Sixteen-year-old Iris seems almost as much of a stray as Roman, the three-legged pit bull mix she’s tasked with training as community-service punishment for an outburst at school.
When her mother died two years ago, her distracted father responded by moving them up the coast to Santa Cruz. Ever since, Iris has had trouble with her seething anger. Normally, she dissipates the fury by pounding her closet wall with a hammer. But after her boyfriend dumps her and her English teacher grabs the notebook in which she keeps a list of people she wishes she could kill—including that teacher—she gets in a tussle resulting in her arrest. The dog-training sessions with a group of other struggling teens are challenging. Iris is afraid of dogs, and Roman is unpredictably aggressive. After he scares a man and his son, Roman is sent to the pound, in serious danger of being euthanized. Accepting responsibility for his predicament, letting a discerning teacher understand her situation, and allowing Oak, a caring young man in the dog-training group, to help her all move Iris toward a better place. Ironically, for a wall smasher, she has ample insight, which she often tells rather than showing in her narration. An oft-repeated metaphor equating her anger to rising water grows old, and some plot elements are way too convenient.
Entertaining if imperfect, but perhaps a source of comfort for angry teens. (Fiction. 11-16)