Smells Like Dog
by Suzanne Selfors
Here’s what I love: I love books. I love dogs. I love pirates. How could there be anything more perfect for me than a book about a boy and his dog who go seeking pirate treasure? Well, it could also have secret rooms in a museum (I love both secret rooms and museums), and a secret society! And a goat farm! That would be even better than perfect.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t perfect.
The elements were all there, and parts of it were excellent.There are some twists that were particularly surprising in a young book like this, which are often extremely predictable, though still enjoyable. The main character, Homer, and his relationship with his sister were both nicely done; in the beginning, I wished Homer would stand up for himself a bit more, be a little less passive, and over the course of the book, he becomes able to do that, and that was nice to see — he would have made a good hero for a kid like me, like Homer, who reads a lot, doesn’t have many friends, and has dreams quite apart from what his family expects of him. I liked Homer’s whole family, in fact.
The other characters, though (Apart from Lorelei — Lorelei was fantastic), were a lot less real, and therefore a lot less interesting to me. They seemed too much like they were lifted straight out of A Series of Unfortunate Events, including the freakish grotesqueness of them and the strident imperiousness of the principal villain. Maybe this suits a young book, but I would think that if some characters could be complex and interesting — the secret of Homer’s father, for instance, revealed a whole other side to him, and in one moment, changed my perception of him entirely; that is good writing, and a good character — then they all could. They weren’t. It was too bad.
My biggest complaint about this book, though? It didn’t smell enough like dog. Dog is a lovely fella — though really, that’s a terrible name, even if it does come from children — with a nice uniqueness about him. But there isn’t enough of him: he and Homer bond, and there’s no real reason for it. Maybe that’s the way it works with kids and dogs, they grow to love each other for no reason at all, but I want there to be some affection, some connection, before they are willing to fight and die for each other. There wasn’t. Dog did not have nearly enough of a personality for such a vital character to the story, and one so important to drawing me into the book. He’s just there for Homer to love and protect, and to serve as a plot device at a particular moment.
Overall, good stuff and bad. I liked Lemony Snickett better.