This is a coming-of-age tale about Billy, a recent high school graduate, during his last summer of carefree kid-dom before heading off to college. While he has a couple of close friends — Charlie and Mark — his best friend is his dog, Jimmy. Old and wise, Jimmy serves as the silent voice of reason, someone to vent to and the one that Billy trusts the most.
Things really get going in the book during Billy’s graduation ceremony when the keynote speaker delivers a speech telling the students that they have not been prepared for adulthood. Like most kids stuck listening to something they don’t want to hear, the graduates groaned at this advice and Billy brushed it off. Also, like most kids who are given advice, Billy later learns that this keynote speech may not have been that far off after all.
Billy’s summer plans of video games, going to the beach and camping with his dog quickly go by the wayside, especially after meeting and quickly falling in love with Vicki (written in typical teenage behavior). The two start spending all their time together, doing the cliché things that teenagers in love do, start to finish. Unfortunately, Billy is put in an awkward spot that forces him to keep an important secret from Vicki.
When not spending his time with Vicki, Billy’s dad found him a job at the local animal shelter. Thrilled that he was given the okay to bring Jimmy with him, this becomes much more than a job to Billy. His boss, Arlene, becomes more of a mentor than a boss, teaching him subtle life lessons and helping him figure out a potential calling in life.
Charlie is more than Billy’s human best friend. He didn’t have the supportive parents that Billy had, so Charlie was taken under their wing, spending most of his time there and becoming a pseudo member of the family. After losing his cool one night, he puts Billy in a no-win situation that haunts Billy throughout the summer, even once he comes clean. I found Charlie’s story to be the most interesting, though was thrown for a loop the few times author Steven Manchester switched to his point of view. I felt that this could have been done through Billy’s eyes as he pieced together what happened.
This is a story that I had very few issues with, but the ones I had bothered me. Manchester explained the origins of Jimmy’s name, which was a sweet homage, but I kept getting Billy and Jimmy confused due to them both having human names. Another issue I had was Billy and Vicki’s relationship. They fell in love much too quickly and their conversations, while sweet, were overkill. While this got to me, I actually feel that it was pretty good writing; truly capturing the teenage voice. Maybe I’m just old and bitter.
This book should be mandatory reading for all high school seniors, especially those who don’t quite know what they want to do with the seemingly long lives that are ahead of them. While it may not help them figure out exactly which life path to take, it will help them learn that inspiration comes in mysterious ways, which can lead to both good and bad things. It may lead them to stop and think before making a rash or agonizing decision. This three-month odyssey of Billy’s is realistic. He is the every-kid with the potential that is seen in most youth. Even the average and typical can be valuable and inspiring.