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STRAYS LIKE US by Richard Peck


by Richard Peck

Age Range: 12 - 14

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8037-2291-5
Publisher: Dial

With a hospitalized heroin addict for a mother and facing the prospect of another new school, Molly Moberly, 12, is a stray who delivers in an abrupt and somewhat detached narrative the details of a year in her life. Molly has been sent to live with a relative by marriage, Aunt Fay. Next door is Will McKinney, a fellow stray living with his grandparents. The wistful, ingenuous narration gains strength as Molly meets the tale’s many eccentric characters; their actions have an impact on Molly even as their motives remain mostly unknown: A home-schooled child Molly befriends (“I could only wonder at Tracy having this much mother when I didn’t have any”) is badly burned after torching the public school; a wealthy, lonely woman Molly visits turns out to be her grandmother; the McKinneys—who had allowed people to think that Will’s father was in prison—have been taking care of him at home as he slowly dies of AIDS. The novel settles upon a host of difficult issues and then, indescribably, lets them go: When Will sustains a bloody injury while playing ball, the coach requests that he quit the team because other members are afraid of contracting HIV. Instead of countering this ignorance, Will retreats, and the issue is dropped, with only a few utterances of protest from Aunt Fay. The novel becomes something of a treatise about a generation of children who have been cast aside by their parents; with its compelling premises and Molly’s fragile but tautly convincing voice, it will be seized upon by Peck’s fans, but may leave them longing for more. (Fiction. 12-14)