2nd Nov 2012
League of Strays by L. B. Schulman
League of Strays is L. B. Schulman’s first novel, a tense teen drama about the cost of fitting in.
Charlotte leaves behind a modest, quiet popularity and a comfortable, middle-class routine when she transfers to a new high school in her senior year. Now near invisible, the only person Charlotte knows in her new life – other than her well-meaning but smothering parents – is her fellow transfer student and life-long nemesis, Tiffany.
Coolly confident and Barbie-beautiful, Tiffany has bullied Charlotte since childhood, and quickly glides into their new school’s prom queen elite. On the other hand, Charlotte, a dedicated musician, has only her viola as company, and clings to her dream of escaping to a prestigious music school.
But Charlotte’s claustrophobic world opens up when she receives an anonymous letter inviting her to a mysterious late-night meeting. She arrives in a dimly-lit park to find a gathering of other social misfits: grieving and unloved straight-A student Nora; abrasive, grungy Zoe, from the wrong side of the tracks and carer to her alcoholic mother; the reputed local drug dealer, misunderstood and thinly-closeted Richie; and ring-leader Kade, who called them all together to join his League of Strays, a pretty boy with an ugly past.
Kade invites the group to right the wrongs that have been done to them by their classmates and teachers; together they can join forces to take revenge on the Tiffanys of the world. United, they are stronger and fiercer than each lonely member could hope to be on their own.
Aside from the lure of a shared goal – and the promise of desperately needed friendship – almost all the members of the League fall immediately under Kade’s spell.
Beautiful and mysterious, he has the alluringly-tortured-teenaged-boy thing nailed down, and at least two silly girls and one silly boy swoon at his feet.
Kade pulls his League closer with his dreamy eyes and precision-styled hair, and uses their sexual jealous to play them off of each other.
Charlotte fears and wants revenge, as much as she fears and wants Kade; she struggles with doubts that what she is doing – and who she is doing it with – is deeply wrong, while still relishing the feeling that this spiralling out of control is, at last, really living.
Although the desire for belonging is relevant to people of all ages, this novel likely has more to offer to young adults than to older audiences.
It doesn’t delve much into the deeper psychology of peer pressure, or the sexiness of fear and revenge, but ultimately doesn’t feel like it’s meant to. League of Strays maintains a steady level of suspense throughout, and would make a fast-paced, entertaining read for young people.
League of Strays is published by Amulet Books in hardcover for £8.99.
Recommended for: Anyone who’s felt like a misfit, or fallen for sociopathic teenage boys.
Other recommended reading: William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, that classic tale of teenaged group-mentality gone bad.