on May 6, 2012 :
I was given a copy of Hot Dogs Under the Dakota in exchange for an honest review. I didn't read the description before I signed up for the read and review as it was the title that had me hooked. But you can't let the seemingly innocent title lure you into a false sense of security. It's definitely not an innocent tale.... (Reader beware: be ready for a strange, emotional roller coaster. Be ready to be pissed off. Be ready to demand justice!)
This is a complex, well written story told from the perspective of a teenaged boy named Petie. Petie has been easily cast off by his young mother and lives with his Grandparents while she makes strange attempts at getting her life on track. She has a lot of problems that probably stem from the circumstances surrounding her teenaged pregnancy. She is hotheaded, selfish, attention driven, and severely moody. She drops Petie off with her parents after she meets her current love interest, Bill and he is, as Petie describes, a prick. Claiming that she and Bill need time to themselves, she successfully enters the realm of a non existent (or fair weather) parent.
Petie's overbearing, critical Granddad is easily one of the most villainous characters I've had the displeasure of "getting to know". It's a strange dynamic because Petie truly struggles between love and hate with his Granddad and even though he is a despicable human being, Petie is always searching for his approval. Through Petie's eyes, there are some moments of goodness but for the most part, his Granddad made my skin crawl. Petie's Grandma is a typical woman of the 50's and is content to be stuck in a stereotypical husband-wife relationship. She cooks, cleans, and doesn't do anything her horrible husband disapproves of because heaven forbid, she makes him upset. She's not oblivious to the comings and goings but she certainly has a way of effectively blocking things out.
Aside from Petie and his grandparents, none of the other characters develop beyond their outer appearances and remain mostly dysfunctional and predictable. There are a lot of side stories and minor characters that add to some overall confusion. In general, it feels like nothing really happens and at first that really bothered me. It's just a troubled kid going along with his life with no real friends, a serious anger management problem, and a lot of secrets. But then I really thought about it. Here you have this highly observant teen who has a ton of problems and he's going along with his life. It's his story of trying to gain acceptance and get past his obvious issues while dealing with the happenings of the world at the same time. And it's the 1950's in South Africa, there are a lot of things going on! With all of this being said, there are some really dark parts of this book. Dark and thoroughly disturbing.
Overall, I enjoyed this story but wished for a little more closure and focus. I was really intrigued by some of the darker dealings that Petie witnessed and hoped for some more information. (Though I suppose if I want serious focus, I should stay away from books written in the point of view of a teenaged boy.)
I'm certainly looking forward to more books penned by Johannes Gouws!
(reviewed 21 days after purchase)