Thursday, 28 October 2010
Review: The Badness of Ballydog by Garrett Carr
The Badness of Ballydog couldn't possibly be set anywhere else. The town is almost like a character in itself - vividly drawn, and getting under the reader's skin from the very first page. At the same time, it has a subtly dystopian quality; it's a town where landscape and inhabitants combine to perpetuate ambivalence and, well, badness. When we first discover that the world's biggest monster is heading towards Ballydog to wipe it off the face of the earth, it seems at first that perhaps that wouldn't be such a great loss.
But amidst the almost stylised badness of the setting, outcast schoolgirl May is a ray of hope. Dismissed by the rest of the town as 'soft in the head', she possesses a unique psychic ability that allows her to communicate with animals. In a town where even the school field has been laid with concrete, May is the one link that the community still has with nature - so naturally, they view her with suspicion. She's quirky and sincere and different. For the reader, she's like a breath of fresh air. As a new arrival in town, northern boy Ewan hasn't yet been contaminated with Ballydog's insidious negativity, and makes a worthy ally. They're joined by tough boy Andrew, who finds himself caught up in Ballydog's impending doom despite his reluctance.
The Badness of Ballydog is an unusual story. It's also one of those titles that resists age categorisation. Readers of different ages will take different things from it, and I think that's something to admire in a book. On one level it's a humourous action-adventure fantasy, and on another it's a book that'll make you think about how we treat the earth and its creatures. And it's all wrapped up in a tale that's surprisingly heartwarming.... eventually. It's also the first in a series: the second book, Lost Dogs, was published in the UK on November 1st 2010. This one's out of the ordinary.
Out: February 4th 2010, UK
Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book for review.