Bait Dog by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As with the first Atlanta Burns story, Shotgun Gravy, this is a firecracker of a ride that doesn't ever let go. When we left Atlanta at the end of Shotgun Gravy she had dealt with the bullies that threatened her friends. Or so she thought. Then Chris, her gay classmate, is found hanged. Suicide, the police say. Atlanta and Shane don't think so, but what can they do? And then along comes another classmate, who wants Atlanta to investigate the torturing and murder of her dog. And that leads Atlanta right into the very unsavory world of dog fighting. And that leads her right back around to the people responsible for Chris' hanging.
This is not a pretty story. Nor is it for those who can't handle the bare knuckles reality of the world it portrays. It's cruel, harsh, and ugly- for the dogs, and the people invovled. It's heart-wrenching- more than once I was reading with tears in my eyes. It's gritty- no pulled punches here. This is not a YA story that tones anything down. Drugs, violence, hatred, cruelty are all here in full measure. But it is not a story without hope or good. They're there, just buried under the nail-biting reality of life.
Wendig's style is a lot like the plot: staccato, sharp, and quick-moving. The words come at you like the pellets from Atlanta's squirrel gun. They sting like a slap. And they are perfect for Atlanta herself, because she's quick and sharp and reactive. She's flawed and hurt and doesn't trust easily. She also knows what's right and what's wrong, and if she doesn't always pick the former, she never puts up with the latter. He also has a way of pulling you into the world he creates, dark and scary as it is, and of building tension until you can barely stand it. There is one part near the end of the book, (No spoilers, I promise)where you will want to scream "No NoNoNONO!" and toss it across the room (not recommended if you are reading on a computer or other ebook reader). But you WILL go get it immediately, because you have to know what happened next.
Now I come to the hard part: If I loved the story so much (and I did), why not 5 stars? Because the e-book copy I read had errors. I know you rarely get a book these days without one or two, but there were too many to just ignore. Misspellings, tenses that changed mid-paragraph, words that seemed not to fit, as if they were missed on editing or revision. Maybe some were intentional, but they tended to pop me out of the story as I sorted them out. But still, read it anyway. It's that good.
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