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Someday My Printz Will Come
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I Think There Is No Contender

There Is No Dog I Think There Is No ContenderThere Is No Dog, Meg Rosoff
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, January 2012
Reviewed from ARC

Can we talk about There is No Dog?

Because either this book misses its mark by a mile or I’m missing something.

It’s by Meg Rosoff, author of the 2005 Printz award winner how i live now, a book that blows me away every. single. time I read it.

It’s garnered 4 stars (Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Horn Book, and Kirkus).

(Admittedly, 2012 seems to be the year of multiple stars, but it’s still nothing to sneeze about.)

And it’s a book that leaves me feeling like the butt of a joke not unlike the cosmic joke that is the centerpiece of the book.

Because this is Meg Rosoff, there is some excellent writing on display. A few scenes and characters (Eck!) have stuck with me since I read this, quite early in the year. But my overall feeling is bafflement.

The universe as a plaything in the hands of a spoiled child is not a new idea. I wrote a poem about this in high school. It was rejected from the literary magazine on the grounds that it was a cliche they’d seen before (and there may have been a suggestion of accidental plagiarism). So what’s different here, aside from full length novel treatment in the hands of someone with a fine grasp of sentence structure?

I kept waiting for something to feel startlingly different. I was waiting for something fresh and zingy and newsworthy, but instead there was Bob. And Bob did not illuminate any mystery of the world or make me see things differently, and in fact he seemed like the worst stereotype of the teen boy, more caricature than character.

Now, I’ve read the reviews. The professional journals say things like “arch and thoughtful, silly and smart” (Booklist) and “one of the sharpest-witted tours de force of recent memory” (Kirkus). The Guardian said, “One must simply revel in the joyful singularity of Rosoff’s latest masterpiece.” And I found myself wondering, again, if I was missing something, or if no one else wanted to admit that this high concept work by a bona fide master had left them cold, so they went effusive instead, à la The Emperor’s New Clothes.

I could go on. I could cite you passages that are well written. I could raise some of the specifics that I find hard to understand (Eck!). I could talk about the irritable pathos of Mr B, an interesting character but one that, again, I’m not sure illuminates anything other than Rosoff’s ability to make even a cranky low level bureaucrat into an almost heroic figure. Which, okay, is masterful writing, but my basic problem here was that for me the whole was somehow less than the sum of the parts. The sentences and characters were often interesting (although not Lucy or Bob, despite how central they are, and having the least interesting characters in the center might be one of the major flaws I can put my finger on), but the text as a whole wasn’t, and I could spend lots more words thinking about that but maybe not getting anywhere conclusive (because if I haven’t figured it out in 9 months, I’m not sure 900 words will get me any further).

But instead of doing all of that, I want to open it up to you.

Do you have this in your top ten? Is it not in your personal top ten but you can illuminate its charms? Am I just being dense, or am I the little boy who said the Emperor was naked? Comments are open, so start talking!

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About Karyn Silverman

Karyn Silverman is the High School Librarian and Educational Technology Department Chair at LREI, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School (say that ten times fast!). Karyn has served on YALSA’s Quick Picks and Best Books committees and was a member of the 2009 Printz committee. She has reviewed for Kirkus and School Library Journal. She has a lot of opinions about almost everything (except current events, because she’s too busy reading YA literature to follow the news). Said opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, LREI, YALSA or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @InfoWitch or e-mail her at karynsilverman at gmail dot com.

Comments

  1. Annie says:

    Is it odd that this review has actually made me want to check out There Is No Dog more? I thought it was an okay concept, but didn’t really grab me and somehow the stellar reviews didn’t sway me. The idea that there might be disagreement makes me want to give it a try and see where my review lands.

  2. Beth says:

    Ugh, not a contender. I can only imagine the reviewers who love it are as fed up with teenagers existing as the author seems to be.

    From an actual literary discussion standpoint I just didn’t feel like the world building was developed enough to support the premise. Or maybe it was thought it wasn’t necessary because it’s such a typical premise?

  3. Eric says:

    One of the very few books that I started and did not finish this year.

  4. LeAnn says:

    I didn’t like it either. I thought it was really imaginative, but the characters were so flat and boring. The only interesting character is Mr. B, and he’s not in it enough for me. I blogged about my disappointment with it, too: http://www.minnesotareads.com/2012/05/there-is-no-dog/.

  5. Thu says:

    I feel the EXACT same way. I love Meg Rosoff. I taught HILN to my high school students. I’ve read and enjoyed her other books. But this one? A real headscratcher. I just don’t get it. I can buy into a lot of things–weird and far fetched can be awesome–but I’ve got to love the characters if I’m skeptical about plot and premise. I made myself try to finish this book soapy times, but eventually I began to wonder if it wasn’t making me feel bad about Rosoff’s other books. How unfair! Anyhow, if someone else can explain to me why I should like the book, I’m all ears.

  6. Cecilia says:

    I wasn’t thrilled with it either. The beginning was amusing enough to make me hold onto a library copy that I had intended to return. But after getting the idea of where it was going, I’ll admit, I just skipped ahead to read the ending and be done. I didn’t are about any of the characters enough, and none of them have really stuck with me.

  7. Emily H. says:

    Wow, I thought I was the only one!

    And actually, I found it reasonably entertaining up until the end, when I got some sense of the Douglas Adams-y feel that almost made it come together — the sense of trying to find meaning, or create meaning, in a universe that can feel absurd and cruel. If that had been totally successful then I might be arguing for it as a contender. As it is… I’m not.

  8. Staci says:

    Agreed. I just listened to it and I think what kept me hanging on was hoping for something more and Eck. I can’t help it but I loved Eck but that was it…an interesting premise that fell flat to me.

  9. TeenReader says:

    Couldn’t finish this one. The world building was very poor, and the whole thing seemed self-consciously clever instead of geniunely funny and surprising. I will be disappointed if this gets a Printz nod. (And I’m surprised that no commenters have been positive. There is a clear reader to reviewer gap.)

  10. Sophie Brookover says:

    Not to pile on, but I agree with all of y’all. This was a DNF for me back in February. I wanted so badly to find some reason to keep on reading, but there was just no THERE there. If it DOES receive a nod, I’ll be very keen to hear what RealCommittee members have to say about its merits and winning ways. Til then, I will echo Josiah Bartlet by asking: What’s next?

  11. Hannahlily says:

    I have nothing to add, just wanted to say one more person who didn’t see the appeal in this book. Flat, unlikable characters, unorignial plot, unexamined themes, and, dare I say, a wee bit pretentious?

  12. Mark Flowers says:

    @Hannahlily – “a wee bit pretentious” you say! surely you jest ;)

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