From Goodreads: 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.
This novel really blew my mind. I think part of the reason it affected me so much is because, as a high school teacher, I see students try to fit in and impress their peers all the time by doing incredibly silly, dangerous things. Thank God it’s never gone to the extent of Kade’s group, but I can understand where Schulman’s characters are coming from, and I can see how easily they can be misled when they’re looking to fit in. In reality, something like this really could happen, and probably does, as scary as that seems. But, rest assured, most of the population isn’t like this at all, however, it only takes one charismatic leader to twist the minds of others (take Hitler, for example), and where better to start than with those who are yearning for a friend, looking to fit in? It’s very easy to fall for the charismatic, good looking, sweet talking person; it happens to people all the time, and that’s exactly what Charlotte finds as she gets to know Kade.
Now, I do believe that Charlotte and her friends were extremely naïve. Charlotte, for example, wanted to fit in so badly that she ignored the many warnings signs that presented themselves, changing her entire persona, but so did everyone else, and when you’ve grown up completely shelter all your life, you’re going to be naive and miss the warning signs. It’s no different than an abusive boyfriend—why do girls go back to the boy time and time again? Feelings that they fit in? Feelings of love? Afraid no one else will ever like them? Scared for their own life? Been there, but I was lucky enough to have real friends to help me out of the situation. Charlotte doesn’t. Big difference. And so, I completely understand where all the characters in this novel are coming from, even Kade, with his psychotic tendencies… he’s no good. Just no good. But with his background, it doesn’t surprise me he acts the way he does. In fact, I think Schulman got her characterization exactly right, and that’s what makes this novel so amazing.
I loved how I was on pins and needles from start to finish. From worrying about the initial meeting to worrying about the police and Charlotte’s safety, every page sucked me in and I couldn’t read this one fast enough. While I cringed at Kade’s directions and the luster with which the League of Strays complied, save Charlotte, I found myself easily drawn into the story. And what I really loved about this novel is that it very blatantly shows the reader what not to do in their own lives. As it’s YA, and I see so many young women nowadays falling into terrible relationships because they just don’t know any better… it really is beneficial for them to see just how detrimental falling for someone like Kade can be. So even though the story is dark, as is the message, it’s one our society really needs to hear. Especially when it deals with revenge. Who hasn’t wanted to get revenge on someone? But I believe this novel shows readers exactly why revenge is a terrible thing. In my opinion, this is a must read. Five stars.
Abrams and Amulet Books have both been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release tomorrow, October 1, 2012.