Oh, this was fun! Just as funny and heartwarming as I’d hoped it would be, considering it’s about an old, grouchy, eccentric dragon and a somewhat down-on-his-luck teen from New Orleans becoming friends.
I loved Squib, the poor kid. Maybe he hadn’t always made great decisions, like whatever it was he was doing with dynamite that cost him a finger that one time, but he was good. He was only 15 and working multiple jobs to help out his mom, whom he clearly loved with all his heart. He was respectful to people. He was curious. He had a bit of a cheeky, playful streak in him. One of my favorite moments was when he bought Vern a certain calendar, but I’ll let you find out exactly what kind of calendar for yourself when you read the book :-P
Vern was great too. Immortally old, the last dragon that he knew of, but not quite the regal creature you’d expect when you think of dragons. He was grouchy and gruff, but he could be cheeky too. He liked vodka and TV shows about foolish humans wrangling animals and the movie Flashdance. And once someone earned his loyalty, he was very loyal. Also, he didn’t have a human form, he was just a dragon that looked like a dragon, which I wasn’t expecting, but it made things more interesting.
Normally, when there’s an antagonist in a book who is just a terrible person with no redeeming features, I don’t enjoy their POV because I just hate them, but I actually found Regence Hooke and his POV to be interesting. I feel like he had more depth and complexity than these types of crooked cop characters usually have, and his POV was kind of fascinating, even though I did, in fact, hate him.
I loved how Squib and Vern became friends, and their whole friendship in general. It was adorable. Vern understandably hated humans, but he developed a soft spot for Squib because he could see the good in him. And Squib of course thought it was super cool to have a dragon as a friend but also was able to see past Vern’s grumpiness to see the good in him too. I think friendships between teens and adults, when written well, can be some of the cutest friendships in books. And these two both made such a difference in each others’ lives.
The POV occasionally confused me when it would hop from one character’s thoughts to another, but it wasn’t a problem most of the time.
One last thing to note about this book: no romance! Well, not unless you count Hooke’s stalker-y crush on Squib’s mom and the actual relationship she finds in the end, which I don’t, because Hooke’s feelings were not romantic, and the relationship was just a brief mention in the story.
The audiobook narration by Johnny Heller was great. He sounded natural and realistic. The voices he did weren’t all super different, but there was a slightly different way of talking or pitch or accent for each character, and I thought the voices suited the characters well. There was a light New Orleans Cajun accent for some of the characters (it’s not an accent I’m super familiar with, so I don’t know how good it was, but it sounded fine to me). Female voices weren’t that feminine, but there wasn’t that much female dialogue anyway. It’s an audiobook I enjoyed, especially since I feel like using the right accents can make a book feel more genuine, and I never would’ve been able to do these in my head.
Overall, this was cute, it was funny, it was heartwarming, the dragon portrayal was fun, the characters were easy to love, and the friendship between Squib and Vern was adorable!
Trigger Warnings: Attempted suicide due to depression.
Anyone who likes humor, dragons, good-hearted teens, New Orleans, friendship, and heartwarming stories.