Lady: My Life As A Bitch by Melvin Burgess.
Lady is a pretty awesome book. I picked it up earlier this year when I was going through a talking animal phase. Almost the entire time I was reading it, i was thinking to myself, ‘I wish I read this when I was a teenager!’
Sandra starts off as a normal, rebellious, slightly wild teenager, then through a twist of fate (and a little urban magic) is turned into a pooch. We see the world (or Manchester, at least, where incidentally I have also explored) through her doggy eyes as she turns to the homeless man who turned her as her master, then tries to reconnect with her family who simply think she’s run away.
Sandra’s no Mary Sue, or even an earlier version of Bella Swan or the other goody-goody girls thrown by fate into an urban fantasy/paranormal YA book. She’s not very good at her schoolwork, though it’s not through lack of trying: it’s lack of ability. A lot of guilt follows her, though. Guilt at how she treated her family, guilt at her lack of responsibilities as a human and her railing against the system that wants her to do better academically, choose the right boyfriend, have ‘proper’ friends and generally be a good little robot.
It’s refreshing to read about the dog part of her life vying with all her human memories. Nothing is fluffy here: it’s all gritty, honest, and real-life – from her honest confessions of abandoning her friends for popularity to the loss of her virginity for a second time, this time as a bitch.
Sandra slowly loses control of her humanity as the dog takes over. The most heartbreaking part of the book is when her own mother realises what’s happened, and Sandra dresses herself in her old clothes and attempts to walk on her hind legs, determined to reclaim her role in her broken family.
It’s so good to go back to a YA book written before Twilight came out and took over the ideas of what teenage girls are like.
This book doesn’t have an agenda. It’s not trying to sell safe sex or abstinence or even to study hard. It’s not preaching to teenagers to change, behave, try harder. It’s simply a story about a girl, and the choices she’s made.
It should have been on my academic reading list.