Reviews of Teen Books
"Grayson Volume One: Agents of Spyral" (by Tom King and Tim Seeley, illustrated by Mikel Janin), gifts readers with a remarkable glimpse into Richard Grayson's head. Formerly Robin, formerly Nightwing but CURRENTLY (as of this comic :P) infiltrating a super-secret web of spies at Batman's behest, Grayson of the acrobatics and charming banter has been tossed into an unfamiliar world of misdirection and the coldest of cold scheming. Here, the agency's morally twisted Hypnos implants allow spies to sneak memories and emotions into unsuspecting human minds, as well as alter their own appearances at will. Here, the former Boy Wonder plays at a dangerous balancing act, pretending to be a loyal to his new director -- a man who always technologically blurs out his own face -- even while living by the codes and ideals he learned from Batman on the rooftops of Gotham. At least in Gotham, the rot and criminal horror of things is plastered right there on the surface, and Richard has a decent enough idea who he can trust... And who he, himself, actually is.
I cannot recommend King and Seeley's Grayson run highly enough, to be honest. It's playful and funny one minute, and then genuinely heart-wrenching the next. It might be in part my affection for dear Mr. Grayson as a character, but... Coming from someone who doesn't usually enjoy spy stories, this series is EXCELLENT. I know it won't be everybody's cup of tea, but if you're interested at all in Robin/Nightwing/the guy who can be both sometimes, when it's needed, you might really get into this series.
“Through the Woods” by Emily Carroll is a comic book collection of whimsically morbid fairy-tales, each mostly self-contained but serving what I would call an important, human theme: the uncanny waits, and surrounds, especially where you wouldn’t expect it. I love the stark yet evocative art throughout this book, and some of the stories did manage to surprise me. I personally love testaments to the monsters under our beds, particularly those intended for adults, and if you do, too, you may carry something interesting away from this collection. At any rate, the art is gorgeous, feeling “classic” even as it’s so unique.
Review: A friend of mine recommended this book to me and she is a big reader so I thought it would be good. Boy was I wrong. Right from the start this book was very slow. It went into immense detail and showed the main character's every thought. Some people may like this, but I though it made the book boring. About halfway through the story started to pick up a little.
I was actually interested in finding out where the best friend had gone, with was the only reason I kept reading it. The whole book revolved around finding the main character's(Emily) best friend. Emily went on a spectacular goose chase looking for her friend and I was expecting just as a spectacular ending to it. But alas, the best friends return was as boring as it gets. I would have given this book a higher rating if it had a better ending. Overall I did not love this book and I wouldn't recommend it.
Writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo are each AMAZING in DC's just-ended Batman run, starting with "Batman Volume One: The Court of Owls." Seriously, amazing. These books are morbid and playful, working with Batman's psyche and the twisted fairy-tale that is Gotham in a way I think works really, really well. Bruce Wayne feels fully-realized and complicated, as a character, and a great many of the Bat Family get a chance to shine. I personally love Snyder's take on Batman's ensemble of villains, from the Joker (don't worry, he'll show up soon) to the infamous Crazy Quilt (yes, I'm serious.) The "Court of Owls" introduced in this first volume adds yet another layer of rot to this already twisted city, wonderfully developing both the Wayne family history and Gotham as a symbol. I'll leave you with a nursery rhyme repeated throughout the Court of Owls arc, to give you a feel for what sort of story is waiting for you here: "Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time, Ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime. They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed. Speak not a whispered word of them, or they'll send the Talon for your head." Come on! If that isn't a recipe for fun Batman shenanigans, I don't know what is. :)
Writer Tom King and illustrator Gabriel Hernandez Walta come together to make something really unique and thought-provoking in "The Vision Volume One: Little Worse than a Man." Here, Vision of the Avengers is trying to make a human family for himself, tucked into an unsuspecting suburb in Virginia. He used Wanda Maximoff's brainwaves to build himself a wife (because THAT can't possibly go badly, right?) and has combined their code to form two children, Vin and Viv, who will be learning what it is to be an artificial life even while having to attend public school. Despite this potentially sitcom-esque set up, the Vision family presents readers with a very dark, pensive future indeed, full of melancholic narration that borders on poetry. This series is about identity, and good intentions gone horribly awry, and what it is to be human... More, what it is to crave humanity from the outside, crave it so desperately that you will do monstrous things for its sake. (I know that theme might feel a tad overdone, given how often it appears in stories about robots, but I think this comic handles it in a refreshing way. :D)
Anyhow, some of my friends who don't even like comic books waited eagerly for the monthlies on this series as it was coming out... It's definitely atmospheric, and stirring, and sad, though it also features a cheerful robotic puppy and some tongue in cheek dark humor. It's not a HAPPY comic, but it's a valuable one.
I've yet to read something by Catherynne M. Valente that isn't absolutely gorgeous -- admittedly I may be a little bit biased, as I definitely think folkloric stories are the best, and folkloric stories with lovely playful twists are the BEST best... But when it comes to evocative and clever prose, as far as I'm concerned Valente is on a level all her own. At the moment, I happen to be reading her "Fairyland" series, and so... Behold, the first book -- "The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making!" It's just as whimsical as it sounds.
So there's this little girl named September, living in a lonely house and washing a bunch of lonely teacups all the time and feeling very trapped. A quirky and talkative Green Wind -- apparently a defiant and spirited sort of wind -- riding a leopard shows up to spirit her away to Fairyland if she likes. This book is very much like "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" for the modern age: September has loads more authority over herself and her destiny, for one, and she grows dramatically as a human being over the course of the series. Fairyland helps that along of course, despite being a wild and alien place, complete with folkloric and/or mythological figures both eternal and re-imagined, petulant tyrants with very impressive hats, and interesting twists and turns aplenty that I can say I definitely didn't see coming. Valente's world is simultaneously familiar and wonderfully fresh, like she's composed words to go along to the tune of a well-beloved song, shifting its meaning in unexpected ways while still keeping true to the soul of something timeless.
