I believe in signs. And this one said: Dog trainer needed immediately. Must provide own dog. I snatched the paper off the announcement board before anyone else could see it.
Riley Case is a girl after my own heart, and her story touched me.
Riley is amazing with animals; she has been from the time she was baby. And she can make friends almost instantaneously with animals--dogs, cats, birds, you name it. She's been training her dogs after school, teaching them new tricks, and loving every minute of it. She's just as eager as they are to be reunited at the end of each school day. She just has a way about her. She's a natural.
But with people, it's a different story. Riley doesn't feel comfortable with people--at all. They scare her, intimidate her. She's so afraid of being rejected, so afraid of being laughed at or picked on, that she'd prefer to spend her school days being ignored. Being invisible. Blending in with the background. That is what she prefers. Or what she thinks she prefers. She may not have friends. She may not have a social life. But she feels it could always be worse.
It would be worse if she tried with all her heart to make friends...and failed. It would be worse if she made a best friend....only to lose her again.
So when Riley learns of this opportunity to be a dog trainer, this opportunity for her dogs to star in the school play, she's thrilled. Does that mean she doesn't have doubts and insecurities about this whole project? No. She's not worried about her dogs, no, they'll be just great with these new people. It's herself she's worried about. Will she 'ruin' her new start? Will she be too awkward? Will she say the wrong thing? What if she does something stupid, something embarrassing? What if she earns herself a string of nicknames? What if this project leads to her humiliation? What if she starts crying and can't stop?
Riley has strengths. She does. She even knows exactly what they are. But her confidence is still a little shaky in some areas. What Riley needs are some good friends. Friends that will listen; friends that will love. Riley needs to learn to laugh and smile and just be.
I loved this one. I just LOVED this one! I loved Riley, I did. I could relate to her in so many ways! And I loved the story, loved the pacing. I loved Riley's journey. I loved the process of her development and growth. It wasn't too fast or too slow. It was just right. And Nate?! Well, I'm quite happy with him!!! Their conversations together were great! I loved their last scene together, it was giddy-making! I'd share it with you, but, that would be saying too much!
My second-favorite scene would probably be the one between Beverly, the volunteer seamstress--a senior, I believe--and Riley.
"Do you think I'm...okay?"I loved Doggirl because it felt so honest, so genuine. It's a novel with a lot of heart. And it's not just a novel about a friendless girl finding a place to belong. It's a book for animal-lovers--specifically dog-lovers--and a book for those that love drama and theater--or creative writing, or film-making. It's for any one who has ever felt different. (It may just be a novel for everyone.)
Beverly gave me a funny look. "Okay, how?"
"You know...normal. Like someone...you could be friends with. I mean, not you, but I mean like...anyone." I covered my face my hands. "I never know how to talk."
Beverly peeled one of my hands away and held onto it. "Riley, if you're asking me whether you're the kind of person I could be friends with, the answer is yes. Because we are. And if you're asking me whether other people like you, the answer is still yes, they do. Is that what you want to know?"
"In case you haven't noticed, everyone in here is just a little bit...unusual. If we didn't have each other, we'd all be roaming the halls calling out, 'Friend! I need a friend!' Sometimes it just takes a while to figure out where you fit. You know?" (193-94)
© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews