In “Your Robot Dog Will Die,” author Arin Greenwood packs a lot of ideas for readers — especially young adult readers — to ponder. Why do most of us love our dogs so passionately that if we didn’t have real dogs, we just might grow to love robot dogs as much? But fear not, the story doesn’t just have robot dogs. There are real dogs, too, for the reader to fall in love with, although Billy the Robot Dog does seem worthy of a good amount of love as well.
Nano is the seventeen-year-old main character, who because of her very isolated life on Dog Island seems much younger. She and the other two children on the island, Wolf and Jack, have never left the island — a place where six wild dogs exist in a world where dogs are basically extinct. In this future time, the world has changed in ways that are not appealing. There is little water because of a huge drought, so those on Dog Island drink recycled urine and are not able to bathe with real water. Worse than that, scientists trying to genetically improve the dog species ended up with dogs who attacked people because of a mutant virus that then spread to all dogs.
Dorothy, the founder of Dog Island, came up with the idea to create robot dogs that would replace real dogs, called “Originals,” so that the world would be a better place. No dogs would be subjected to puppy mills or abuse. Rather there would be no dogs (except for the six on the island), and people would love their robot dogs.
Nano’s brother, Billy, had disappeared from the island a year ago, and Nano misses him. But while Nano is helping her mother feed the six wild dogs, she discovers something that changes not only Nano’s life, but the lives of everyone around her.
Nano leaves Dog Island with her two friends, Jack and Wolf, and discovers that in the “real world,” things are not completely as she had learned. In her short sojourn in the outside, she discovers that not all people value animals as she does, and that not all people share the views of Dorothy, Dog Island’s founder. In fact, Nano matures greatly and returns to her home and her parents to use what she has learned to effect change. Isn’t that what all strong main characters do?
Greenwood creates a quirky cast of characters. Nano’s father is a chef whose food is not appealing. Her mother appears to be a rather weak individual, and neither parent is a great role model for Nano. In fact, because of — or in spite of — her isolated upbringing, Nano has no role models. So when she finds her brother and learns what he has been doing — something that is the opposite of what Dog Island stands for — Nano must decide which path is the right one. While readers may not agree with everything Nano does in the end, she does become the impetus for real change.
This novel is a perfect choice for animal lovers, adventure lovers, and those who enjoy books with unique plots. Anyone who rescues animals? It’s a must-read!
Arin Greenwood recently shared some of the backstory of the novel. She created the idea of Dog Island as a Utopia — a place where she would love to live and hopes readers would as well. One of the settings, Fuzzy Mansion, is a conglomerate of a name she saw on a sign while traveling in India and a farm animal sanctuary she had worked with. The name stuck with her for its unusual and image-provoking power. Astute readers who are involved in the animal rescue world might think that the founder of Dog Island bears a similarity to a certain figure in the real world of animal rights — any such similarity would, of course, be entirely in the mind of the reader. Nano’s name is a tribute to the only grandparent Greenwood knew as a child and whose name (Nana) she could not pronounce well.
Greenwood is continually working on writing and has two novels in the works.
Please note: This review is based on the advance uncopyedited edition provided by the publisher, Soho Press, for review purposes.