Monday, April 1, 2013

Book Review: Rotten, by Michael Northrop @mdnorthrop

Rotten is a heartfelt story about a teens trying to do the right things, and not always succeeding.

JD is returning home at the end of the summer. Presumably, he's been at his aunt's house for the entire summer, with no internet, phones, or any other way to contact the outside world. His friends don't really buy this story, but JD isn't talking. His mother has adopted a rescued dog -- a huge rottweiler, that JD names "Johnny Rotten" (he's a Sex Pistols fan.) Johnny has problems of his own. He doesn't trust most people, and especially not adult males.

Johnny bites one of JD's friends while no one is home, and all of a sudden JD's mother is being sued, and Johnny's very existence is in danger. JD knows that his friend is lying about the bite, but there's nothing he can do.

Through most of Rotten, we are wondering why JD was away for the summer. We are also worried about Johnny, as JD and Johnny begin to bond, and Johnny becomes a more well-behaved pet.

Once JD's secret is revealed, I was king of underwhelmed. I didn't understand why it was such a big deal, and so necessary for no one to know. He made a mistake and had to pay for it, but I think most kids would be OK with telling people -- especially their best friends. This revelation just didn't have the impact I think it was meant to have.

Rotten is a touching, quick story about the difficulties of friendship. The hierarchy of friendship is an interesting concept, and how these dynamics change over time as kids grow up is very realistic and not always explored as in Rotten. These interactions play an important role in the resolution of the plot. Sometimes parents get in the way, sometimes money can really stress out not only the parents, but their children. And, being a dog person, I loved reading a book about how the love between a kid and a dog can make a difference.

Teens and preteens who like "issue" novels, and especially animal lovers, will want to check out Rotten.

Published by Scholastic
eBook obtained from NetGalley
256 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 3.5/5

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