Friday, August 28, 2015

Dodger by Terry Pratchett | Audiobook AND Book Review


I thought Dodger was absolutely delightful, but I'm not sure of the teen appeal.

Let me back up even a little further:  I downloaded the audiobook version this summer from Audiobook Sync.  It's a great summer program (FREE!) that's aimed at teens, but anyone can participate.  You sign up at the beginning of summer and every week they text you two new titles available for download for free.  It's always a classic or nonfiction paired with a contemporary, related fiction title.  This particular week was Oliver Twist and Dodger.  I don't have summer reading assignments, so I went straight for the "fun" one: Dodger.  However... when I was listening to it, I got to Chapter 3 and the recording stopped!  Oh no!  The download had failed, and I'd failed to notice, and it was by then the next week in the program.  So I checked a hard copy out of my library to finish it.

This is the tale of Dodger, a tosher in Industrial London.  He's a teen, which is probably why this book gets put in the YA section, and he earns his living traveling through the sewers of London, looking for coins or other small items he can sell that have fallen down the drains from the streets above.  Dodger is eternally optimistic and positive, and pretty well-known/powerful in his own little circles.  One night while toshing, he overhears screams and witnesses a young lady struggling to escape some mean looking guys, and he steps in and saves her.  This is all the very, very beginning of the book!  After this the reader gets to go along on the ride with Dodger, as he meets increasingly powerful people in town (Charles Dickens, Disraeli, even Sweeney Todd) and really comes of age.

Terry Pratchett has this fantastic writing voice!  I love it.  It flows really smoothly and often makes me laugh out loud.  I don't say this too often, but I feel like his books don't have a single wasted word.  Such rich character development too.  Even Dodger's dog, Onan, is 3D!

The only problem I had with the book was the historic slang and nuance.  As I made sure to mention earlier in the review, Dodger is a tosher.  Although he's introduced that way very early on, it's only later, through context clues, that the reader is able to discern what toshing is.  (Unless you get frustrated and Google it, like I did.)  And that's not the only bit of historic slang.  It's not a huge amount, but enough that it would throw a reluctant reader off of the book.  Also, there are some oblique references to events and activities of the time period without much, if any, background; another thing that could chase a teen away from the book, if they don't have a point of reference.

As I mentioned earlier, I did listen to the first two chapters on audiobook.  I liked it alright, but I ended up liking the hard copy better.  The audiobook is read by a narrator with a British accent; authentic, but with all the historic slang and all it can be a bit more difficult for the American brain to keep up with.

I'm definitely recommending this to the hubby (a big Terry Pratchett fan), and perhaps a few other adults, but I can't see too many opportunities to recommend to teens.

*I received part of an audiobook of Dodger from Audiobook SYNC (my fault, not theirs'), and then checked out a copy from my library to finish the story!

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