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All Book Reviews

Dead End in Norvelt
Gantos, Jack
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Dead End in Norvelt is a very good story about a boy named Jack Gantos (the author gave the character his own name as it is a somewhat true story) who lives in the 1960s in a little town called Norvelt, founded by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. When Jack is grounded for the summer for using his dad’s WWII binoculars to watch a war movie at the drive in that he couldn’t go see, and then proceeding to accidentally shoot a WWII Japanese rifle at the screen, he receives an unusual chore as a punishment: typing obituaries for old Miss Volker across the street. Jack is told that it was Miss Volker’s duty to Mrs. Roosevelt to type the obituaries of all of Norvelt’s original citizens before she moves away or passes away. While busying himself typing the obituaries and having to spend the rest of his time in his room, he still manages to go on strange misadventures with his friends, family, and neighbors involving a two seater airplane, a plastic skeleton, cornstalks, dead rodents, poisonous mushrooms, Hells Angels, a Halloween costume, Girl Scout cookies… and murder? This is a one of a kind book, so I can’t really recommend it to people who like a certain genre, however, if you are looking for an unusual, funny, interesting, and sometimes creepy murder mystery book disguised as a realistic fiction novel, Dead End in Norvelt is a great book for you.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jacob U.
Genres:
The Breadwinner
Ellis, Deborah
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Breadwinner is an excellent story about a young girl named Parvana and her family living in the Afghanistan that was under rule of the Taliban, an extreme religious group, from 1996 to 2001. Parvana and her sisters and brother and mother and father used to live in a giant house before it got bombed and they had to move to war torn Kabul. They scraped by for a long time by living in a one room house and her father selling some of their old things and reading and writing for others (most people there can’t read or write) with Parvana’s help in the marketplace. When her father is kidnapped by the Taliban soldiers because he went to England for his education and supposedly has “foreign ideas”, the family has no one to work for money, as the Taliban forbid women to leave the house without a man. Their solution- cut Parvana’s hair and dress her in her dead older brother’s clothes so she can go out and work for money. The book goes on to describe her many adventures working in the marketplace and doing strange odd jobs such as digging up human bones and trying to sell cigarettes and gum at what she thinks is a soccer game but is really a gruesome event. I would definitely recommend this book to people who are interested in world conflict and fiction based on relatively recent events. Overall, a really good story.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jacob U.
Awards:
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Avi
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I honestly was not expecting this to be as good of a book as it was. I guess I was thinking it would be more like Treasure Island (which I didn’t like too much). It actually turned out to be a really good story about a twelve year old girl named Charlotte Doyle who has booked a voyage with two other families on the Seahawk ship to return home from her school in England to see her family. Charlotte then discovers that the two other families have mysteriously cancelled their trip, making her the only girl on the ship. She then has many adventures on the Seahawk with the shipmates and the cruel Captain Jaggery involving a silver dirk, storms at sea, muskets, round robins, watery coffee… and possibly murder. I highly recommend this book to anybody who likes historical fiction, books told in diary form, books about seafaring, or is just looking for a good book to read.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jacob U.
Rules
Lord, Cynthia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This great Newberry Honor and Schneider Award winning book was recommended to me because I really enjoyed the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and I definitely will say that if you are a fan of that book, you will love Rules. Rules is a story about a twelve year old girl named Catherine who has a younger brother named David with serious autism and has to cope with his actions such as opening all the doors in other people’s houses to shouting out the film ratings in the video store. These experiences had her take to teaching him little “rules” like “Keep your pants on in public” and “No toys in the fish tank” to try to get him away from his embarrassing behavior. Catherine is exited but also worried because a girl her age will be moving into the neighborhood, but she is afraid that David might mess up her chance at a friendship if he acts the way he sometimes does. One day she is waiting with her mom for David to finish with his OT exercises at the clinic when she makes a new “almost friend” named Jason who is in a wheelchair and can’t speak by getting caught sketching him in the waiting room and then going. She eventually begins to make new word cards for the communication book he uses. The book goes on to describe all the experiences that she has with her brother, her family, and her new found friends in life. This book is very, very good and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who liked Wonder.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jacob U.
Genres:
The Mysterious Benedict Society
Stewart, Trenton Lee
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Oddball children with specific circumstances. A strange series of tests only some can pass. When these children see an advert in the newspaper asking for children with smarts, these parentless kids meet by chance. Soon after, they get thrown into a world of futuristic danger and must solve one problem after another the only way children can-creativity.

