Sunday, February 3, 2008

Dogface

Dogface, by Jeff Garigliano
$11.20 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 978-1-59692-259-4
This is a charming and easy to read new novel. Frequent visitors to Hansisgreat will recognize it as yet another coming-of-age story, the type that I'm just nuts for.
Loren is a fourteen year-old boy whose father was a US Navy SEAL who died before our story begins. Since then, Loren has been getting into trouble and his mom, along with an endless string of her loser boyfriends, have been completely unable to control him.
The truth is, he's a mischevous little scamp, but definitely not a bad kid. In the
 first scene he sets fire to one of the greens at a golf course that his mom's pretentious boyfriend won't stop talking about. When he's caught and brought home for punishment, his mom decides this is the last straw. She sends Loren to Camp Ascend!, a wilderness camp which promises to reform juvenile delinquents.
The camp is run by an embittered fraud called the Colonel, and his henchman, a sadistic bully named Donovan. Here, the kids are locked in cells, tortured on long death-marches, and forced to 
live in the collapsing and ramshackled facilities which the Colonel always keeps hidden from the parents' view.
Loren's mission quickly becomes clear: he has to escape from Camp Ascend!, and expose the Colonel for the cheat that he is. Unfortunately, the place is operated a lot like an internment camp; and since it's miles from civilization, escape seems virtually impossible.
He makes some cool friendships with his fellow delinquents, none of whom deserve to be locked away in such a god-forsaken place. Among them is a young lady named Liz for whom he feels the first burning desire of young love. Good for him.
Stories about the underdog sticking it to the man are always fun, and Dogface is no exception. The kids are all lovable miscreants, and the camp counselors have a buffoonish, cartoon-style of villainy. It's appropriately dark at times, like Lord of the Flies, but has a lot to offer as an original work of fiction.
Anyone who's ever been to camp is sure to enjoy it. Bonus points if you got into a lot of trouble as a kid.

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