South of Reality by A.I. Alexen

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South of Reality by A.I. Alexen
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Contemporary
Length: Short Story
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

One beautiful summer evening, a suave, smooth-talking cat moves in with the Morgan family. The Morgans fall in love with him and call him “Tuxedo.” The Morgans’ dogs, however, take a strong dislike and call him trouble!

Hotheaded, honorable Peyson and would-be-psychologist Arky interrogate him, investigate him, and all around irritate him until they discover his secret mission. To their surprise, the reason behind his arrival strikes a chord that awakens the champions within them and compels them to lend a helping paw. But with one condition: while Tuxedo had been content using underhanded means, the dogs insist that the mission must be accomplished “the honest way.”

Never could they have foreseen what lay ahead—midnight chases in the forest, struggles against a hostile rat takeover, deals with a malicious rooster, and much more. It’s a race against time in which they either succeed in helping Tuxedo—or fail spectacularly and break the all-important animal code of secrecy!

Don’t let the animal main characters deter you—this is a fun read for all ages.

There’s a reason why cats and dogs don’t always get along.To be honest, Arky and Peyson could list several of them.

I really enjoyed the character development in this book, especially when it came to Arky and Peyson. They both understand much more about human society than their two-legged companions could ever guess, but there are still many differences between a dog’s and a person’s understanding of the world. It’s difficult to talk about their often funny take on how things work without giving away spoilers, but my favorite scenes were the ones when they discuss their theories without interruption.

The pacing was uneven at first. A good deal of time was spent describing all of the characters and the farm where they live. While I appreciated all of the details about their personalities and appearances, I would have preferred to know more about Tuxedo’s secret mission much earlier in the plot. It felt odd not to know what the cat was doing for such a long period of time given the length of this story.

The ending wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but it did fit in well with everything that had happened earlier on in this tale. Given all of the unusual talents of the main characters, it made sense that their mission would have an equally unique conclusion. I quickly came to understand why the author wrote it the way she did. It worked well for these characters and their dilemma.

South of Reality was a wild ride. Give it a try if you’re in the mood for something zany!

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