I very much enjoyed this book because while reading, you are just as much lost in the confusion as the characters are! You go through the tests and the challenges with the mains, and the twists never stop coming, yet somehow intricately connect in the end. This book makes you look at the world with more imaginative eyes, and you see the more creative solutions to problems as you take inspiration from the characters. Upon seeing the cover, I was already intrigued, and reading the synopsis only further increased my curiosity. Not at all predictable, yet still an easily-followable plot line, this book was a fantastic read from start to finish.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Molly Q.
Genres:
Fitzpatrick's War
Judson, Theodore
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a steampunky, military sci-fi novel that takes place in the 25th century and chronicles the life of Sir Robert Mayfair Bruce, an military engineer working for the United Yukon Confederacy, a vast empire that controls all of North America and large parts of the rest of the world. The book is written as a historical memoir/biography that has come under scrutiny for supposedly lying about the life of one the Confederacy's greatest leaders, an Alexander the Great-like young man named Fitzpatrick who is viewed as a hero many years after the events in Robert Bruce's publication. The novel is made even more intriguing by the fact that it is "annotated" by a fictional scholar who frequently refutes the facts described by Bruce. This begs the question "Do we want the 'nice' version of history, or the truth?"

Bruce is as excellent narrator, generally engaging and observant, and it is easy to see why he is so charmed by Fitzpatrick. His motivations are clear and his interactions with other characters are authentic and believable. That said, it is occasionally annoying that he lets his love interest, Charlotte, boss him around so much, but other than that, he is likable and real. (If you like Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby, you'll probably like Bruce.) Speaking of Charlotte, I think she was one of this book's only major weaknesses. She seems unrealistically perfect -- intelligent, witty, independent, defiant, feisty, and not much else. She has an unhealthy amount of control over Bruce to the point that the reader questions his abilities as a leader since he seems to have no backbone when it comes to Charlotte's manipulation and he does everything she tells him without question, in spite of the fact that she isn't terribly likable. Fitzpatrick himself was well-done. His charismatic, megalomaniacal character develops subtly over the course of the book, and his rise and fall, involving a descent into moral depravity and possibly madness, is fascinating. Likewise, secondary characters are also well-developed.

This book moves rather slowly (the "War" of the title takes about 300 pages to begin), and occasionally the author gives excessive detail to things that don't need it while omitting other details that could have fleshed out the world, so suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy some things. Otherwise, the alternate reality is well-developed and appropriately detailed, with an intriguing history, society, and politics. If you don't like long books with minimal action, don't read this. But if you enjoy an intellectual steampunk adventure with good characters that raises interesting points concerning how history should be portrayed, I recommend trying Fitzpatrick's War.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Caroline K.
Belle Epoque
Ross, Elizabeth
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Belle Epoque is the name given to late 19th-century Western Europe, especially France. It describes a time of social and technological innovation as well as a certain level of moral depravity. As you may have discovered, it is also the title of this book. Belle Epoque is about Maude Pichon, a poor girl from provincial Brittany who comes to Paris seeking adventure, glamour and opportunity. Through a series of financial misfortunes, she is forced to become a repoussoir, a beauty foil: a physically unattractive woman who is paid very well to accompany a rich woman in order to make the client look better by comparison. Maude leads a double life, spending her days accompanying wealthy young Isabelle at dances and operas, her nights spent visiting the bohemian music halls. This life takes a severe moral toll on Maude, even as she makes more and more money. Eventually, she is forced to choose between what is easy and what is right.

I really enjoyed this book. The characters were appealing and generally well-developed, although there were occasional slight inconsistencies in character behavior. Costume details are lovely, and it is easy to connect with Maude's awe and astonishment at the way her wealthy clients live. Due to the nature of the main character's occupation, topics such as physical appearance and self-worth are frequently broached. As a result, anyone who has ever felt, ugly, unloved, or simply unable to measure up will understand what Maude and the other repoussoirs feel and, like Maude, will realize how awful the repoussoir trade really is. The writing style is easy and simple, and the author manages to tackle difficult subjects like the nature of beauty without it feeling too heavy-handed, and the book itself retains a generally pleasant, light feel throughout, despite the darkness of certain moments. My only real complaint is that the chapters are often very short, only two or three pages, and as a result, the plot sometimes feels episodic and choppy. Other than that, it was great. Ultimately, it communicates an uplifting message of inner beauty, positive self-worth, and the importance of pursuing your passions and being true to yourself. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an easy, quick read that still has substance and a very satisfying ending.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Caroline K.
Genres:
Book Review: Kira-Kira
Kadohata, Cynthia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was so beautifully written. It was sparse and clean, but so powerful. It made me cry. I highly recommend this quick read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Where She Went
Forman, Gayle
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay. It takes place 3 years later when Adam, a rising rock star, and Mia, a successful cellist, reunite in New York. The story is in Adam's point of view and follows them as they explore the city and reconnect.

