cover image Strays Like Us

Strays Like Us

Richard Peck. Dial Books, $15.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2291-0

Peck not only understands the fragile emotions of adolescents, he also knows what kind of characters will pique their interest. In this tender novel, he paints a richly detailed portrait of Molly, a drug-addict's daughter sent at the age of 12 to live with a great-aunt she has never met. Molly soon discovers others like her in this small town full of secrets. Next door lives Will, another ""stray,"" whose father is rumored to be in jail. At the library, she meets home-schooled Tracy, from the wealthy district across town, whose sheltered life may not be quite as comfortable as it appears. And through Aunt Fay, Molly meets Mrs. Voorhees, a hypochondriac who employs her great-aunt as a nurse. Although Molly sorely misses her mother and resists admitting that her stay with Aunt Fay is permanent, she nonetheless becomes involved with the people around her and gradually settles into her first real home. Peck cleverly employs Molly's outsider status to great effect, allowing readers to learn about the characters along with Molly, via her first-person narrative. He draws indications of her assimilation with subtlety and exquisite pacing, over the course of a year in his protagonist's life. As Molly's affection for Will and overworked Aunt Fay (whose phrases she begins to imitate) solidify, she begins to accept that her mother may never return. This sensitive heroine is one readers will want to take under their wing--and will bid her a fond farewell at the story's gratifying conclusion. Ages 10-up. (May)