Stray – Monica Hesse

“‘Don’t forget about us, Lona.’
‘Of course not.’
‘If the Path is working it will be easy to forget, because We won’t matter.’ 
‘That’s not true.’
‘It is.’
He was right. Lona knew. The Path was a cajoling teacher, a relentless force. ‘If’ the Path is working. The Julian Path was always working. Fenn knew that as well as she did.”

Lona Sixteen Always has never had her own life. She spends 23 hours a day in a virtual universe as Julian; a boy who lived 50 years ago. This life has been all she has known. Until now. Fenn Eighteen Beginning was one of the first on the Julian Path to graduate, and Lona has missed him ever since. When Fenn’s face appears in Lona’s pod she misses him even more, but then he appears, pulling her out of the Path she has been on for so long to rescue her. But what does Lona know about living her own life, and whilst this one promises liberty and love, how much will Lona have to pay for her freedom? 
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I was intrigued by the premise of Stray but I wasn’t completely sure what it was about from the blurb… in fact I wasn’t sure what it was about even after I started reading… but it hooked me in fairly quickly and it was incredibly cool. 
The story is strange, it follows Lona and the ‘Path’ this path is basically a form of childcare, like fostering, which is cheaper so the government are all for it… however not everything is really as it seems and right from the start there are things that made me question the human rights nature of this world Lona was involved in. Lona and Fenn were friends but they bonded in a way that no other ‘Pathers’ did, and Talia one of the monitors noticed this, though it wasn’t her place to reprimand them for it. The people on the Julian Path were known as pod-people to outsiders and I thought that was, though derogatory, well suited. The Pathers were void of real human emotion and Lona took some getting used to because of that.
The characters were strange. Most of the were Pathers who had been brought up in a way that is completely different to what any reader will understand. However I thought that Monica Hesse did a brilliant job of showing the reader that these Pathers were still people, even if they were different. Talia, Neve, Julian and The Architect are the main people involved who aren’t Pathers and the only one I really liked from the start was Talia. I could tell there were things Talia wasn’t entirely happy about and whilst I know from the story that Talia was older and quite sensible, I saw her as quite young and loving. The Architect creeped me out the most and his presence was ominous throughout the book. For the most part he is only in very short sharp chapters but they showed so much for the story and they showed a lot of him even just on two or three pages. I really liked Fenn too but his relationship with Lona and Neve was difficult and there were times when I hated him because I was seeing things through Lona’s eyes. I think he was a good character though and worked exceptionally well within the story. 
This review may seem a little disjointed and if it does I am sorry. There’s a lot I loved about Stray but I can’t say much because I will give too much away. I loved how unique it was and it definitely isn’t something I have come across before. There was a lot to question human ethics, corporations, friendship and feelings and I really loved it. It had an element of The Truman Show and The Matrix to it but even then it wasn’t the same. I can honestly say that even though the first 50 pages or so are tough to get through because you aren’t sure what exactly is going on; the rest of the book is completely worth it! 

Stray was published by Hot Key Books on June 6th. My copy was sent from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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