Thursday, 16 September 2010
Simon & Schuster UK Appreciation Week: Review - The Badness of Ballydog by Garrett Carr
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Released: February 4th, 2010
Grade rating: B
Something is coming... something big. May knows it, but no one will listen to her. She is an outcast due to her odd ways and freakish ability with animals. Andrew knows it, but he has his position as gang leader to maintain. Ewan knows it, but what can he do? The sea creature is the biggest living thing on the face of the earth. And it won't stop until it has destroyed Ballydog. Can three teenagers save the baddest town in the world from its fate? Is it even worth saving?
When thinking of The Badness of Ballydog, one word springs to mind: strange. Not in a bad way, more in a I-didn't-see-that-coming way. From the synopsis, I expected a lighthearted story about a weird town and a giant invading sea monster, but I got much more than that.
Granted, Ballydog is a weird, weird town. It's stuck in somewhat old-fashioned traditions, with the belief that women belong as housewives and men are born to fish and provide for their families. The younger residents of Ballydog are dying to get out, including gang leader Andrew, new city boy Ewan and animal lover May. Ballydog gave me the impression that it's a place people know of but forget about, almost like it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the world. It's a shame really, but you can absolutely see why it has this reputation - the inhabitants of the town are a just a little too out there, and seem perfectly happy living cut off from the rest of Ireland.
May is an interesting character, with an unusual gift. Without her talent and determination, the town of Ballydog probably wouldn't exist, and everyone in it would be on their way to being sea monster food. I really liked how May, Andrew and Ewan - Ballydog's most unlikely teenage trio - teamed up to protect their town, and formed a friendship that I'm sure will last longer than they ever expected. I didn't find myself getting overly attached to any of these characters, though I did have a soft spot for The Old Man of the Sea - a huge leatherback turtle who plays quite a significant role in the story. He doesn't know it, but he gives the town hope, and a reason to try and better itself. Plus, he sounds really cute.
The sea creature itself is a fascinating monster, and one that we get to learn quite a lot about throughout the course of the book. It's ancient and revered, and belongs to more legend and lore than anyone realises. It has a straightforward agenda to destroy unwanted towns, though I'm still not quite sure of its process of elimination. It's described as being larger than a continent, with centipede-like legs and 50 tongues in its gaping mouth. How creepy is that?! It makes me kind of glad I don't live anywhere near the sea, just on the off-chance that something like that actually exists. And here's me thinking Great White Sharks were the scariest thing out there! (I hope I'm still right. If anyone knows any different, please kindly leave me in the dark!)
The Badness of Ballydog is such an odd story, and not at all what I was expecting. I wouldn't even know which YA genre to place it into, because it doesn't focus on just one theme or idea. I would have liked more monster back story, as that was my favourite part of the book, and allowed for Garrett Carr to create some fascinating creature history. There's a sequel, Lost Dogs, due for publication soon, and I'm looking forward to seeing how things have changed, for better or worse, in the little town of weird.