Friday, June 16, 2023

Guy Friday- Puppy Love

Soto, Gary. Puppy Love
June 13, 2023 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Jordan Mendoza blows a basketball game in an embarassing way, and of course his crush Sierra sees him. His best friend Antonio, as well as other kids at school, won't let him forget it. When he is out walking near his home, he comes across puppies that have slipped into a nearby canal, and jumps in to rescue them. One is dead, and he buries it with some ceremony, but he takes the other one home. He feels a little less awkward after doing this; he's saved a puppy, after all. He does get an infection in a scrape on his hand and has to go to the doctor, who says he needs to take a little time off from playing basketball. He has some dreams about the canal, and ends up rescuing another puppy, and later finds some money in an abandoned car. He thinks about turning it into the police, but instead leaves it at the door of the house whose address appears on some papers that are mixed in with the money. The canal is the location of some criminal activity, and soon the police are knocking on his door. His parents know he is a good kid, and know what he's been up to at the canal, but his fingerprints show up on a car door, so the police have to ask questions. There are other highjinks, like one of the puppies showing up in his back pack at school, and some very odd dreams about Sierra. Antonio gets involved in a pep band and tries to get Jordan involved as well. Jordan's puppies (he finds a third after more dreams) and his brief stint "in juvie" all give him a little more credibility with his peers, and he makes some progress in his relationship with Sierra, only to find out that she is moving away. He isn't too crushed, and in the final pages, meets a new girl named Dawn to whom he is attracted. 
Strengths: Basketball. Puppies. School drama. Friendship. Right here, you've got a good mix of topics, and the book comes in at 161 pages. I liked Jordan, and he reminded me a lot of Joey in Mercy on These Teenage Chimps. His parents are involved and supportive, there's a bit of basketball described, and his adventures with the canal and police seem fairly realistic, if a bit odd. 
Weaknesses: Soto is normally a really good wordsmith, and has written some very fine titles, including some poetry that I actually enjoyed. (I'm very picky.) There were some references that seemed dated (his mother is described as a homemaker, the boys go to the mall, Jordan answers e mails. The ending seems rather abrupt. 
What I really think: I'm really on the fence about this one. On the one hand, the mix of topics is a great one for middle grade, and nicely reflected on the cover. It's nice and short, and would certainly get checked out, but it was not the best written of Mr. Soto's work. 

I am not trying to be mean, but this was odd. Honestly, the more I think about this, the more I wonder if this was written by Chat GPT, or if Mr. Soto had recently suffered a stroke. There are similarities to Mercy on These Teenage Chimps and other Soto works, and a lot of the book felt like set pieces that you could program into Chat GPT. "Write a book in the style of Gary Soto about a boy who plays basketball, rescues puppies, and gets in trouble with the police." I may buy a copy just so that students can compare it to his other work. 

1 comment:

  1. That's concerning. I have seen some very odd things in books lately - the plot of a talented writer's latest book felt it was devised by Chat GPT because it was a mess, a jumbled plot that made no sense. My favourite writer (up to recently) and author of some my favourite books, released a new book and I am convinced the prologue was written by Chat GPT because it was so poor (I couldn't read on and this is a very successful author and a major publishing house). If you are going to use these tools, you have to be transparent in fairness to your readers (IMO), apart from any ethical issues of using plagiarised work. I feel strongly as you can see! :)