Tuesday, November 12, 2019

MG Realistic Fiction review of Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson

40500411. sy475 Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson
Format:  E ARC
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
Number of Pages:  240
Publishing:  December 3rd,  2019
Source:  Netgalley

Opening Line:  "Whoever's behind me is coming fast." 

Are you ready for a fast-paced action story? Do you have a craving for adventure?  What about a compelling story of a girl musher competing in the Great Superior Mail Run, a race that follows the route used by dogsledder mail couriers from the late 1800s?  

I was instantly captured by the cover and ended up reading Dog Driven in one sitting.  I know hardly anything about dogsledding, other than what I've previously learned from reading Johnson's Ice Dogs and Sled Dog School.  But her stories are always an exciting read.  They so perfectly capture the atmosphere of winter, the coldness of the snow.  The thrilling feeling of leading a team of dogs in a race across the Canadian wilderness and all the hardships that a race like that entails.  

Dog mushing runs in McKenna's family, her mother used to race dogs, but now that her younger sister Emma has been diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration which leads to a progressive loss of vision, Emma's condition has become the central concern of her family.  Then a new dog sled race in Ontario is announced, The Great Superior Mail Run.  Emma is really excited about the race, she really wants McKenna to compete and carry an important message in her mailbag to help improve the awareness of Stargardt disease.  McKenna, however, is really worried.  She has a secret about her own vision that she's been hiding from her friends and family.  Competing in the race is dangerous.  But how can she turn down her kind sweet younger sister? Despite all of the initial excuses she tries to give to Emma about why she can't do it, ultimately she agrees.  Before moving forward with the race, McKenna does confide in her sister about her symptoms, and they make a pact to keep her deteriorating vision from her parents until after the race.  Neither wants their parents to question why she isn't racing or to make them worry.  Will McKenna be able to make the dangerous 200 plus miles across unfamiliar terrain?  And can she lead her dogs across safely?

 McKenna's vision has been deteriorating.  Does she have Stargardt disease like her sister?  So far no one has suspected she has any difficulties.  McKenna is really good at pretending that everything is okay, while silently she fears being found out.  Doing all of this pretending has led her to be isolated from her friends, but she still can participate in her favorite pastime, mushing.  Since Emma was diagnosed with the disease, McKenna has seen how her parents reacted to the news.  Her mother became overly anxious about Emma's diagnosis and both of her parents have been arguing about how to manage things at home.  McKenna doesn't want to add to their burden, and she really doesn't want to give up mushing.  At the same time, McKenna seems to understand that she might be putting her team of dogs at risk if she races.  

 Johnson wonderfully balances the adventuring with the interspersing of information on how McKenna's visual difficulties have been affecting her at school, with her friends and in her day to day life. There are even explanations about how the diagnosis is made and real-life classroom situations that highlight the adaptive vision-enhancing equipment that can be used.    McKenna experiences her share of hardships, worries, and concerns during the race.  Early on she losses her protective eyeglasses and has a startling encounter with an owl losing her mailbag.  Yet, McKenna also takes on each of these challenges with a positive outlook and is determined to persevere and to overcome them.  During the race, McKenna does receive help from two of the other competitors and I so enjoyed the playful competitiveness that she shares with fellow musher Guy.  Although they all are in a race it's nice to see them sharing gear and helping each other out.  Most of all I loved McKenna's ingenuity and the strategy she devises to get her through the last leg of the race.   Dog Driven was an absolutely riveting story.  It makes for a wonderful wintery time read with lots of action, adventure and I highly recommend it.  

Favorite line from the E-ARC:  "I heard once that a dog's nose reveals another world beyond what humans can see."


  1. This sounds like a great read. I am intrigued by the story line and I know a lot of kids who would enjoy it as well. Awesome cover!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Happy Thanksgiving!