League of Strays

Title: League of Strays
Author: L. B. Schulman
Publisher: Amulet
Publication Date: October 1, 2012
Pages: 288
Genre: Contemporary
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/5

When lonely, seventeen-year-old Charlotte Brody receives a mysterious invitation to join a friendship-promising group called the League of Strays, she is immediately intrigued. She and the other group members come under the care of Kade Harlin, a young boy determined to help them hash out revenge on everyone who has ever hurt them. But, Charlotte soon questions Kade’s true intentions as his plots grow more and more cruel.

Inevitably, the plot of this book led me to compare it to the last NetGalley book I reviewed, also about a sinister group of high school pranksters. While I can say that this book certainly delivered what Circle of Silence failed to, it still did not reach its full potential.

To start with, I absolutely could not stand the narrator. Though she was the protagonist of the story, Charlotte was boring and predictable, not what an author wants if they’re trying to create a complex character.

From the start, you know that Charlotte is pretty much doomed. Really, what other sort of fate could you imagine for a character who is naive enough to meet a bunch of people she doesn’t know in the middle of the night in a remote park? I hated the way she was immediately drawn into the group by Kade’s supposed charm and charisma. Throughout the entire story, it seemed to me the only reason she was in the group in the first place was because she found Kade attractive.

This is something that really bothers me about relationships between teenagers in the majority of today’s young adult literature. If you look at really popular books, for example, Twilight, you will notice that the main reason a girl stays with a boy is because of his looks. Like in Twilight, Charlotte and Kade’s relationship is abusive as well. She stays with him though she knows that he is only interested in furthering his personal agenda.

But, to be fair, Charlotte is not the only one seduced by Kade. The entire group seems to be under his spell, and they all seem to be romantically attracted to him in some way, except for maybe Zoe. This was something else I did not appreciate about the story: though the book was narrated by Charlotte/Charlie, it was really about Kade, as often happens in young adult books where there is any romance.

Even after she finds a letter describing his sociopathic behavior, Charlotte waits too long to do something about it. From the beginning, it is made clear that Charlotte is the token “good girl”, and it just didn’t seem believable that she would switch sides so quickly. I also wish the author had played up Charlotte and Tiffany’s relationship more, as well as further emphasized her loneliness, which is what supposedly prompted her to join the League in the first place.

Besides all that, it really concerned me that the members of the League didn’t struggle more with the morality of what they were doing. Even though Charlotte eventually admitted to herself that she didn’t like where the group was headed, I feel Schulman could have made that struggle a bit more prominent. All Charlotte seemed to care about was Kade: her relationship with him, his past, etc. It took a whole abduction for her to really start challenging him.

So, while this book was certainly more interesting than Circle of Silence, it still didn’t do much for me except make me frustrated at the way teen girls are portrayed in young adult literature. An all-around disappointing read.

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