Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

My Life as a Dog is a touching story of a lonely boy’s struggle to survive in a world that is forcing him to become an adult before he is ready. Although it takes place in Sweden, this autobiographical novel raises social issues found throughout the world. Neglected in his childhood and, as a result, confused as a teenager, the protagonist, Ingemar, faces life with a blind resignation—he continually tricks himself into believing that soon he will be loved. The protagonist at times seems to be mentally ill, but anyone who has felt totally alone in the world will be able to relate to his precarious grip on sanity.

Narrated by Ingemar, the story mixes the present tense and flashbacks. In this manner, Ingemar Johansson tells how he spent the last two years of his childhood, being passed from one guardian to another and living with the constant fear as well as the certainty that he will manage always to do the wrong thing. He compares himself to the dog that was sent into space by the Soviet Union, and he comforts himself by deciding that the dog’s life must have been even more uncomfortable and lonelier than his. Ingemar’s one wish is to believe that his mother loved him, but he is forced to face the fact that neither she nor anyone else ever really wanted him.

Ingemar’s childhood is spent in fear of angering his mother, who suffers from tuberculosis. Whenever her attacks become too bad, he and his sister and brother are sent...

(The entire section is 536 words.)