Hot Dog Girl

320p. Putnam. Apr. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525516255.
Gr 9 Up—Dugan's debut coming-of-age romance features a charismatic, quirky protagonist with a delightfully sarcastic sense of humor, but the sophomoric plot may be a nonstarter for its intended audience. Sixteen-year-old Elouise (Lou) Parker has high hopes for the summer. She's got her seasonal job back at Magic Castle Playland alongside her best friend, Seeley, and her heartthrob, Nick. The only downside is that Nick's girlfriend, the perfect Jessa, is cast as the park's princess, while, once again, Lou is stuck in the hotdog costume. Lou won't let that ruin her romantic plans; instead, it is the park owner's announcement that this will be Magic Castle's last season that derails her perfect summer. Ever since she can remember, Magic Castle has played an important role in her life. Its closing is unthinkable, and Lou is determined to save the park. But Lou's poorly conceived plans keep falling flat, and the park-saving gradually takes a backseat to romance as the story takes a decidedly more mature turn. When her efforts to steal Nick from Jessa cost her Seeley's friendship, Lou belatedly recognizes that she and Seeley have had feelings for each other simmering in the background most of their lives. The roller-coaster story line draws to a bizarre yet tidy conclusion with a hot romance between the two girls.
VERDICT Dugan does a nice job of character development, but the opening chapters of this high school queer romance read too much like a Shirley Temple/Mickey Rooney movie plot.

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