I liked the story. I feel like they should've let the story end in the first book, but it wasn't bad. It was kind of fun to revisit these characters and discover what happened to them after the accident.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Alex M.
Genres:
The Green Glass Sea
Klages, Ellen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This novel tells the story of two girls, Dewey and Suze, who grow up during World War II. Dewey is good at math, just like her dad, but Suze's talent for art sometimes puts her at odds with her scientist parents. Both girls' parents are working on something secret for the government called "the gadget," but that's about all they think they have in common. This novel is one of the best I've ever read. It takes turns following each girl and her life in Los Alamos. Occasionally I found myself not caring for and even disliking Suze, but eventually she makes a decision that makes her character much more likable. This is a classic coming of age story, but by taking unexpected turns it makes its message much more meaningful and heart wrenching.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Caroline J.
Awards:
Genres:
Book Review: Protecting the Gift
De Becker, Gavin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was a very informative, and honestly slightly scary book. The takeaway is to heed your intuition and gut-feeling regarding the safety of your children. We brought Zoe to a Kidpower workshop, which was just wonderful. Zoe now has some tools to keep herself safe and I feel a bit less worried. Still worried of course, but a bit less... I definitely recommend this book to all parents, especially mothers.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
If I Stay
Forman, Gayle
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In If I Stay, seventeen-year-old Mia is in a coma after a terrible car accident that killed her parents. She must decide whether to live with her grief, or join her family in death.

I really enjoyed this book. It was sad, and the end made me a bit emotional. It seemed to focus a lot on love and music. Being a huge music fan, I really liked all of the references, but a love for music isn't necessary to enjoy this story.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Alex M.
Genres:
The Hunger Games
Collins, Suzanne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Actual Rating: 3.5

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins did not live up to the hype in my opinion. It's not that it was a bad book, it just didn't grab me as well as I expected. I might be judging it because the "outstanding" reviews but the characters seemed to grim and lifeless also super depressing I understand it's not meant to be happy but it seemed gloomy. I Didn't read the sequels because lack of interest.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Diego C.
The Outsiders
Hinton, S. E.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton is a great read. I love the main character pony boy and his brothers each character that he encounters seems to have a story. Each character both main and minor have two sides to them. The plot is easy to follow her not boring. It is also an adventure for anyone who likes a loyal friend to stand by them on the run. The only problem I have with this book is the ending. Smallish book, quick read, I recommend the book and the movie.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Diego C.
Awards:
Delirium
Oliver, Lauren
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Delirium, a dystopian novel written by Lauren Oliver, follows a girl's thoughts and actions in a world where love is deemed a disease and where she meets a boy who changes her whole perspective on life. In the world of Delirium there is a cure for love which Lena can't wait to get when she turns 18, the age required to be given the disease. But after she meets a boy, named Alex, she can't help but question the cure and question herself as she as to decide whether to let love consume her, or stay with what she has been taught. It had action, conflict, suspense, and romance. Throughout the book you learn a lot about Lena and the world she lives in, and see her change dramatically from a naive girl waiting to be cured of the "disease" love to being more independent and wanting more of this love she had never experienced before. Over all, Delirium is a great book that kept me wanting more and I would suggest it to anyone that is interested in finding something new to read.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Angelina L.
Awards:
Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming
Woodson, Jacqueline
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This autobiography written in free verse by Jacqueline Woodson is an excellent insight into growing up as an African American girl in the 1960's.
It is a very moving portrayal of the role of family (grandparents, parents, uncles & aunts and siblings) in a life of a child. The author also gives the reader a definite sense of place, whether it is Ohio, South Carolina or Brooklyn, NY. Highly recommended.

Reviewer's Name: Lisa
Genres:
Book Review: Les Miserables
Hugo, Victor
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Les Miserables was one of the most boring books I've read. I chose this book because my mom told me that there was a movie about it and the new musical. Well I bought it and I almost fell asleep. I mean if you like the classics then go for it but if you're more of an action or adventure person then this could easily put you to bed. the historical facts we're seen clearly in this book but if you a lot about French history then this book is easily predictable.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Isabella Z.
Awards:
Book Review: The Boy from the Basement
Shaw, Susan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Boy from the Basement is a story of a boy who escaped child abuse and neglect. This is one of the books that we are required to read for Battle of the Books. I went online to find a summary about this and I decided it would be a great book. I sure wasn't disappointed. It was so beautifully written that I could easily picture everything that was going on with the main character through all of this. This is one of the books I recommend to anyone who wants be moved and be captivated.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Isabella Z.
Genres:
Book Review: Blackout
Wells, Robison E.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Blackout changes perspectives throughout the story. It does get kind of annoying because it leaves you at a cliffhanger but other then that is a great book. I really hated how it didn't make sense before but then you see the entire story for what it is. I chose this because it's a Battle of the Books book and the cover looks really interesting. I wish that I had more details.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Isabella Z.
Book Review: Between Shades of Gray
Sepetys, Ruta
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book really made me want to cry. I loved how this entire story revolves around a 12 year old girl who is forced to move from place to place. I could relate to the protagonist because she has to make tough choices and she had to make sacrifices for the greater good. This story will cause sadness and also create a spark of hope. This is a beautifully written story and is perfect for any age.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Isabella Z.
Genres:

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