Review, Spotlight Tour, & Giveaway: The Dogs by Allan Stratton

I was contacted by a representative at Sourcebooks who asked if I wanted to participate in this blog tour. I gladly accepted and had a chance to give you all a little sneak peek at the book before it is published in the US. I have left the excerpt at the bottom of the post, along with some information about the author.

I have also included the link to a Rafflecopter giveaway, which you can enter for a chance to win a copy of the book. Unfortunately, this will be restricted to US & Canada entrants only.

Publication Date: February, 2015 (US: September 1, 2015)

Constantly on the run from a dangerous father, Cameron’s used to pushing away the trauma of his past. But when his mother moves them to an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, he discovers that there are some things you can’t escape.

His new schoolmates taunt him about the bloodthirsty dogs that supposedly haunt the farm, and Cameron soon stumbles upon a child’s drawings in the cellar that depict a violent history. The line between reality and nightmare begins to blur as the house’s horrifying secrets mix with fragments of Cameron’s own memories—some best left forgotten.

I am not being paid for this review. I was contacted by a representative at Sourcebooks to give my honest opinion of the book. Any and all opinions are entirely my own.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I first heard about this on Katytastic's channel as one of her most anticipated books of the year. The way she described it made me want to pick it up when it came out, so you can imagine how excited I was to see this on NetGalley. My excitement grew when I was approved for an e-ARC, and again when I was approached about the blog tour.

I didn't really know what to expect when I started this book. I had heard a couple of different synopses before picking it up, so I was actually slightly confused about what this book was actually about. The entire time before I read this book, I thought that it was a story about a kid and his mom running from his dad. It is about that, but there's also a whole lot more to the story than just that.

I really liked how this started off. It gripped me pretty early on and kept me reading, even though I was really creeped out. See, when you're reading in bed at 1AM, with nothing on besides the yellow-light lamp beside you and your laptop, things can get pretty scary. I kept imagining that someone would grab me if I left my bed, or that I would wake up to feel someone watching me. Luckily, none of that happened and I had a good night's rest (mostly on my back so that I couldn't be caught off guard by anything).

This is my first time reading a book from the POV of a character who might not be all that reliable. I know that unreliable narrators in books are kind of popular now, but I haven't read any of the popular ones. It was a very interesting way of watching things unfold. The entire time, I kept wondering if any of it was real, or if everything could just be in the boy, Cameron's, mind. There were even times when I questioned if he was mentally stable.

The story kept me engaged, even prompting me to come up with some of my own theories, a few of which were absolutely ridiculous and completely impossible. Few books have made me theorize like that, and I really liked that. It was fun to try to figure things out from all the crazy snippets that I got in the book. And it was even more fun because I didn't always know what was going on, if certain information could be trusted or not. All the way till the end of the book, I was still questioning if it was possible that the information they had was wrong and that everything was still a lie.

Creepiness is something that you should be expecting in this book, and if you're someone who gets scared easily or has an over-active imagination (like myself), then don't read this at night. You won't be doing yourself any favors by reading this in the dark, with a single light on. I'm sure that plenty of you guys are totally fine with creepiness or horror in books, but coming from someone who has never been able to watch a horror movie in her entire life, there is a certain creeping factor to the book. Not the "impending doom" kind of feeling, but the "someone is watching you, but if you turn around they will be gone" kind of feeling. The one that lingers in the back of your mind.

There was a point when I was reading the book at night that I questioned why I was so scared. Yes, I have an over-active imagination, but I'm also not someone who is easily scared. People have spent years trying to scare me, only to fail each time. And it's not like the idea of death or corpses scare me either. I've read adult Mystery & Thriller books and had no problem with that. I watch Criminal Minds, which is someone famous for how gruesome the killers and murder scenes can be. I can sit through episodes of The Vampire Diaries, watching vampires rip each other's heads off (literally). Bones used to be one of my favorite shows, and seeing all those skeletons can be pretty scary at times. I've watched Teen Wolf, all of it, which includes the really creepy season 4 and progressively creepier season 5 that is currently airing. Grimm rarely scares me anymore, and for goodness' sake, I've watched Attack on Titan! Why was I still so freaked out? I don't even know.

That being said, I still really enjoyed the book. I read it in less than 24 hours, flying through it in pretty big chunks. It's not a super big book, so it really only took me about 4 hours in total to read the whole thing. Maybe even less time than that. The mystery surrounding the plot keeps you interested enough to keep going, and the narration makes you question what you know from the book.

There were a couple of things that prevented me from giving this book 5 stars though. One of them was that I didn't feel connected to any of the characters. I couldn't relate to any of them and felt that there were mostly just...characters, they were just there, it wasn't any special. The other thing is something that I've been encountering more and more lately, which is character descriptions being completely unknown. I have no idea how any of the characters look, including the main character. Not even a basic description comes to mind when I think back through the book. Heck, I don't even know how old he is. I'm guessing that he's around 15, because they mention that he attends a high school, but doesn't drive. But come on, it's not that hard to describe your character to us, is it? There's only one character that I really know the description of, and he doesn't even appear in every chapter. I've wondered if it's possible that I read the character description and just don't remember it, but I don't think that's the case because I always notice character descriptions. I'm one of those readers who really likes to have an exact, clear image of a character, and I can't do that without paying attention to descriptions, which seem to be missing from this book.

