By Brian Conaghan
Available now from Bloomsbury
Scottish author Brian Conaghan draws on his own experience with Tourette's Syndrome to tell the story of Dylan Mint, who has Tourette's and is convince he's going to die in March. He's inspired to create a list of things to do before he dies, but it also makes it harder for him to keep a leash on "Mr. Dog" as well as his own behavior.
Dylan might be sixteen, and sex with Michelle Malloy might be the top thing on his list, but he's almost painfully naive. His innocence makes it easier to sympathize with him when he's being difficult, for instance when he's biting back at his mother for disciplining him. It's also sweet when he's defending his best friend Amir, despite not comprehending some of the racism leveled against him.
The language of WHEN MR. DOG BITES is involving, because it relies heavily on Scottish, rhyming, and other slangs. Dylan loves playing with words, and it is interesting to fall into the rhythm of his thoughts. Given that he has Tourette's, some of that language is strong, but it's less intrusive than I expected when I started reading.
I wasn't in love with WHEN MR. DOG BITES. I enjoyed the diversity of the characters and the use of language. But I felt the plot relied too strongly on Dylan being utterly guileless. I never quite believed that he was sixteen. Fourteen, maybe.