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Stranger (The Change #1)

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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  808 Ratings  ·  158 Reviews
Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, "the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. "Las Anclas" now resembles a Wild West frontier ...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by Viking Juvenile
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Sherwood Smith No, this is an ensemble story, with five main protagonists. The strongest female, Jennie, I don't think is obnoxious (of course you know how much to…moreNo, this is an ensemble story, with five main protagonists. The strongest female, Jennie, I don't think is obnoxious (of course you know how much to trust a writer's opinion!) at least in the sense of many dystopias: she is not obsessed with her looks, and her life doesn't revolve around guys, though she does have a boyfriend, and that relationship gets complicated. The other two main female characters have different issues. Um, very different.

We tried to turn a lot of the tropes inside out, while having fun writing about powers, and weird plants and animals, and plenty of action.(less)
Rachel Brown Yes, but the pain aspect is minor; it's present, but not constant. It's primarily a mobility issue. If you asked the character what his disability…moreYes, but the pain aspect is minor; it's present, but not constant. It's primarily a mobility issue. If you asked the character what his disability was, he probably wouldn't even mention the pain aspect, since he can largely avoid it by not over-using his disabled hand or attempting to force it past its range of motion.

Two of my other books, however, do have a major character with chronic pain. They're urban fantasy/romantic thrillers for adults, written under the pen name of Lia Silver, Prisoner (book 1) and Partner (book 2). The character is Charlie, a government-created clone whose attempt to give her super-powers backfired and gave her multiple disabilities. One was based partly on MS and partly on rheumatoid arthritis. She's a major supporting character in book one and a really, really major supporting character in book two. Her chronic pain is crucial to the plot because both she and her clone-sister (who does not have chronic pain and whose super-powers worked as intended) are held hostage by the threat of withholding Charlie's essential medical care, including pain medication. (I have chronic pain myself and have often felt that my life is held hostage with the constant threat of losing access to pain medication, which if you're American you undoubtedly already know is a very common problem here for people with pain.)(less)

Community Reviews

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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
This is a YA post-apocalyptic novel, with a mutation twist and a Wild West flavor. It's told from the alternating points of view of five different teens who live in "Las Anclas," what's left of Los Angeles, a small walled town of a little over a thousand people.

The backstory is that several generations ago, there was a worldwide disaster caused by sun flares that caused machinery to stop working and mutations (human, animals and plants) to proliferate. These mutations, called "the Change," are o
...more
Sherwood Smith
Nov 13, 2014 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: my-books
This is a collaboration, but my "rule" still holds: my review only talks about the process of writing it. Actual reviews are up to readers.

Rachel Manija Brown was working in Hollywood when she first got the idea. She’s always loved the images and story elements of Westerns— the stranger who comes to town and shakes things up, the desperate chase through the desert, the man with no name, the tough sheriff, the saloon where everyone in town comes to gossip. But she wanted one where the characters
...more
Jim
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Three years ago, Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith went public with a post about a post-apocalypic YA novel they had written together. During the submission process, they received a response from an agent who offered to represent the book, "on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation."

They refused.

Their post led to a great deal of discussion about the need for gay characters in YA literature. The agency
...more
Bill Khaemba
D.N.F. at 46%

I feel really bad for not connecting with this book, before reading I was actually really excited because my young adult streak hasn't been at it's best...


I find it very sad when you go into a book you were expecting to love but ended up disappointing you... It's like online dating, all the qualities are so good but after meeting them in person you're like...


I enjoyed the first 100 pages but what the author failed to do was balance out the world building and the character develo
...more
Annie
When I first started reading the description, this book sounded like just another cliche dystopia. Then I kept reading, and yeah, I totally want this in my hands yesterday.

Also, "the doctor can warp time to heal his patients".

The doctor can warp time.

The Doctor can warp time.*

Am I the only one laughing at this? Sorry, not sorry.

(If nothing else, that cover design is awesome.)

*Okay, not really, but I'm laughing anyway.
Andrea
Some really juicy worldbuilding in this one. A post-apoc where the mutations are out of hand - reminded me curiously of Harry Harrison's Deathworld in terms of sheer number of things trying to kill the protagonist(s). Five viewpoint characters, lots of action - took me nicely through part of the interminable plane journey home.
Wealhtheow
A young prospector stumbles across the desert, pursued by a bounty hunter. His only chance at escape is to squeeze past the singing trees--but if they touch him, he'll be dead in a day and turn into one of them.

