Book Review – ‘Hot Dog Girl’ by Jennifer Dugan

A cute coming out tale for the younger end of the YA demographic.

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 309

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.

A massively cute and summery tale.

To be honest it took a lot to get me into the flow of this novel. Mainly due to the tone of ‘Hot Dog Girl.’ It felt like it was geared towards the younger end of the YA market. The language, dialogue, and attitudes of the cast felt immature and I frequently got bored and put the book down while getting through the first two-thirds of the novel. In fact, I read another four books while getting over this hump. I also think some pacing issues added to this. It took so long to get to the point, or for interesting things to happen. Not to say this was badly written or structured poorly, it wasn’t. Once the story got its legs ‘Hot Dog Girl’ was truly endearing. I cried, I laughed, the last section of the story had me completely rapt.

The rest of the time it was like I had that frustrated patience you get when young children in your care are around and just babbling non-stop and you’re pretending that you are interested in whatever short-attention-span thing they are carrying on about, but internally you are just praying for the torture to end. That’s what the majority of ‘Hot Dog Girl’ was for me.

Lou as a protagonist is immature, not very self-aware, doesn’t listen, and schemes like a twelve year old girl to get her own way. Living in her head was a special place in hell for me. But it was lovely to see her grow and mature by the end of the novel… but not something I want to relive anytime soon.

Seeley, to counter Lou, was stoic, and to be honest I didn’t feel all that interesting. So too was the other love interest in this triangle: the diving pirate, Nick.

The only character of interest was antagonist Jessa, though she was painted as ‘miss perfect’ that can usually come off as a flat character, she managed to have layers and a bit of sass that kept me engaged with the story.

The plot did feel very simple, and as soon as the inciting incident kicked in, I predicted the ending very easily. Jennifer Duggan’s writing style is effortless, and I would love to read something else of hers without such an immature tone to see if I enjoy her books more. It is glaringly obvious I am not the target demographic for ‘Hot Dog Girl,’ but considering I usually enjoy other fare for this target market, I was surprised at my reaction to this story.

The bisexual and lesbian representation is adorable. It was a joy to read differing sexual orientations in an environment of love and acceptance, like it is commonplace; and how the characters sexual orientation is not the main character trait, but merely an aside… as it is in real life.

The romance is like fairy floss, which in the setting of an amusement park, felt apt. I just wish there was some more complexity for the plot, characters, a more mature tone fit for the age of the protagonist, and the inciting incident happened earlier in the novel to kick the pace of the novel from the first or second chapter.

Hot Dog Girl’ even with the issues I had over my reading experience has wormed its way into my heart. I’d recommend it to those who crave bisexual rep, love Sapphic romances, or those younger YA readers looking for a cute romance.

Overall feeling: sluggish summer entanglement!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


I’m so cold

Now I’m burning up

My head won’t stop pounding

I’m going to be sick

I’m gonna hurl

I’m about to vomit

If that nurse sticks me with another needle I’ll punch her in the face

I’m sick of feeling like a pincushion

My skin feels like bugs are crawling all over me

Go away

Please sit here, but don’t talk to me

Hold my hand

Puke rising

Why does that nurse have to wake me up, I’d just gotten to sleep

My pudding tastes like pennies

All my food tastes like pennies

Where did these bruises come from?

Technicolour yawn in the toilet bowl

Hot, cold

I love my nurse she makes me feel better, even when I’m mean to her

Don’t stick me with that needle!

Ulcers in my mouth

My poop burns

Why do I spend so much time in the bathroom?

My brain doesn’t work all the…. Who are you?

What was I saying?

I love flowers

The smell is too strong, it’s making me sick

My skin feels like its crawling with spiders

If I remain perfectly still my head doesn’t hurt so much and I don’t feel dizzy

I don’t want to cry anymore

I no longer reply to “how are you feeling…” it’s obvious how I’m feeling

Some of my friends are scared to come and see me

Why are you acting so weird?

I was reading this book and-

I think I’ve ripped a layer of my oesophagus off from throwing up so much

Is that MY hair?!

I don’t want to look in the mirror anymore

Can we please ignore the fact I have cancer and just have a normal day?

I’m sick of watching television

It’s funny how everyone speaks in hushed tones like they might break you if they spoke normally

Will I ever stop throwing up?

Of course I’m grumpy, my body is betraying me

My gums are bleeding again

My bones ache

This is one hell of a hangover

Wow I’ve lost so much weight

Just get through the next ten seconds

Ten seconds more

I’m scared

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.