Monday, May 6, 2013

Review: Dodger

By Terry Pratchett
Published 2012 by HarperCollins

Dodger is a street urchin, just doing what he must to survive in the streets of London. But Dodger's priorities change the night he is witness to an attack on a beautiful young woman. Dodger begins to understand the connections between people and discovers that he will do anything to prevent that young lady from seeing any further harm.

I tried desperately to read this one before the Youth Media Awards were announced - it was getting a lot of buzz and popping up in a number of discussions as a potential contender. Alas, my time ran out and Dodger was, in fact, named a Printz Honor book. I read it as quickly after the announcement as I could. I'm not sure if I consider myself a Pratchett fan - is that a weird thing to say? In high school, my best friend adored the Discworld novels and really wanted me to read them. So, I made myself a lofty goal of reading all of them - complete fail. I have read a handful of them and I've recommended them to many people over the years. I still have the intention of reading them all someday, but with time so short and books so numerous, I can't say for sure if it will ever truly happen. Nation, Pratchett's previous Printz Honor title, has also been on my radar since its publication. So, I was excited to read Dodger and see how it found me.

As I've mentioned a time or two before, I'm a big fan of historical fiction. I particularly enjoy historical fiction that manages to incorporate real historical figures in ways that are believable and interesting. So I was intrigued by Dodger before I even began. However, I have to admit that this book proved a bit slow-going for me. Dodger himself is an interesting character for sure, and I enjoyed following him along his transformation from simple street rat to man of society (and the stumbles and challenges he faces along the way). I liked the inclusion of Charles Dickens and other historical figures, though whether their inclusion was believable or not, I can't really say in this case (I know almost nothing about this time period/place in the world).

My problems with this book are these: though Dodger is characterized well, Serendipity, his paramour, does not receive the same treatment. By the end of the novel, we know about as much of her as we did when we started, and this is disappointing. Additionally, it's pretty clear what kind of book this is - the end seems a foregone conclusion, and it takes a bit too long to get there. Things begin to feel a bit long-winded and repetitive over the course of the book. Finally, I enjoy lovely prose as much as the next guy but, in this case, it just seemed like Sir Terry was being overly descriptive unnecessarily. The prose here does not hold the same beauty for me as other lush descriptive works have. But maybe that's all just me.

I'm glad to have read this one, and I do admire Pratchett as an author. I can't say I hated this and I can't say I loved it - very much on the fence about this. I would love to know what teens thought of this one.

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