Robot Dreams, by Sara Varon

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Jun 22, 2011

A colleague urged me to read this 2007 graphic novel -- which I ended up doing in one sitting. Although classified as fiction for young adults, I found it irresistible, and it's been a few decades since anyone could consider me a young adult.

"Graphic novel" actually is a bit of a misnomer here; Varon's book is basically wordless. But while the story pacing, narrative, and emotional resonances all depend on visuals, Varon still demonstrates considerable novelistic gifts. She has an excellent eye for detail and knows how to get herself(and us)  inside the heads of her characters.

Having said that, the premise does seem silly: A dog wants a buddy -- so he orders a robot. He takes his new friend to the beach, where they play, frolic and, yes, swim. Now, when you're made of metal rather than skin or fur, swimming isn't necessarily the best idea for you.

To reveal more would be unfair; I'll just say that this book is about the magic of camaraderie and also the inevitability of separation and loss. Those are weighty topics for a YA audience, but the best books for young adults don't talk down.

I recommend this one for anyone whose age falls into the double or triple digits. Younger than 10, though, and this might just be too hard on the heartstrings.

Written by John Mark E.

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