Reviews of Teen Books
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
This absurd book was a fun read. I enjoyed the humor and outrageous premise of the book. Mr. Popper makes many sacrifices for his family of penguins, but the sacrifice is worth it. This book has won many awards and is a classic at my school. I especially enjoyed the unique ending to the satisfying story.
Reviewer Grade: 7
This book was suspenseful and amazing, it had several unexpected twists like when the main character finds out about his uncle’s job. This book is about a teenager whose uncle died unexpectedly. This book is a must read but it is a longer series. I recommend this book for a more experienced reader. Those readers will find it action packed and reading it is a worthy use of their time.
Reviewer Grade: 7
Peeps is an amazing book that takes a interesting, scientific approach to vampirism. It is centered around Cal Thompson a carrier of a unique parasite that causes aversion to light, heightened senses, and cannibalistic impulses. Because Cal is only a carrier he shows none of the extreme symptoms of the parasite. At the beginning of the book, Cal has had the parasite for a year. With the help of the Night Watch, a shadowy organization that hunts down parasite positives, or 'peeps', and a girl named Lace, he is tasked with capturing all of the girls he gave the disease to in that year. Filled with information on real parasites, this book is definitely not for squeamish people. Peeps also has a little content that some people might not be comfortable with. That being said, this is a great book and an interesting take on the idea of vampirism. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys science fiction, or any of Scott Westerfeld's other books.
Reviewer Grade: 9
All Tally Youngblood ever wanted was to be a pretty. Now Tally is almost sixteen years old, and in just a few weeks, she will get the surgery that will make her beautiful. When she meets Shay, a girl with many new ideas, Tally is told about a reclusive group called the Smokies that keep their own faces. Shay, a few days before their birthday, runs away and joins them, leaving Tally to explain to everyone where her friend is. Because of Shay, Tally is forced into a world that she wanted no part of. To become pretty, Tally must betray Shay and all of her new friends. As she realizes the truth behind the operation, Tally starts to enjoy her new life. Uglies, the first book in the series, is a great dystopian book. With an amazing plot, and complex characters, I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoyed Divergent or any of Scott Westerfeld's other books.
Reviewer Grade: 9
Queen of Shadows is the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series. It begins soon after Aelin Galathynius, the rightful Queen of Terrasen returns to Rifthold planning to kill the King of Adarlan. To do this and reclaim her birthright Aelin must go up against of an evil that is not of her world. As the plot thickens, there are more complications than Aelin can count.
Meanwhile, one of Aelin's closest friends must battle his own enemy; an enemy that lives inside him and controls him. This book is a great addition to the series, carrying on its legacy of great characters and fast-moving plot.
Queen of Shadows keeps many of the incredible characters from the previous books, and introduces many new ones. I thought that the internal struggles of these characters made this book even better. (If this was a movie, I would probably rate it PG-13 for some violence and a little romance.)
Reviewer Grade: 9
The second book in the Throne of Glass series, The Crown of Midnight is a fantastic addition to the series. This book continues a few months after the Throne of Glass leaves off. Celaena Sardothien has been working for the King for a few months without any word from Elena. Although her job requires the King's trust, Celaena is far from loyal. She is always secretly plotting, planning. As a romance that Celaena never imagined starts to blossom, she realizes that there is more going on in Adarland than meets the eyes. Because Celaena is trying to not only protect those she loves, but also hide her own deadly secret, it is hard for her to do anything for the suffering people around her. This book is a great addition to the series, introducing the true conflict and clarifying many things from the last book. Celaena is still a great character, funny, proud, and clever, and truly unpredictable. I loved this book, and would recommend it to anyone that enjoyed the first installment in the series. The Crown of Midnight has a perfect balance of romance, action, and political intrigue. Full of new insights to Celaena's character, this book will pull you in and keep you reading long into the night. I would like to note that this is definitely a young adult book, and has some content that maybe not everyone is comfortable with. That being said this book is a great read and I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys reading fantasy.
Reviewer Grade: 9
This read provides an interesting and fast-paced approach to learning the history of World War II’s MFAA, while it is also entertaining as a historical story in itself. It reminds us that valor does not only belong to those who fight the physical wars, but also to those who protect the traditions and values upon which we built and sustain our culture. It awakens pride in us as Americans, as well as respect for the universal value of culture in all nations. The Monuments Men ties together the art of war, the value of culture, the unity of a nation, and the interest of history.
Reviewer Grade: 10
Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt tells the story of Penelope who is untouchable because her body destroys her platelets which causes her to bruise easily. Penelope's Family is in the black market for organ transplant, this makes Penelope's life more dangerous than it already is. All Penelope ever wanted was to be treated like everyone else, but when a brutal act thrusts her into New York alone and scared she finds there are bigger threats than bruises. This book tugged on my emotions, and made me feel what loss is like. I picked this book because a good friend of mine recommended it to me and I would recommend this book to people who like suspense and romance.
Reviewer Grade: 8
3000 years ago (aka present day), the earth suffered from "the Cataclysm" - an apocalyptic event that changed the literal shape of the earth (because earthquakes) as well as all of its political structures. In this future version of earth, technology has been all but outlawed, and magical folks are treated in a vastly superior way to those without magic. Hob Smythe is a non-magical miner living in the Dusk (outside of present-day Vancouver) who is recruited by a secret society called The Fellowship that wants non-magic folks to have the same rights as magic folks. He is quickly whisked away to the capital (Impyrium) where he is to spy on Hazel Faeregrine - the princess third in line to the throne that the Fellowship suspects is massively powerful. Meanwhile, Hazel is trying to learn how to wield her great magical power, while maneuvering and investigating interesting goings on in the palace.
As you can probably tell from that description, there is a lot of world-building that happens in this book. As a result, the beginning is a little slow, but after a few chapters, I found myself engrossed. Neff creates a dynamic world full of magic, demons, and dragons. The characters themselves are intelligent, likable (if a little gullible), and independent. If you like your heroes with pluck, you'll love Hazel and Hob. The story, once it gets going, is fairly complex, but in a really great way. There's a lot of plotting and conspiracies and it's really fun to try to figure out what is happening along with Hazel and Hob. A lot of little threads are introduced, and many plot points are tied up in the end while still paving the way for the next installment in the story. Additionally, there is fun social commentary in terms of non-magic vs. magic folks and their respective treatments.
I liked this enough that I immediately put the author's companion series, which is called The Tapestry and tells about the events of the Cataclysm, on hold. This is probably my favorite non-sequel middle grade read of the year. Recommended for fantasy readers of all ages. 4 stars.