Reviews of Teen Books

Of Mice and Men
Steinbeck, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Two men, George and Lennie, wander aimlessly throughout the West Coast of the United States during the Great Depression, looking for any kind of job.
Lennie is a large, strong, migrant worker who, unfortunately, has a mental disability. Whereas George is a skinny, quick-witted man who cares for Lennie. Lennie’s mental disability and his uncontrollable strength causes the two of them to lose every job they get and get driven out of town. George does everything he can to keep Lennie out of trouble, partly because he promised Lennie’s Aunt and partly because he cares for Lennie; and Lennie tries to stay out of trouble, for their hopes of owning their own farms drives both of their motivations. Finally, they are able to find work on a small ranch in Soledad, California and actually make friends with many of the workers. Their dream of accumulating enough money to own a ranch is close, but Lennie’s disability could cause them to lose even this job.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
The Devil In The White City
Larson, Erik
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.
Brown Girl Dreaming
Woodson, Jacqueline
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: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Thorne, Jack
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

SPOILER ALERT! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, so of course I dug getting to learn more about Harry and his friends. I was very interested in the Scorpius/Albus relationship but hoped there had been a bit more about Scorpius's relationship with his father. I was mildly annoyed that Draco and Harry became friends and even that Draco showed a sensitive side. However, I liked how devoted he was to his son, just like his mother had been so devoted to him. The final chapters with Harry bonding with Albus didn't interest me much either. But still a good read and a great fix for my Harry Potter withdrawals. I would like to see it as a play.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: The Chosen
Potok, Chaim
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: The One
Cass, Kiera
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The One by Kiera Cass is the third book in the Selection series. In this book prince Maxon of Illea has to choose a princess and wife from the Elite. Will Maxon choose America or will he choose another?I would rate this book a four out of five because at some points it was a bit redundant, but the romance between America and Maxon was breathtaking and sucked me in. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes romance and dystonia. I am in eighth grade and I am 14.

Reviewer's Name: Garbrielle F.
The School for Good and Evil
Chainani, Soman
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the small town of Gavaldon every four years two children are taken by the mysterious Headmaster. One of the children taken has a heart of gold, the other is evil beyond belief. The people of Gavaldon say that they are taken to the School for Good and Evil where they will be prepared for their own fairy tale, and end up on the pages of children's books. This is the dream of Gavaldon's most beautiful girl Sophie, for she dreams to become a princess and have a happily ever after. Though this is the opposite for Agatha, the hermit of Gavaldon, for she wants to spend the rest of her life in her cozy graveyard with her cat and only friend (Sophie). Will their wishes come true, or will their worlds be completely turned around? I would rate this book a 4 out of 5 because I found that some parts were a little to predictable but the rest was amazing. I would recommend this book to any one who likes fantasy. I am in eighth grade and I am 14.

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle F.
Awards:
Genres:
Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Haddon, Mark
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

One night, Christopher Boone is walking around his neighborhood when he finds his neighbor’s dog dead, in her front yard, with a pitchfork sticking out of it. Christopher is now determined to investigate and write a book about who killed the dog. Unfortunately, Mrs. Shears, the dog’s owner, accuses Christopher of killing her dog and he is sent to jail for a few hours.

Eventually, Christopher’s dad comes to get him, and tells him not to investigate the incident of the dog’s death. Keep in mind, Christopher has a disability similar to Asperger syndrome and it is somewhat omitted at the beginning, but eventually, it’s obvious he has a disability even if it's not directly mentioned in the book. Christopher defies his father’s orders and continues to investigate the dog’s death, asking neighbors about the dog, questioning Mrs. Shears. His father constantly restricts him from doing so, but Christopher is determined. As the investigation goes on Christopher is able to find out that his supposedly “dead” mother is alive and also he finds out who the killer is. Haddon’s work is amazingly written and I recommend the novel to those who enjoy subtle mysteries with rising conflicts.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Genres:
Journey's End
Hawkins, Rachel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After her parents split, Georgia girl Nolie Stanhope finds herself spending her summer in a mysterious town called "Journey's End" in Scotland while her father investigates a mysterious fog (known as The Boundary) that's plagued the local village folk for centuries. Nolie is pretty excited - in addition to some sweet international travel, she's an avid ghost enthusiast, and feels like the summer might be promising in that department. And she is pretty immediately proven right! When Nolie and her new Scottish friend Bel see a weird dude walking down the beach, they think they've seen a ghost. Have they? And why is the Boundary suddenly moving closer to shore?

