It takes a writer with an active imagination to come up with an idea as off-the-wall and quirky as the starting point of There is No Dog. And it takes a writer with confidence and talent to keep something so near the edge from toppling over. But we are in safe hands with critically acclaimed crossover novelist Meg Rosoff, whose previous quartet of books has won her many fans and a string of awards. Her new, highly anticipated novel will not disappoint older teenage readers who know to expect the unexpected from Rosoff.
The storyline of There is No Dog is a corker. Rossoff goes back, perhaps to Ancient Greek Mythology, for inspiration. The Greek god Zeus had many weaknesses, and one of his greatest was his penchant for falling in love with beautiful human girls. Innocent human maidens like Europa and Leda didn't stand a chance when old Zeus got them in his sights.
Modern, single girl Lucy, a beautiful assistant zookeeper, has the same problem. A god falls in love with her; but this time the god is God - the one up in Heaven that Christians worship.
Rosoff totally reimagines our world. A teenage boy called Bob is the deity up there in the heavens keeping an eye on us all. He is careless, irresponsible, handsome, lazy, and obsessed with the opposite sex. He spends most of his time in bed, thinking about which human girl to fall in love with next. But it was Bob who created the heavens and the Earth and all the creatures thereon in just six days.
Rosoff's heavenly world is entertaining and highly imaginative. Bob was given the job of Almighty Creator by Mona, his mother, an inveterate gambler who won the job in a game of cards. Bob did his best when he had to create Earth and its creatures, but in some areas he didn't do very well. He didn't do a good job of giving the place light, for example. His gigantic sparklers and chandeliers were a nice idea, but a massive failure. And he didn't do well with the weather, or health, or natural disasters. However, he did brilliantly when he created girls.
Bob is helped in the day-to-day running of Earth by his trusty assistant, Mr B. But Mr B is getting fed up of cleaning up the messes Bob makes - but if he thinks he's had just about enough, it's nothing compared to when Bob announces that he has fallen desperately in love with Lucy. All Mr B can do is feel very sorry for Lucy, who doesn't have a clue that her comfortable life is about to be sent spinning into chaos.
There is No Dog is a novel that is impossible to categorise or pin down. Once Rosoff is up and running, you don't know where she's going next. And this is the wonder and charm of Rosoff's writing: it's packed tight with imagination, beauty and marvels.
There is no other writer quite like Rosoff working in young adult fiction today, and we have to celebrate and enjoy the individuality of her latest masterpiece with an open mind and a massive smile on our faces.
John Millen can be contacted on [email protected]