Hi everyone! New year, new books to read!
I’m starting off this year’s Reading Series, in which I blog about the books I’m reading, with the novel Strays by Jennifer Caloyeras. Jennifer was kind enough to send me a copy of her book way back when. This is the year I tackle my shelves of owned books – starting with this one!
I would love for you to read along with me. I plan on writing a chapter or two per week, with posts to be published on Sunday nights. If you’re new to my Reading Series, basically it means I discuss what happens in the chapter, and also I’ll relate it to real life. For example, my last book was Dogland (you can read my posts here) and I used the chapters as springboards to discuss current issues or to just give my opinion. I plan on doing the same with this book, but since this is a novel, I will focus more so on the story. So, it would be awesome if some of my readers also had the book!
Before I get to the prologue and first chapter, here is a synopsis of the novel, provided by goodreads:
Sometimes, life becomes unleashed…
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.
With sparkling prose and delightful humor, Jennifer Caloyeras’s novel beautifully portrays the human-animal bond.
And now we get to the actual book!
For the post this week, I’ll discuss the Prologue and Chapter One.
In the short prologue, we find the main character (MC) using a hammer to bash into the wall of her closet. In her anger and frustration, she names some people who have hurt her in some way. The most significant, it would seem, is her mother who died. As a reader, I liked this introduction because I immediately want to know her story and why she feels so misunderstood and troubled. To me it seems to set up that a breaking point is coming.
In the first chapter, we learn the MC’s name is Iris, and she is at the end of her junior year in high school in California. Her friends call her Eye, and Irish doesn’t like that nickname. However, Iris does not tell her friends to stop calling her that. Based on this and the Prologue, I am getting the sense that Iris hides her true feelings from everyone, and especially hides parts of herself from her friends.
Iris also just likes to hide, period, and the readers learn this through her internal dialogue where she says things like, “Craving more and more time alone with my thoughts lately.” That Iris seems to be removing herself from her social circle makes me wonder if she is suffering from depression. Already, I am worried for this character.
The chapter takes place during lunch hour. We learn more about Iris through her conversation and interaction with her closest friends; even Iris doesn’t understand why they became friends in the first place; she thinks, “Maybe they were intrigued by the new girl with the tragic past.” Throughout the chapter, we are given hints about this tragic past, but all we know is that her mother has passed away, leaving Iris with a dad who seems to be a workaholic, neglectful father. Despite the lack of attention from her father, Iris seems like she is working hard to achieve her goals of going to college. One thing I love about the main character is that she’s passionate about biological sciences, particularly animals. It’s great to have a female character in a story who has that interest!
By the end of chapter one, I’m interested by her friendship with her schoolmates. Do they really understand her and will they be there for her when the time comes? They seem nice, but at the same time, they don’t seem to fully appreciate Iris (e.g., Sierra, her friend who is a senior, makes a tactless joke that she wishes her mom was dead). So I’m curious to see how the friendships evolves during the book.
The chapter concludes with Iris being asked by the principal to come by his office. This was right after Ashley, one of Iris’ friends, got into a friendly fight with a few of the troublemaker kids who had thrown a paper bag. As I read this, my immediate reaction was to wonder if Iris is going to get blamed for their bad behavior. Or maybe it’s about something entirely different? I think this was a great point to end the chapter because not even Iris knows what’s coming during the meeting with the principal.
That’s it for now. Next week will be Chapter 2!
Please comment below or reach out to me on Twitter to let me know if you will be reading along or if you have any thoughts on what you read in my post! I would love more interaction with my readers!
Strays: A Novel can be purchased directly through Ashland Creek Press.
Add Strays: A Novel to your Goodreads shelf!