NetGalley Devours: Rotten by Michael Northrop

Author Michael Northrop recently visited NetGalley President Susan Ruszala’s local middle school and this week she reviews Rotten, Northrop’s middle grade novel. School librarians, read on for Susan’s take on that visit. Have you read Rotten? Share your thoughts via the Feedback section in NetGalley, or on Facebook and Twitter! (#NGdevours)

Rotten by Michael Northrop
Scholastic; Pub Date April 1, 2013


A troubled teen. A rescued Rottweiler. An unlikely friendship. Jimmer “JD” Dobbs is back in town after spending the summer “upstate.” No one believes his story about visiting his aunt, and it’s pretty clear that he has something to hide. It’s also pretty clear that his mom made a new friend while he was away—a rescued Rottweiler that JD immediately renames Johnny Rotten (yes, after that guy in the Sex Pistols). Both tough but damaged, JD and Johnny slowly learn to trust each other, but their new-found bond is threatened by a treacherous friend and one snap of Johnny’s powerful jaws. As the secrets JD has tried so hard to keep under wraps start to unravel, he suddenly has something much bigger to worry about: saving his dog. [From the Publisher]


Rotten is a modern-day story of redemption and will connect with all kinds of readers: boys like Jimmer who are anything but mainstream; and girls and boys who need to be reminded that almost everyone loses their way from time to time. Readers will quickly and deeply love the ironically-named “Rotten” (a large Rottweiler), and it’s easy to draw parallels between Rotten, who’s made a few mistakes himself, and Jimmer, the main character. Boy and dog progress steadily, if unevenly, and it’s the series of set-backs and bad decisions for both Jimmer and Rotten that will make this book relevant for young readers.
Like most books for young readers (I’d put this one in 7th-9th grade range—strong middle-grade readers will be fine, but there is some occasional “light” bad language), adults are mostly absent from the book, except as foils to move the plot along, as Jimmer’s uncle Greg does. Where Northrop spends his time is on Jimmer’s friends, Rudy, Mars and Aaron, and their relationships with each other.

I chose this book because Michael Northrop was the visiting author at my son’s middle school today (and in an especially generous act, donated his fee to benefit those affected by Hurricane Sandy). For NYC-metro area school librarians looking to schedule author visits, I’d highly recommend Michael. He delivered an enthusiastic, relevant and engaging presentation, complete with story-telling tips and personal anecdotes, including growing up with rescue dogs. He’ll be especially appealing to boys, because of his sports writing background.

Rotten is available for request on NetGalley here, and I read this book on my iPad using the Bluefire Reader.

-Review written by Susan Ruszala, NetGalley President


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