Author: L.B. Schulman
Length: 288 pages
Source: eGalley from NetGalley
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.
Protagonist: After moving to a new school all Charlotte wants is a new start. However, when the girl who's done nothing but pick on you and was mean to you your whole life just so happens to move to your new school too, well, let's just say Charlotte didn't get her wish. One day she finds a not inviting her to join the League of Strays, a group dedicated to getting back at the people who've wronged them, and at first drawn to the enigmatic leader, Kade, Charlotte figures it would be nice to give bullies a taste of their own medicine. Soon, though, she finds out that revenge isn't so sweet, and that her growing feelings for Kade might lead her into greater danger. Honestly, for awhile I didn't know what to think of Charlotte. She isn't necessarily an unlikable narrator, but she's highly impressionable and while she keeps her sense of right and wrong, her judgement gets a bit clouded. Like most main characters, however, she grows and changes of the course of the book, some for the worse, but mostly for the better, finding her voice and learning when to put her foot down and decide what she wants for once. And so, I eventually grew to really like her character and the person she becomes.
Romance: This romance is rife with complications. At first, I was annoyed thinking that Charlotte's feelings for Kade were growing too fast, but before too long it's obvious why the writer wrote her character and her feelings for Kade the way she did. I don't want to give anything away, but right from the get-go, this romance felt off to me and it's clear that this isn't your typical "bad boy with a heart of gold" romance.
World Building: Going into this book I expected it to be dark, don't get me wrong, but I never expected it to be as dark as it is. I had expected a dark contemporary and instead received a dark psychological thriller. Again, I am at a loss for words on what to write for contemporary world building. The high school setting was very well designed and did a fantastic job at mixing some of the all too realistic cliches, in with a bit more grounded high school experience. I don't really know how else to explain it, but it was just at that perfect tipping point between realistic and a caricature of what people to believe is the average high school experience and it made for a very lively and realistic setting for this story. The League itself and the plans they come up with are both diabolical, but there's this sick satisfaction before the shit hits the fan where you want to see some of the people taken down a peg, but as the synopsis warns, things get out of hand really fast.
Predictability: With my unease for this story guiding me, I thought I knew a lot of what was going to happen. Not in that smug way where I think I have every twist and turn pegged out, but more in that way of since I thought I saw where the author was taking the story I thought I might be one step ahead. I wasn't completely wrong, but I wasn't right either. This book wants to trick you, scratch that, this author wants to trick you and I am nearly certain that even if you know that going in, you'll still be tricked by what goes on in this book.
Ending: I love endings like this. I especially love them in standalone novels. This is book has the type of ending where everything is really wrapped up, but not everything is an idealistic, it all worked out and there are no scars remaining, type of ending. As this book heads into the final climax it's obvious something big is coming, something that will change the story and lead it on into the final stretch. That being said, though, what I expected to be the final climax kind of wasn't. Instead, after that epic climax where things begin to shift, there's a smaller one near the end. One that begins to really end this story once and for all, and again, it ends with everything all wrapped up in a nice bow, but not before showing you that there are still consequences for the events of this book.
I wasn't expecting to give this book 5 stars. Obviously after reading it, the thought did occur, but as I wrote this review I began to realize that, of course, it gets five stars. This book was fantastic, I loved the story and the message behind it, and I love that the message wasn't a huge thing constantly beating the reader over the head and... now I think I've run out of things to say. If you're looking for a great YA psychological thriller, look no further than League of Strays. P.S. I'm seriously kicking myself right now for not picking this book up sooner.