Recommended for ages 12+
“Mom and I have been on the run for years. Every time he catches up with us, we move to a new place and start over. But this place is different. This place is full of secrets. And they won’t leave me alone.”
Cameron and his mother are on the run from his abusive father. They make their way to their latest home, a broken-down farm with a history that no one wants to talk about. Their next door neighbor/landlord has secrets of his own, and he’s bullied by the kids at school who taunt him about the dogs they say haunt the farm. Tired of pulling up stakes at a moment’s notice and living an invisible life, Cameron is drawn to Jacky, a young boy he sees on his property. The thing is, Jacky isn’t there – or is he? Is Cameron imagining things, or is he talking to a ghost? What are the mysteries surrounding the house and the dogs, and are Cameron’s memories about his own past able to be trusted?
I love a good thriller, and The Dogs is one of the best ones I’ve read this year. Cameron, as an unreliable narrator, keeps the readers on their toes as he shifts between memory, imagination, and reality. The plot and subplots are woven together beautifully to give readers a creepy, often chilling, adventure that left me with a clenched jaw and the cold sweats. Stratton takes the mental and emotional toll that domestic violence takes on a family; the constant fear that a mother on the run deals with, and weaves them into a murder mystery, adding a dash of ghost story to the mix. There’s something for everyone here, and I can’t wait to get this book into my teen patrons’ hands. There are so many great topics for discussion here; I’m thinking of featuring this as a kickoff selection to a Teen Reads book club I want to begin this Fall.