A jukebox in a high school has broken down and won’t play any records. The students finally call on the coolest kid in school. With a baseball cap on his head, sunglasses on indoors, and ripped skinny jeans, he gives the jukebox a womp and the school gets its tunes once again. Was it The Fonz? No, it was Teen Dog, who mid-dance party exclaims, “I don’t understand what’s happening, but I love it!” Me too, Teen Dog, me too.
Teen Dog, the collection of Jake Lawrence’s eight-issue comic, is full of similarly delightful stories about the coolest kid in school… who just happens to be a dog. Part Breakfast Club, part Lisa Frank, Teen Dog’s initial appeal to older readers is the nostalgia fix it undoubtedly provides. But Teen Dog is more than a throwback. It’s a world of its own which happens to be inspired by the Cool Kid tropes we know and love. Teen Dog is the kind of cool kid who likes everyone (even adorably sulky Thug Pug), and his relationship with best friend Mariella could rival that of Arnold and Gerald of Hey Arnold! fame.
The book has a small overarching story that relates to Teen Dog’s past as Kid Dog. However, much like the cartoons it’s inspired by, the long-form story isn’t particularly important. The snippets of Teen Dog’s life are just as good as the multi-page stories. They tend to follow your general high school adventures—basketball championships, trips to the arcade, makeover montages—but with the occasional time slip and wormhole-infested locker. Like most high school tales, this one includes an epic dance off at prom and a kissing booth, two scenes which may have just been my favorites in the book. (A tough call, though.) Lawrence’s writing is indeed fun and silly, and does a great job of encompassing the joy of friendship and pizza. Paired with brightly colored artwork, you have another BOOM!Box title that is a delightful read for any radical boy or girl.
Teen Dog fits in well with the rest of the BOOM!Box roster in more ways than one. In addition to Lawrence’s fun storytelling, Teen Dog showcases a fairly diverse cast. His friends and classmates are racially diverse, the star quarterback is a girl, everyone on the mixed-gender cheer team uses pom-poms, and the star baseball player is queer and crushing on Teen Dog. As Teen Dog says, he could do a lot worse than a handsome baseball player. We all could. Like similar representation in the rest of the BOOM!Box roster, the diversity in Teen Dog feels natural. It’s never a tool to “teach a lesson” like the afternoon special-esque episodes common in the media Teen Dog was inspired by. Any kid could easily see themselves in at least one of the characters.
The artwork would surely appeal to kids of all ages, but the high school setting and use of the phrase “Damn boy!” does make this more appropriate for preteen and older. It will definitely find a permanent place in my own bookcase. How could it not? Thug Pug is so cute!
by Jake Lawrence
Publisher Age Rating: 9 – 17