Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan
“I swear to god everything here is about as whimsical as it is rusty.”
It may be dawning on me that I read more contemporary YA than I originally thought, as here again we have a story devoid of fantasy–except the ones acted out by the characters working at Magic Castle Playland. (It may also be dawning on me that this first paragraph will be composed of only two sentences. And no, I haven’t been reading any Charles Dickens lately.)
Hot Dog Girl was, along with being contemporary, what I believe would be classified as a YA rom-com. Though I don’t really read enough rom-coms to innately know what does and doesn’t classify as one. In any case, the plot does starts out with Lou’s attempt to get her crush to notice her, despite the fact he kind of has a girlfriend. Oh, drama! The end of that particular plot line has a few twists in store, just like the other major plot line revolving around Magic Castle Playland, where Lou and her friends spend their summers working.
Without giving too much away, I found one of the twists of the romance plot rather jarring, as Lou’s feelings about a certain character changed so quickly over such a short period of time. To spend so much of the book feeling as she did about this person, only to have those feelings abruptly vanish, left me a bit shocked. I suppose I expected more of a denouement to that relationship, even though I suspected Lou’s relationship to a different character coming from a mile off.
Speaking of the varied relationships in the book, I loved seeing Lou and Seeley’s friendship. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not often a fan of the super physical best friendships, simply because that’s not something I relate to, but in this case I quite enjoyed it. As the pair weathered the changes in their environment and friendship, the way they interacted made sense to me, and I think made them fuller characters.
Really, I feel that the characters were the focal point of this book, which I love seeing as I myself am a character writer first and a plot writer second. I enjoy a fast paced, tightly woven plot as much as the next reader, but it’s an extra thrill to me to see a book that can stand on its characters as much as its plot. Although I shouldn’t shortchange the plot of Hot Dog Girl, as it did an excellent job of moving along and keeping me interested, and even threw in a few plot twists I didn’t see coming. This is one more stellar debut that I fully enjoyed.