This was a pretty great MG ghost story. The setting is wonderful - Scotland sort of lends itself to mystery, and Hawkins imbues the village of Journey's End with a ton of charm, personality, and a touch of creepiness. Both of the lead characters, Bel and Nolie, were pretty well fleshed out with distinctive and likable personalities. Their friendship, while quickly formed, was believable and would be a great example for young girls. There's a bit of bullying and some exposition about the effects of divorce, so some important relatable issues are addressed. The Boundary itself is a fantastic and appropriately creepy mystery centerpiece. Really, my only complaint is that there was a ton of build-up to a mystery/ghost story that was pretty quickly and too easily resolved. But I'm a tough customer when it comes to middle grade reads, and overall, this one was pretty great so I'll go with the 4 star rating. I'll definitely be booktalking this one with sixth graders in the fall.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
If I Was Your Girl
Russo, Meredith
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Earlier this year, I read If I Was Your Girl, and it is one of the most timely books I have ever encountered. Meredith Russo’s tale of a young girl moving to a new town is so much more than your standard teen romance.

Amanda just moved to Lambertville, a small Tennessee town where the big events are high school football games and church socials. She’s nervous about getting a fresh start for her senior year of high school, but she quickly makes a handful of friends. However, she’s hiding two big secrets. One, she attempted suicide while she was at her old school. Two, Amanda is transgender. Amanda is not expecting to fall in love, but encountering Grant, a young man with secrets of his own, leaves them both struggling to be honest with each other.

Amanda’s parents are separated, and she moves from a larger city where she lived with her mother to a small town where her father is still coming to terms with his daughter’s identity. If I Was Your Girl tells Amanda’s story almost flawlessly, interweaving flashbacks to her old life and helping the reader understand Amanda’s reasons for transitioning and her acceptance in her new home. Meredith Russo blends some of her own life experiences into Amanda. As readers, we’re shown an incredibly deep look. We see the psychological effects, glimpses into the recovery from the surgical procedures, and her experiences with a local support group prior to the move.

As has been mentioned in many reviews of this book, If I Was Your Girl covers a fairly easy take on transition. Amanda knows from a young age who she is, and has no trouble covering the costs of hormone therapy and various surgeries while she is still young. It’s an idealized version of transition, and it is important to note that this is currently quite rare in reality (I personally was waiting for tragedy to strike throughout my read, because everything seemed to be going too well). This is also noted by the author. “I’m worried that you might take Amanda’s story as gospel, especially since it comes from a trans woman. This prospect terrifies me, actually! I am a storyteller, not an educator. I have taken liberties with what I know reality to be.” However, this does not diminish the importance of a book by a transgender author, starring a transgender character, and featuring a transgender model on the cover in a year when transphobia is at a terrifying high.

All in all, I loved this book. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Is it perfect? No. But it’s a much-needed beacon of hope in what has been a very dark year for LGBT+ folks around the country.

Reviewer's Name: Philip
Genres:
Outliers: The Story of Success
Gladwell, Malcolm
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

All humans are different: some are talented, some are smart, and some are just successful, but some are not any of those. But why? Malcolm Gladwell sets out to determine why some people are successful and why some are not and also what factor do all these “celebrities” have in common. Most of us believe it's sheer talent and determination that makes someone successful, which is true since you need to be talented and have strong work-ethic, but Gladwell proposes another theory: when you are born. Your birthday apparently determines whether you are successful in your career and even your life, according to Gladwell. It may sound crazy, but the evidence is undeniable and Gladwell’s explanations are truly phenomenal and well-thought out. However, there's more than that: Gladwell reviews the life of geniuses such as Bill Gates, Bill Joy, and Chris Langan and determines why those people are classified as “geniuses,” he explains that a lot about becoming successful isn’t talent or IQ, but it’s the coincidental opportunities you get at, somehow, the perfect time. I love this book and Gladwell obviously did his research, I recommend this book to all readers since everyone is an outlier.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
American Sniper
Kyle, Chris
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Chris Kyle was nothing more than a simple Texan man who loved hunting and rodeos. All that changed in 1999 when Chris signed up for the Navy SEALs and began BUD/s training. From that moment on, Chris Kyle vowed to protect and fight for his nation, even putting country before family. American Sniper is an autobiography written by Kyle himself, as he talks about his childhood, life before, and after becoming a SEAL. He records life on the battlefield of Fallujah and Ramadi, but also the relations he had with his teammates, both alive and deceased. Kyle is acknowledged to be one of the deadliest snipers’ in American History with a count of 160 confirmed kills. This is one of the most well-written and amazing novels I have ever read and for anyone who didn’t know, Chris Kyle was killed on February 2, 2013 on U.S soil by a former marine, which makes this book all the more honorable and, for lack of a better word, sad. When reading this, you can actually know what the life of a SEAL, or even a militant at that, was like but also that Chris Kyle was an amazing man who gave so much for so little.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Monstress: Volume 1, Awakening
Liu, Marjorie M., Sana Takeda, and Rus Wooton
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Monstress follows Maika Halfwolf, a hybrid human/monster called an "Arcanic", as she tries to free fellow Arcanics from human cruelty and avenge her mother's death at the hands of a powerful group of human witches. Oh yeah, and Maika herself keeps turning (at least partially) into an old-world style monster that kills almost everything in its sight, regardless of whether they are friend and foe. As we follow Maika in her quest for revenge, we get flashbacks that inform us of her motivations and murky past.

