________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 34 . . . . May 8, 2015


The Dogs.

Allan Stratton.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2014.
282 pp., hardcover, ebook & Apple ed., $19.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-2830-8 (hc), ISBN 978-1-4431-4270-0 (ebook), ISBN 978-1-4431-4271-7 (Apple ed.).

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Michelle Superle.

**** /4


All night I worry about Mom thinking I’m crazy. She thinks Dad’s crazy too. Is she right? Are we both nuts? I also stress about Jacky. Mr. Sinclair says Jacky left with his mom. Jacky says he didn’t and that Mr. Sinclair saw him after she was gone. Who’s telling the truth? Why would either of them lie?

How can anyone know anything about anyone? How can anyone be sure even about themselves?


Allan Stratton is back—this time with a new YA thriller. Stratton fans will be thrilled to discover The Dogs, a quiet, affecting suspense novel that explores themes of fitting in, hiding secrets, and searching for the truth, no matter how ugly it may be. Readers aged 12 through 16 will find themselves alternately guessing and shivering throughout the deceptively understated plot twists.

     Cameron Weaver has been moving around ever since his mother escaped from his abusive father. Settling into his fifth new town after his parents’ separation should be a relief, but Wolf Hollow just seems to bring up more questions. Will they be able to stay safely hidden from his father this time? Was his father really so bad, anyway? Will his mother take up with the slick real estate agent who found them the spooky house they’re renting? What’s their new landlord hiding? Why is all that creepy old junk cluttering up the house’s basement? Was the house really a murder site?

     Cameron struggles to find his place at school while relentlessly pursuing answers to these questions. Everywhere he turns, roadblocks stymie his progress: his mother is (understandably) overprotective, his neighbour’s not a talker, and his classmates are more interested in teasing than telling. Only the resident ghost, Jacky, who haunts Cameron’s new home, seems willing to share information—but can the strange spirit of the little boy be trusted?

     Eventually all is revealed in The Dogs. The novel is masterfully paced, and characters are developed with complexity. While the resolution of the plot may not be comforting, it is extremely satisfying.

     Stratton has artfully co-opted the thriller genre to subtly examine the far-reaching, unexpected consequences of rage and abuse. The Dogs provides a disturbingly insightful portrait of the darkest elements of human nature. For those inclined to ask difficult questions, it is irresistible.

Highly Recommended.

Michelle Superle is an Assistant Professor at the University of the Fraser Valley where she teaches children’s literature and creative writing courses. She has served twice as a judge for the TD Award for Canadian Children’s Literature and is the author of Black Dog, Dream Dog and Contemporary, English-language Indian Children’s Literature (Routledge, 2011).

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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