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McRae, Russell.

Markham (Ont.), Viking Canada, 1987. 256pp, cloth. $19.95. ISBN 0-670-81735-X. Distributed by Penguin Books Canada.

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by B. Henley-Hodgson

Volume 16 Number 4
1988 July

The main character of Going to the Dogs. Billy McKenzie, is a walking contradiction. On the outside he too too good to be true—a model boy and student. On the inside he is a deeply troubled boy who has to deal with, in his short span of a few years or so, perverted, cruel parents, a sister who commits suicide, a best friend who is dangerously into drug dealing, a suspension from school, and a girlfriend who becomes pregnant.

This is a case of overkill. In addition to this, the novel has another rather large flaw, and that is the language used. Students this age may use these words frequently, but reading them this often is overdoing it. Some scenes, such as the porno movie viewed by Billy and his friend Rocky, are handled with distaste.

The third and perhaps largest criticism of Going to the Dogs is that there seem to be no consequences of wrongful behaviour. After Rocky delivers goods for a convicted drug smuggler, he shows up in a brand new Porsche. At school, Billy is found with an ounce or so of marijuana in his coat pocket. He simply quits school and nobody does anything about the dope.

In spite of these criticisms, the novel, which is McRae's first, has merit. It is the kind of book a non-reader would stick with. There is much food for thought here. In situations such as the poignant rendering of Billy's sister's suicide and his struggle with the pain. However, in light of my observations, I could not justify having it on my library shelf.

B. Henley-Hodgson, Brantford C.I. & V.S. Brantford, Ont.
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