256p. Scholastic. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-49587-5; ebook $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-49589-9. LC 2012035038.
Gr 8 Up—JD Dobbs must pull his life back together after a summer spent "visiting his aunt," a story no one in town believes. While he was away, his mother acquired a rescued Rottweiler they decide to call Johnny Rotten-an initially surly dog JD unexpectedly comes to love. The 16-year-old sets out to get back into his old crowd of friends, and maybe even win back his old girlfriend, but he's still keeping secrets about his summer. When Johnny Rotten bites one of his friends, JD's world comes crashing down. Mars's parents sue; JD's mother may lose their house, and Johnny Rotten faces a likely death sentence. Plenty of teenage-boy humor keeps the tone relatively light, despite JD's troubles. Readers will root for Johnny Rotten, who was abused by his last owner, and hope for the truth to come out about what really caused the dog to bite. JD alternates between bravado and foolishness, but he's a sympathetic character, able to laugh at himself. The bond between boy and dog develops slowly and is well described. Readers will identify with JD and also recognize their own friendships and dynamics as the four male friends interact. JD's relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Jane, is not well fleshed out, nor is romance the focus of the book, but his feelings for her are clear. The ending is satisfying without feeling forced or predictable. This is a compelling read, sure to appeal to boys with its humor, music references, and realistic characters.—Miranda Doyle, Lake Oswego School District, OR

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