Most helpful critical review
72 of 78 people found the following review helpful
I loved it, but absolutely not appropriate for children! **spoiler alert**
on December 16, 2012
I read this book in order to preview for my advanced-reader 3rd grader, knowing full well that this was an adaptation for young readers of an immensely popular adult novel that I had heard raved about. I have not read the original adult version, only this one (the kids' one).... Boy, am I glad I did! I, myself, loved the book (this one, for kids); it was a real tear-jerker, poignant, not really about a dog, liked it even though I'm not into car racing, etc. Everything all the 5-star reviewers said!
HOWEVER, the main premise of the story is so heavy and depressing, and I would imagine quite unsettling for the average 9-year-old, that I cannot fathom giving it to my children to read before they are at least in their teens. It does turn out happy in the end, which I'm glad for--otherwise I don't think I could have handled it myself--but it sure is a heck of a ride to get there. One that my children need not be exposed to at this point.
Here's my spoiling summary, in case you want to know what happens: It starts out with the dog old and decrepid and lying in a puddle of his own urine, near death, and ready to go--keep in mind he's got human thought processes being shared with the reader. Then it jumps back to the rest of the dog's life, during which the wife/mother ignores symptoms of a brain tumor, then finally gets diagnosed, the husband is duped into letting his wife live with her parents to live out her dying days (which turns out to be eight months), and even further duped into letting the kindergartner live with them too, under the guise of her spending more time with the dying mother. The husband is starting to be pushed out. Then, the moment the mother dies, the grandparents have the audacity to suggest the granddaughter would be better off living with them, and when the father refuses, they present lawsuit papers--suing for custody. When he rightfully freaks and leaves with her, they trump up child negligence charges (based on a host of prior things that have gone slightly wrong), the next day and he's arrested, and eventually spends 3 years, without his daughter, fighting the custody suit, the negligence charges, going broke, selling his house, etc. Restraining order prevents him from attending his own wife's funeral, life is crap for the guy and the dog. Then, the dog gets hit by a car. He fractures his pelvis, and is never as mobile after that, develops terrible arthritis in his hips, and eventually you're back to the dying dog. The father gets the girl back, the dog dies, and the two humans (father and daughter) live happily ever after. But like I said, quite a ride to get there.
Anyway, I'm really torn on number of stars, because, really, I think this book is TERRIBLE for the "middle grades" audience. At least the younger middle grades. Maybe a mature eighth grader could handle it. But not my sweet third grader. Not 8-12 material, if you ask me. Don't be fooled but the "cute dog tells a story" setup, or the dogs and race cars theme. This is a HEAVY book. HOWEVER, I did LOVE it myself, so there you go. One for the intended audience, five for me, makes three.