Lee's Reviews > League of Strays

League of Strays by L.B. Schulman
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's review
Jun 22, 2012

really liked it
Read in June, 2012

The League of Strays is a wonderful debut novel from LB Schulman. It deftly addresses what happens when some of the well known pitfalls of High School are augmented with potentially unscrupulous intentions. Alienation, the need to find one’s crowd and friends, peer pressure and developing one’s identity are all combined into a tasty meal of a story. It is a story of growth perfect for the YA audience it is intended for.

While the cast of characters are clearly recognizable – the brain, the pretty outcast, the doting mom – Schulman does a nice job of building depth in each character engendering empathy and understanding from the reader. I’ve read many books where I enjoyed the story, but didn’t care about many of the characters. This wasn’t one of them. I was especially impressed with the character of Richie, a well imagined, gay teenager living in a Midwest town that won’t really try to understand that some differences aren’t bad.

Homophobia does appear in this book. So does understanding and acceptance. I believe these scenes in the novel are central to the plot and the experience of the reader. It’s a different world than when I grew up – one of my class mates came out my junior year and caused a huge stir. Now, I believe it is important for our children to understand the basics of sexuality and understanding so that high school has the chance to become less hostile and more welcoming. I think kudos are in order for showing what can happen when understanding is short changed for fear and mob mentality. Showing a young reader what often happens can help eliminate hate. I believe it helps the YA reader learn and make up their own mind. Even as adults, athletes stay in the closet, afraid to enrage their teammates. Pretending that doesn’t exist is disingenuous at best.

I especially appreciated the way teenage alienation and peer pressure were layered into the story. Too often the pressure to “fit in” is either ignored or not given enough attention. This is the underlying heart of the story. As someone who didn’t always fit it, the story rang true and didn’t over simplify the issue to characters suddenly solving all of life’s issues. Sometimes, making progress is a result worth celebrating. Peer pressure has rarely been as simple as “have a smoke” or “take the joint.” It often has more to do with activities, friends and bullying. League of Strays hits the mark on its portrayal of peer pressure and what it does to teens.

I really enjoyed the book and I believe its intended audience will too. And so will their parents.
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