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Literature / No More Dead Dogs

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No More Dead Dogs is a 2000 young-adult novel by Gordon Korman.

Wallace Wallace, eighth-grade football player, refuses to tell a lie, so when he is asked by his teacher, Mr. Fogelman, to review Old Shep, My Pal, he gives it a scathing review. Mr. Fogelman gives him an incomplete and holds him in detention until it's completed. In detention, Wallace is forced to attend rehearsals for the school play, which happens to be the stage version of Old Shep, My Pal.

However, Wallace is something of a celebrity due to having accidentally scored the winning touchdown in last year's championship game. He and Mr. Fogelman undergo the community's pressure to get Wallace back onto the bench. This is complicated by the fact that Wallace begins to like going to rehearsal, and even suggests improvements to the script.

Also, someone appears to be sabotaging the play, and Wallace is the main suspect...

This book includes tropes such as:

  • Accidental Athlete: Bit Character Leo sets a record on the climbing rope while trying to avoid having a conversation with his English teacher.
  • Accidental Hero: Wallace, due to unintentionally scoring a touchdown during the previous school year is revered by the school.
  • Adaptation Decay: In-Universe. By the end of the book, the production of "Old Shep, My Pal" is almost nothing like the original script, thanks to Wallace's improvements. The improved version includes a rapper, the cast on rollerskates, a band called The Dead Mangoes, a moped disguised to look like a motorcycle, and a stuffed dog on a remote control car.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: In-universe. Old Shep, My Pal is based on a book, and it becomes a musical, thanks to Wallace's... improvements. Granted, it's nearing In Name Only levels by that point.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Rachel considers her brother Dylan to be this, even before he starts sabotaging the play.
  • Beige Prose: Old Shep, My Pal prior to Wallace's edits. Sample line: "I'm afraid your beloved pet has expired."
  • Brutal Honesty: Anything that Wallace himself says comes off as this as blunt at best. This is why he gets in trouble for his book report, because he says that he doesn't like the book.
  • Cassandra Truth: Very few members of the drama club are willing to believe that Wallace isn't sabotaging the play. To be fair, his clear disdain for the source material gives him an obvious motive, and his tendency toward Brutal Honesty doesn't actually help his case (it doesn't help that many of them don't actually know that Wallace Will Not Tell a Lie - Trudi, for instance, only finds out late in the story, when Cavanaugh tells her so).
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Coach Wrigley's tape of last year's post-championship game celebration is used to catch the play's saboteur.
    • Rachel is constantly writing letters to Julia Roberts, as a sort of diary. At the end of the book, Julia writes back.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Discussed by Wallace in regards to "Old Shep, My Pal" and supplies the page quote.
    Wallace: Pick up any book with a dog and an award sticker on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down.
    • Double subverted in the play when Old Shep survives what he died from in the book, then his dummy explodes.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Rachel, who starts off hostile to Wallace, but warms up to him later in the story, to the point where she's willing to give him the benefit of the doubt despite seemingly damning evidence against him.
  • The Ditz: Trudi doesn't exactly come off as the sharpest knife in the drawer during her narration.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The vandal who was sabotaging the rehearsals turns out to be Rachel's little brother, Dylan.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Mr. Fogelman decides that a kid who doesn't agree with him about a book, despite technically completing the assignment, should be put in detention until he writes a book report that shows he likes the book.
    • The reason why Dylan was sabotaging the rehearsals was because Wallace was giving up football practice to voluntarily work with the play.
  • Driven by Envy: A major reason why Cavanaugh is such a jerk to Wallace. Wallace won the Championship game by accident and got all the attention and glory despite the fact Cavanaugh was the star player and did most of the work making him envious of Wallace and it caused their friendship to fall apart.
  • Easily Forgiven: Downplayed. When Rachel finds out from her parents that Dylan was the one sabotaging her play, and they ground him for "twenty years". In response, she brings a box of weird stuff to his room so that he won't get bored. However the narration makes it clear she's still furious with him.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: In-Universe the play ends up being viewed as one for Rachel. While everyone else is willing to write off the end where Old Shep blows up as a joke ending Rachel can't help but view it as the play being ruined and turned into a joke.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Most people consider Wallace to be the savior of the football team because of a fluke catch he made at the previous year's championship. He's only a bench warmer.
  • Freudian Excuse: The first chapter establishes that Wallace’s fixation with telling the truth comes in response to his father being a rampant liar who would constantly neglect his family then make up wild stories for why he wasn’t around.
