Thank you to the author for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.
Almost Perfect is the heart-warming story of a retired dog breeder named Bess, her mildly autistic teenage neighbour Benny and two beautiful Standard Poodles named McCreery and Breaker. Bess Rutledge, seventy years old and proclaiming her days of dog breeding and showing are over, has one last litter of puppies by her also ageing champion dog McCreery. He could have been the one to win the big Westminster Dog Show, but Bess never took him that far. There is one puppy in the litter who looks just like his sire, and Bess is tempted to give dog showing one last shot before thinking better of it. Enter her young neighbour, Benny, hoping for a dog of his own. He thinks that if he can win dog shows with Breaker, McCreery’s progeny, his mostly absent mother may finally take notice of him. Two strong personalities are about to butt heads, and be forced to face their issues – with family, dogs and missed chances.
The premise and message of this book is really great – I appreciate the light shed on special needs children and that they can accomplish things in life the same as other children, they might just take another way to get there. This book promotes acceptance of people who are a little different to the outside world and I think that’s fantastic. It shows the work that a school like the New Hope School that Benny attends can do for children who need something different, and also the benefit of animals to children’s development and learning. Benny’s progress through this novel is in leaps and bounds once he starts to bond with both McCreery and Breaker and develops an interest in something new.
As an Animal Science major – and an all around animal lover – I could have really loved this book. However, it is the scientist in me that stopped that from happening completely. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did, but I also had some issues with it not everyone will notice. I am not a fan of anthropomorphizing animals, whether it be in fiction or everyday life, and frankly it makes me roll my eyes. From growing up with animals and also from my studies I can appreciate that they too experience emotions and quite possibly a high level of consciousness, but the overuse of human emotions as labels for dogs just irks me. There is a lot of that in this book, although this could also be attributed to how the characters perceive the dogs and their behaviour. I also found it hard to believe that a seasoned and accomplished dog breeder such as Bess would allow her dogs to eat so much table scraps!
As well as the anthropomorphizing, I also found multiple grammar and sentence structure issues that I found hard to ignore, mainly because I feel they could have been picked up during a thorough read-through by an editor. There were also interactions with other characters such as Steffie, a friend of Benny’s from the New Hope School, and events, such as the custody hearing, that could have been expanded upon but were rushed over, not given enough time or were told to the reader, as opposed to shown. Benny and Steffie are all of a sudden best friends, but how did a friendship between two misfits such as themselves develop? We only know they are best friends because Benny thinks it to himself, but I wouldn’t have come to this conclusion from their interactions alone, and I think I should have been able to tell. And from what we know about Benny, the custody hearing should have been a big deal, but it only got maybe a page of discussion. If they were glossed over to avoid taking the light off the main story, did they even need to be included?
My gripes aside, at the heart of this novel it is an enjoyable and touching story about the taking chances, opening up your heart and also the power of a dog’s love. It will make a nice read for any dog lover.