This is a stark, often unsettling post-apocalyptic story. Jeet, a child raised by the wild dogs that killed his human family, lives in a settlement where there are few other “dogchildren” – most dogchildren don’t rehabilitate back to being human well; they run away, back to their dog families or die in the process of rehumanizing. Jeet lives with his uncle, Starry, after the settlement kills his pack of Deathland dogs on a raid, and eventually, becomes trusted enough that town head Marshal Gun Sur first asks him to write a history of their people, and then, to be part of a spying mission as the group gets ready to go to war against their enemy settlement, the Dau. Chola Se, another dogchild, and the closest thing Jeet has to a friend, has been kidnapped in a raid on the settlement; Jeet rescues her and learns that she has been sexually assaulted mutiple times – including by their own settlement’s second in command, Deputy Pilgrim. Jeet and Chola Se believe that Deputy is a traitor, but before they can enact their own plans, Pilgrim puts actions in motion that will turn the entire encampment against the two. While they want to flee, go back to their dog family and forget about the settlers entirely, but Chola also wants revenge against Pilgrim.
This is a gritty, rough story that includes sexual assault, graphic violence, and cannibalism. Definitely not for the younger set. The story is harrowing, with desperation that reaches out and grabs readers with every turn of the page. Kevin Brooks has created a stark, desolate landscape and characters that will stay with you after you finish the book. The love between Jeet and his dog mother makes for emotional, moving writing; Chola’s rage, always simmering, ready to explode, will leave readers gritting their teeth. He gets to readers on a visceral level. The book is written as if it were Jeet’s chronicle, so you won’t see punctuation; there aren’t traditional paragraphs, sentence structures, or spelling; there are no real chapter breaks, either; more like pauses between entries. If you have teen post-apocalypse fans that can handle rougher subject matter, give them this book.
Dogchild has a starred review from Booklist.