Lady: My Life as a Bitch by Melvin Burgess

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Lady: My Life as a Bitch by Melvin Burgess

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A welcome reissue of a typically nutty story from Burgess in which a girl gets turned into a dog. It's funny and brutally honest and totally free from lecture or hector. And a sneakily clever conceit in which a promiscuous girl becomes a literal dog rather than simply called one. Loved it, of course!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: July 2015
Publisher: Andersen
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1783443030

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Sandra is a naughty kid. Fed up with the pressure of exams, a lovely but slightly boring boyfriend and an overbearing mother, she's gone a bit wild. She's thrown over the boring boyfriend and the worthy best friend, done pretty badly at her GSCEs, and is running with some exciting but unreliable new pals. She's done a bit of shoplifting and slept with a few boys, and caused her mother a good few hair-tearing moments.

On this particular day, she's getting off with Wayne and cheesing off Michelle, and just generally being rebellious, when she runs slap bang into a homeless alcoholic man, causing him to spill his can of Special Brew. The homeless guy is furious and chases her and Sandra is furious too, because he's ruining her day and HOW DARE HE? And then, everything changes for Sandra. The homeless guy has changed her into a dog. Yep. You heard. A dog.

Lady: My Life as a Bitch is uproariously funny and nutty. As Sandra's dog identity becomes stronger and stronger, she lives her life vividly and in the moment. Everything is impulse, inspired by sights, smells, sounds and, yes, sexual urges. As Lady, she acts without thinking and she finds joy in the moment. And, as a reader, you really find yourself getting carried away by such enthusiasm yourself. Of course, this is a mirror of the kind of authority-flouting, off-the-wall - let's call it irresponsible! - behaviour that got Sandra turned into a dog in the first place. These scenes are offset by those in which Lady finds solace with a master who directs her day, or the horribly sad ones in which she tries to prove to her parents that the mad dog in their house is actually their daughter.

What Burgess can do is capture the experience of adolescence with absolute and unflinching honesty. This is why teenagers like him and this is why he sometimes gets into trouble with parents - but not this parent! Lady doesn't offer any answers but that's probably because there aren't any answers. Adolescents will always struggle against the demands placed on them and that is what they are supposed to do. And sometimes the future does look dull and constricted and overwhelmingly unappealing to them. I think this is why parents find Burgess's books difficult - he's describing thoughts and moods and feelings, but he isn't saying you can indulge yourself so much kids, but then you must come back into the fold. He's leaving that choice to them. That's why the kids like him. And why parents, who are gradually conceding control over their kids, sometimes don't.

I'm always glad to see a Burgess book given a reissue. And I love Lady. Who could knock a book whose sneakily clever central conceit is that a naughty, slightly promiscuous teen girl actually gets turned into a dog rather than simply getting called one?!

If Lady appeals to you, I think you might also enjoy Apples by Richard Milward or My Side Of The Story by Will Davis.

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Buy Lady: My Life as a Bitch by Melvin Burgess at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lady: My Life as a Bitch by Melvin Burgess at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.

Buy Lady: My Life as a Bitch by Melvin Burgess at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lady: My Life as a Bitch by Melvin Burgess at


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