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Stray (Stray #1)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  165 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
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 h ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 6th 2013 by Hot Key Books
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Rating details
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Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to smetchie by: Stina
To be perfectly honest I only read this book for the cover. Kristina brought it to my attention and I had to have it. Isn't it cool??

It was actually quite a neat little story. With pod people. Sweet, innocent little pod people. I just want to give them a hug!
Excpet for that one ginger with the twisted bloodlust. But let's face it. There's one of those in every crowd.
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The idea of Path is to provide a better life for children who would otherwise end up in foster care, by providing them with the ‘perfect’ childhood. In order to do this the Pathers have no previous memories, no identity that isn’t Path, even their names are a way of categorising the children. From that we can tell Lona was born December 15th and was designated to Sector 14 Quadrant 1, it does also make pronouncing some of the names tricky to pronounce, Ilyf and Czin for example. Even with the la ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
First, this book is available through amazon uk. You should totally buy a copy to support this author, but if you are a friend, I will let your borrow my copy that I picked up while gallivanting around London and being v. posh.

A bit of a slow start, in fact I had to try three times, but I'm so glad I kept at it. The fact that this plot even happened in the author's head makes me jealous and I really appreciated her execution of a great idea.

Looking forward to the next one!
Demi Idle
Jun 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: children-and-ya
The first third of this book was very enjoyable because it was intriguing. I had high hopes.

Then it started falling apart in confusing lurches. None of the characters felt real enough for me. There were too many of them, and the reader is shown only brief glimpses through a perspective so close it almost felt like first person PoV. Lona herself didn't feel real. Too normal and mature in comparison to the rest in some scenes, flat and artificial in others.

The romance part of the story disappointe
Sep 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: guest-reviews

Stray is set in a world where orphans and abused children spend their childhoods on the government-run Path, a virtual reality experience of the ‘ideal’ childhood. This concept of using futuristic technology to solve society’s ills cheaply is both fantastic and increasingly relevant. The path follows the life of Julian, and pathers are monitored by a bureaucratic system of monitors, coping technicians (touchers) and managers.

Sixteen-year-old Lona, the main character, is a
Apr 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Stray definitely didn’t turn into the book I expected, despite the storyline it’s so much more character driven then action based. It sounds strange but reading Stray was incredibly relaxing. I got to know Lona on a much deeper level than most characters in this genre.

What I will say is that I did not get Fenn at all. Lona and Genevieve are fascinating, intelligent and brave – some of my favourite female characters in ages – and it’s all about Fenn? I could not see it at all but in the end I did
Hank Stuever
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The most productive features writer at the Washington Post's Style section (and I should know!) somehow found time to also write this absorbing, sleek novel about a future where the answer to a surfeit of neglected/abused/abandoned children is to hook them up to a virtual-reality "perfect childhood" represented by one boy's life. Then some of them escape before their cut-off date. It's a great, suspenseful read, but also heartbreaking in parts.
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great cover, and for once reading a book for the cover didn't lead to disappointment!
Jun 12, 2016 rated it liked it
this was the first book I ever borrowed from my school library in year 7 woah
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, own
See my Full review here with links:


Stray is Monica Hesse's debut novel, which was released in June 2013. Thanks to Easons for sending me this book for a review.

I did not know what to expect going into this book. I had not heard any hype or read any other reviews before I read it and that made me even more excited to read it and write my review. I also really dislike the cover. I don't picture the characters clothes in that way, neither do I pict
Ian Mond
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
What’s It About

In the near future, children who are wards of the State are sent to a complex where they’re plugged into the life experiences of Julian (a real person) who is considered to have led a normal life and is therefore the perfect role model. This is referred to as The Path. For sixteen year old Lona, being on-Path is the only world she’s ever known until she’s kidnapped by a group of anti-Path rebels.

Should I Read It?


It’s not an actively terrible novel, but it’s utterly unengaging,
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, young-adult
The Path is a virtual reality based on one boy’s memories. Lona Sixteen Always is one of the children on The Path, living Julian’s life as if it were her own. Her only experiences as herself are the moments when she’s disconnected from the system for calisthenics. There, she talks to Finn, a boy who is a few years ahead of her on The Path, sharing their memories that are identical. But one day, Lona goes Off-Path and must learn to live in a world where anything can happen.

