Me and Mr. Cigar is something; a day after finishing it, I still have no better descriptor than that. It kicks off with a prologue, that could be it’s own short story in disguise, about a young boy who finds a dog and ends up keeping it for himself. It turns out the dog is immortal, and that it has given birth to a creature of sorts that severs the hand of the young boy’s sister, and leaves said sister’s boyfriend with brain damage. This young boy is Oscar, and his dog is named Mr. Cigar. We pick up 5 years later, when Oscar is now 17 and he and Mr. Cigar are still best friends. Oscar and his friend Lytle, aka the clown, have been throwing huge parties and selling drugs to make money, and everything is going pretty great for them. Until… a corrupt cop (Cletus Acox) targets them and their money and drugs, a former government agent (Colonel Sanders) claims Mr. Cigar is government property and he will do anything to get him back, and Oscar’s sister (Rachel) calls asking for help and a measly $35,000 to pay off possible kidnappers.
The chapters are very short (rarely exceeding 3 pages), which made this a really quick read. However, because of these short chapters, if you aren’t paying close attention it might be easy to miss details or get confused about the timing. The story often would jump to a memory without much indication that it was doing so. The story also got progressively wierder the farther along you get. I read a different review lamented that nothing happened in this book, I however would argue that almost too much happened. Haynes kept throwing in another plot point, and some of them were even left behind never to be brought up again. I also really struggled with the dialouge in this one. Dialouge is one of the most difficult writing skills to master, so it is not unsurprising that debut author Haynes’ dialouge would feel forced. However, it often got to the point of feeling completely unrealistic, even cringey.
What I enjoyed most about this book were the characters. Even though there was really no room for character growth here, each of the characters were very intriguing in their own ways. One particular stand out was Carla Marks, the woman who’s ability to communicate with animals helped her invent world changing technologies. And the greatest character in this book, was Mr. Cigar. I know it sounds weird to claim that the dog is the best character in a book, but this book is weird! I loved seeing all the ways Mr. Cigar would interact with the world and help protect Oscar and other characters from the bad guys.
All in all, I’m not sure I would ever recommend this book to anyone. It’s strangeness would be a really hard sell, and if I was looking to hand a teen something this odd I think I could come up with a better choice (Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith anyone!).