I liked Cameron decently enough. I didn't really feel anything for him, but he did interest me a lot. He was one of the most intriguing parts of the story, and I think that I mostly continued reading because I was so curious about what was going on with him. I think he's someone I would like to talk to in real life, someone I'd like to get to know because I find him so interesting. Not in a creepy way though, because I think he's dealt with enough creepiness in his life.

4 stars. I do recommend this if you're a fan of thrillers and slightly creepy stories. It's also fun if you like narrators who aren't the most reliable. But if you're someone who gets freaked out more easily, this might be something you want to save for Halloween, or possible steer clear from entirely.

Thank you to NetGalley for hosting this on your site. Thank you also to Sourcebooks for approving my request to read this in exchange for an honest review and giving me the chance to participate in this spotlight tour.

About the author:
Allan Stratton is an internationally published playwright and author. His awards include a Michael L. Printz Honor Award, multiple ALA picks and the Independent Publisher Book Award


I go up to my bedroom. It’s at the top of the living-­room stairs, next to a small bathroom and near the big room over the kitchen. That’s the room Mom thought I’d pick, and I would have, except for the trapdoor in the ceiling. It’s sealed up with nails and paint. When I saw it, I asked Mom what she thought was up there.  

“An attic.”

“Yeah, but what’s in it?” I pictured a dried-­up body, half eaten by mice. I mean, who seals up an empty attic?

Anyway, that’s why I didn’t choose the big room. If I don’t see the hatch, it’s easier not to think about what’s on the other side. The bedroom I picked came with an oak desk, a wooden chair, a night table with a lamp, and a metal-­frame bed. The mattress is new, unlike the wallpaper, which is stained and peeling along the seams near the window. Under the peels are layers of older wallpaper, one with little orange canaries on it. The window over my desk is the one good thing about my room. Looking out, I can see the barn with the fields all around and the woods in the distance. At night, the stars and the glow of the porch-­lamp light up bits of the barn and the first row of cornstalks.

I start to do my homework. Pretty soon, though, I’m looking out the window, watching the stars come out and trying to forget my life. I wonder who all are staring up at the moon right now. Are they wondering the same thing? Out of the corner of my eye, I catch something moving by the barn. When I look, it disappears.

Wait. There it is again at the cornfield. Some movement, some thing. I count to twenty. Nothing. I relax. Then—­did that stalk move? I turn off my light so whatever’s out there can’t see in. It’s probably just a breeze. Or Mr. Sinclair. Or Cody and his gang. Don’t be nuts. If it’s anything, it’s an animal. A coyote or a dog. The dogs.

I close my curtains. If I don’t look out, whatever’s there will go away. But I can’t not look. I sneak a peek. Nothing. Wait. By the barn. Is that a boy? I blink. The boy is gone.

My eyes scan the barn. There’s a missing board up in the loft area. The more I stare, the more I think I see the boy staring back at me from the shadows behind the hole. He’s maybe ten, very pale, and he’s wearing one of those old Davy Crockett hats with the raccoon tail hanging from the back. Are those freckles on his cheeks?

Don’t be crazy. The barn’s too far away to see stuff like that. The face disappears. I stare till I see double. The face swims back into view. This is too weird. I close my eyes and try to clear my head by thinking about the bus and the Cheerios between Benjie’s teeth. When I open my eyes, everything’s normal. There’s no face. Nothing. Just the night. And that’s how it stays.

I close my curtains, get ready for bed, and crawl under the covers. I hate the way I scare myself. It’s always the same and it’s always stupid. And the scared-­er I get, the more I talk to myself, which is even stupider. Besides, even if there was a boy in the barn, what’s scary about that? Maybe he just likes exploring places like I do. Still, it’s weird he’s on our property, especially so late. I wonder where he lives. Who says he lives anywhere? Who says he’s real? What parents let a kid that young wander around at night?

Mom knocks on my door. “Cameron?”


“May I come in?”

“Sure.” I know she wants to give me a good-­night hug, but I told her to stop it when I was twelve, so she just stands in the doorway.

“I know you didn’t mean anything. You’ve had a hard day. I’m sorry I overreacted.”

I hate it when she’s all understanding. It makes me feel like an even bigger jerk. “That’s okay. Mom, I really am sorry.”

“I know.” She pauses. “’Night, then. I love you.”

I want to say the l-­word back, but I feel dumb, so I just say, “You too.”

Mom closes the door. I go to turn off my lamp and get flashes of Mr. Sinclair and the dogs and the kid I maybe saw in the barn. What’s out there in the dark, circling the house when we’re asleep? What could be out there? I leave the light on.

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