Strays, by Jennifer Caloyeras
With a recently deceased mother, an absentee father, a recently severed relationship and an English teacher out to get her, Iris Moody is a 16 year old girl with some understandable anger issues stemming from the crappy hand life has dealt her. After a misunderstanding at school, she not only fails English and is relegated to having to attend summer school, but she ends up being arrested and given community service at a dog rehabilitation program. As far as community service goes, working with dogs is pretty great, right? Not for Iris. She’s absolutely petrified by dogs, especially pit bulls. So when she is assigned to help rehabilitate a 3-legged ex-fighting dog, it appears as though fate is laughing at her yet again. Through a series of blunders and with a little help from a rag-tag cast of characters, Iris Moody comes to realize that some things are worth standing up for, including a pit bull named Roman and her own self-worth.
After last reading a memoir with a lot of big words and some obscure literary references, I was in the mood for a book that would allow me to step into somebody else’s life with a little fluff and a happily ever after. I have two pit bulls at home, so I was immediately drawn to Strays, by Jennifer Caloyeras. Having read it in one (long) sitting, this book gave me what I was looking for, but it also gave me a lot more. If I had to compare it to something else, I’d say this book was a healthy mix of The Breakfast Club and Pit Bulls and Parolees with a little bit of Freedom Writers thrown in for context.
This novel is definitely geared toward a younger crowd with its 16 year-old main character and easy readability, but it truly does have something for readers of all ages. The authentic voice of the characters in this story mixed with the very real life problems they face makes this book a great read that will hit close to home for any teenager or anyone who has or has ever been a teenager themselves. It’s easy to throw yourself into Iris’s shoes and remember what it felt like to be in that place with those feelings, and Strays takes the reader on a journey that offers the perspective and empathy we all could use a little more of.
Trisha Tucci lives near Baltimore, MD with her husband, 4 cats and 2 dogs. She is a university employee by day and grad student and bibliophile by night. She loves Harry Potter and books about books, but will read just about anything that can spark her imagination.