My final read in the dog-lovers genre is Linda Benson's YA/MG novel, Walking the Dog. The story certainly didn't disappoint me, but, tell me, who could resist this face?
When I saw the cover, I knew I had to see what was inside. Here's a short blurb to whet your appetite:
Jared is smitten when his teacher seats the new girl, Sophie, right next to him. Even with the scar running up the side of her face, Jared thinks she’s the most beautiful girl in the entire fifth grade. But why did she transfer here so late in the year? Rumors say something bad happened to her.
Jared and Sophie become friends while walking the guidance counselor’s new puppy, but when his parents object to this arrangement, Jared fabricates a series of elaborate lies to meet Sophie on the sly. But little brothers can be pests. First Petey lets the orange cat loose at the animal shelter where Jared and Sophie have been secretly walking the dogs. Then Petey turns up missing.
And Sophie's past finally catches up with her.
Ms. Benton has written a very enjoyable story featuring two young people who are each struggling with their own issues. Jared is dealing with feelings of guilt that center around his younger brother, Petey. Then he voluntarily takes on another load of guilt by going against his parents' wishes with regard to Sophie. I try to avoid spoilers, so you'll have to read the book to see how he handles those feelings.
Although Jared is the main character of the story, Sophie holds her own as a secondary player and I found myself rooting for her from the very beginning. Her life is one that is all too familiar with many young people today, and I couldn't help but fall in love with her gritty, persevering attitude. My only regret is that she didn't venture out farther on the proverbial limb and become more vocal in her denouncement of the treatment she had been subjected to. But one of the reasons I enjoy reading so much is knowing that all authors add their own unique voice to their work, and I respect and admire Ms. Benson for keeping Sophie true to character.
Walking the Dog has a lot going on in it for such a short read. Ms. Benson did a great job of maintaining several different microcosms throughout the novel and keeping each one separate, but at the same time allowing them to overlap enough to keep everything cohesive. I think it would be quite easy for even the youngest readers of middle grade fiction to follow the story with interest, but varied and contemporary enough to hold the attention of the upper end of the age range as well.
Walking the Dog is Ms. Benson's fifth novel and her third with Musa Publishing. I find her writing to be smooth and uncluttered, and I sincerely appreciate that ability in a fairly new indie author. I have already added two more of her novels, The Girl Who Remembered Horses, and Six Degrees of Lost, to my ever-growing list. I hope we'll be seeing many more offerings from Ms. Benson, and I wish her well in all of her writing endeavors.