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When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan

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Teenage Book of the Month

When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan
Published by Bloomsbury, 2014

Dylan Mint is sixteen years old and has Tourette's Syndrome. He shouts shocking and obscene things at the most unexpected times, particularly if he’s under stress. Getting stressed is par for the course at Drumhill Special School and this is when the dog at the back of Dylan’s mind growls louder and louder until Dylan has to bark.

On a routine visit to his doctor with his Mum he overhears a hushed conversation and misunderstands he only has months to live. So Dylan sets out to do the three most important things he simply must before he dies:
1. Have real sexual intercourse with a girl, preferably Michelle Malloy,
2. Make people stop slagging his friend Amir and find him a new best friend and
3. Get his Dad back from the war in Afghanistan.

Dylan’s life, short as it may be, is one hell of a struggle but despite this, the story is also a very funny one in places. As the sub-title reads, When Mr Dog Bites is a story about life, death, love, sex and swearing. Above all else it is a story of growing up, teenage angst and one of a rite of passage best suited to older teens.

Dylan’s having Tourette’s is incidental to these main themes. Our hero triumphs in the end, coming to terms with his difficulties and his perceived looming death in an uplifting fashion. Not holding back and facing challenges head on, is what sees Dylan through.

Conaghan credibly portrays how those who are different are perceived as outsiders and often persecuted by their peers.

The book has been likened to other popular teenage reads, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon and Annabel Pitcher’s My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.

“One of the book’s most engaging characteristics, its often hilarious (and often scatological) humour … This is a portrayal of young male bonding, complete with all the lively banter of true camaraderie, at its most tender and affectionate” Irish Times