I almost met Meg Rosoff once. I was volunteering for the first time at the Humdinger Children’s Book Festival and she was actually taking the only adult event of the festival about novel-writing I think. I had to creep into the room to retrieve my purse so that I could buy lunch. I wish I could have taken part in that class! I think I was going through a big break up then, and I kind of am again and I loved this book, because poor Johnathan reminds me so much of me.
Jonathan is a twenty something who has just moved to New York, got himself a decent apartment with somewhat dodgy conditions, is a creative soul stuck in an advertising job that he hates (he isn’t allowed to write tag lines more interesting than ‘Gel Pens! 20% off!’ He has a pretty, efficient go-getter girlfriend Julie who he is somewhat amazed that he blagged, but we can gradually see is completely wrong for him.
So, the best thing about the book are Dante and Sissy, Jonathan’s brother’s Collie and Spaniel that he has entrusted to Jonathan for six months or so while he finishes a contract in Dubai. He feels they are wise, they are watching and judging him, and he worries that they are unhappy, and not reaching their potential. He takes him to Dr Clare the vet, who asks are they whining or tail-chasing or acting aggressive?
I know they’re dogs,’ he said, struggling to explain. ‘But I get the feeling they’re dissatisfied. Dante should be herding sheep, at the very least. He’s so intelligent. And Sissy…she doesn’t complain, but I often get a sense that she’s missing something. Grouse? I don’t know. They both just seem a bit-off.’
‘I have other concerns. What if Dante’s boredom reaches a peak and then one day, suddenly and for no reason, he takes a dislike to some small child and lunges, ripping its face off? And someone films it on their phone and it goes viral and there’s a massive lawsuit and it makes the cover of New York Magazine. I’d probably end up in jail and they’d make an example of Dante. You couldn’t really blame him and he’d probably have to be put down.’
This particular exchange and many others made me laugh out loud. Jonathan is highly strung, anxious, not where he thinks he should be and I just recognise this worrying SO much.
Julie, the girlfriend who is driven and pretty, gets promoted at her job with Brides 360 blog. She is asked to take part as a real bride for a photograph series for their next issue. Jonathan doesn’t realise what she’s suggesting for an uncomfortably long time.
‘But just at that instant and impulse took him. A crazy impulse to do whatever crazy thing arose because maybe if you said yes to things that terrified you, your life would change direction, open up, get exciting….Wouldn’t it be nice to come home to a person you knew (and maybe even loved) every night for the rest of your life? no more worrying about meeting the right person, no more doubts about the future. He liked the idea of embracing adulthood at a concept and not worrying too much about the fine print.’
No, no, no I want to scream! Only recently have I realised just how common and dangerous this kind of compromise can be and I wrote a little about my experience.
Jonathan is always falling in love with people, like the beautiful French lady in the bakery that welcomes dogs, and he confides in the wonderful Greeley, no one knows what gender, the boss’ PA. He/she gives wonderful spiritual advice.
Jonathan’s relationship with the dogs is wonderful and hilarious, his work escapades increasingly crazy and hyper, I loved his relationship with Max, the best friend who told him Julie wasn’t right for him from the start despite being a complete lad. His thoughts about the wedding, burying of real feelings, referring to it accidentally as a funeral, no one speaking about it, although funny, is very stressful and Jonathan gets actual physiological symptoms which affect his whole life.
You’ll have to read it to find out what happens, but this wonderful witty and intelligent story about growing up in your twenties is a real triumph for Meg Rosoff, who has mostly written YA titles before this.
James Walton in a review for The Telegraph wrote ‘In Meg Rosoff’s last book, Picture Me Gone, the main character was a 12-year-old girl peering nervously towards adulthood, not at all sure that she liked the idea of it. Now, the hugely entertaining Jonathan Unleashed features a man in his twenties doing the same.’
As you can tell, I adored this book, my 14th of the year, and looking forward to reading more by the wonderful Meg Rosoff. I’m going to miss Dante and Sissy, I think I might be becoming a dog person.