Saturday, September 29, 2012

ARC Review: League of Strays by L. B. Schulman

League of Strays
Author: L. B. Schulman
Publication: Amulet Books (October 1, 2012)

Description: This suspenseful debut follows a group of teenage misfits in their delicious quest for revenge on those who have wronged them at their high school. When a mysterious note appears in Charlotte’s mailbox inviting her to join the League of Strays, she’s hopeful it will lead to making friends. What she discovers is a motley crew of loners and an alluring, manipulative ringleader named Kade. Kade convinces the group that they need one another both for friendship and to get back at the classmates and teachers who have betrayed them. But Kade has a bigger agenda. In addition to vandalizing their school and causing fights between other students, Kade’s real intention is a dangerous plot that will threaten lives and force Charlotte to choose between her loyalty to the League and her own conscience.

My Thoughts: This story could be subtitled "The Pied Piper Returns." Charlotte has moved to a new school for her senior year because her father was offered at partnership at a new law firm. She was more than willing to start over and get away from her nemesis Tiffany who had been teasing her since kindergarten. Unfortunately, Tiffany's family moves too and they are back together at school. Charlotte is having trouble making new friends when she receives an invitation to be part of a club called The League of Strays.

The club is the idea of Kade Harlin who is handsome and charismatic and almost hypnotizes Charlotte with his beauty. Kade has assembled a crew of loners - Zoe who wears Army gear and is dealing with an alcoholic mother, Nora who is trying to be the perfect students to make up for the suicide of her older sister, and Richie who is gay. Kade convinces them to share their life stories with each other and decides that they will band together to have revenge on those who have done them wrong. 

But the revenge plans quickly escalate beyond Charlotte's comfort level. Their first effort to get back at a teacher who is giving Nora a C- in Phy. Ed. and thus wrecking her perfect GPA turns into a major act of vandalism and causes the teacher to resign. Charlotte's conscience is bothering her but she is still so mesmerized by Kade that she goes along.

When the second plan materializes she is even more troubled. Kade decides that they need to get revenge on David who has been taunting Richie by making it look like Dave is gay. Dave ends up getting beaten up by one of his football teammates and getting a broken arm. Charlotte has even more qualms of conscience but can't believe that Kade could have known what would happen.

This is a story about peer pressure and the desire for friendship that is carried way too far. Kade is a Pied Piper-like character who convinces the others to go along with his plans. It takes quite a while for Charlotte to get out from under his spell. It takes long enough that she loses the chance to attend a prestigious music school because Kade becomes more important to her than her music. 

I was suspicious of Kade from the beginning. The facts that he was seeing a therapist, had a parole officer, and had the high school principal watching him closely sent up red flags for me. But it was also easy to see how he could convince a group of loners to become his gang. He offered them a sense of belonging and friendship that they were all hungry for. Too bad it was only because of his deep-laid sociopathic plans.

This was an engaging and compelling story that had me quickly turning the pages to find out what happens next. Fans of contemporary fiction will be the best audience for this one and I look forward to sharing it with students at my high school media center.

Favorite Quote:
"If the music thing doesn't pan out, you could be a lawyer," he said. "But you'll have to toughen up if you want to be successful."

He walked away, leaving me to wonder how a person could practice insensitivity. I waited until he was out of sight, then kicked the door shut.
I received this eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. You can buy your copy here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love getting comments. Let me know what you think.

This blog is now officially declared an Award Free zone! I do appreciate your kindness in thinking of me and I am humbled by your generosity. Your comments are award enough for me. Comment away!