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3.85  ·  Rating details ·  272 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
A powerful debut novel

A female collie mix, so beautiful, all gold and white and dirty; she’s in the last cage on the aisle, curled up quiet, watching everything – but when I get too close she goes completely crazy, biting at the bars, herself, anything in reach, until I back off and away. Her growl’s like ripping metal, jagged, dangerous, and strong . . . Don’t mess with m
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published April 12th 2002 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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Robert Beveridge
Jan 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Kathe Koja, Straydog (FSG, 2002)

Over the course of my existence I've read somewhere between fifteen and twenty thousand books. While I am one of those people who will start sniffling at the merest hint of decently-rendered emotion in a movie, and bawl like a baby when certain songs come on the radio, I've never been that way with books. With reflection, I've been able to think of three books that reduced me to tears while reading them (Wilson Rawls' Where the Red Fern Grows, Kathe Koja's Strange
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
Maybe if I hadn't read The Pawprints of History first I wouldn't have been so emotionally effected by Kathe Koja's startlingly good book Straydog.
In just over 100 pages, Koja tells the story of Rachel, who is a character too big for her small-world high school, and her hopeful and hopeless relationship with Grrl, an injured feral collie temporarily housed at the animal shelter where she volunteers. Rachel's writing ability, nurtured by a sympathetic English teacher, allows her to believably cre
Sarah Marie
3 stars
I don't like dog books, never have even when I was little. That's more of my sister's area, but I liked this book, which is a surprise. We had to read this book as a group in class and when I first saw this book I thought "Great another Lassie story, I just can't wait to be bored to death." I know, I know it sounds mean. I know the saying don't judge a book by it's cover, but I judged it by its title, too. When I started reading this book I had no clue what it was about, because our teac
A slim but very powerful novella. This is the kind of thing that makes people cry, and not just animal lovers. Grrl reminded me not only of stray dogs but also stray kids, foster kids and the like, and the good-hearted people who try to heal their wounds and make homes for them. I was deeply touched.
Elizabeth Wallace
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who have abused animals or want to work at the humane society
I really liked the way the author's point came across at the end, saying how people always see themselves as the hero but it's not always true. Sometimes I feel the same way. Actually, a lot of the time.
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: homesick
Recommended to Mariel by: homesick
I'll read anything Kathe Koja writes. She surprises me. I can be moved out of my shell of despair (self, mostly) and feel for somebody else. Too often I can only deal on a plane of removing myself entirely. Spectator not as voyeur but just removing paranoia, fear of heartbreak, that shit. It's hard to explain. It's all messed up if I'm involved. It means everything to me those chances I can feel differently. I write this a lot about the one sided and two sided reading experiences. It's a big one ...more
Aug 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Wow, this book packs a punch for both adult and YA readers. Rachel, a teenage girl who doesn't seem to fit in anywhere finds a place volunteering at an animal shelter. While there, she meets a feral collie she names "Grrl," and becomes determined to save her. Woven in the well-written story are tough life lessons about accepting one's own limitations. Animal welfare advocates will also applaud the young protagonist's assessment of her first-hand experiences of pet owner irresponsibility and its ...more
Shelley Daugherty
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I didn't really know how much I would like this book until I neared the end. Rachel struggles with the idea of 'fitting in' when it comes to people but she has always had a connection to animals. She spends her spare time working at the local shelter and one day a feral collie is brought in. For her writing class, she writes about the feral collie from the dog's eyes and her teacher encourages her to enter the story into a contest. During this time, she can't help but think that she can help thi ...more
Rachel Brown
A slim YA novel about a teenage girl who works at an animal shelter and becomes obsessed with a feral collie, whom she names Grrrl, becomes determined to save from euthanasia, and identifies with more than is healthy. With that premise, you just know it won't work out well. It's very well-written, and it made me cry in Starbucks.

So far I've liked Koja's YA novels (Buddha Boy and Blue Mirror) even though they're all pretty similar: intense, bordering on stream of consciousness first person narra
Dylan Lien
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
The fiction novel called the Straydog by Kathe Koja is based on a girl named Rachael volunteering at an animal shelter. Rachel finds a newly arrived collie that she names Grrl. Rachel is a compulsive writer who is inspired to work on a dog’s-eye view of street life that her creative-writing teacher urges her to finish and submit to a competition. Meanwhile, Rachel is making another connection this time with a classmate named Griffin. Griffin offers his backyard as a pen for Grrl, but Rachel retu ...more
May 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Another YA book. I must be regressing or something. Back in the 90′s Kathe Koja wrote several ‘horror’ novels that were pretty dark and disturbing (to me, anyways) and when I read that she was writing Young Adult novels I pretty much said “what the fuck?” and I wanted to try one of them. And when I saw the cover for this one I wanted to check it out even more.

I liked it. It’s not what I expected. For some reason I was thinking a YA novel would have more of a bunnies and butterflies vibe or somet
Madi B.
I loved this book so so so much! Kathe Koja is such a skilled writer and I enjoyed her book very much. I loved how much I could relate to this story. When reading books, the story has to have a connection with me in some way or it doesn't interest me. This story nailed it! I have the same feelings as the main character and a lot of the same experiences. This was a quick and easy read and very enjoyable as well. I highly recommend this book! It is so good. I literally cried at a few points I'm th ...more
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rachel is a Loner in her school. she has no Friends and no one knows that much about her. if there in her Writing Class they know she's a good writer and that's about it. One day that changes, Griffen starts school and is paired up with Rachel in the writing class. Rachel and Griffen become friends over there writing. Griffen goes to the Animal shelter with her were she works to meet Grrl the dog Rachel has been writing about. Now, Grrl is a Wild Feral Collie that Rachel wants to Tame an d Keep. ...more
Jan 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: engl420
This is the story of a high school girl who is a social outcast and volunteers at the local animal shelter. She becomes attached to a feral dog who is brought in and is devastated when the dog has to be put to sleep. The girl finds healing in her writing and her new friend (also an outcast). Through this creative outlet and this boy, she learns lessons about trust, healing, love, and life.