The opening immediately hooked me, but the rest of the book takes place in a town and was really lacking in tension. The world building for this post apocalyptic YA novel is wonderfully imaginative: a sun flare stopped all machinery from working and changed life on earth. Now, every life
...more
JM
Post-apocalyptic YA. Ross is on the run from a bounty hunter. He hasn’t had anyone on his side since his grandmother died, so when he washes up in Las Anclas – a stranger in a haven of near-tolerance and a community of people trying to do their best in a lethal world – he doesn’t know how to deal with the friendship and kindness he meets in some of the people there. Some want him to stay – teenaged engineer Mia and ranger-in-training Jennie are the first friends Ross has ever had, and maybe they ...more
heidi
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, ebook, hugo, wiscon, ya
I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this book, and how much it subverted the paradigms it is a part of. I bought it because the great faith I have in Sherwood Smith to be surprising and insightful in her depiction of teenagers. I kept reading it because it was relentlessly enjoyable -- fast-paced, humane, thrilling, and tender.

It would be easy to write this off as another HungerMazeRunnerDystopiana. It's not. It is about the difficulty of being a part of a community, and heroing that involves
...more
egelantier
[reviewing an arc]

man, am i ever sorry this book is not out yet, because i want everybody to read it and then write me fics. it's a post-apocalyptic story done without this specific flair of post-ap noir despair: i've loved the vibrancy of the setting first, with deadly yet bright and lively fauna (or not always deadly: my favorites were squirrels that learned to telekinetically steal food), and small enclaves of people trying to survive. the book follows ross, a skittish, half-feral boy who end
...more
Hallie
This will still be 'to-read' when it's published next year, but just finished a reread today, and it's even better than when I read it in early manuscript form! The diversity (in multiple senses) of the set of characters is one strength, the world-building another, and the climactic battle scene at the end was so gripping I had enormous difficulty putting it down, even though this was a reread. Many different POV characters, but it never becomes confusing or weakens the tension, and it's wonderf ...more
Christina (Ensconced in Lit)
Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: author-request
I was given this book by the author after my sister recommended she send it to me in exchange for an honest review. I'm glad my sister knows my taste because I really enjoyed this book! I award it 4.5 stars.

Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith has FIVE POV's in the tale. Usually, this is a tactic that is totally lost on me because there's either not enough story for these characters (and this may play true a little bit here) or it's just not well done. But don't be deterred by the
...more
Disability in Kidlit
In the author's words:

"Ross, the hero, has PTSD and a disabled hand from an injury acquired in the first chapter. (The tendons are damaged, and he can't close his fingers to make a fist or grip tightly.)"

"Though [Ross] survives and escapes, the damage to his arm is severe and possibly permanent. Ross lives with loss of function and some amount of occurring pain. I also live with chronic pain and lost function in my arms and hands due to an old injury, and I was curious to see how such a non-stan
...more
Mason
Jul 07, 2015 added it
Wonderful read. Had to stay up extra late to finish. Excellent look at sexuality and race. Thinking is good!
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
For more reviews, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.

When the offer of Stranger came to me, I almost said no. My hopes were low. I only accepted because of my infernal, unquenchable curiosity and how interesting Stranger sounded. The blurb I saw then mentioned “squirrels that can teleport sandwiches out of picnickers’ hands,” and it was that part which made me incapable of not giving Stranger a try. Even so, I was afraid. There are a lot of dystopian and post-apocalyptic YA novels
...more
schneefink
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5
I liked this a lot! The worldbuilding is great: I love the singing trees in particular, the pit mouth is a cool monster, the post-apocalyptic setting worked for me, and just overall I thought it fit together well. At the very beginning there were imo too many PoV switches, but it surprised me how quickly I began to care about the characters. I liked both the quieter character/town and the action parts. I'm glad that there are already sequels to this one because I really look forward to readi
...more
Mike
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book or the contents of this review.

The closest comparison I can find to this book is Michael Grant's Gone, only more subtle. It's a bit of an ironic description, since Rachel Manija Brown doesn't like Gone very much. But in my mind, Grant's writing shares a lot of strengths with the writing of Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith (henceforth known as Brith, because that's l
...more
Mieneke
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, young-adult, fantasy
Stranger was one of the books I flagged in my anticipated books series six months ago and I did so solely on the basis of the above blurb. It sounded like an engaging post-apocalyptic adventure with a bit of a Weird West vibe, something that I’d enjoyed in several other books earlier in the year. And it was all of that, but it was even more than that. Because this book? This book could be the poster child for the We Need Diverse Books movement. The book features protagonists of colour, sexual or ...more
Eleanor With Cats
I love this book!!!!!

