McKinley is owned by a family, but he's also Head Dog of the town's pack. One day a wolf comes into the area, seeking out dogs to come join her dying pack. Not only does he have to decide about going with her or not, he has to deal with the humans who want to kill her, and with a man who is abusing his dog.

While I enjoyed the plot, it was the dogs' view of the world that I loved best. Since they live with people, they knew a few English words, but the vast majority of them were meaningless to them, so they tried to put the words they knew together with expressions and tones of voice and such. Often they knew how the humans' system worked, and filled it in with their own knowledge: They knew streets have names, but named them after things they knew. Horse Scent Road, Most Cars Street, Abandoned House Way, Elk Scat Street, etc. I really liked that.

The one small thing that I hated was the wolf's name. Lupin. As this is a YA book, I suppose kids might not have an issue with that name, but it drove me crazy. (Though wolves wouldn't know it was from their Latin name, so maybe it wouldn't bother the others in her pack... but then why was she given that name at all? In my head, I pretended she was named after the flower with the same name.)

I thought I knew how the book would end, and I had hoped I'd be right, but I was wrong. The actual ending did make sense, and I was fine with it, it was a good ending, but I, like McKinley, wondered what would have happened if he had taken the other path...

As a last note, I love this book for another reason: Unlike the vast majority of other YA books out there, this one did not end on a cliffhanger or with an obvious set-up for the next book. While I would happily read more books about these characters, I suspect this will be a stand-alone story.
Tags: 2015 books, book review, book: the good dog
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