The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble

The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibbleThe Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble
Published by Allen & Unwin Children's
Published on 4 February 2019
Genres: Action & Adventure, Adolescence, Dystopian
Pages: 248
Format: Paperback
Source: my local library
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RRP: $16.99
5 Stars

From the author of the multi-award-winning and bestselling How To Bee comes an intense and thrilling new adventure.

'We're gonna starve if we stay here,' Emery said. 'If we're gonna go, best go now.' And he said it like going was something easy. Like all we have to do is walk away.

Ella and her brother Emery are alone in a city that's starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, upcountry, to find Emery's mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren, and dangerous landscape? Well, when you've got five big doggos and a dry-land dogsled, the answer is you go mushing. But when Emery is injured, Ella must find a way to navigate them through rough terrain, and even rougher encounters with desperate people...

I absolutely loved this book.

A climate dystopian, this book is more Middle Grade than YA, but I’m reviewing it anyway.

I read this book a few months ago after my darling little cat passed away, and I needed to read something with a pet relationship to help me process my grief.

This book is about a young girl called Ella and her bigger half-brother Emery as they cross a starving country to find Emery’s family. The world has been plunged into chaos as a fungus destroyed all the grass and therefore all the food – no milk, no flour,  no meat. Ella’s dad wants to get them out of the city before the population realises they have 3 big doggos, but he goes looking for Ella’s mum, leaving Emery the difficult choice to take Ella, hitch the doggos to an overland sled he traded for a packet of ANZAC biscuits, and get Ella there.

But then when Emery is injured, it’s up to Ella to find the way across a burnt country with enemies hiding over every dune.

This book was phenomenal to me mostly because of its voice. I really felt Ella telling the story. She’s young, and her voice reflects that. I also adored her love for Emery, her terror at having to grow up so quickly, and her love especially for the lead doggo Maroochy. The kids were constantly looking for food and thinking about how to feed and care for their dogs.

This book was so powerful in its environmental message, its clear importance of family even if that family is blended, and the importance of loving your freaking doggos.

I get that it’s middle grade and has to end on a positive note, but it was also published in 2019 before the world actively demonstrated how selfish, ignorant, and apathetic it is to others. How might this book have changed if it was written post-pandemic (or mid, as it is in 2022)? It may not have been published at all.


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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