Charles de Lint,
(Firebird, 2008)

Anyone who doubts the potential richness and depth of a young-adult novel should read Dingo to prove the lie. A simple tale of love and shapeshifting, it demonstrates admirably how a well-written YA tale can appeal to readers of any age.

Dingo is about a boy and his girlfriend and her dog. And, to some extent, another boy, his girlfriend and her dog. Those familiar with de Lint's previous work won't be surprised to learn that the pair of threesomes overlaps to a certain degree.

Miguel is a fairly typical teenager in a fairly typical lakeside town. His instant infatuation for the red-haired Australian girl who walks into his father's comic-book and record shop is troubling, all the more so because he soon has cause to suspect she suffers from multiple personalities or some form of dementia. But he becomes obsessed with Lainey all the same -- because, really, what teenage boy would let a fierce dog and a little mental illness come between him and a hot girl? -- and that draws him into an uncomfortable circle with both the school bully and a figure of legend that may just predate the beginning of time itself. It also places him firmly in the middle of a tug-of-war between Lainey's father and stepfather -- and that doesn't even begin to cover the role Em plays in all of this.

The storyline and character development are certainly not as deep as we've seen in many of de Lint's stories, but then again, most of those tales are more adult-oriented and often involve members of his recurring Newford and Ottawa casts. This stand-alone, young-adult novel is fully formed and reader-friendly, an easy access point for anyone who has never read de Lint's work before and a refreshing variation from the norm for his fans of long standing.

It is perhaps telling that I -- an avid reader by any stretch -- was unable to settle on another book to read for a few days after finishing this one. That's rare for me ... but I found myself wanting more of this, and -- barring a sudden, unexpected sequel in the mail -- that wasn't possible. But, once Dingo gets its teeth in you, it's reluctant to let go.

review by
Tom Knapp

25 July 2009

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