Really good story. Really good worldbuilding - I love the mysterious past stuff, and the authors must have had fun figuring out how the town works, and as for the changed magical ecology it's awesome, all the way from the carnivorous singing trees to the intelligent coyote and raccoon predators to the fireflies that come in all different colours. I loved reading Mia and Ross and Jennie, and then not only do I get good characters there's a gay romance, and then not only that
...more
Nenya
Dec 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was a lot of fun. I was slightly confused at first by the multiple points of view because there were so many of them (Ross, Mia, Jennie, Yuki, and Felicité) but that's my only complaint. The large cast is actually one of this book's strengths: it is a story with heroes in community, not just one or two people on their own. And Brown and Smith pull this off beautifully. The young people are all engaging, with a variety of goals, flaws, and personalities, and the supporting cast of other ...more
Nic
May 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Really, for me, this is more of a 2.5 stars. Otherwise, I probably would have finished it. I'm super-into the diversity - there are TONS of races and cultures here, and people of various orientation. Indeed, of the five point-of-view characters, I don't think any two are the same race, and one is gay. I'm really glad this book exists for all the people whose experiences it celebrates.

However, notice how I said "five point-of-view characters"? This book has a LOT packed into it. Lots of people, l
...more
Nicole
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
I received a copy of this from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review
Post apocalyptic western in which a young man finds refuge in a town after discovering a treasure that someone else wants badly enough to kill for. There were too many characters to follow, which never really allowed me to become invested in any of them. The characters of Mia and Jennie were too similar and I was often confused about which one I was following. The action sequences were exciting, but they
...more
Ash
Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is, without fail, the first book I recommend to anyone looking for recommendations, and the easiest five stars I've ever given. To me, characters are the most important part of every story, and this Rachel Manija Brown really knocks it out of the park with Stranger's characters. The book is written Game of Thrones-style, with alternating perspectives between a fixed number of main characters (five, if I remember correctly, though it might be four). Every single one of these perspectives pre ...more
Jessica
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the setting is pretty cool! post-apocalyptic Western LA yeah! and nearly everyone is POC, which was done pretty well imltho actually (surprisingly?)

SPOILERS SPOILERS but i was so so sure that this one character was aro/ace, since she kept being like i've never been attracted to anyone! is something wrong with me? hmmm my dad says it's okay though? -- but then in the end, she falls for this other guy and kisses him... and it's like NO WE COULD HAVE HAD IT ALLLLLLLL sigh
Marina

“Ross felt the tree before they saw it, moonlight reflecting crimson off its gemlike facets. He knew where it was like he knew his own left hand. He could even sense how far the shards could reach. And he knew it wouldn't loose those shards at him. “


I completely breezed through that book. Though it's a little over 400-pages (child's play, really), and it reads super quickly and easily. A lot of chapters are pack-full of action, and those that aren't, are just main characters furthering their
...more
La Coccinelle
Sep 05, 2015 marked it as did-not-finish
Shelves: young-adult
Years ago, I read a book by Sherwood Smith called Wren to the Rescue. I fell in love with the characters and the world the author created. That book really stoked my love for fantasy literature. So when I saw this book at the library and read the synopsis, I thought I'd give it a try... because it really sounded like my sort of thing.

But, after less than a fifth of the way in, I was struggling. Stranger is just... clumsy. After a strong start with Ross being chased by a bounty hunter through a p
...more
Nadine
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

“A needle of pain jabbed in his wrist, then shot into his forearm. Ross patted it. He tried to lift his hand, but his whole arm felt heavy.
A crystal shard was growing under this skin.”

Stranger is about a young man, a town, and fighting for survival in a post apocalyptic world. When a young man suddenly shows up near the town of Las Anclas everything changes. The town people don’t know if they should kick him out
...more
Kimberly [Come Hither Books]
I love this book!

* A dystopian landscape that isn't unrelentingly bleak
The desert is just as harsh and beautiful as ever. Mutations have made the flora and fauna even more strange and deadly, but this dystopian landscape still has moments of beauty and loveliness.

* Humanity isn't its own worst enemy
Other people can still be dangerous, but characters can give each other the benefit of the doubt and not have it be their fatal mistake. Los Anclas is a community working together against a common goa
...more
Audrey Gonzalez
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rich in Color
Review Copy: the library

The book Stranger centers on what happens when Ross Juarez, a teenaged prospector, is rescued and brought to the town of Las Anclas, a post-apocalyptic take on the classic Western setting in the desert — complete with saloons and mysterious strangers. The town is under constant threat by invaders and is walled off from the desert by huge, mechanized gates. Out in the desert, crystalline trees kill anyone who happens upon them. Inside the town, some people are Changed and
...more
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Rachel Manija Brown is the author of all sorts of stories in all sorts of genres. Most of her works are listed below, but she has also written television, plays, video games, and a comic strip meant to be silk-screened on to a scarf. In her other identity, she is a trauma/PTSD therapist.

She writes urban fantasy for adults under the pen names of Lia Silver and Rebecca Tregaron.

If you'd like to ge
...more
More about Rachel Manija Brown

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The Change (3 books)
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