Paperback: 330 pages
Publisher: Beltor (January 28, 2014)
A YA novel about two unlikely friends, their dogs, and the competitions that bring them and their community together. (Kirkus Reviews)
An old woman who has given up hope and a boy who believes the impossible wonder if life would be perfect at the Westminster Dog Show.
Seventy-year old Bess Rutledge has dreamed of winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life. Despite her decades-long career as one of America’s top Standard Poodle breeders, she has decided she’s too old to hold on to her foolish dream. She sells off all the dogs in her once famous kennel except for the aging champion McCreery and his mischievous, handsome son Breaker. Part of her senses they might have been the ones to take her to Westminster, if only she’d dared to try.
Bess meets Benny, a teenager with mild autism who attends a therapeutic special school, and learns he has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. Benny is drawn into the world of dog shows and becomes convinced he has found the perfect way to win his mother’s attention. If he can win Westminster with either McCreery or Breaker, he just knows she will finally be proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy. . .
Buy, read, and discuss Almost Perfect
This book is a bit of a slow burner…but once you get into it and really get to know the characters, you find that it has it’s own special charm. Bess and Benny the two central characters, couldn’t be more different, and yet, through love of dogs and strange circumstances both of these slightly bent (if not actually broken) people become friends in the way that old souls and young souls tend to do.
I enjoyed the sense of otherness the author used when writing Benny’s scenes. He’s autistic, but high functioning, and there is never any question that his brain is wired a bit differently from those who are neurotypical. There is also no question that this is BAD. It isn’t. It’s just one part of who this boy – young man, really – is.
Likewise, Bess’s stubbornness is a key character trait without being her only character trait. It makes you want to goad her into being your friend, deliver hot tea and baked goods to her while she’s tending a bitch in labor, and then massage her feet afterward, just because she clearly NEEDS someone to give her as much TLC as she gives her dogs, especially McCreery.
I have five dogs living in my house right now. Four are mine, all rescues. One is my current foster-dog. I love them all as if they were the purebred poodles that Bess breeds, and I know how quickly each of them has become a vital piece of my heart, so the fact that this story was so tied up in the human-canine bond really resonated with me.
Bottom line: Almost Perfect was a fabulous read full of three-dimensional characters and great dialogue. Read. This. Book.
(Confession: I read this months ago, and only now had a moment to write the review. Apologies to the author for the delay.)
Goes well with Shepherd’s pie and a glass of apple cider (hard or not, doesn’t matter.)