As usual, this post will contain some light spoilers, so read at your own risk.
It’s the night of the bonfire that Talbot organized. The chapter begins with Iris hitting the walls of her closet, and she’s running out of space to destroy. This struck me as a foreshadowing, in that Iris’s conflicts were going to come to a head soon.
I was nervous for Iris during this chapter because I thought maybe the police would come to the bonfire and she would get in trouble. It turned out I had reason to be nervous but my prediction was wrong.
At the bonfire, Iris runs into her friends (ex-friends?) Ashley and Sierra. It’s clear during their short and awkward conversation that their friendship is pretty much over. I was proud of Iris during this scene, though. Ashley and Sierra spot Oak, who was meeting Iris for the bonfire, and they make fun of him, calling him a “freak.” “This was my chance to get their friendship back. All I had to do was join them in their teasing, and they’d accept me.” When I read that, I hesitated – what was Iris going to do? Happily, the very next line: “I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”
The bonfire was going well, with Iris confiding in Oak. This shows real growth in her because she hasn’t been fully honest with basically anyone other than her therapist. Remember, even Talbot thinks Iris’s mother is still alive because Iris lied about it.
Oak and Iris talk about their dogs and training, leading Iris to a thought: “Maybe I was the perfect person to help Roman, and I had just abandoned my duty. I had to get him back. I hoped Kevin would understand that Roman had caught me in a moment of weakness. But I’d be stronger. I just hoped it wasn’t too late.” I probably said this in my last post, but I’m worried for Roman 😦
Despite this character growth we see in Iris, the chapter comes to an end much like how it began: with Iris’s penchant for destruction. When a drunk classmate provokes her, referring her as “the psycho from school,” Iris reacts. I thought she was handling it pretty well, until she directed her anger and frustration at the person trying to help her: Oak.
Unfortunately, it may seem like their budding relationship is over.
I like the observation that Iris makes at the beginning of the chapter, about how angry she had been at the bonfire but not being able to connect it to any one thing (“It didn’t really matter what triggered it.”) I hope this means Oak will be able to accept Iris’s apology (assuming she apologizes, which she should!) and they can be at least friends again.
Oak doesn’t seem too interested in talking to Iris right now, though. At dog rehab, he ignores her. So it doesn’t seem like their friendship will be moving forward in this chapter. But, what I liked is that Iris and Talbot became a little closer in this chapter. After the dog rehab session, they went to the beach. Talbot confesses that she’s scared to go into the ocean, but Iris convinces her to go swimming. Together they confront Talbot’s fears, which were almost affirmed when they think a shark is nearby. Luckily for them, it was only a seal! I really liked this scene because it showed Iris in control and helping Talbot, and it revealed a side of Talbot to Iris that she hadn’t gotten a chance to see. Iris uses her love for animals to make a connection between the damaged relationship between her and her dad, thinking, “Maybe Dad and I just needed to be more like those seals out there, more curious about each other, more willing to get to know that other strange creature living inside the house – more willing to play.”
In her therapy session earlier in the chapter, she’s told that she should talk to the direct source of her conflict. This would mean confronting her father, and I hope she does this. Especially after the beach scene. Iris seems to have gotten a lot out of her therapy sessions, so she is understandably disappointed when she’s told that this session is her last one. Iris obviously still has a lot to unpack.
I was hoping to see Roman in this chapter, but no luck! So now I am even more worried about the little guy. Hope he’s okay.
The author of Strays, Jennifer Caloyeras, has kindly offered to give away one copy of the book. I know I said I would do the raffle soon, but I remembered that the 24 hour reading challenge is coming up and I think that would be the best time to do the raffle!
That’s it for now. Next time will be Chapter 12! I plan on finishing up the book and blogging during the 24 hour readathon on April 28th.
Please comment below or reach out to me on Twitter to let me know if you are reading along or if you have any thoughts on this post! I would love more interaction with my readers!
Strays: A Novel can be purchased directly through Ashland Creek Press.
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