Can I Stray book cover

«Can I Stray» is a contemporary fiction by Jenna Adams. It combines such themes as coming of age, self-destruction, self-esteem, willpower, abuse, and the existence of good people.

Firstly, a disclosure. I was one of the beta readers of this book. I read Jenna's draft and gave her my feedback so she could improve her work before publication. Now, as the final version hit the shelves, I bought it, read it again, and share with you my impressions.

Secondly, a short version for the lazy ones. I like the book. It made me smile a lot; it made me think; it made me sad at times. But you should be aware that this book is a narrated story, meaning that the main characters are telling their story like they would tell it to a friend or a journal. Personally, I prefer no narration at all: just thoughts, feelings, sounds, and smells of the world I read about. But you have your own preferences.

And you should also be ready to skip quite a number of chapters. One of the characters seizes to be active somewhere closer to the end of the tome. I felt no joy reading about them moving in circles, so I just skipped those chapters. I did not close the book because the second main character remained intriguing, and I was always curious about what would happen to them. Of course, you may disagree with me and find both characters worthwhile. To each their own. I do not regret the time I've spent reading. You may agree with me.

Now, let me say what Jenna does very well. There will be no major spoilers.

The book begins with a therapy session. It tells us that Brooke, the first main character, is going to go through either a healing process or a destructive one. The room Brooke's in, her thoughts, her therapist — everything is intriguing. With that prologue, Jenna managed to pique my interest in a very natural and easy way.

After that, we learn that each new chapter may be told from a different point of view. I immediately theorized that we would live through the same experiences, seeing them in a different light, and that made me even more excited.

Jenna successfully showed the contrast between the main characters. One is certain about the future but shy in the present. The other has a lot of friends in the present but is uncertain about the future. I immediately wanted to learn where those differences would lead them.

Jenna created several masterful scenes that perfectly transmit the feelings of the situation. The happiness of being with someone and being recognized, needed, and loved. The despair of being rejected, being unworthy, inadequate, hated, blamed, and guilty. The awkwardness and shyness from the lack of experience, the lack of realization that you're allowed to have those feelings, to do those things.

Jenna made sure that the characters and their experiences were different. Some are rash, others more reserved. Some are sympathetic and patient, others selfish or inconsiderate. The good news is mixed with the bad news. Jenna describes not just the main heroes but also their families and friends, for they sometimes help paint the whole picture.

The starting sentences of the new chapters are often unexpected, thought-provoking, and connected with the previous chapter. It reinforces my desire to learn more.

To illustrate her point even more, Jenna used plays by Shakespeare and songs. They often accompany what heroes are going through, and the match is always on point.

Jenna uses not only language but also formatting. Some parts of the book are formatted like plays. Some chapters are extremely short and serve to show the irregular emotional state of the characters. I found these writing devices very interesting and effective.

As you can see, the book has plenty going for it. But let me tell you what Jenna does badly.

I already told you that one of the main characters loses my interest somewhere in the third quarter of the book.

In many cases, there is no flow between sentences and paragraphs. Jenna does not smoothly guide us from place to place but jumps between them. Smooth guidance is usually done using filler words or changing the word order, but you won't find any of that here. It wasn't very annoying, but it was noticeable.

Sometimes, I felt that the characters knew a little too much, which annoyed me. Yes, they always had a legitimate way of learning what they were discussing. But the fact that I always thought that they had no time yet to learn some fact, that they did not ask yet, that they were not told yet — it was a bit annoying. Sure, I get it; they were told those facts. I just wish it was mentioned or better implied.

At times, the characters' descriptions of their feelings were way too weak. A character may have said that they felt devastated, but such a line clearly could not convey the strength of such emotion. Sure, there are a lot of places where the characters' feelings were shown correctly by using body language, thoughts, and proper words. I just wish the book would always do that.

My final problem is that even though Brooke's growth and healing process is shown well for the most part, in some places, she gets better in jumps. I would prefer to see the whole process.

And that is it! As I already said, the overall book is good. I've read it twice now and still enjoyed it a lot. I actually missed Brooke and some other characters. If I can say something like that about the book, then it is surely worth buying.

Available on

Amazon link Amazon link