Strays (Caloyeras)

Jennifer Caloyeras, 2015
Ashland Creek Press
219 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781618220370

Sixteen-year-old Iris Moody has a problem controlling her temper, but then, she has a lot to be angry about. Dead mother. Workaholic father. Dumped by her boyfriend. Failing English.

When a note in Iris's journal is mistaken as a threat against her English teacher, she finds herself in trouble not only with school authorities but with the law.

In addition to summer school, dog-phobic Iris is sentenced to an entire summer of community service, rehabilitating troubled dogs. Iris believes she is nothing like Roman, the three-legged pit bull who is struggling to overcome his own dark past, not to mention the other humans in the program.

But when Roman's life is on the line, Iris learns that counting on the help of others may be the only way to save him.

Author Bio
Birth—August 2, 1976
Where—Los Angeles, California, USA
Education—B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz; M.A. California State University,
   Los Angeles, M.F.A., University of British Columbia
Currently—lives in Los Angeles, California

She is the author of two young adult novels: Strays (2015) and Urban Falcon (2009). Her short stories have been published in Monday Night Literary, Wilde Magazine, Storm Cellar, and Booth. She has been a college instructor, elementary school teacher and camp counselor. She is the dog columnist for the Los Feliz Ledger and the Larchmont Ledger.  (From the author.)

Jennifer is available for school visits and book club meetings.

Visit the author's website.
Follow Jennifer on Goodreads.

Book Reviews
One doesn't expect humor to evolve from such a serious theme; but, it does. One doesn't expect Strays to use the intersection of two fearful personalities to explore positive change and courage—yet, it does. And any who anticipate Strays to be a dog story alone may be disappointed only because it's so much more; it focuses equally on pet and person, and the situations that get them into trouble. Young adults who want a story of more than an animal rescue or a sixteen-year-old's angst will find Strays a compelling saga.
D. Donovan - Midwest Book Review

[A] source of comfort for angry teens.
Kirkus Reviews

[A]n engaging book about a journey of self-discovery that should inspire readers of all ages.
Bark Magazine

Strays is a quietly moving story about starting over, and the powerful bond that can form between animals and humans. Caloyeras’ prose is instantly captivating, and readers will feel for Iris’s agony and her pain. Iris is a multi-faceted character—as are the others we are introduced to throughout the story. These fully-realized individuals—both people and dogs—who populate the story are what really bring Strays to life.
Novel Novice

Strays is so much more than a story about a young, angry girl who learns to trust others and accept their help. It’s about grief, compassion, understanding and forgiveness.... Strays touched my heart and I would be willing to bet it will do the same for most people who read it.
Susan Barton - eBook Review Gal

[T]he reader can see the human-animal bond grow and enjoy Iris’s growth and turning points as well…a well-written story and a very enjoyable read.
Dianne Rich - Seattle pi

This is a sweet story about a girl and a dog and how hard it is to let go of the past in order to get on with the future. It’s a story about trust, redemption and acceptance [...] Readers young and old will appreciate this one.
Book Chatter

[T]he author did a great job capturing the human animal bond and this would be a great book to share with the young adults in your life.
Preston Speaks

Over the course of the book, Iris comes to terms with her mother’s death, learns how to reconnect with her father (thanks to court-appointed therapy), realizes that the quiet troublemaking boy in her new high school isn’t as much of a loser as her friends made him out to be and learns that facing your problems head-on is always better than ignoring them. I really enjoyed reading Strays and look forward to more novels by Jennifer Caloyeras.
Leigh-Ann Brodber at The Young Folks

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Caloyeras captures the angst and discomfort of teenage years, especially for kids who have had a rough childhood. And she weaves into the story some very real dogs, each of whom has come from a punishing life. They are all strays of sorts. And there is hope for all of them.
Robin Lamont at The Hen House

Strays is a coming of age story that is as original as it is revealing with a heroine who is highly relatable. Author Jennifer Caloyeras' depiction of a young girl's struggles to find a way to move beyond her angst is a refreshingly honest tale which will appeal to readers of all ages. Caloyeras' comfortable writing style makes reading this book feel a bit like curling up with a fuzzy blanket.  This book is highly recommended and has earned the Literary Classics Seal of Approval.
Literary Classics

Discussion Questions
1. Do you think Iris was treated fairly by Ms. Schneider and the school when she gets into trouble taking her English final? Why or why not?

2. How does Roman and Iris’s relationship evolve throughout the story? Does Iris’s fear of dogs motivate or paralyze her? In what ways have you been motivated or paralyzed by fear?

3. Why do you think Perry structures her class around fairy tales? What fairy tale can you relate to your own life?

4. In what ways are the teens that participate in Ruff Rehabilitation similar to their dogs? In what ways are they different?

5. How does Perry’s selection of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber help Iris work through her relationship with Roman and help with grieving the loss of her mother?

6. Have you ever had a teacher like Perry? Or a teacher like Ms. Schneider? How can a teacher change your trajectory?

7. Describe Iris’s relationship with her father. How do you think her father would describe their relationship? How does their relationship change over the course of the novel?

8. How are Iris’s friendships tested throughout the novel?

9. Many of the characters in Strays have secrets. What are their secrets and how do they serve to help or hinder each character?

10. How has this novel changed your view on animals perceived as “dangerous”?
(Questions courtesy of the author.)

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