STRAYDOG by Kathe Koja


Age Range: 12 - 15
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A horror novelist for adults (Extremities, 1998, etc.) tries a different tack with this whiny but intense girl-meets-dog (and boy) story. Volunteering at an animal shelter, prickly loner Rachel finds a kindred spirit in the newly arrived, savagely feral dog she dubs “Grrl.” A compulsive writer, Rachel is inspired to work on a nightmarish, dog’s-eye view of street life that her creative-writing teacher urges her to finish and submit to a competition; meanwhile, Rachel is making another connection, this time with Griffin, a withdrawn new classmate. After some wary circling, Griffin offers his backyard as a pen for Grrl—but Rachel returns to the shelter to discover that Grrl’s already been euthanized. Though she tends toward trite self-analysis (“What do you do when you’re too smart for the freaks, but too much of a freak for the smart kids?”) and is given to tirades about her parents’ character flaws, people who don’t spay their pets, and like topics, Rachel’s emotional intensity, conveyed both in her fierce narrative and in long passages from her story, is compelling enough to draw readers along. Less compelling is the ending, in which Griffin snaps her out of a bout of wild, destructive grief, and the two adopt another, friendlier, stray dog. Still, fans of tales about teen writers, or stories with animal themes, will pant after this. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 12th, 2002
ISBN: 0-374-37278-0
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2002


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