Peer pressure is an evergreen theme, but it is imperfectly explored here.

LEAGUE OF STRAYS

A group of misfits is drawn together by a charismatic, sinister boy for friendship and revenge.

When narrator Charlotte Brody moves across the state in her senior year, she is virtually alone in her new school. She's wary when she receives a mysterious invitation to join the "League of Strays," but she figures she's got little to lose. The League is a truly motley crew: a gay boy and suspected drug dealer, a perpetually angry girl who always wears camouflage, the likely school valedictorian and Charlotte, a violist on the fast track to a conservatory. They are pulled together by dark and dangerous Kade, a boy with Robert Pattinson hair and absent parents. Forbidden to interact at school, they meet in secret to plan revenge against the people who have made their lives miserable—"pranks" that are not innocent even from the first, but cruel, criminal and life-threatening. Law-abiding Charlotte, though horrified, stays with the League because of both the friendship it offers and her (irritatingly mindless) attraction to Kade. Readers will spot Kade's sociopathy from the get-go, making it difficult to remain sympathetic to her. By starting the League's activities out with an act of out-and-out vandalism that turns into arson rather than lulling Charlotte and readers with relatively innocent pranks, Schulman sacrifices building tension, turning this thriller into Charlotte's drawn-out journey of self-discovery.

Peer pressure is an evergreen theme, but it is imperfectly explored here. (Fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0403-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work.

14 WAYS TO DIE

A teen sleuth tries livestreaming to catch a murderer.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Simmons lost her mother a decade ago, the first victim of the Magpie Man, a serial killer now on victim No. 13, who has struck in locations around the U.K. Her father’s life is still in shambles and her former friends are long gone, but Jessica’s decided to publicize her tragedy. One of five contestants on YouTube’s “The Eye”—an unscripted, livestreamed reality show—Jessica asks her viewers to help identify the serial killer. But inviting the world into her home and school brings unwanted attention, perhaps even from the Magpie Man, whose body count keeps climbing: Sleuthing-related drama and peril ensue. Jessica’s friends and family are economically rendered yet believable, and Ralph renders grief beautifully and devastatingly, as something that evolves but doesn’t end. As in the story, the bulk of the action occurs when the cameras aren’t rolling, and eventually, the reality show premise and its minimally developed contestants are more a distraction and transparent deus ex machina than an integral part of Jessica’s journey. More intriguing—and with real-life precedents—is the possibility of crowdsourcing a murder investigation. Although the fast-paced finale can’t quite overcome the slow start and overlong middle, the tale reaches a dramatic, satisfactory conclusion. Characters follow a White default.

An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work. (resources, author interview) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-186-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A suspenseful tale filled with Ojibwe knowledge, hockey, and the politics of status.

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FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER

Testing the strength of family bonds is never easy—and lies make it even harder.

Daunis is trying to balance her two communities: The Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, teen is constantly adapting, whether she is with her Anishinaabe father’s side of the family, the Firekeepers, or the Fontaines, her White mother’s wealthy relatives. She has grand plans for her future, as she wants to become a doctor, but has decided to defer her plans to go away for college because her maternal grandmother is recovering from a stroke. Daunis spends her free time playing hockey with her Firekeeper half brother, Levi, but tragedy strikes, and she discovers someone is selling a dangerous new form of meth—and the bodies are piling up. While trying to figure out who is behind this, Daunis pulls away from her family, covering up where she has been and what she has been doing. While dealing with tough topics like rape, drugs, racism, and death, this book balances the darkness with Ojibwe cultural texture and well-crafted characters. Daunis is a three-dimensional, realistically imperfect girl trying her best to handle everything happening around her. The first-person narration reveals her internal monologue, allowing readers to learn what’s going on in her head as she encounters anti-Indian bias and deals with grief.

A suspenseful tale filled with Ojibwe knowledge, hockey, and the politics of status. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76656-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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