“I know I don’t have the face of a woman who walks into an office and demands answers – I have the face of a girl trying to be too many things at once.”
Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan
Elouise Parker knows what’s it’s like to be a hot dog. Last summer she dressed as one at her town’s local amusement park and will be reviving her role this year. Even having to dance around in a 15-pound suit won’t ruin Lou’s perfectly planned summer of hanging with her best friend Seeley and just maybe getting her cute coworker Nick to notice her. But naturally, on her first day back the park owner reveals that this will be the last summer Magic Castle Playland will be open. Throw in some strange new feelings for someone Lou never even considered and a half-hazard plot to save the park and you’ll get Hot Dog Girl, one of the best, if not the best, summer romance novels I’ve ever read.
When I picked up this book I totally had my guard down. Historically, I’ve learned not to expect much from YA romance novels, especially ones with a girl comically frowning on the cover. But boy howdy, let me tell you: I was blown away by Hot Dog Girl, to say the least. The real emotion Jennifer Dugan imbued into each character was incredible and incredibly refreshing. Everyone was felt three-dimensional by the end, something you rarely find in YA romance.
I will be the first to admit that about the first two-thirds of Hot Dog Girl seem very frivolous. They mostly involve Lou making up unrealistic plans and semi-manipulating the people around her. Both of those are pretty typical tropes in YA realistic fiction (even though they’re super unrealistic), and would diminish the book in my mind if it weren’t for the fantastic final act of the book.
Something I personally find interesting is that I would categorize this book as a “submarine queer” novel. This means that in the description, and especially on the cover, it is not explicitly obvious that the book contains queer characters. Other examples would be Carry On by Rainbow Rowell or Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert. While I obviously wish that we could live in a world this didn’t have to be a thing, it does excite me to know that a queer kid somewhere could read this book without feeling like they have to hide it. (@ me having to read What If It’s Us only when my parents weren’t home so I wouldn’t have to explain it)
Overall, Hot Dog Girl was bright and refreshing, not a perfect novel but pretty darn close to one. Jennifer Dugan is practically a master of character voice and emotion, creating unique teens that still did fairly relatable things. Every aspect of every romance was handled with care and made sense and the queer aspects were eventually celebrated, which was nice. Hot Dog Girl is the perfect summer romance, with just the right amount of trivial filler to be enjoyable but packed with enough heart for any seriously sappy teenager. Rating: four *meaningful looks*/five
For fans of: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli, Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert, The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding
- “I’m not too big for this town, Dad. I never will be.”
- “I flick my eyes to the spot on her shoulder where her freckles match the constellations in the sky, and I smile. I get lost in her skin, sipping my drink and mapping the stars on her arm while everyone else talks and eats and laughs around me.”
- “And I get it now, I that’s all he could ever be, that’s all anyone else could ever be: a Band-Aid, a butterfly strip, a temporary measure, because this is the after, and all of the good stuff got left behind in the before.”
Review by: Ivy