Lady: My Life as a Bitch

Lady: My Life as a Bitch

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by Melvin Burgess

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If you gotta be a dog, be a bitch.

"My tail was going bananas as I rounded the corner and headed into Platt Fields park. The pavement was alive; my nose was an eye that sees into the past. I speeded up. Oh, I was in love with Terry, but to run and sniff and feel my ears catching sounds out of the air! But what do you know? Only a dog could understand what I mean.

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If you gotta be a dog, be a bitch.

"My tail was going bananas as I rounded the corner and headed into Platt Fields park. The pavement was alive; my nose was an eye that sees into the past. I speeded up. Oh, I was in love with Terry, but to run and sniff and feel my ears catching sounds out of the air! But what do you know? Only a dog could understand what I mean."

Sandra Francy is seventeen and having way too much fun. Everyone wants to stop her but the problem is, she likes it. When she accidentally gets turned into a dog she's horrified at first, but soon she starts to wonder if being human is worth the effort. Her attempts to hang on to her humanity are bizarre and often hilarious-but her life as a dog leads her to pleasures she hardly knew existed.

Award-winning author Melvin Burgess brilliantly captures the realities of teenage life and hormone imbalance. 5 1/2 X 8 1/4.]]>

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This seductive volume is as raw and ravenous as its subject.
[Burgess] gives teens much to think about in this bawdy, sophisticated, and occasionally sexually explicit adventure with a host of well-drawn, unusual characters.
Sexy seventeen-year-old Sandra Francy has had a very bad day. In a fit of pique at life, she attacks the wrong hopeless alcoholic, and just like that, is turned into a dog. In that moment, this unusual book becomes an ode to the life of a wild dog—carefree, unconcerned with the opinions or wants of others, and free in a way humans are not. Although initially sad and torn, Sandra (a.k.a. Lady) soon gladly abandons her hopes of being human again for a life of running with the pack. Burgess's young heroine is not a terribly attractive personality. By her own admission, selfish and only out to have a good time, Sandra comes across as more than a bit of a pill. Nevertheless her struggles to be just who she is and not who she is expected to be will strike a resonant chord with almost any teenager, male or female. Her voice is at once complex, fresh, and original. Drug and alcohol use are discussed, and the treatment of sex, whether engaged in by homo sapiens or canis canis, is devastatingly blunt—almost too perfunctory to be offensive. Although the British slang might prove difficult for North American readers, the drift of the story and the author's point—we all have something to learn from the life of a dog—is entirely clear. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002 (orig. 2001), Henry Holt, 235p,
— Ann Welton
School Library Journal
Gr 9-Up In this delightfully dark, funny novel, a rebellious 17-year-old taunts a homeless drunk who transforms her into "a scratty, hairy mongrel." Sandra tells her story in sparkling, lively, but often crude language. As a human, she ditches her crowd for more adventuresome friends, then gets into trouble for using drugs and having sex. Since her transformation takes place just pages into the story, however, most of her history comes in flashbacks. As a dog, she runs free, experiencing neither shame nor anxiety but glorying in the pleasures of chasing cats, devouring sausages, and (in fairly graphic detail) going into heat. At first, though, she returns home, only to have her family assume she's a mad dog and chase her away. She adopts the homeless man as her master and helps him beg for money. Sandra begins to revel in her new lifestyle, yet she matures enough to appreciate that her family and old friends loved her. But a last-ditch attempt to convince her family that she is their long-lost daughter ends in disaster. Finally, fed up with being judged and misunderstood, she chooses her life as a dog: "I want to be quick and fast and happy and then dead.- I don't want to be responsible." While this might not be the choice they would make for themselves, teens will identify with the narrator's sense of alienation and her defiant spirit. Some British terms may be baffling, but overall this is a quick, tremendously enjoyable read. -Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"A dog's days are short, but his moments are pure." And Burgess's (Kite, 2000, etc.) narrative never shies from a pure canine experience in this unnerving allegory of a difficult 17-year-old. Sandra Francy covers every meaning in the dictionary for the word "bitch," even literally being transformed into one by an alcoholic with an unfortunate magical twist. The unflinching Burgess exercises no leash in exploring Sandra's personality, at once self-centered, cynical, vulgar, rebellious, and highly sexed. She is concerned with freely enjoying her young life, throwing advice and caution to the wind. When she changes into a dog, plainly the lure of the pack and utter freedom of a street dog's life is little different from the life she was living. However, this is a study of human teenage psychology through a dog's snout, and Sandra, now "Lady," must overcome fear while balancing longings for security, her need for family, and the gradual overwhelming urgency of her canine senses. Each scene, whether as bad girl or as bitch, vibrates with verisimilitude, and in either state, Sandra/Lady is little bolstered by the cast of characters as flawed as she: her broken family, her brother whom she misjudges, her best friend, and her boyfriend, both of whom she discards for reasons rational only to a teen battling with an identity crisis. And then there are her friends in the dog world: Toby the magical alchie, and Fella and Mitch, two mutts who also were once people. The target audience may not understand some of the British slang in which Burgess steeps his prose, or why her father suddenly returns from America when she disappears. Or it might be shocked by the frank obsession with sex or even thechoices Sandra makes, despite their worldly familiarity. But the shock one feels by the resolution, when the girl is at last finally and naturally true to herself, nips at the heels of the most hard-bitten innocent who refuses to stop and think life through for herself. It is that reader who must wonder and decide which side of the evolutionary fence to inhabit and therefore benefit from this intensely observed cautionary tale. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
"Melvin Burgess is about to trigger an earthquake in the publishing world."


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Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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File size:
226 KB
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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Read an Excerpt

I ran into the park like a wild animal and raced across the grass. It was spring, everything was going. For an hour or so, I was in doggy heaven. I chased the ducks and the squirrels, I snuffed the scents of half a million dogs, I rolled and panted and laughed. It was the first time I had given myself so completely to scents — my nose just took over. Rabbits and squirrels and rats and mice — I followed them and lost them and found another one, went back and across and to and fro. I didn't catch a thing, but who cares? Just to run and sniff and be alive was all I cared about!

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