3.8 18
by Kiera Stewart

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Olivia has just about had it with the popular kids at school. She and her friends have done nothing to deserve evil pranks and awful name-calling, but that doesn"t stop queen bee Brynne from humiliating them on a daily basis. If only Olivia"s classmates were more like the adorable dogs she helps her grandmother train-poorly behaved, but improvable. Wait...what if her… See more details below


Olivia has just about had it with the popular kids at school. She and her friends have done nothing to deserve evil pranks and awful name-calling, but that doesn"t stop queen bee Brynne from humiliating them on a daily basis. If only Olivia"s classmates were more like the adorable dogs she helps her grandmother train-poorly behaved, but improvable. Wait...what if her tormentors" behavior actually could be modified using the same type of training that works on dogs? Olivia and her friends are desperate enough to give it a try. But is it really possible that the underdogs of Hubert C. Frost Middle School could make it to head of the pack?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A clever premise is taken a step too far to be believable in this first novel about the dog-eat-dog world of middle school. Eighth-grader Olivia, the granddaughter of a dog trainer, thinks she has a solution for the bullies who torment her and her friends: “use dog-training on everyone in school, secretly, of course.” This means taking a more aggressive stance against the alpha girls and rewarding good behavior with treats, like homemade cookies and gum. The plan works better than expected, and some of the most vicious students are soon (literally) eating out of the underdogs’ hands. But Olivia learns that people are far more resentful than canines when they realize they’ve been manipulated. The story, which offers a generous quantity of dog puns, is formulaic, and Olivia’s short-lived success and her eventual bonding with her archenemy, Brynne, are predictable. Nonetheless, Olivia emerges as a sympathetic heroine amid cookie-cutter villains and victims. Her internal conflicts, pertaining to low self-esteem and unresolved feelings toward her absent, mentally ill mother, come across as more genuine than her struggles with peers. Ages 10–up. (Nov.)
VOYA - Jenna Yee
Fetching helps readers navigate the middle school hallways by relating middle school life to dog training. Told in first person, the story line is not unique but avoids redundancy with the similarities drawn between animals and humans. Stewart reveals backstory throughout the book, keeping readers interested enough to finish. 4Q, 4P. Reviewer: Jenna Yee, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Cindy Faughnan
Eighth grader Olivia lives with her grandmother, Corny, after her mother's mental illness lands her in the hospital and her father's job takes him out of the area. Her friends are a group of misfits who suffer from the meanness of popular Brynne and her followers. Olivia helps Corny train dogs and decides that perhaps she can use the same training methods to change the behavior of kids in school. She and her friends begin to reward good behavior, which leads to Brynne losing all of her friends, her reputation, and the school election. Olivia worries that she has ruined Brynne's life, and she feels betrayed by her best friends because they told the secret about her mother. She abandons her friends and becomes friends with Brynne. In the end, she learns to accept her mother, reunites with her friends, and manages to keep Brynne as a friend as well. Stewart writes with short chapters and clear, competent writing. Realistic dialogue and situations in school will be familiar to readers. Stewart shows the dog training methods in such a way that anyone who has ever trained a dog to do anything will recognize them—and maybe learn a few tricks as well. While the training of the students backfires for Olivia, she and her friends (and the reader) learn something about how their own behavior affects others. The interesting characters and situations will keep middle school readers reading. Reviewer: Cindy Faughnan
Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
Olivia Albert, at thirteen, is tired of being bullied and shamed by the so called cool kids in her middle school. She lives with her grandmother, Corny, since her mother has run away (she thinks), and her father is still working where they used to live. She worries that she will become "crazy" like her mother and she misses her dad. As she begins helping Corny train dogs, Olivia realizes she can train people in the same way. Ignoring bad behavior and rewarding good behavior ought to do the trick, so she recruits her "loser" friends at school to help her retrain the bullies, especially the obnoxious ringleader, Brynne. At first Olivia's scheme works well, but soon she discovers power of any sort should be used gently and wisely. She eventually reads the letters her mother has sent her from the mental hospital and feels the love in them. This is a nice story with plenty of pith and lots of humor. Figuring out one's place in the world is always hard and even the bullies need to be understood, though their behavior should not be tolerated. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—Hubert C. Frost Middle School is full of dogs of every type, with alphas in charge and lesser pack members doing their bidding. Or, rather, it is full of middle schoolers, all of whom have definite positions in the school's social hierarchy. Unpopular eighth-grader Olivia and her equally unpopular friends from the Bored Game Club are constantly made the butt of practical jokes by kids in the clique that rules the school. Tiring of the bullying, Olivia decides to apply the dog-training techniques she has learned from her grandmother, a professional dog behaviorist, on her classmates. At first, the training seems to work beautifully. Olivia and her friends turn the tables on the kids who have been taunting them, and they find themselves becoming social leaders of the school. Predictably, however, Olivia finds that things aren't as simple as they seem. She and her friends begin to behave just like the students who mistreated them, and Brynne, the mean popular girl, turns out to be extremely vulnerable and to have a lot in common with Olivia. As the class election approaches, Olivia feels so guilty that she confesses all to Brynne, who is outraged about having been trained like a dog and tells the whole school what has been going on. This is an entertaining, if predictable, read, and the protagonist is a sympathetic character, flaws and all. The details of the dog training are fairly accurate, and it is an amusing plot device. Give this one to tweens looking for a lighter take on mean girls and middle-school life.—Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
In a high-concept approach to middle-school hierarchies, a group of unpopular eighth graders uses dog-training techniques to combat bullies. Narrator Olivia and her friends Delia, Mandy, Phoebe and Joey are Hubert C. Frost Middle School's "Marcies"—losers. Reigning mean girl Brynne Shawnson and her cronies constantly target them with pranks and ridicule their acne, ill-fitting clothes, infected eyebrow piercing and other traits both real and invented. While helping her dog-trainer grandmother rehabilitate a grass-phobic Mexican Hairless, Olivia hatches her plan. She and her friends launch a three-stage training operation that involves distractions, rewards and ignoring negative behaviors. As the middle-school social order re-forms itself in both predictable and unpredictable ways, Olivia struggles with abandonment and shame about her mother, who has left home for a mental facility. Although the therapist Olivia sees is so ineffectual as to be off-putting rather than comic, Olivia's warm and charmingly self-deprecating narrative voice relates her feelings with a surprising and touching expressiveness. The comparison between dogs and people often feels apt, though it is occasionally carried too far—it's a bit disconcerting to hear Olivia liken her crush to a chocolate Lab, for example, and the notion that ignoring bullies' negative behavior will make them stop seems sadly optimistic. A familiar but well-executed underdog tale. (Fiction. 10-13)

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Disney Publishing Worldwide
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10 - 14 Years

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