I had insider information about this book as Helen Boyle, editor of tBkmag, had raved about it. In fact, wearing another hat she had bid for the publishing rights only to lose out to Bloomsbury. Shame about that, Helen.
Anyway, what a rip-roaring ride it is! 16 year old Dylan Mint has Tourette’s Syndrome which leads him to shout unsavoury - and sometimes downright obscene - things in moments of stress. In the back of his mind Mr Dog growls and the more the stress the louder Dylan barks.
Obviously highly distressing but within the context of the special school Dylan attends he is otherwise ‘normal’. For Dylan, making sense of the world is an intriguing mix of teenage knowing and incomprehension of why adults say the things they do.
Without giving away too much, Dylan has a list of things he wants to do before he dies, top of which is having ‘real sexual intercourse with a girl (preferably Michelle Malloy and definitely NOT on a train or any other mode of transport . . . if it’s possible at her house).’
Imagine mustering the courage (and the stress involved) to approach said Ms Malloy only for your Tourette’s to blurt out your innermost feelings. Tourette’s is a serious and distressing condition but this was only one of many – genuinely - laugh out loud moments that debut author Brian Conaghan engineers. His appreciation of the implications for a coming of age teenager and the way he articulates it are superb and comparisons with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
by Mark Haddon are inevitable. This, too, is a novel for Young Adults although the crossover potential is enormous and Bloomsbury are planning two jackets, the second to appeal to us grown ups.
So if you enjoyed Curious Incident or My Sister Lives on the Mantelpieceby Annabel Pitcher then keep your eyes peeled for When Mr Dog Bites, due out in January.
And while I’m at it, can I also try once again to encourage you to readGrace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson – a truly grown up version of a similar predicament.