  • Genre Savvy: Wallace writing a book review and working on a school play are the plot's anchor so there is a lot of narrative awareness. This includes a moment at the end where Julia Roberts writes back to Rachel, saying that she's been in enough Romantic Comedies to know that Rachel's in one herself and that she's obviously into Wallace.
  • Gotta Pass the Class: Wallace gets a failing grade due to his review on "Old Shep, My Pal" and won't pass unless he writes a positive review.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Given to Old Shep at the end of the play, courtesy of Dylan's cherry bomb.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: When Trudi begs Wallace to hang out with her on the weekend, he tells her he has to rake the lawn, and thus plans to do so. Unfortunately, she takes this as an invitation, and invites the entire drama team to rake it with him. Though, that may not have been a bad thing, seeing as the job got finished in record time.
  • In Name Only: In-universe example: After Wallace, the cast, and the crew of Old Shep are done with their edits, the show hardly resembles the novel. It became a musical, for crying out loud.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Rick gives Wallace a really hard time for not just sucking it up and writing the book report the way the teacher wants it so he can come back to practice and gets mad at him for quitting the team to focus on Drama club. But he later realizes what a jerk he's being and tries to take photos of the play so that Wallace, who's been framed for trying to ruin it, can still see what it was like and helps Wallace catch the real sabetour.
    • Downplayed but Cavanaugh comes off as a smug jerk most of the time to his former friend Wallace but near the end during one of Rachel's chapters he doesn't have his sarcastic grin when he tells Rachel that he and Wallace used to be best friends suggesting he regrets how things went down between the two.
  • Last-Name Basis: Cavanaugh's first name, Steve, only comes up a few times. Granted, Wallace (who narrates much of the book) has a very good reason to stick to Cavanaugh's surname.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Dylan subscribes to publications like "Ooze of the Month".
    • Rachel briefly expects Wallace to be like Dylan, except even worse, "because he's had three extra years to collect". Her expectations are very incorrect.
  • Not So Above It All: Mr. Fogelman starts getting into the show's rewrites when he's able to play music for it. He still won't change Wallace's grade, though.
  • Red Herring: Rick dislikes Wallace leaving the football team behind for the school play and leaves his seat during the play. He isn't the saboteur; he's just getting a camera to record the play for Wallace.
  • Repetitive Name: Wallace Wallace. Cavanaugh gives him a number of insulting nicknames in a similar vein, such as "Dummy Dummy" and "Jackass Jackass".
  • School Newspaper News Hound: Parker Schmidt, who fills basically every position on the school newspaper... except the fact checker. They don't have one, so he tends to be very inaccurate. It doesn't help that his sources include people like Cavanaugh, giving him a wildly skewed story even before he infuses his usual sensationalism into it. One time Wallace tries to be charitable and give him all the facts, as unbiased as he can make it, expecting Parker to finally tell the story right for once… only to see the next day’s newspaper story is full of wild truth-twisting anyway.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Wallace's primary complaint with the Book Within A Book Old Shep, My Pal, is that it is literally one of these. There is no point to the dog's death, so he wrote that in his review. See Death By Newberry Medal above.
  • The Show Must Go On: Rachel's motto even when she was a theater extra in kindergarten is that the show has to go on no matter what. She uses these words to convince the cast to keep performing the show after the Old Shep dog is blown up with a cherry bomb.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In-universe, the school play's adaptation of "Old Shep, My Pal" spares the title character from his Death by Newbery Medal. Then the radio-controlled dog puppet explodes, due to hilarious sabotage.
  • Stern Teacher: Mr. Fogelman's not a bad guy, just a bit of a control freak. He wants all of his students to understand his view of "Old Shep, My Pal".
  • Still the Leader: Fogelman takes this stance, in spite of Wallace hijacking control of the play from him.
  • Stylistic Suck: "Old Shep, My Pal" is written in the style of a Glurge-filled dog story.
  • Totally Radical: Wallace's edits involve using rap lyrics and words like "jive".
  • We Used to Be Friends: Wallace and Cavanaugh, before the former's Accidental Hero moment drove a wedge between them. Oddly, Wallace still seems to hold Cavanaugh in high regard - much of the hostility comes from Cavanaugh. However near the end, it's implied that Cavanaugh does genuinely regret how things went down between him and Wallace and the two seem to be on the road to salvaging their friendship.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Wallace is known for his blunt honesty. At the end of the book when he tells Rachel a white lie so she won't find out that her little brother was the one behind the sabotage. Then he wonders what the hell made him do that. It ends up being meaningless since she finds out from her parents.
  • You Are Grounded!: Despite Wallace's lie, Dylan's parents find out what he did and ground him for twenty years.
  • You Are Too Late: Rick and Wallace manage to catch Dylan in the act but they aren't able to stop his final attack on the play nearly ruining it until Rachel is able to play it off as a joke ending.