Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rotten by Michael Northrop

Scholastic, 2013

JD is coming home.  After a long summer away from his real life, he's ready to come back.  He just isn't sure if a life is waiting for him.  How will his Mom react to his being home again?  What about his friends?  And very importantly, did Janie forgive him?  Did she wait for him to come home or did she start another life? 

When his mom picks him up, he knows something's up.  She tells him there's a surprise waiting for him at home, and with his sketchy past, he isn't sure if he'll like it or not.  When JD opens the door, he hears it first and then sees this gigantic creature....a Rottweiler, standing in the middle of the room, taking up all the space.  His mother explains that he's a rescue dog, taken from a home of severe abuse.  JD decides he has the perfect name for this dog who doesn't like him:  Johnny Rotten, JR for short.

With only five days before school starts, JD begins to live life again, but slowly.  He dodges the questions his friends ask him by telling them his spent time with his aunt.  Everyone knows it's a lie, but they don't know the truth either, and it's something JD isn't willing to tell.  One trip to Janie's house is all JD needs to know that her parents want him out of her life.  The only relationship that seems to hold promise is with Johnny.  The dog is getting to JD, and trust is slowly starting to build.

But one day can make a big difference.  One bite of a friend's hand can ruin relationships.  And one lie can cost a life.  JD knows the truth, but how can he prove it, especially when his past catches up to him?

Taking cues from real life stories of "bully breeds" like Rottweilers and pit bulls, Northrop weaves a solid story about how stereotypes can lead to devastation.  There is a lot both JD and JR have in common, and it's this relationship that Northrop writes about so clearly.  The parallels are evident and readers will begin to understand the underlying theme that springs from the symbiotic relationship between both guy and dog.  With such a short novel, Northrop packs a punch, leaving the ending up for grabs until the very end.  This is one teens will rush to.  Can't wait to booktalk this one!  Recommended JH/HS

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