Book Review – Dogs Don’t Talk by Nancy May

9781491756669_COVER_FQA.inddDogs Don’t Talk is a new young adult novel by the author, Nancy May. The novel revolves around protagonist, Benjamin McDowell, who is 16-years-old, and a high school wrestler. To begin with he comes across as a bit nerdy, but most definitely likeable, and perhaps the phrase ‘socially awkward’ would best describe him, in the way in which teenage boys are trying to adjust to the world that they are living in, as they reach adulthood. Although he is a wrestler, he does not really fit into this world, as his true love is reading, (as the hilarious Twilight incident shows us.) His one goal in life, and which is his main priority during the lifetime of the book, is to find a girlfriend, something which he has not yet accomplished. Benjamin says in the book that he needs to find “a reasonably hot-looking girlfriend”

Book information taken from the iUniverse website is as follows;

‘Life is pretty bad when you’re jealous of an old mutt and an autistic brother, Benjamin thinks to himself. If only he knew how to talk to girls, he could achieve both his goals: get a reasonably hot looking girlfriend and thus, get respect from his wrestling teammates.

But communication doesn’t come easy in the McDowell family. Ben’s mother has better conversations with Rosie the dog than she does with him. His older brother, Johnny can only communicate by singing Beatles’ songs. His younger tattletale sister Elizabeth has her own problems dealing with the gossipy dance team. Ben’s father, meanwhile, keeps his wishes for Ben short and to the point: make top grades and be a champion wrestler.

Through his love of reading, Ben meets Emily and life takes a happy turn until circumstances intervene beyond their control. Ben must learn to deal with his family dramas, a school bully and most of all, with his own insecurities.’

So this story tells of a young man struggling to fit in at school, but also at home. He lives with his mum, dad, younger sister, older brother Johnny who has autism and Rosie the dog, who graces the book’s cover.

What I like about this book is that Benjamin is not perfect, in the way that no one is, especially teenage boys. He moans about helping to clean the house, about taking Rosie for walks and what I also like is that he moans about his brother, and that he gets all the attention, especially from girls. There is most definitely an undercurrent of jealousy running throughout the story with regards to Johnny, and this I can understand, it is believable. He also does not want to help look after him, and share him with his friends, especially when he retells the stories from when he was younger. However, when one of his friend’s Blake, begins to mock and make fun of Johnny and his singing, he is a devoted Beatles fan and loves to sing their songs, Benjamin defends his brother.

Nancy May

Although this book is aimed at young adults, I think that anyone of any age would benefit from reading it. At its heart, it is a story well told, but ever so subtly it touches on what it is like to have a member of the family who has autism, and in particular what it must be like to grow up with a sibling with autism. This is what I found most interesting, the ‘sibling perspective.’ I have two young sons, my youngest has autism, so although I am aware of autism, and how autism affects my family and the family dynamics, I will never understand what it is like to have a sibling on the spectrum, and this is what I like about this book. It tells it how it is, but does so in a gentle and subtle way. At times, you forget that you are reading about autism.

About the author – Nancy May, is mother to a child with autism and was inspired to write the book about experiences in her own life. She has a degree in journalism from the University of South Carolina. Her career took her to New York City, and she has previously worked in the publishing industry.

Dogs Don’t Talk Available from the publisher iUniverse: