Ron Koertge is the author of several acclaimed novels, invluding The Brimstone Journals and Stoner and Spaz (9780744590555). An avid movie buff, Ron lives in the house featured in John Carpenter's film Halloween. He teaches English at Vermont College in the USA.
Gr 7-10-Ted O'Connor, 15, grew up working in his parents' pet store until they died in a car crash and he was sent into foster care. He shares an attic bedroom with Astin, who rides a Harley and is alternately paternal and threatening. The other foster kid, C.W., has his own room because Mr. Rafter "[doesn't] like to mix white and black." Ted isolates himself from social situations, preferring to communicate with animals. These creatures-from stray dogs to caged lions-talk back. The rub is, as Ted begins to trust human relationships, his gift with animals fades. Koertge writes brilliant dialogue; the conversations between Ted and the animals are as nuanced, natural, and believable as those between humans. The characterizations are subtle and swift, especially Wanda, a senior whose parents win the lottery and virtually abandon her. She's unique from her first words on the page. Ted's slow transformation from introverted destitution to tentative but authentic affirmation is well and economically handled. The novel's initially somber mood lifts, deftly and gradually, as Ted grows surer of his place in humanity. His romantic friendship with warm, intelligent Wanda is beautifully realized and revelatory; having chosen one another, they are no longer strays. This is a great choice for reluctant readers, and for animal lovers. Not a word is wasted, and this tight, smoothly plotted, perfectly pitched novel is among the author's best work.-Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
By turns insightful, devastatingly funny, and suffused with
loneliness...this thoughtful novel about the lost and abandoned is
a hopeful one, in which some strays find a place to belong. *
Using deft touches of humor and an element of the supernatural, Koertge (Boy Girl Boy) delivers a stirring account of a boy's rise above difficult circumstances. * Publishers Weekly (starred review) *
The development of Ted, the slightly unreliable narrator-from sullen self-sufficient teen to tentative social animal-is heartwarmingly real, and the light magical touch adds a clever flavor to this appealing coming-of-age story. * Kirkus Reviews *
Featured in "Cool New Books Roundup" * Teenreads.com *
Fresh and imaginative. * Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (R* review) *
[Ted's] gradual shift into the world of humans is successful and believable. * The Horn Book *
This tight, smoothly plotted, perfectly pitched novel is among the author's best work. * School Library Journal (starred review) *
Unsentimental but moving portrait of a lost 16-year-old finally finding his way. * KLIATT *
STRAYS delivers in spades, offering readers a deceptively simple story that is rich with a gamut of levels to explore and contemplate. * Teenreads.com *
Funny, fast-paced celebration of the resilience to survive loss and start anew. * VOYA *
Easily one of my favorite books so far for this year. * The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction *
Ted is a likable character thrust into a bizarre new life...recommended. * Tri-City Herald *
Highlights the turmoil of abandonment but ends in hope. * The Oklahoman *
After his parents die in a car crash, 10th-grader Ted is placed in foster care. He is sent to live with the Rafter family, where he gains two foster brothers: C.W. and Astin. Although his new home is only six miles from where he grew up, it feels light years away from his previous life. Ted's birth parents ran a small pet shop and he often believed they cared more for the animals than they did for him; at his old school, his social awkwardness left him friendless. But while Ted finds the Rafters themselves to be a bit odd (Mrs. Rafter keeps a doll in her bedroom, unable to recover from the loss of a child), his new foster brothers like him, especially Astin, a talented mechanic, who mentors him on being more outgoing and approachable. Ted's attempts to come to terms with both his parents' death and his new life are aided by his ability to communicate with animals, which often serves as a source of comfort. A sparrow encourages him to "think about something else," and a lion at the zoo suggests, "What you need, Theodore, is a pride. If you can get some females to hunt for you, that's all the better." Readers will root for Ted as he learns how to feel comfortable both around other people and in his own skin. Using deft touches of humor and an element of the supernatural, Koertge (Boy Girl Boy) delivers a stirring account of a boy's rise above difficult circumstances. Ages 14-up. (June) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.