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Before reading 'Abernethy' by Simone Bailey, I can't say I had ever read what is called Young Adult literature, which is marketed to ages 14-21. I was never exposed to the genre as an adolescent, if it existed at all. As a teenager many years ago, I lost myself in classics like 'Robinson Crusoe', 'Animal Farm', and 'Lord of the Flies', all of which might be classified as 'YA' if written today. As I writer myself, I was anxious to see what Simone had crafted with 'Abernethy'. I was especially interested when I found out it featured a talking beagle, since I am a dog lover.
The novel starts quickly, and 14-year-old protagonist, Billy, and beagle, Abernethy, are making their
introductions within the first page. Little exposition of the beagle's past is offered, but the author makes known with a few sentences what brought Abernethy the remarkable ability to talk. A snotty bully named Clayton makes his presence known, as well, and in him Bailey has crafted a particularly realistic character –
a timely one at that, as he uses the internet to ridicule poor Billy.
Billy is at a new school in a new town, the by-product of his father being shipped off to prison for a white-collar crime. Abernethy has come along at just the right time to guide the teen with some sage advice in the absence of a father figure. Billy's mother is sympathetic, but she feels a bit betrayed by her husband and her actions reflect that.
A trip to the prison gives the reader the opportunity to meet Billy's father, who's keeping a stiff upper lip and making the best of things while waiting for an appeal. A surprise run-in with Clayton also makes Billy's father's plight known to the bully, which he exploits on his blog.
The story continues in a linear fashion, and it is an enjoyable read. Billy is taking part in a school production of 'Grease' and making new friends as a result, although Clayton is also around giving people headaches. Clayton and Billy also share a budding interest in the same young lady, although the love triangle does not overwhelm the story.
At times, the story continues without the presence of Abernethy. I missed the dog during his
absences, but the story has obviously been well thought out by Bailey. She must have felt the talking dog's appearances better served certain key moments.
The book comes to an exciting climax with the performance of 'Grease', the discovery of some illegal hanky-panky, and a veritable monsoon storm, all of which provide opportunities for Billy to rise to the occasion and do himself proud. The book concludes in a very satisfying manner and begs the possibility of a sequel or series.
As an American, I must say that there were challenges in reading such a clearly Australian book. In almost all cases, I was able to deduce the meaning of the unfamiliar words and colloquial phrases without consulting the internet. A teenager in the U.S. would need to be an above average reader and have access
to Google, but who ever said a challenge was bad for a growing mind? 'Abernethy' is a wonderfully entertaining story with all the desired elements of a coming of age tale, and I highly recommend it.