Author: Steven Manchester
Genre: Contemporary Fiction YA
First Published: 2016
Page Count: 273
Film/ TV Adaptation: No
Rating: 4/5 Stars
A touching story that everyone who has had to grow up and experienced unconditional love will be able to relate to.
*Animal Focus *Plot Structure
*Moved Slow in Some Places
“’Expect a season of change,’ he read aloud and snickered.” Billy has just graduated high school, but, even with the promise of summer ahead, the pressures of the adult world loom like a dark cloud in Billy’s near future. In the span of a just a few months, Billy experiences his first love, grapples with a change in his best friend, and takes on a job at the local shelter to help fund his college expenses. At least through thick and thin, his childhood friend and beloved canine companion, Jimmy, is by his side to see him through the good and, unfortunately, the bad.
Darn it! I can’t believe the author put me through all those emotions! Those last twenty pages are a doozy, let me tell you! But the feelings are a sweet, melancholy emotion that, though they peak in the final pages, carry you throughout the book like all of Manchester’s stories. I think what got me with this book was it’s focus on animals, mainly dogs. The story seems like a coming of age tale about a boy caught between the highs of finishing high school and the lows that come from the fear of venturing off into college and the unknown adult world. While it is definitely about Billy’s growth, it is also a moving piece about a boy and his aging dog. I know what you’re thinking – grab the kleenex box. That was my reaction when I saw the cover and I usually avoid these kind of stories because I get so torn up about the bond between human and dog. But this is really a beautiful story that pushes you just to the edge of total tear jerker but then gently tugs the reins back so that it never really feels like a sad ending. That’s just my speed. I also liked how the main character works at an animal shelter over the summer which gives the story another aspect of him maturing but also ties back to the relationship between Billy and Jimmy. There is also Billy’s experience dating someone steadily as well as some shocking drama which give the story a different flavor then just your typical man’s best friend tale.
The only thing that I will say is this book dragged a bit in the middle. It has a transition where it moves from being about Billy’s summer adventures to focusing more on his bond with Jimmy. Once the switch was made, I really got sucked into the new focus of Billy and Jimmy’s relationship. However, the book felt a bit dull as some plot points closed and we moved on to things that were not yet finished.
I’m going to say this is my second favorite Manchester book, but only because Goodnight, Brian was so fantastic that this doesn’t quite top that. The end of the book just killed me but in the best way! It’s not that anything revolutionary happens but that Manchester is so skilled at capturing everyday human emotions that we all cycle through in this circle of life that you can’t help but relate to it in a bittersweet way. I think I’m going to have to make a visit to my parent’s house soon to snuggle with our family dog, Bloo, in Jimmy’s honor.
*I received a free copy of this book for this review from the author.