Unleash the summer of dogs!
I was so tickled to receive a copy of this book from the publisher as I honestly haven’t read many books about dogs recently. And I don’t know if you know this about me, but I love dogs. I’m that girl giving herself whiplash to look at the puppy when we’re driving down the street. My own dog lords over the couch at home and wherever I am, you can probably find him too!
When we think about dog books, we all probably imagine Stein’s Art of Racing in the Rain or perhaps Marley and Me. Growing up, I was always a sucker for Where the Red Fern Grows, Shiloh (be still, my heart!), and Because of Winn-Dixie—still lovely books to this day and I recommend them to readers of all ages!
But as far as more recent fiction about dogs, I’m having trouble coming up with anything—perhaps I’m out of the loop? I’m sure there have been a few, but this summer there are two great dog books and this one is for those of you who can’t quite face falling in love with a book-dog, only to get your heart broken—as it seems to be the case about 99% of the time. Have you read No More Dead Dogs? But I digress. . .
Jonathan Unleashed is a romantic comedy about a boy in the Big Apple living it up with his two dogs, a border collie named Dante and a cocker spaniel named Sissy. Well—the dogs aren’t actually his, they are his brother’s, who is currently out of the country for work. Also, the “romantic” part is a bit in question, because while Jonathan likes his girlfriend, no one else seems to (including the dogs) and honestly, she can be kind of a stick in the mud imho. But she’s pretty and stuff and is going to move in soon and they are relatively comfortable with each other, so, why change, you know?
He is also in sort of a dead-end job that pays okay but is sucking his soul away bit by bit and isn’t at all what he wanted to do with his life. But the dogs, the dogs are pretty great, until he begins to worry that maybe living in New York is bad for them existentially, like maybe they are meant for the wilderness and fields and hunting and stuff because of natural instincts and maybe they are sad or unfulfilled and they deserve something better. So he takes them to the vet, but there’s nothing wrong with them, and she thinks he is pretty weird.
So you get the gist—Jonathan lives a lot in his head and is maybe putting his own problems out on these dogs because he can’t find a way to escape from his life—or he doesn’t want to face his life. But sometimes we just need a little push to get ourselves going in the right direction and it can be surprising where that push will come from—or who it will come from.
The novel is told from Jonathan’s perspective, which is really refreshing for a romcom sort of book, as they are generally narrated by female characters. The world he and the pups traverse in NYC is envisioned really well. Having recently visited the big bad city and left my furry baby at home, I was constantly thinking, how would I get around with Ouija here? What would we be doing now? Can he take the subway? Answer: Only if he fits in a bag I can carry. (And of course, I was gawking at every doggie I saw like a child waiting for presents on Christmas.) So it was really interesting to see from the inside how dogs might get around.
(Side note: drop everything and go see The Secret Life of Pets. Just do it!)
Jonathan is a very relatable character—though he is a bit neurotic, it’s true—and his issues are just like yours or mine. . . until the moment they go over the edge into crazytown and then we are just along for the ride. He’s a very creative person, but that creativity gets stifled at work. He funnels his energy into the dogs instead—they seem to be the only ones who really get him anyway.
This book is outrageous, funny, and over-the-top, but at the same time insightful and surprisingly real. When your dog looks at you in that way and you know he knows, well, everything, but doesn’t judge you for it but instead is rooting for you and knows you can do better and is so full of buttery love and doggy kisses or just quiet cuddles or more staring or maybe just walking away because he got distracted by his squeaky toy? Man. Dogs just know.
But the point is, that this book will make you feel good about life. It may even make you feel motivated to change something in your life that you’ve been ignoring, or help you realize that you’ve been ignoring something that needs change. If you need those doggy eyes for motivation, this book could be it for you. And it’ll provide some crazy laughs along the way too!
I honestly would love to see this as a movie. I think it’d be straight-up hilarious. Somebody better snatch up the film rights to this one.
Many thanks and puppy kisses to the publicity team at Viking Books for hooking me up with a copy of this!
Get your copy of Jonathan Unleashed
Find out more about the author, Meg Rosoff
Find out more about the publisher, Viking Books (Penguin Random House)
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Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.