I did not enjoy this book at all, given that it was extremely cheesy and
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Where Cages convinced me that I wanted to work in a shelter, Straydog convinced me that I needed to be careful. If I'm not careful, I'll end up one of those crazy cat ladies, only with cats and dogs and everything else pet-ly. Or massively bitter and depressed, and no one needs that. I'll have to think of starfish.

"A guy's walking on a beach where the tide's gone out, leaving thousands of starfish stranded, so as he walks he picks one up, and another, and another, and throws them back into the w
Sep 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book was on my bookshelf forever, but I only picked it up when I was about 16 for some reason. I couldn't stand the protagonist who, like every other protagonist in YA fiction, is "too smart and different" to fit in at her school. And the oh-so-very-original tearjearker ending...I actually ended up throwing the book out of my bedroom window in a bout of frustration that I wasted three hours of my time reading this, and it landed 18 stories below with a satisfying 'splat.' I've never reacted ...more
Jordi Rivera
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was really confusing when I read the few first chapters. After, I got into it, it patched holes. It's a really good book! It's about a girl who isn't a "cool" kid, and has problems with family. Her parents think she's weird, and need to hang out with friends. Her only friends are animals, but her bestfriends are dogs! They have a certin feeling to them as if they knew what she was going threw. She ran into a dog, that is very rough. Well , im going to stop because im telling the whole ...more
Rafi Snowden
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
I randomly saw this at the library and took it out to read. Very moving story, with a more realistic description of an animal shelter than you usually find in YA books. The essay written from the dogs point of view was very believable as an interpretation of how a dog would process things.

Has some serious stuff in it, so if your teenager or middle schooler reads it, you may want to discuss it with them after.

This is a good book to give to a teen, or to donate to a school library!
Lillian Nemmers
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's about a girl named Rachel and she works for a shelter. She meet this dog and named her Grrl the dog was a collie. She had beautiful golden fur, the only bad thing is that she was feral. She had to be put down for a reason you will find out in the book. A guy wanted to help, but is was too late she was already gone. They end up adopting another dog which if you read to the end you will know what breed and the name, the only thing I will tell you is the dog is a girl.
Jan 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: teen, realistic, animals
Rachel is a talented writer, but she is an outsider at her school. The only place she feels safe and at home is volunteering at an animal shelter. There she meets Grrl, a feral street dog, and she feels a connection. A new boy in school is also a writer, and Rachl's teacher encourages her to enter a writing contest. Rachel begins a story about Grrl, whom she hopes to save. Tragedy happens and Rachel has to face her pain.
Jan 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
short but excellent story about shelter dogs, and work at an animal shelter. having just taken in another dog myself, i can more readily identify with the main character's drive to not give up on a difficult dog.
boy, is the main character angry! i couldn't figure out why--because she's estranged from her parents? because she doesn't have any friends? she's very smart, high achieving, good grades, dedicated volunteer. so what gives her sucha short fuse? what am i missing?
Jennifer Priester
I liked Straydog but some things at the end of the book prevent me from giving it a higher rating. This is a very good story about what happens at many animal shelters but might be a little too realistic for some younger readers, because the dog in the book is also a feral/wild dog. For older readers it is a good and realistic fiction story.
Diane Carrozzo
Aug 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It actually tells two stories: Rachel's and the feral dog she names Grrl. In both cases, the reader comes away with a better understanding of feelings and how people deal with them. To me, this is an honest book. The feelings are real and raw. I definitely recommend this book for everyone, and I will certainly recommend it to my 7th grade students.
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it
This book had me bawling by the end. It was a really short book, but took me awhile to get through. I don't know if that was because the writing was small or because I could tell something awful was about to happen and I didn't want to deal with it. Overall it was a good book with a good message, but hard to make yourself read because of the painful ending.
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4, young-adult
A short, quick read about a young girl who loves working at the local animal shelter, especially when a mysterious new collie is brought in. She makes a friend (for once in her life) with a strange new boy in her class. At the same time, she's attempting to finish an essay for a writing contest. This novel has a surprising end.
Mar 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: my 7th and 8th graders
Shelves: realistic
Rachel is an outsider, misunderstood by the other students at her school. She feels most at home when she is working in the animal shelter. One day a dog comes to the shelter that trusts no one. Rachel identifies with and wants to love this dog and give her a better life, but is she too far gone to trust anyone?
Jan 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Another well written YA yarn, but I'm ready for something from her that I can sink my teeth into. Her new novel for grown folks is coming out soon, and these brief tales have only wet my appetite... Bring it.
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012

I'm surprised that I liked it.It was a very good book. Finished it in a hour. It wasn't a lot to process.
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm pretty sure I cried.
Noah Z
Nov 13, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who like sad stories
This book is about a girl who volunteers at an animal shelter. She meets a wild collie and attempts to tame it.
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Kathe Koja is a novelist, playwright, director and independent producer. Her work crosses and combines and plays with genres, from YA to contemporary to historical to horror. Her novels–including THE CIPHER, SKIN, BUDDHA BOY, TALK, HEADLONG, and the UNDER THE POPPY trilogy–have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance.

Solo and with her ensemble, nerve, she create
More about Kathe Koja...

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