By Sue Campbell
I suspect that the reviewers who have negatively reviewed League of Strays by L.B. Shulman have most likely not read the book in its entirety, or perhaps their "educations" have battered them into a state of "political correctness" such that whenever mere mention of issues like gay bashing or retaliation for bullies are even mentioned then a fuse is immediately ignited. As a long-time educator and librarian and now in my capacity as a children's and young adult book consultant, I find this particularly sad. Issues such as these are BEST placed on the pages of a book where readers can safely explore. To be against "bully" retaliation is not the point. To despise gay bashing is not the point. And,these are certainly not reasons to form a conclusion about a particular book without giving it a fair and objective reading. These are issues that, sadly, exist in our society and not in a small way! I encounter them on an everyday basis. A well-written book, as League of Strays is, can shed light on these vexing issues. And Kade?
Do we not believe that "Kades" are alive and well in our world? Then how does one account for a Jim Jones and who were those people who drank his poisonous kool-aid? Could it be that they were lonely and vulnerable individuals, who fell right into the hands of a charismatic sociopath? Isn't this something
of which lonely, vulnerable teenagers (such as the characters in this book) should be made aware?
And, what about the heroine of this story? With all of her particular personal issues, the strength that she was finally able to demonstrate could best be termed "admirable." If "you" are a lonely, vulnerable teenager who met a Kade, would you be able to show the same strength? Perhaps you would if you had already met this character in a book and been forewarned. That reason alone would justify the existence of this excellent book. But maybe, just maybe, the readers of League of Strays will gain a new perspective on the issues of gay bashing and bullying and learn to be a part of the solution. One certainly has a right not to read a particular book, but I hope that reviews will not be knee jerk reactions, rather made after a thorough, objective and fair reading of such.