Oh my goodness, Apollo, you strange and beautiful basket case. I was laughing all through this book, marking pages to shove at my friends... You know the drill. The Greek-mythology-centric Percy Jackson series as a whole helped me through some dark times when I was younger, and this first book of Rick Riordan's new "Trials of Apollo" series is delightful, just as I remember "The Lightning Thief" to have been back when I really, really needed it. (It's only missing Mr. D -- I've always especially liked Mr. D. Maybe he'll show up in the next one?)
Anyway. You know how in Greek folklore, Apollo gets stripped of his powers sometimes when he gets his king/dad, Zeus, angry? That's happened again in this series, only now it's all happening in modern day New York... Where the rules to everything are way different than what Apollo's used to... Annnnd he's not used to acne or helplessness, either, both of which he has to deal with as an awkward teen apparently named "Lester." It's the sparkly god of the sun/music/so many things's turn to go on actual quests again instead of waving demigods off on them... And he's very, very sad about it.
Some familiar faces from the Percy Jackson series have appeared so far in "The Hidden Oracle," but I would say it's definitely its own series with unique sources of pathos. Something I always loved about the Percy Jackson books is their empathy, the way people can redeem themselves, the way characters can still be heroic despite/because of their flaws... And that is STILL HERE, operating now through the protagonist, given the centuries worth of mistakes a now-human Apollo has to grapple with. I definitely liked "Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer" -- the Riordan book that came out a bit before this one -- but it didn't click with me in nearly the same way as Apollo's shenanigans. "The Hidden Oracle" felt like a fresh and self-aware remix of old ideas and settings from Percy Jackson, all told through a recently fallen god's wonderful, WONDERFUL narration. Yes, if you want something completely different than Percy Jackson this might not be the best place to look. But if you want to see the Percy Jackson universe through refreshingly new and oh-so-Olympus-y eyes, this may be perfect for you!
To sort of sum things up: I think this is a great kids' book, engaging and fast-paced and written with a light and goofy sense of humor, just like those original Percy Jackson books. (Sometimes the humor does get VERY goofy, so go in warned, but other times it's clever and tongue-in-cheek. Funny guy, that Apollo. Versatile.) Beyond that, though, I...a grown adult...am 100% buying the next book for myself just as soon as it comes out. I know that doesn't necessarily mean EVERY mythology-loving adult equipped with a suitably goofy sense of humor would also enjoy this book, but I know for a fact plenty of others have the same plan.
I was hesitant to read this book because of previous reviews I had read about it and I didn't think it was as bad as everyone said it was. It is a great book and very well written, but if you do plan on reading it then don't read the last 50 pages (They contribute next to nothing with the overall story and just cause lots of tears). The story itself is very, very good. Tris and Tobias have to escape the city and go past the fence. Only once they are out there they find that their whole city was just an experiment to try and fix a mistake made hundreds of years ago by people who didn't know any better.
Tris, and the group she came with, have to save the outside world before they can save their previous home. There is a lot of fighting and struggles because the world beyond the fence is vicious and cruel. Tobias is at odds with himself as he finds out secrets in his DNA, secrets he wasn't entirely ready to know.
Reviewer Grade: 8
This book is about Tris and Tobias trying to stop Erudite. There's a lot of tension between friends and family as the dauntless splits in half. Traitors side with Erudite and the rest take refuge at Candor headquarters. Jeanine Mathews results to murder as she starts to kill dauntless every two days that go by without a divergent turning themselves in. There is definitely a lot of internal struggles with Tris as she tries to overcome her grief with the death of her parents and Will. Her and Tobias have some conflict too as they try to come to an agreement with how to handle the Erudite situation.
Reviewer Grade: 8
I loved this book! It is way better than the movie. It is about Beatrice Prior, a 16 year old girl. In her world there are 5 factions in which most everyone belongs. She is apart of abnegation, the selfless faction, but doesn't feel that she is selfless enough so she decides to switch to dauntless, the brave faction. The book is about how she has to over come her inner cowardice and pass initiation. If she does not pass then she becomes factionless and will spend the rest of her life homeless and begging for food. The only thing that is holding her back is that Tris is divergent and if your divergent in this society then you are basically as good as dead. She has to keep her secret a secret while also managing to remain in a safe place in initiation. It also has some romance as her instructor, Four, tries to help her become better at fighting. The book has a lot of action and keeps you on the edge of your seat through the whole thing.
Reviewer Grade: 8
Clary Fray is a completely normal girl, except that she saw three people brutally kill someone. Not only did she witness a vicious killing, but somehow no one else can see it but her. Then suddenly her mother is kidnapped and she is attacked by a demon. Clary gets sucked into a world full of monsters and shadowhunters, an elite group of people tasked with protecting humans. In order to save her mother from Valentine, the man who wants to murder downworlders and innocent children, she must team up with Jace Wayland, a very talented and young shadowhunter. I could absolutely not put this book down!!There was so much action and just enough romance that this book will probably always be one of my favorite books ever! I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys fiction.
Reviewer Grade: 8
Anyone who has enjoyed The Lunar Chronicles would totally love this book. It definitely changed my perspective on Levana and helped me to understand her personality more when I read Winter, the last book in the series. The book talks about why she wears her glamour all the time and what scarred her face.
It also covers what made her so evil and vicious. Not only that, but it explains what compelled her to attempt to kill her niece, Princess Selene.
This book is a must read with the whole Lunar Chronicles series and helps to understand both sides of the story.
Reviewer Grade: 8
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.