by Monica Hesse
Genre: YA, dystopian, sci-fi
Published June 6th 2013 by Hot Key Books
Lona Sixteen Always is not herself - quite literally. She lives her life virtually through the experiences of Julian, a boy who was chosen as a role model for the Pathers of Quadrant 1 - troubled children who have been 'rescued' by the government and put 'on-Path'. But one day Lona finds she can think for herself. And on top of that, the face of a familiar boy appears on her screen - Fenn, who she thought had moved on to a different stage of the Path last year. But he didn't. Fenn and other rebels like him have strayed from the Path, and now Lona must stray too. But life off-Path is strange and difficult, and Lona uncovers a secret that will threaten all their lives. Can there really be life after the Path?
The blurb is utterly confusing. That's what I thought when I re-read it the time I received the copy of this book from the publisher, where at first, I thought this was the book I'd like. After re-reading it, I thought maybe I was wrong. Maybe this book wasn't really for me and I should've read thoroughly first before requesting it. I read the first page, and almost cried because I can't seem to understand it.
This is what I found out after reading a few chapters: Lona Sixteen Always was the name of our leading character. I know that sounds weird, but her name was based from a quite complicated assignment. Sixteen was her year indicator and Always was the Julian Path (which you have to learn too, by reading the book) when she entered it. The Lona name was not really a name, as well. Each letter has different meanings: from her birthdate, sector and quadrant. There are also words that when they talk, was really weird. I thought there were some typos at first, but thankfully, it was explained afterwards.
After reading with patience, I learned to understand and adapt the pace, the world-building and the characters. I was surprised on how much I end up liking it and looking forward in every turn of the page. Stray wasn't like other dystopian-sci-fi novels. It has a fresh attack for readers like me, a well-thought plot and background, a consistent and effective characters and a love story I never saw coming. It came to me bittersweet.
Although I noticed it doesn't have action-packed scenes and I wished there were more than the ending it gave, I enjoyed reading Stray. I know that you, my dear readers, would like it as well. Dystopian, sci-fi, romance and even contemporary fans would love this book. Make sure to also have the patience in reading the first few chapters in order to fully understand it. Stray is simple, yet it has something to say. It deserves to be on the spotlight. Well-done to the debut author, Monica Hesse.
*Super thanks to Olivia and Hot Key Books for a paperback copy for an honest review of this book!