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Strays Review by Kirsten West

Remy Wilkins
Canon Press

Strays, by Remy Wilkins, is a hardback young adult adventure book from Canon Press that runs 340 pages. This book could be used simply as a storybook for your teenage child. The writing is absolutely amazing, but the story overall has some plot developments that are not logically consistent; as in the final vanquishing of the prince of darkness by a seemly random event.

We started out with the idea of comparing this book with Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer character and C.S. Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters.” Shortly into the book, though, my teenage son discovered that while Strays includes demons that try to trick people with a bit of a boyish theme, the overall story is much deeper and darker.

The story begins when Rodney’s newly divorced mother takes him to live with his crazy uncle in the woods for the summer. The first sign of trouble happens when Rodney must wait for a seemingly invisible creature to get out of the doorway before his uncle will let him into the house.

Quickly, however, this story turns quite dark with themes of black wax supporting evil and golden honey acting as a defense against the demons.

Using an apiary, the demons manage to root themselves in the physical plane so that only man and strays can hurt them—they are beyond the reach of angels here. They also bring the prince of darkness to the physical plane in an attempt to destroy the world.

This is a fantastic story with tremendous imagery and great adventure but definitely not for younger readers. Even as an adult, you probably only want to read it in the light of day.

There are a few theological issues, depending on your faith, including the idea that demons can repent and be saved, and that Rodney’s uncle Ray is a saint. Further, as described in the afterward to the book, “the word translated as angel in both Hebrew and Greek first and foremost means messenger, and any time you see it in Scripture, you ought think of a human being until it becomes absolutely clear that there is no possible way it can be a human being.” Finally, everyone in the story can command the name of God and Rodney is able to use it to turn a demon into a semi-angel.

If you are fine with these theological concepts, then the book should present no other issues for older teens to read. However, you could use it as a teaching tool to discuss your theology in contrast to that of the author.

The publisher also has an Educator’s Guide which is designed to assist you and your child as you read and understand the book for a possible literature exercise. There is a pre-reading activity suggested in the guide, as well as a section laying out thematic connections and one describing additional language arts, social studies, astronomy, and vocabulary activities. The activities and suggestions in the Educator’s Guide are good for younger readers, but in my estimation, the book is best suited for older teens due to the dark themes in the story.

-Product review by Kirsten West, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2018