This was definitely one of my favorite graphic novels of the year.

Maika is a layered anti-hero with a disability (she's missing an arm). I liked her more and more the more I learned about her. She's not shy about killing people, though, hence the anti-hero label. In fact, she's probably more of a villain than an anti-hero, but that really only added to the story for me. I mean, this title earns its "M" rating. It's very very bloody. Maika does not do nice things to her enemies.

The art was GORGEOUS. SO PRETTY. I'm fairly new to graphic novels, but this just might be the best art that I've seen. The cover is actually relatively simple compared to the insanely intricate steampunk/art deco panels on the inside. Art lovers, check this book out for the artwork alone (but be prepared for a rather gory experience).

So even though I very obviously loved this title, it was not perfect. Like in many graphic novels, there is little by way of introduction to the characters, and you are just thrown right into the story with background info being filled in later. Because the world-building was so complex, I found myself having to read certain parts several times (or having to revisit prior pages/storylines). This could just be a me thing because I have this problem in a lot of graphic novels, but I also found some of the action scenes to be incomprehensible.

I can't believe I almost forgot this amazing detail, but there are talking cats. You know what makes almost every story better? A talking cat.

This was definitely an excellent read. Graphic novel fantasy lovers, you would be remiss to not check this book out (but stay away if you don't like blood). 4 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
A Monster Calls
Ness, Patrick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Monster Calls is an award winning, simple, easy to read book about a very complicated, emotional issue. A young boy, Conor, faces the stark reality of his mother’s terminal illness. He has been suffering from a recurring nightmare and suddenly a new dream-like monster comes to him to see him through this upheaval. It is a short book that will have you emotionally tied up in knots written for young adults, but applicable to all people that are dealing with loss, closure and guilt. Conor’s internal struggle vividly comes to life in the form of the monster in this book. If you’re looking for a quick read that will pull you in and hold you, this is the book for you.

Reviewer's Name: Jenny G.
Firefight
Sanderson, Brandon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is the second in the Steelheart series, and it is a great story. It has fantastic characters, great descriptions of locations, and a bunch of plot twists that keep you on your feet. The plot may be confusing at times, but it all makes sense in the end. There are plenty of details that make an appearance in the next book too! Overall, I think this is a very good book.

Reviewer's Name: Riley D.
Book Review: My Brother Sam is Dead
Collier, James Lincoln
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
Bizenghast volume 2
LeGrow, M. Alice
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For my Review I read the second book in the Benzenghast by Alice LeGrow. This book was just as good as the first one, maybe even better. In this on Dinah and Vincent are still trying to free all the ghosts with the help of Edaniel the tower god. During this time Vincent falls ill. What I liked most about this book was that it shows you what it is like when someone keeps blaming themselves for something that is not their fault.

Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name: Paige C.
The Writing on the Wall
Lichtman, Wendy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For my review I read Writing on the Wall byWendy Lichtman. It is about a young girl and how she uses math in life. There is a little mystery though. There was a fire in one of the class rooms and someone thinks it was Arson. Instead of telling anyone they write it in an obvious place in code. I really liked how creative the author got with this book.

Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name: Paige C.
Hatchet
Paulsen, Gary
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book was very fun to read, it left you on the edge of your seat. It is a fairly short book. The story line has a fast pace. I would recommend this book to a more advanced reader. It is a riveting survival story centered in the Canadian wilderness.This book is now one of my favorites.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Thomas C.
The Ugly Truth (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5)
Kinney, Jeff
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I really like this book. This is one of my favorites because I can relate to Gregg Heffley. Since I just started 7th grade, much of this book matches what I’m going through now. The reader will enjoy the illustrations throughout the book. You will need to read the book to find out if Gregg and Rowley are able to get their friendship back on track.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Thomas C.
Genres:

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