Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog)

How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog)

by Art Corriveau

Nicky Flynn is a lovable misanthrope. Well, to call him a "misanthrope" may be extreme, but he is, at the very least, quite grumpy. At eleven, he thinks he's got it all figured out and has little patience for the mess his mother has gotten them into (or, at least that's how Nicky sees it).

Nicky's whole world has been turned upside-down. His parents are going through a messy divorce and his mom, as Nicky likes to point out repeatedly, his mom decided she needed to "stand on her own two feet" and moved them from a house in the perfect (according to Nicky's descriptions) suburb of Littleton to a tiny/scuzzy apartment in the rough not-quite-Boston neighborhood of Charlestown. As Nicky narrates the story in a conversational present tense, you can practically see his eyes roll and hear him heave a heavy sigh at pretty much everything and everyone that crosses his path--his therapist's clumsy attempts to get Nicky to "open up," a quirky classmate's odd conversation-starters, and even his mom's surprise gift at the beginning of the novel...a dog!

Man's-best-friend novels always run the risk of being a bit cliched. But what makes Art Corriveau's take on the old boy-and-dog story feel fresh and engaging is that Nicky wants nothing to do with Reggie (a stupid name, Nicky points out, given by a past owner, not himself). The story opens with Nicky complaining to the reader about how irresponsible and typical it is that his mother went out and got this dog without even thinking about the practical side of owning a dog. At first, Nicky tries to avoid Reggie, but when it becomes clear that his mother will not be doing the walking and feeding, responsible and reliable Nicky steps up. Reggie's need for daily walks forces Nicky out of the house into the neighborhood he hates to much. Slowly, Nicky and Reggie begin to share adventures together in Charlestown and Nicky starts to (begrudgingly, and under somewhat unusual circumstances) make connections with the neighborhood and its people.

Nicky's voice is so engaging. No matter how grumpy he is, you see his warm and honest heart shining through. As he and Reggie explore Charlestown and Boston together, Nicky thinks back on a special day he spent exploring the city with his dad. Nicky's holds his dad up on a pedestal, and your heart aches for him as time and time again, his dad bails on weekend plans. As a reader, you try to make sense of the image Nicky paints of his father and the image that the facts seem to show--a dad who just isn't around. You want to comfort Nicky, but at the same time, tell him to snap out of it.

How I, Nicky Flynn... is a funny, sweet, sincere story. It confronts the fact that everyone makes mistakes, kids and adults alike and that change, scary as it may seem, can be the best thing that happened to you.

Release date: May, 2010

Things to think about as you read How I Nicky Flynn Get a Life and a Dog:
-Verb tense (Corriveau chose to write in the present tense!)
-Character development (How do the characters change?)
-Unreliable narrator (Do you ever disagree with Nicky's opinions/interpretations?)

You might also like...
Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick
The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
Schooled by Gordon Korman
My Brother's Keeper by Patricia McCormick

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