Rating: 3.5 stars

Brutal and beautiful, Stray is the true story of a girl who runs away and finds herself.

After growing up in a dysfunctional and emotionally abusive home, Tanya Marquardt runs away on her sixteenth birthday. Her departure is an act of rebellion and survival—whatever she is heading toward has to be better than what she is leaving behind.

Struggling with her inner demons, Tanya must learn to take care of herself during two chaotic years in the working-class mill town of Port Alberni, followed by the early-nineties underground goth scene in Vancouver, British Columbia. She finds a chosen family in her fellow misfits, and the bond they form is fierce and unflinching.

Told with raw honesty and strength, Stray reveals Tanya’s fight to embrace the vulnerable, beguiling parts of herself and heal the wounds of her past as she forges her own path to a new life.

This memoir was overall an enjoyable read for me. What made this memoir enjoyable is the way Tanya opens about all the troubles she dealt with throughout her adolescence. She covers everything-from the abusive and emotional manipulation she experienced from her parents to her issues with alcohol addiction to cutting. I also found it relatable to any young girl having similar experiences and found I could relate to some of the struggles she was dealing with. Her memoir, however, isn’t for the faint of heart so if you have any triggers, her story more than likely isn’t for you. But if you decide to give it a read anyway, tread carefully.

I also found learning about the gothic scene through the eyes of an adolescent interesting. I knew absolutely nothing about it prior to reading her words, and she was able to paint a picture of what it was like being goth during her younger years in a way that made sense to me. And while I didn’t appreciate the amount of alcohol and cigarettes she seemed to consume, I found the party scenes with her friends very interesting. I found it was a good way for me as the reader to learn more about Tanya and her friends since there wasn’t much in the story to give me an inkling of their relationship to each other.

What bothered me about Stray: Memoir of a Runaway is how misleading the synopsis of this memoir is to the reader. Yes, Tanya runs away from her mother. However, she goes to live with friends from school, and her mom knows where she is the whole time she left. There is nothing about her situation that I would consider would make her a runaway and it doesn’t even play that much of a role in the overall plot of what Tanya goes through. She also eventually lives with her father, but only because in her memoir she says he lets her do what she wants while her mother doesn’t.

I was also bothered by the lack of transition regarding her life. She apparently overcomes all the problems most of the memoir mentions, but there’s nothing specific in the story itself that pinpoints what causes these changes in her life. I know in one part of Stray, she mentions to one of her teachers that she writes poetry and begins to go to that teacher’s classroom during lunch to share what she’s written. Otherwise, there’s nothing in her memoir at all that shows to me as a reader how she comes to be the person she is today, and how she overcomes all the challenges she’s had to deal with in life. And that bothers me because I feel like we learn more about her when she’s rebelling against her parents versus when she’s able to make the changes to her life that result in her becoming successful. It bothers me because I want to find out those details about her in her memoir and I didn’t get them.

However, I did enjoy reading Stray: Memoir of a Runaway. It captured my interest as a reader and was a nice first book to get back to since my unexpected reading hiatus. I recommend this book to readers who want to hear about someone’s personal struggles without words being minced and people who also want to learn more about the gothic aspects of the story that I knew nothing about going into this read.