Lady: My Life as a Bitch (Puffin Teenage Books)

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9780141310282: Lady: My Life as a Bitch (Puffin Teenage Books)

A sexually active, rebellious teenager is transformed into a confused and frightened dog by a tramp with magical powers. Sandra has a lot of growing up to do quickly if she is to survive as a scrounging stray in a rough dogs' world. She experiences all the physical aspects of being a dog, including running with a pack and going on heat. She must decide whether she wants to recover her humanity, and if so how to do it - doubly difficult as her brain is reduced to the scattered consciousness of a dog.

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Review:

Controversial and award-winning British author Melvin Burgess (Smack, Bloodtide, etc.) is in fine form in his brilliant, satirical novel about a hedonistic teenage girl who is turned into a dog by a mysteriously magical town drunk. Sandra (a.k.a. Lady) is dismayed at first, but quickly discovers the pure joys of unfettered freedom to do whatever she wants and have sex with whomever she pleases--a seemingly perfect scenario for a devil-may-care young woman who would "have shagged [Wayne] up against the wall for a bag of jelly beans a month ago."

Hooking up with a couple other humans-turned-dogs, Lady roams the streets and, well, does what doggies do: "One thing about dogs--they know how to greet someone. It's not so much scratch and sniff as sniff and lick--as soon as you see someone, you just gotta know what they taste like!" Her new life is not without inner turmoil, however. Part of her longs to return to her human life, annoying family, standardized school testing, boy-of-the-day "romances," and all. Living as a dog helps her study what it means to live as a human--with the responsibilities, silly inhibitions, stress, and worry that mark that species--but also the flip side: the security and love of her family.

Ultimately the decisions Sandra/Lady makes may be shocking, but Burgess's voice is undeniably, ruthlessly authentic. Readers in search of a traditionally moralistic diatribe against the reckless promiscuity of today's youth will need to look elsewhere. But those seeking a funny, sensual, and honest exploration of real teenage life and a much more intense and complex study of humanity will revel in the author's expertly crafted allegory. As Burgess himself says, "even someone who doesn't know what an allegory is will recognize that Lady is not a piece of advice, or a suggestion on how to govern your life; it's simply a way of trying to make people think about the ways in which we define work and play." Highly recommended. (Ages 14 and older) --Emilie Coulter

About the Author:

Melvin Burgess began to train as a journalist and has had jobs as diverse as bricklaying and silk-screen printing. An Enterprise Allowance Scheme gave him the chance to develop his writing, and his books for young people are now highly regarded. Melvin won the 1997 Guardian Award and the Carnegie Medal for his powerful novel, JUNK. He lives in Manchester.

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