In the near future, dogs are on the brink of extinction as an experiment gone awry caused all canines to become hyperintelligent–leading to hysteria and mass euthanasia. The only surviving dogs are kept on the coast of Florida on Dog Island where they are kept in their wild state.
Meanwhile, their robot replacements are being tested on Dog Island before being sold for mass consumption. Nano Miller was born on Dog Island and has lived there her whole life, testing out a new robot dog every year. Recently, her brother Billy has vanished without a trace just as Nano’s life changes when her best friend Wolf starts to become more than just a friend. But soon, Nano’s discovery of a living puppy may change not only her life, but life for dog owners all across the country.
Alright, this is probably one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever had to write.
Because what just happened?
As I was reading, I fully understood what was going on–Nano finds a dog, Nano meets some famous guy’s daughter, daughter takes Nano and her boyfriend Wolf to see the other side of things. On the most basic level, as in what was happening in each scene, I understood this book.
But on a broader scale, I am so confused. The whole purpose of the book is lost on me. When I requested this, I was looking for some sort of comedy, whether it was the dry wit of Nice Try, Jane Sinner or the hilarious nature of My Lady Jane or some sort of parody or satire.
I’m just confused on what this book is trying to do. It lightly touches on so many things–animal abuse and blindly following people–but never goes in depth on a topic enough that I know what the book is doing. Sometimes it felt super serious, and other times it was so exaggerated that it felt like a comedic villain from overexaggeration rather than the satiric viewpoint on a dystopia that I was just reading about.
Basically, it felt like the comedic part of this novel got really confused. It jumped from overexaggeration to pointing out flaws in humanity on a more serious tone and it ended up really confusing me on what this book was trying to do.
Seriously, some of the phrases the members of the Dog Island community use are just so comedic. Instead of saying “Dear God!”, they say “Dear Dog!” and all sorts of other doggish puns or switcharoos.
I think if it was more focused, I could have understood it better.
But it’s also good to bring up the point that maybe I just didn’t get it.
This happens sometimes–when reading more classic literature, sometimes I don’t grasp the deeper meaning on the first read, especially when I read at the speed I read YA at. I could see hints of a possible deeper meaning being introduced, but I personally wasn’t able to really find that in this book.
I wanted it to be more clear and centralized–and that doesn’t mean to dumb the book down for us, but to pick a satire style and stick with it. Instead of overexaggerating the villain one moment and then switching to another form of satire the next, sticking with only one would have made this book so much clearer in purpose.
This was definitely a major problem that led to me not enjoying the book as much as I wanted to.
Similarly, I had a couple problems with Nano, the narrator. She felt kind of…dumb? to me.
I’m not saying she’s not smart, but sometimes she sounds too young or too much like a blind follower that it makes you question if she has any sort of individual thought. In these types of books (see: 1984 or Anthem), the protagonist has this hint of rebellion deep within them.
But not Nano. Her rebellion doesn’t really stem from her own observations, but rather how the situation forced her to do something. The most complex thought I really saw from her was just basic compassion for a living thing.
It made this very different to read and definitely has the potential to make some readers frustrated with Nano’s simplistic thought. And, it’s true that her education really isn’t top notch with their spotty wi-fi and virtual school, but that doesn’t mean intellectual curiosity will go away, does it?
The development of the world was also a little fuzzy for me. We spend most of the beginning of the novel on Dog Island, and how the dystopia is introduced leaves it to be kind of unclear as to if people off Dog Island actually use that funky terminology. There’s also this drought which keeps popping up, but I was confused at how the drought came about? I felt like there could have been a little more exposition on this aspect and how it tied into the satire, I don’t know.
I feel like this book’s concept had so much potential, but the execution sadly just fell flat for me. I think using the “blind-follower” protagonist could have been amazing if done right, but I think the execution of this and the rest of the book’s satire ended up falling flat or just flying over my head. I probably wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re looking for something where you can draw parallels between loosely related concepts.
Thank you so Soho Teen and Edelweiss for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!
Which dystopias have you read? Are you looking forward to reading Your Robot Dog Will Die?