Review of ‘Stray’
The lovely, lovely Trisha Buckley is one of my long-standing reviewers here on Children’s Book Daily – particularly in the area of Young Adult literature. Some of her other reviews can be seen here. Today I am so excited to be sharing her review of ‘Stray’ by Rachael Craw – which is released TODAY! Yay!
Author: Rachael Craw
Publisher: Walker Books
Stray is a great follow up to Spark, a book that twisted and played on the conventions of what has become a trope of YA fiction—the oblivious girl who discovers she has preternatural powers, and must re-learn everything she understands about the world. Craw departs from the standard paranormal landscape and mythology, and creates instead a world of hidden experiments, manipulated DNA, and disturbing rules. This more sci-fi take is not new in itself; however, it adds something fresh and contemporary to the genre.
Evie, our intrepid hero, has much to deal with in the aftermath of book one. Her family dynamic is not quite what she thought, and while she is very attracted to the gorgeous Jamie, she also finds his alignment to the Affinity Project frustrating and close-minded. Not to mention the whole embarrassing synergy deal that means she faints when they try to make out. It’s this snarky humour element that will appeal to teenagers.
Little time passes in Stray, but the action builds unrelentingly in the compressed time, and readers can only hold their breath and hope things work out for Evie and her friends and family. We are introduced to new characters, people who figure highly in the hierarchy of the organisation: Ethan Tesla, Dr Knox, and the Proxy. They play significant roles, and Evie has to work out who to trust. While there is some fleeing, fighting, and a rescue, inevitably Evie is called to account. It’s important she keep her secrets locked down, yet we quickly become aware there will be traumatising consequences to her actions.
It’s heart-breaking and heart-stopping.
I know I am being deliberately vague, but we all know the importance of discovering all the big reveals at the same time as Evie does. A book like this relies on its ‘what the…’ moments, and believe me, there are some doozies here (although I did guess one of them). It is interesting to see the change in the dynamic of Evie and Jamie’s relationship. It’s Jamie’s turn to be angry with Evie, and while he has some cause, and shows just how protective he is Kitty, it’s still an over-reaction. Luckily, he does redeem himself by the end.
I know a story is stronger when the protagonist really has to work to overcome the obstacles, that readers don’t want convenient escape routes to appear so that allies stay alive, and betrayals don’t happen. But Jamie isn’t the only one blocking Evie’s efforts to stay ahead of the organisation. By the end of the book (which doesn’t leave us on a cliff-hanger, you’ll be pleased to know), I was overwhelmed, saddened, and wanted to hug Evie, to let her know everything will be alright (yeah, honestly? I would deserve an Oscar if I could make her believe that!)
Craw gets everything right. The action is exhilarating, the reveals are shocking, the quiet moments are poignant, and the emotional highs and lows are powerful and lasting. And of course, I find myself wondering, ‘how long till the next book?’ Highly recommended for those keen young adult readers who gobbled down The Starbound novels, The Throne of Glass series, and Red Queen.The titles of each book takes you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. You can also compare prices on Fishpond and Bookworld for Australian purchases.If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here. Purchases clicked through from the Children’s Books Daily site result in a small commission. Commission is used in part to maintain Children’s Books Daily and to support community groups which connect children with books.