Northrop, Michael. Rotten.
1 April 2013, Scholastic
JD, who isn't the best behaved kid in the world, returns to town after spending the summer "at his aunt's". No one believes him. His friends are cool with his absence, his girlfriend a bit less so. His mother has taken in a rescue dog in his absence, a huge Rottweiler she has named Jon-Jon but whom JD rechristens Johnny Rotten. The dog has been mistreated and is scared of men, especially when cornered, but is generally a good dog. When JD's friend Mars hops the fence into JD's yard and corners the dog, he gets bit. It's a small wound, but Mars' dysfunctional parents, sensing money, decide to sue. Luckily, JD's uncle is a lawyer, but it turns out that Johnny Rotten has a history of problems at the pound which will make the case even harder. To try to get Mars to call off his parents, JD offers to tell him where he really was over the summer. Mars, of course, blabs the news everywhere, and JD has to deal with endless grief at home. He and his friends decide they need to help Johnny Rotten escape before he can be sentenced to be killed. Can they manage to do this? And how will JD struggle through school now that his past is known.
Strengths: I love how versatile Northrop is-- he's sort of a new Gordon Korman. This book has lots of appeal ( what dog loving boy could turn down that cover), and straddles that middle grade/young adult boundary fairly well. Good sense of place and excellent supporting characters as well.
Weaknesses: If I wanted to nominate this for the Cybils Awards, I'd place it in Young Adult. There's just enough illicit drinking and older boy issues to make middle grade people afraid, but is done in such a way that I think it's okay on middle school shelves.