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National Book Award/Finalist

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: 
Alexie, Sherman
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a book that was assigned for my literature class, meaning I had low expectations and thought I would hate the book. However, the opposite was true, and the author actually uses a humorous outlook to portray a witty teenage character in this novel. The book follows one school year in the life of Junior, a fourteen-year-old boy living with his family on the Spokane Indian Reservation near Wellpinit, Washington.

It is told in a diary style, moving from the start of the school year, through the major holidays, and ending with the beginning of summer. It includes both Junior's written record of his life and his cartoon drawings, some of them comically commenting on his situations, and others more seriously depicting important people in his life. The story, as a whole, is entertaining, funny, and is still able to discuss darker issues such as abuse, alcoholism, and poverty. Overall, I thought this novel was fantastic, and was an easy and casual read. I would recommend this book to practically anyone looking for a fun, entertaining story.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Alex K.

Book Review: Holes

Holes
Author: 
Sachar, Louis
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The book Holes by Louis Sachar is an astonishing book that braids together three different stories that eventually will come together because of the main character known as Stanley Yelnats. Stanley Yelnats, a boy who has bad luck because of a curse put on his "no good dirty rotten pig stealin' great-great-grandfather", is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp, for a crime he did not commit. Stanley and the other boys at the camp are forced to dig large holes in the dirt every day that are 5 feet wide and 5 feet deep in the blistering heat, but they aren't digging holes to build character like Mr. Sir says.

Louis Sachar was born in East Meadow on March 20th 1954 and lived there until 4th grade and it wasn't until high school that he really started to love reading. Louis Sachar is an award-winning author of twenty-five books for children and young adults. The book Holes has won around 16 awards and recognitions. He didn’t really just sit down and start writing the story, he built the story around the setting at camp green lake. In a Q&A he said that he "started writing about Camp Greenlake and it developed from there. I suppose the initial inspiration for writing about the camp came from the heat of summers in Texas." And "Anybody who has ever tried to do yard work in Texas in July can easily imagine Hell to be a place where you are required to dig a hole five feet deep and five feet across day after day under the brutal Texas sun." That was where he started the book and his inspiration. Louis basically just started with writing about camp green lake and the fact that its just a desert instead of basing the book on any characters, which I found was interesting.

I think that Holes is an amazing book that it all ties together in the end. I just love this book because of how complex it is with putting three stories together to create one detailed and vivid story that you will want to read more than once.

Reviewer's Name: 
Sydney P.

Book Review: Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five
Author: 
Vonnegut, Kurt
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

"So it goes..."

You may be thinking that based on the title it is the fifth book in a series of horror novels, but I assure you that it is not. Slaughterhouse-Five is a very thought provoking and poignant anti-war novel that has elements of science fiction, including 4th dimensional time travel and aliens. It’s a nonlinear story that follows a man named Billy Pilgrim as he travels throughout different moments in his life, weaving back and forth through differing time periods. He travels from his time as a chaplain’s assistant in World War II to his normal life with his wife and children to being an exhibit in an alien zoo on the planet Tralfamadore.

By becoming “unstuck in time”, as Billy puts it, he is able to relive these moments in his life and reflect upon them more deeply. This book is one of the best representations of 4th dimensional time travel that I've come across, and if you ever struggle to grasp the concept of time as the 4th dimension, as I do from time to time, then this book will certainly help create a better understanding of it. The book centers around Billy Pilgrim’s experiences during the war and all of the atrocities that he has seen, culminating at the end with the Bombing of Dresden, a moment which influences the rest of his life.

By being told out of chronological order, the structure of the book drives the importance and impact of the moment rather than just describing what happens next and it creates a sort of puzzle that the reader must put together. It is full of satire, wit, and black humor that is vintage Vonnegut and is one of the strangest meditations on war and humanity. If you want an extremely thoughtful book that challenges your perspective, then I highly recommend Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Reviewer's Name: 
Kelsey L.

Book Review: The Devil In The White City

The Devil In The White City
Author: 
Larson, Erik
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Chicago World’s fair, also known as The World’s Columbian Exposition, was a world’s fair held in Chicago in 1893 meant to counter France’s world fair and give Chicago back its fame, and even though it was not yet completed when opened, it proved to be a phenomenal success. The Devil in the White City follows the life and story of two interesting men:
Daniel Hudson Burnham and H.H. Holmes. Burnham is the famous architect who directed the construction of the fair and Holmes was a psychotic, but genius and seductive, serial killer who used the World’s fair to lure his victims, almost always women, to their death. Although their lives different, their stories and accomplishments are intertwined and connected, which Larson seeks to condense. With a meager three years to build the fair, and setbacks such as the death of his partner, weather, and health issues, Burnham struggles to finish the fair on time, more or less make it better than France’s.
Meanwhile, Holmes uses his persuading words and charms to commit fraud, acquire debts he never plans to pay back, and worst of all be able to kill and dispose of human bodies with ease. Burnham’s and Holme’s stories never connect in the beginning, and they never meet each other, but as Larson explores the events of 1890-1893, the connection between them becomes clear.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe T.

Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming
Author: 
Woodson, Jacqueline
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This poem book is really well written. It has a unique poem style with just as a unique narrator. This book is about a girl named Jackie growing up in the 1960's-1970's. She has to deal with the hardships of not being treated well because of her skin color along with other things going on in her personal life. The author of this book did a really good job at putting these dilemmas that Jackie faces in the mind of a little girl. I would have rated this book 5 stars if it wasn't so dry in the middle. You get sucked in right from the start but then in the middle of the book, it gets a little boring. But don't give up on it, it picks up later on and has a fantastic ending.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Mikayla B.

Book Review: The Chosen

Book Review: The Chosen
Author: 
Potok, Chaim
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

During a softball game in Brooklyn, New York in 1944 between two different Jewish sects, Danny Saunders hits the ball and smacks the pitcher, Reuven Malter, right in the face knocking him out. Reuven is sent to the hospital, and when Danny comes to visit him to apologize Reuven rejects his apology. Partly because he was mad at Danny, and partly because they were of a different sect.

Eventually, Reuven forgives Danny and they develop one of the strongest friendships ever seen. Unfortunately, Danny’s and Reuven’s fathers develop a dislike towards one another, and Mr. Saunders forbids Danny from associating with Reuven. Their friendship grows distant, but after almost a year or two it seems like, Danny is allowed to speak to Reuven and they begin to repatch their friendship. During their friendship, Reuven sees a lot of Danny’s life and he finds out that Danny doesn’t want to be a Rabbi, but his father wishes him to. This book is a phenomenal classic and tells the story of how two friends from different, hostile backgrounds are able to have a friendship as strong as Lewis and Clark. I recommend this novel to those interested in Jewish background, but it is a book that everyone can take something from.

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe T.

Book Review: My Brother Sam is Dead

Book Review: My Brother Sam is Dead
Author: 
Collier, James Lincoln
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

When I started this book I could not understand why it had been banned. It seemed so innocuous. I only read it because it was in the free pile where I work. I looked it up and it was for violence, language, and an unpatriotic view of the Revolutionary War. Fair enough. It is violent and unpatriotic for sure, which is why I liked it. It's also a very good story and is about as accurate an account of the Revolutionary War era as can be reasonably expected from a work of fiction for young people.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: Stitches

Stitches
Author: 
Small, David
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This is an autobiographical graphic novel of the author, David Small. The book focuses on his early childhood to early adulthood. It shows the progression of his relationship with his father, a doctor, and his mother, a homemaker in a very reserved and controlling dysfunctional household. As a young man, he ends up with a tumor on his neck that is removed but damages his vocal cords, and doctors say he won't speak again. Along the way, he discovers who his family and himself are and finds out more than he bargained for.

This book is very dark and the color scheme is perfect for the tone of this book as well, using black, white, and shades of gray primarily. The art is contemporary in its quality and color scheme but has a more retro feel to its style of art as well, especially in the faces, which gives it the feel of the era the book was set in. This book is the type of book you would be able to, and due to its page turn-ability you likely will, finish in one sitting. It's easy to get invested and feel all the emotions and heartbreak of the author along the way. It can be a bit hard to read since it is darker in its focus and has a realistic feel. It also has a few twists and turns along the way which help keep you even more entranced by the book. I really enjoyed reading it as a change of pace for myself since I typically deal in a bit lighter fair in terms of topics. It addresses issues of mental illness and controlling behavior well without being preachy or self pitying. I might not read this book again but I certainly won't forget it either. If you like dark, realistic graphic novels, this just might be your next favorite book!

Reviewer's Name: 
Will

Book Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Author: 
Boo, Katherine
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Actual Rating: 4.3

I originally discovered this book on a list of titles recommended by John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska. Katherine Boo’s incredible work revolves around “life, death, and hope in a Mumbai under city.” It follows several characters as they struggle to survive life in rural India: Abdul, a Muslim teenager who provides an income to his large family through collecting and selling trash, Asha, a woman with dreams of escaping poverty through politics, Kalu, a scrap metal thief, and dozens of others who live together in a small village built near the Mumbai airport. While this book may not be as relateable as many that are popular now, it brings humanity to a group of people we tend to see as “other” due to their distance and situation. This book changed the way I look at people below the poverty line, and I highly recommend it.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: 
Claire M.

Book Review: Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain
Author: 
Frazier, Charles
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Charles Frasier’s novel Cold Mountain intrigued me from the beginning. It tells the story of Ada and Inman who both have suffered from their own tragedies and horrors from the beginning of the novel. Inman is scarred emotionally and physically from serving in the Civil War. Ada is left with the family farm after her father dies and having been raised sophisticated, she has no idea how to maintain it. However, each is able to overcome their trials and defy society’s expectations in pursuit of each other and their own dreams. The characters in this novel are both so relatable in the idea that we all experience horrible, sad things that we must learn to overcome and we also all face limitations and expectations from society that we must ignore in order to embark on our own journey in pursuit of our own American Dream. Although long and a bit tedious at points, this novel is definitely one of the best I’ve read this year.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Tessa B.

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