Thursday, July 3, 2014

WHEN MR. DOG BITES by Brian Conaghan

When Mr. Dog BitesLet me explain a couple reasons why I bought this book.  #1 - The title and cover are great!  #2 - When the jacket blurb mentioned that the main character has Tourette's, I was hooked.  I am currently working on writing a book with a teen in our public library writers' group, and our main character has Tourette's.  I figured I had better pick up this book to see if our idea had already been done or if we have a chance to do it even better.  (Wishful thinking, of course.)  Here's a brief review and a little commentary about our idea compared to author Brian Conaghan's.

Dylan Mint is sixteen.  "Mr. Dog" represents the uncontrollable urge to let his Tourette's take over his thoughts and actions.  If Mr. Dog has his way, Dylan's tenuous control over his outbursts is destroyed.  At that point he is not responsible for what comes out of his mouth.  Anyone close enough to hear him yell will witness every curse word imaginable and then some. 

Dylan and his best friend Amir (diagnosed on the autism spectrum) go through their days trying to be as normal as possible.  Their biggest desire is to do normal sixteen year old things in normal sixteen year old ways.  During a routine doctor visit, Dylan hears his mother and his doctor whispering.  He believes they are discussing the fact that he has less than a year to live.  He immediately begins to create a list of the things he wants to do before croaks or as he says, "cacks." 

Knowing he has a limited time, his to do list includes only three items.  First and foremost, he wants to sleep with the only hot girl that goes to his special school.  He hopes to get some help from Amir, but all the time he spends protecting his friend from vicious bullies and trying to get to the bottom of his mother's strange behavior, threatens to prevent him from achieving his goal.

WHEN MR. DOG BITES is nothing like the novel my fellow writer and I are trying to draft.  Although our protagonists may share the same syndrome, the focus is much different.  One thing I gained from reading WMDB is a better understanding of Tourette's.  Dylan's case seems pretty severe which causes his thinking and behavior to veer wildly off course.  This often became distracting.  My writing partner and I have already discussed that our character will have had some success in controlling his impulses through therapy, medication, and diet.  After reading Dylan's story, I believe Tourette's will need to play a secondary role in our novel with the plot driving the action instead.  Now for the hard work - finding time to continue our writing.

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