Hot Dog Girl was one of those books where you may have an inkling of how the book might develop, but you still enjoy the ride. It’s a testament to Dugan’s main character Lou who makes mistakes, but has to learn to fix them.
Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:
* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.
* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.
By far, Lou was the main reason I enjoyed Hot Dog Girl. There was personality dripping off the pages from the first page. My immediate reaction was that Lou hooked me from the beginning in the way she has all these expectations about how the summer will go, and her pining crush over Nick, and then how quickly and utterly the rug is pulled out from underneath her feet. Hot Dog Girl is like an homage to the truth that it is so incredibly hard to let things go – memories of happier times, parents who leave you, and security blankets that keep us from getting hurt.
Lou is also bisexual and her best friend, Seeley is gay.
As I’ve said before, Lou was the biggest reason I loved Hot Dog Girl, because from the external perspective you can see the mistakes she’s making and maybe even what’s right in front of her eyes, but you still see the ways she’s cannot recognize it. And isn’t that just so utterly relatable? Don’t we all have those times when were convinced something was a certain way, only to realize how wrong we were?
Faced with the future, immense change, Lou is digging in her heels. She’s afraid of people leaving her and so could be worse than the park closing and all the memories attached to it disappearing. During the course of the book, Lou makes a lot of mistakes, but even so, she also makes choices that we know are wrong and questionable. But the true strength of Lou’s character is how relatable these decisions are.
Each time I found myself thinking, “oh Lou”, I remembered all the times I’d made similar mistakes – my romantic schemes, my inability to face the future, and I could name a hundred more. Because at the end of the day, Lou struggled with thinking that someone sees us, but really projecting our own desires onto them. She struggles with the fear of changing things so irreparably that you can never go back, the inevitable plunge that accompanies knowing things can never be the same. When you feel like things are spinning wildly out of your control and you’re in free fall, pulling things down, but you can’t help but try to save yourself.
I saw an interview the other day that said that part of being a teen was the idea that so many more things revolve around you and Lou reflects just this. She doesn’t really know the situations of those around her, despite making judgements to this extent, and she ends up hurting people blindly. But Lou’s journey throughout Hot Dog Girl is one you can deeply relate to because of how she has to realize the consequences of her own actions.