A real and raw story of tragedy and resilience, Trillion Lau
April 29, 2022
Dog Tucker is a feel-good novel – author K. Drinkwater will pull your heartstrings as you watch young Devlin grow. He has had a tough run in life so far, and the story begins with the 13-year-old fighting against his bullies at school. But when he saves a horse from ending up as dog tucker, he leaves his rebellion against everything and everyone in the past. Instead, Devlin becomes a devoted family member who helps his loved ones escape his mother’s horrible partners.
In the past, he struggled at school and acted out because his family rejected him. He stole from the school cafeteria and threw a chair at his teacher. He collected a rock for every family he had to leave behind. All Devlin wanted was a happy family.
Eventually, Devlin meets a tame and obedient ex-racehorse who becomes a stable force in his life. This friendship between boy and horse reminds me of the reliant companionship between Susan Brocker’s Zac and his dog Ice in the novel Ice. Much like how Zac needed Ice to help him survive against wild animals, Devlin needs his horse to relate to and lean on for support.
This young adult novel beautifully depicts what kids do when they feel unloved. The author uses emotive language to help us see inside the mind of a 13-year-old. The way she takes on the voice of her characters so effectively makes us feel like we are rebelling with Devlin.
Throughout this coming-of-age novel, we see him grow with a series of moments that capture each significant individual episode of this eventful period of his life, much like Rowling does with Harry Potter. This writing style keeps the story interesting, and we get to see each episode described in great detail so we can appreciate the crucial moments. Added together, each scene leads to a more mature Devlin, who can leave his complicated past behind.
Many young adult novels have antagonists, but this one does not. Instead, we get good people, bad people, and people like Devlin, who just needs to be loved. His mother has had abusive boyfriends, but they don’t get any power from having a continuous role in the novel. We see Devlin move forward and grow from his experiences rather than fight against an arbitrary villain. Similarly, there are businesspeople who wanted to rig the horse races, which pushes him to trust his horse and stop the injustice, which ultimately led to a glorious ending for the two of them.
It becomes clear that Dog Tucker is about hope and that some people just need to be given a chance to be themselves. Devlin had many opportunities at school, but he was never accepted until he met uncle George who finally got him for who he was. Devlin faced a tragedy and missed an opportunity that would change his life. The author makes this tragedy more painful for the reader as we see that Devlin is never taken seriously as a child. But soon after this tragedy, he has to take on many new responsibilities, and this is when he forms a strong bond with his horse. The author shows us how events can shape us into the people we are today and that we cannot have highs without lows.
One of the best things about Devlin is that he never holds back from his true self. His rebelliousness is relatable because he represents 13-year-old rebellion, just perhaps a little more extreme – he does things that we all probably want to do.
Overall this book had a perfect balance of emotion, tragedy, and resilience. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read about a young boy living his life, or trying to, at least. Unlike many young adult books, this one feels real and raw – there is no fairy godmother or magical destiny to seek. There are themes of family, growing up, and moving on from hardships, and these are all things we could benefit from exploring.
– Trillion is 15 and lives in Auckland.