The concept behind Stra
Stray intrigued me the moment I read the pitch. The Matrix meets The Truman Show meets Never Let Me Go? Sign me up now! Sometimes when you have these high expectations and comparisons, a book can seem to pale from how you imagined it to be and I often end up putting off reading it in a sense of almost fear, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I enjoyed Stray.

Stray is the story of Lona Sixteen Always, a Pather. Pathers are troubled children who the government have supposedly rescued. U
Nina (Death, Books, and Tea)
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Review: In this world, children who would otherwise be lost are put into the Path system, and spend 23 hours a day being Julian, a boy who lived fifty years ago and had his life deemed perfect. Lona has been on the path for sixteen years, and can’t imagine any other life. Until Fenn, a boy from her past, appears in the simulation. Deemd to have gone Off-Path, Lona is taken out of the program and thrust into a new world, uncovering secrets regarding other Off-Pathers who die before they’re ninete ...more
Michelle Sedeño
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013-4-5-stars
Originally reviewed on The Escapist.


Rating: 4.5

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 readin
Sep 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A futuristic story about a society that wants to give all of its "troubled" youth the perfect childhood so they are raised experiencing life as the child Julian. They only know what Julian has experienced and when Lona always 16 has a chance to experience "real life" the reader realizes just how much she and the other subjects have been denied. Some of the most touching moments are simple ones, when Lona feels real grass and when she meets someone who has been given a "real" name by a person. Th ...more
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this.

The world building was excellent and beautifully detailed. I thought the reasoning behind the Path programme was chillingly plausible, it disturbed me a little that I could understand the logic behind it.

I really liked the romance too - most unusual for me, normally I can take it or leave it, but I actually liked the burgeoning romance.

What I really enjoyed though was that, for a group of children who essentially had the exact same upbringing, all the Pathers were different (even
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Would recommend: Yes

This YA futuristic book was surprisingly good! And I had basically washed my hands of the genre. The dystopian elements were unique and have broad implications. I can definitely see the problem they were trying to address going off the rails like this. I'm grateful that even though there was a romantic element, it didn't drive the plot. I have the second (last) installment, Burn, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the story continues.
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Monica Hesse seems to instinctively understand the power of science fiction. She uses the advanced technology of her near future dystopia as a backdrop against which her characters' humanity contrasts sharply. It feels so real to watch these characters struggle to discover who they are amidst all the messages about who they should be.
Jan 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this, very strong concept, with a number of questions about the welfare state and the use of technology. Set up with believable, interesting characters. No easy answers are given, and I'll certainly read the sequel. In fact my only criticism is that it reads too much like a "first part" than a complete novel.
Stefanie Stokes
The characters as a result of their upbringing were very flat, there wasn't enough development of Lona and Fenn's relationship despite them knowing each other forever. I also didn't feel that there was enough history on why the Path was created.
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
I found this book very interesting. At first I was reading it very slowly but the further I got in to it, the more time I spent reading it. Not what expected at all but it didn't disappoint! Can't wait to read the next book
Elizabeth Creaghan
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star
What a strong book! A wonderful cast of characters in a believable semi-dystopian world. Reminded me of Never Let Me Go but with slightly less heartbreak and a more hopeful ending. So good, I highly recommend it.
Michelle Smith
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful. An excellent idea, worked thoughtfully with clear execution. Characters are robust and realistic, the plot reaches through to a satisfying conclusion, and the premise is intriguing. Only had one question at the end, but I think I had it sussed.
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really liked the book, but maybe not enough to give it a five star rating. I feel like the ending was a bit... overused(the girl saves the day, gets the guy, other girl doesn't get the guy), but otherwise not so bad.
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars, a really unique story that I can't wait to see continue.
Fiona M
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
A little slow at the start but such an interesting concept that it's definitely worth a read. The ending was really good.
Full review to come soon
Jan 25, 2016 rated it liked it
It took me six chapters to understand what I was reading about, was a bit too mysterious for my liking. I liked the story but it just didn't hold me enough to want to read the series I'm afraid.
marruman mc mahon
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Really good, although the style seems a little childish some times, but that really works with the character.
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Monica Hesse is the national bestselling author of the true crime love story American Fire, and the historical mystery novel Girl in the Blue Coat, which has been translated into a dozen languages and won the 2017 Edgar award in the Young Adult category. She is a feature writer for the Washington Post, where she has been a winner of the Society for Feature Journalism's Narrative Storytelling award ...more
More about Monica Hesse

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