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Kate dug her hands deep into the pockets of her hoodie and sniffed; she hated how the cold weather made her nose run so freely.
Her eye caught a motor-oil rainbow shimmering across the soft sheen on the damp asphalt and wondered briefly how it was that ugly things could sometimes appear so beautiful. She wiped her nose with the back of her hand, shrugging with disgust as she did so. With the passing flash of her fingers, she noted chipped, black nail polish and felt a shard of sadness seeing the knotted, multi-coloured bracelet around her wrist. The bracelet was still there, but Jess, her best friend, was gone.
A movement caught her eye and she looked across the road. A dog stretched out from a wall against the pull of its leash like a comic kangaroo. His face was a mix of optimism and anxiety as it craned its neck and peered intently at a battered red door. As Kate passed, the dog was making a renewed attempt to free itself of the leash and jerked out; unintentionally butting her in leg.
The total focus of the dog made her laugh; so she came closer. Kate giggled when she saw how the dog politely acknowledged her with a quick glance and short wag of the tail, before resuming its hypnotic gaze in the direction of the door.
“Where’s your boss?” Kate enquired, stopping to look at the mutt.
The vertical line of ribs standing out clearly through the dull coat, and the crisscrossed scars scribed into the fine front legs made her frown. What she thought was a collar was in fact a length of electric cord that choked the dog each time he pulled against it. She looked further and noticed an open wound on the back and another across the leg. Both were angry, red and weeping.
Even though she had to get to school, she felt she needed to do something about this dog. She looked at the dull red door the dog was staring at and paused. She thought about the ugly wounds, went up, and knocked briskly on the door. Before long, there was the thump of feet on stairs and the door was pulled open. A guy with a beanie pulled down over his ears, an oversize red t-shirt and track pants looked at her with hostility.
“Is that your dog?” Kate asked pointing at the mutt who was jumping up and down, pulling against the rope like a lunatic and barking hoarsely.
“What’s it to ya?” the guy spat.
“Did you know it’s got a sore on its back leg that’s really bad?”
“Look girly, it’s my effin’ dog and it can effin’ look after itself, right!”
The door slammed in Kate’s face.
She barely knew what had happened. The response had been so angry she was torn between trying again and just running away. The look of deep disappointment on the dog’s face drew her back again. She looked at the wound. Almost without thinking, she found her fingers working loose the knot on the cord that was cruelly holding the dog.
The dog was free, but to Kate’s surprise, it didn’t run to the red door but grovelled over to lick her fingers. As Kate’s hand rose to pat its head, the dog flattened down to the ground as if she was about to belt it.
It seemed like moments later that Kate stood at the counter of the lost dog’s home organising treatment for the wounds and agreeing to the suggested injections. When she was asked what the dog’s name might be, she was surprised to hear herself answer, “Wilde”. She wondered where it came from.
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REVIEW BY JILL SMITH
Kate is an awkward teenager getting over the tragic loss of her mother. Her idol is Frida Kahlo who she admires for her paintings and strength of character. Her friend Jess has moved to Canada, her father works a lot, she feels alone and is afraid of the school bully Jake, and his meathead mates. She doesn’t feel much like her idol until she sees a battered dog and rescues him. That was when she met the dog’s former owner, who was belligerent, and slammed the door in her face.
What follows is a dramatic set of events encroaching on Kate’s life. The bullying borders on physical abuse when she’s walking home through the park, after going to the dog pound to spend time with the battered dog, she called Wilde. Mal, the dog’s former owner comes to her rescue. Kate relies on her own feelings and finds Mal a loner and streetwise, someone she can trust. At the same time she doesn’t realize that Mal is putting her in danger.
The chapters are short and sharp, driving the fast paced story through the chase scenes and eventual alliance with Mal which leaves Kate following this strange boy to the country. Will they get away from their pursuers, and why are they being chased by these criminals?
I love the sketches drawn by Kate that give further insight into this character, the self portrait in Frida Kahlo style, and the doodle of a streetscape with Mal lingering in the shadows. This is a thrilling fast paced YA’s book that immediately grabs the reader by the heartstrings covering grief, puberty, lost friendships, animal abuse, bullying, drug dealers and abandonment issues. That’s a lot to pack in such a slim 254 page volume, but it is well covered in an entertaining way, the characters are people to care about.
I recommend this to the teenagers in your family. They will be gripped by the journey of self discovery and the very satisfactory conclusion, which is definitely a twist at the end.