Stranger

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Stranger Book Poster Image
Sci-fi/fantasy a fine blend of action and intrigue.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A few Japanese words are defined in English.

Positive Messages

Little mistakes can turn into big ones if you try to hide or ignore them. Stresses importance of family, friendship, and community bonds and loyalty to all three.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Large cast of characters who model bravery, loyalty, and resourcefulness. Some unsympathetic characters are politically ambitious and prejudiced but also do good things for the community's safety and well-being.

Violence

Large battle with arrows, guns, swords, knives, explosions; hand-fighting with blow-by-blow description. Peril from scary fantasy creatures. Mild gore describing self-surgery. Blood mentioned half a dozen times but not described in detail.

Sex

Budding romance between older teen couples of the same and opposite sexes includes a few instances of kissing. One mention of using contraception. Post-natal survival rates of mothers and newborns is low.

Language

"Ass," "butt," "hell," and "jackass" twice each. "S--t" once.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Ale's mentioned once at gathering of adults and older teens without specifying who drinks it.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stranger blends sci-fi and fantasy elements in a postapocalyptic world. With its cast of mostly 17- and 18-year-olds on the verge of adulthood, it'll most likely appeal to older teens. There's a large, climactic battle with descriptions of fighting: Blood's mentioned several times and injuries are described without gore, except in one instance when a main character has to operate on himself. A few uses of mild profanity ("ass" and "hell"), and "s--t" is used once. There's budding romance with a few kisses between older teens in same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

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What's the story?

In the future, technology's been wiped out by a geomagnetic storm, and society's rebuilt itself into scattered city-states. On the run from a bounty hunter, loner Ross Suarez is taken in by the small community of Las Anclas. While the townspeople debate whether he can stay, Ross wonders if he even wants to after being on his own for so long. The only thing certain about Ross is that he's hiding something. The mayor's determined to kick Ross out if it turns out he's Changed (a process some people go through that gives them supernatural, heightened abilities). If Ross and the townspeople can learn to trust each other, they just might be able to fend off the next attack from the ruthless neighboring kingdom.

Is it any good?

STRANGER nicely blends fantasy with science fiction and action with intrigue. Action fans will enjoy being immediately dropped into an exciting, topsy-turvy world of a young man on the run. The middle slows as the story focuses on character development and intrigue, but the end provides a big battle and the action picks back up, although some passages are hard to follow. The main characters are well established and very relatable to older teens, but the large cast and narration that jumps from one character to another sometimes make it hard to keep track of who's who.

It's an imaginative look at what might become of society without electronic technology and an entertaining story of a compelling bunch of characters. Without any in-depth exploration of classic sci-fi questions about humankind and society, it belongs solidly in the category of light reading.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why fantasies are so popular. Why do we enjoy reading them so much?

  • Las Anclas is an ethnically diverse community, but there's still plenty of prejudice toward Changed people. Do you think there will always be people who are prejudiced, or will society ever move beyond it?

  • Did you notice the book has two authors? How do you think they divided the writing? Do you think you could identify which parts were written by one person or another, or is the overall narration pretty seamless?

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