When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan

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Bloomsbury, 2014. ISBN 9781408851586.
(Age: Year 10+) The eyecatching cover of Brian Conaghan's novel displays the warning 'Contains very strong language. Not for younger readers' but the language comes from 16 year old Dylan Mint's spontaneous Tourette syndrome outbursts and does not seem offensive. Like all teenagers he is concerned with friendship, fashion and sex and he encounters bullying, racism and prejudice, just more so as he attends a special school and his father is absent. When Mint overhears a conversation between his mother and a doctor implying he will die in a few months' time, he makes a list of things to do before he dies. The list includes getting his dad home from the war, finding a new best friend for his autistic buddy Amir and 'having real sexual intercourse with a girl'. Mint is funny, loyal and his struggles with life are poignant and engaging as he and his friends negotiate adolescence. But other than the feisty object of Mint's affections, Michelle Molloy, they all seem much younger and more credulous than fits their assigned ages. Like The Black Balloon, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and M.J. Hyland's Carry Me Down, we are given some insight into the lives of families whose paths in life differ from the norm. Suitable for year 10 students onwards, with a warning about the language.
Sue Speck