Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ferals by John Grey

Caw is a young boy who was abandoned by his parents who he assumes are dead. He has been taken in by three crows, the aptly named Glum, young upstart Screech and old, stoic Milky, a white crow who is blind. Caw can communicate with the crows in a language only they understand and their relation is mutually beneficial in that they help him keep out of trouble and he helps them scavenge dumpsters and other places for food.
Caw is content to continue with this peripatetic existence until one night he witnesses a jailbreak by three sinister individuals. This leads him into contact with a headstrong girl called Lydia whose father is the prison warden.  It soon becomes apparent however that the three escapees are not regular people- they have the power to control animals. Caw and Lydia begin to seek help to find out more information about the trio and this leads them to a sympathetic librarian, another street dweller among others.

As they learn more about the sinister trio they discover that there is a fiendish plot underway and that those events are connected to the disappearance of Caw's parents. They also learn that Caw himself has some supernatural powers when it comes to animals but he will have to learn how to control it. More importantly Caw has lived most of his life on the fringes of human society so he will have to learn to collaborate with humans.

There are some truly touching moments in this book where matters of class and belonging are explored. My heart went out to poor Caw when he visited Lydia and displayed absolutely no social grace. The librarian proved to be a very helpful character and showed that librarians in modern society are very different from the shushing, reserved characters that come to mind when one thinks of librarian. Caw's interactions with the crows was entertaining as well. Screech is aptly named and has some very funny lines.

Although the end was a bit strange I had to remind myself that this was after all a fiction novel. Caw is only thirteen years but yet survives on the street without anyone realizing. This brought to mind the increasing problem of homelessness in America's suburbs. Grey did a fantastic job of portraying a dark, foreboding city but the book is not too menacing for young readers. I recommend this book for ages 10+.

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