I enjoy middle grade chapter books. I read all sorts of other books too, but well written books written for kids in grades 3-6 bring me as much joy in my 40s as they did when I used my entire allowance ($5 every other week) to buy them. It turns out they are also perfect pandemic reading.
Last night I had to stop reading one I was well into. There were some problems early on, but I try to give a book a fair chance and I hoped this one would live up to the potential of its funny premise; a boy wants a dog but his father says no, so his mother surprises him with a guinea pig who happens to act like a dog. It sounds like some lighthearted fun sure to be full of funny mishaps and misunderstandings, right?
Here's my review from Goodreads.
I realize that the author's depictions of the father menacing his son at the doorway after school are probably meant to be over the top to show the child's perspective, but both the child and the mother cower when the father enters a room. They hide their personalities and give in to the father's wishes. The father dismisses the mother's opinions and treats her as just a silly woman.
The mother does poke fun at the father's grumpiness in a couple scenes. She also tells the son to make allowances because the father is stressed, so I think we're supposed to understand the father is not acting like himself. That would be fine, normal even, if she and the son didn't appear scared to upset the father. The mother repeatedly tries to placate the father like a person in an emotionally abusive relationship.
My last criticism is what made me give up on the book after getting through over half of it. Out of no where the author starts giving the main character inner monologues full of the "wonder of life" and the "importance of not judging anyone by their exterior". There's no gradual growth in the character, he is just suddenly rhapsodizing over clichés. The tone of the inner monologue switches entirely as if Rufus were taken over by an alien that thinks like an after school special from the 80s. Zero subtlety.