Tag Archives: rehab

Review: Walkin’ the Dog by Chris Lynch

Walkin' the Dog by Chris Lynch

Walkin’ the Dog
Chris Lynch
Simon & Schuster BFYR
Published March 12, 2024

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Walkin’ the Dog

“Lynch is back and better, smarter, and funnier than ever.” —Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award Winner

A boy learns how to be a friend from man’s best friend in this funny and moving middle grade novel about humans being able to change and dogs changing us from acclaimed author Chris Lynch.

In a family of strong personalities with very strong points of view, Louis is what his mother lovingly calls “the inactivist,” someone who’d rather kick back than stand out. He only hopes he can stay under the radar when he starts high school in the fall, his first experience with public school after years of homeschooling.

But when a favor for a neighbor and his stinky canine companion unexpectedly turns into a bustling dog-walking business, Louis finds himself meeting an unprecedented number of new friends—both human and canine. Agatha, a quippy and cagey girl his age always seems to be telling two truths and a lie. Cyrus, a few years his senior, promises he’s going to show Louis how to be a better person, whether Louis wants him to or not. And then there are the misbehaving border terriers, the four (possible stolen) sausage dogs, the rest of Louis’s charges, and a mysterious white beast who appears at a certain spot at the edge of the woods.

Dogs and human alike all seem to have something they want to teach Louis, including his menacing older brother who keeps turning up everywhere. But is Louis ready to learn the lesson he needs how to stop being a lone wolf and be part of a pack?

My Review

The most surreal thing about reading this book is that the last book by Chris Lynch that I read is INEXCUSABLE, which is a pretty heavy book. So, it’s been a while since I’ve read any of his books, and this is a really different one than the last one I read.

I think my favorite part of this book is the voice it’s written in. It feels young and smart, and you can feel Louis being sneaky at different moments in what he chooses to share and not share. He’s also pretty chatty and a bit of a rambler. Sometimes, the rabbit trails drew me away from the story, but often, they revealed things that put what was happening in a new perspective.

I also appreciated that the book included a few dogs with disabilities or health problems. One dog has a wheelchair for his back legs, and another is missing one front leg. I haven’t seen that very often in other books, so it was a cool thing to include here.

The characters have a lot going on, but the story doesn’t always center around those issues. For instance, Louis’s mom is in a rehab program after a knee injury led to her addiction to painkillers. We see her only in a few scenes as Louis visits her. She appears sober in all of his memories of her at home.

As Louis builds a business walking dogs, he forges unexpected relationships with other kids and confronts some elements of his relationships with his family members. I love that the story is really framed around him walking dogs. There’s one F-bomb early in the book that seems to come out of nowhere, though. I felt like it really jumped out there without warning and without reason? So that may discourage some readers from picking up this dog story.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 to 14.

Louis’s friend Cyrus and his mother are Haitian American. A couple of the dogs he meets have disabilities.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
One F-bomb. I think there are maybe one or two other swear words.

Romance/Sexual Content
Louis may have a crush on a girl in the book. It’s not the focus of the story, and it isn’t totally clear how he feels.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Louis mentions his brother getting into a lot of fistfights in high school. He has scarring on his face that affects the way he speaks. Louis sees a dog that has died (unknown cause). Later, he sees another dog that has died, apparently from being hit by a car.

Drug Content
References to addiction to painkillers following an injury.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

Review: What Unbreakable Looks Like by Katie McLaughlin

What Unbreakable Looks Like
Katie McLaughlin
Wednesday Books
Published June 23, 2020

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

About What Unbreakable Looks Like

Lex was taken – trafficked – and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.

After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.

But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.

Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.

My Review

I found this book really addicting. It’s intense– Lex is recovering from being trafficked, and some scenes show her in a recovery program and then transitioning to a life with her aunt and uncle. Some chapters open with memories from her past. Most focus on her relationships with the girls and her early relationship with Mitch, the man who trafficked her.

Trafficking is a really grim topic, and the scars that life left behind on Lex are obvious. Her mistrust, her tendency to disassociate, her ability to use her body to try to control others, all of that comes through on the page without apology.

But I felt like the story is almost this love letter to recovery, and to hope. What if a girl got out and found a community who supported her through her recovery? What if she found the courage and strength to speak about what happened to her?

WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE shows an incredible (at times perhaps unbelievable) transformation that belongs to Lex. While she has great support, this journey is about her, and her power to become the woman she wants to be. It’s an empowering story, packed with hope and courage.

There are definitely some potential triggers, though, involving sexual assault and trafficking as well as physical abuse. See my notes below for more details.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 17 up.

Most characters are white. Lex’s uncle is Black. Her friend Zack is half Hawaiian.

I read another review of the book in which the reviewer commented on the use of AAVE (African American Vernacular English), especially when Lex was talking about her life while she was being trafficked. I sort of noticed it, but hadn’t really thought about how that might be offensive. It sounded like the author was trying to model the character’s speech after girls she’d interviewed and the way they talked, and maybe she didn’t think about how it would sound to Black readers. A note of explanation may have been helpful.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity and some crude sexual language used throughout the book.

Romance/Sexual Content – TRIGGER WARNING
Explicit scenes leading up to and referencing sexual assault. References to and brief descriptions of sexual trafficking.

Some scenes showing sex and referencing or leading up to oral sex.

Spiritual Content
Lex doesn’t believe in God. She and her friends watch Jesus Christ Superstar and talk about the rumor that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. She also really has a connection with Mary’s song in the musical about how she feels about Jesus but isn’t able to act on those feelings or feels a disconnect between her feelings and actions.

Violent Content
References to self-harm and suicide. Several references to girls being beaten to death or physically abused. References to a man beating his wife and son.

Drug Content
Lex is a recovering drug addict. She attends a party where pot and alcohol are consumed, but she doesn’t participate.

Note: I received a free copy of WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog.