Review: When Mr Dog Bites - Brian Conaghan

Release Date: February 2nd 2014 (AUS and UK), June 10th 2014 (US)
Published By: Bloomsbury
Pages: 320
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Rating: 3 out of 5

Synopsis: Dylan Mint has Tourette’s. For Dylan, life is a constant battle to keep the bad stuff in – the swearing, the tics, the howling dog that escapes whenever he gets stressed. And, as a sixteen-year-old virgin and pupil at Drumhill Special School, getting stressed is something of an occupational hazard.

But then a routine visit to the hospital changes everything. Overhearing a hushed conversation between the doctor and his mother, Dylan discovers that he’s going to die next March.

So he grants himself three parting wishes: three ‘Cool Things To Do Before I Cack It’.

It isn’t a long list, but it is ambitious, and he doesn’t have much time. But as Dylan sets out to make his wishes come true, he discovers that nothing – and no-one – is quite as he had previously supposed.

A story about life, death, love, sex and swearing, When Mr Dog Bites will take you on one *#@! of a journey

Review: When Mr Dog Bites is a coming of age story about Dylan Mint… a standard teenage boy… if of course look past the fact that Dylan suffers from Tourettes. Dylan constantly struggles with the reality that is his due to Tourettes - the swearing outbursts, the tics and the howling and barking from Mr Dog. Mr Dog is his constant companion, one of which he cannot restrain.

After overhearing a conversation between a doctor and his mother, Dylan discovers that he has only a few months to live, and decides to create a small, but ambitious bucket list… 1: have real sexual intercourse with a girl, 2: make his best friend happy, 3: get his dad back from the war before Dylan dies. And he is determined to make sure he completes his wish-list.

During these tasks, you get to see that Dylan is a true and fiercely loyal friend to Amir. As he goes about getting others to stop bullying Amir due to his nationality and to find him a new “best bud”, you see that Dylan truly has a heart filled with compassion, love and determination.

And then there is his wish to have “real” sexual intercourse. And Dylan wants this to happen with the girl of his desire - Michelle Malloy. The combination of Dylan’s innocence and Tourettes, and Michelle’s hard-shell and a pottymouth of her own, creates some amazingly funny, but cringeworthy interactions. Will Dylan’s determination win in the end?

His third wish, to get his father back from the war is of course a lot harder. And a lot more complicated than he could have ever imagined.

I loved the fact this book allows you to get into the head of someone who is suffering from Tourettes. I think the description of the lack of control over his actions was expertly expressed and the feelings about his inability to do control his condition was written superbly. I admired the way that Dylan acknowledged and accepted his condition, but also understood his condition is perceived by others. Even after some extremely embarrassing interactions, Dylan did not dwell on what he could not change or he did sulk about it.

Dylan is certainly very sweet, and innocent, and he is portrayed so much younger than his 16 years. His inner and outer monologue was not that of a 16 year old (in my opinion) and the constant use of his rhyming slang only added to him seeming a lot younger than his years represent. I found the storyline and his somewhat childlike manner hard to reconcile. To me, it felt that he, as a character, was aimed at a younger readership, but due to language and sex themes this could not be the case.

There were a few things that made me disconnect from this book. The flippant references to some truly terrible things kind of jarred me. I don’t think things were meant said with any disrespect, but to me they were used to casually for me to be comfortable with them. The other thing that I struggled with was Dylan’s constant use of slang (especially rhyming slang) - I felt that there was just a little bit much of this to keep the flow of the story going.

However, there were some very heart-warming and heartbreaking moments involving love, friendship, bullying, ignorance and strength. There are moments of laughter, and moments of sadness… and moments where one takes the course of their life into their own hands - no matter what Mr Dog wants.

If the cover, and the mention of Tourettes were not enough of an indicator, this book contains a lot of strong language, and it is not recommended for younger readers.



“She was soooooooooooo sex on legs. She oozed sex on legs, even though one leg was longer than the other.”


“Please don’t let Mr Dog get out,
please don’t let Mr Dog get out
over and over again.
And guess what happened? Mr Dog came out.”

What do you think?

  • I reviewed this book a couple of weeks ago on my blog and you touched on a lot of points I mentioned as well!
    The part about how his inner monologue read a lot younger than 16? I completely agree! It did feel like it was aimed at a younger audience but because of the swearing and content, it isn’t so.
    It did make it harder to review because like you said, there are some amazing scenes in there, and I like the portrayal of someone with Tourette’s. It just took a while for me to connect with Dylan.
    Great review!

    • Kristy says:

      Dylan was hard to connect with, due to the fact that one hand it was amazing to be inside his head, but on the other hand, he “sounded” so young.
      I will have to go read your review Angeline (I don’t read reviews of books that I have/will read before I post mine). I will be very interested to see all your thoughts on this one.

  • Wow…I really want to read this. I’ve never heard of Tourettes and I like to learn about things, sooo, yeah. Also bucket list books are kind of interesting. ;) Although the last bucket-list book I read kind of sucked…but I’m willing to try more! I’m adding this for sure.

    • Kristy says:

      If you don’t know much about Tourettes, then I think this would be a very interesting read - and although this one is spoken in quite a young voice, I think the impacts of having Tourettes comes across very well.
      I hope you like this bucket-list book better than the last ;)
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