Reviews of Teen Books

Click here to read reviews by PPLD’s Review Crew - book reviews by teens, for teens.
The Demigod Diaries
Riordan, Rick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Demigod Diaries is a fun collection of short stories that bring you back into Percy Jackson's world with new adventures. Luke Castellan, son of Hermes, tells his story for the first time in "The Diary of Luke Castellan". Argo II members Leo Valdez, Jason Grace, and Piper McLean go on a search for a missing item and wind up finding trouble within the forest of Camp Half-Blood. Rick Riordan's son, Haley, also includes a demigod story of his own.

Overall, this book was lots of fun. Each story was interesting, adventurous, and packed with humor. I especially loved hearing more about Luke's past, as his character in the first series didn't have much time to tell his story. Leo's adventure is hilarious and fun. Haley's story was well-written, but I felt it was a little serious, considering the rest of the stories are more light-hearted. Nevertheless, this book is wonderful. I highly recommend it if you are a fan of the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Boo, Katherine
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.
Genres:
The Kiss
Patterson, James
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Kiss was as supernatural as Wisteria and Whitford Allgood. I couldn't put this book down as Wisty took us on an emotional journey through a boyfriend and a few betrayals. Whit carries us up and down mountains and on the way a few deaths place a few more burdens upon his heavy shoulders. Though it lost action in the beginning, it quickly picked up the pace with some magic and a mysterious biker boy. Another fight, another betrayal, and a fearful mother trying to protect her son.

But it doesn't end there, the last book The Lost sits waiting for me to read and I can't wait to see what happens to Whit, Wisty, and their city. After the horrific events that took place on the mountain above the city, I wonder what will happen next. I would recommend this book for ages 12+, and I would rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Reviewer Grade: 6

Reviewer's Name: Samantha K.
Genres:
The Coldest Girl In Coldtown
Black, Holly
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Imagine waking up from a high school party to find that all of your friends now littering the house around you attracting flies. Then you hear a noise and realize you are not alone. Upon exploring the house you discover your friend chained to a bed and a vampire chained beside him—just out of reach. What happened while you were blacked out in the bathroom is a chilling story. Readers might find it shocking, but for Tana vampire attacks are an all-too-common occurrence. Not all of the monsters can be contained in the Coldtowns created to preserve the vampires and protect the population. The all-night parties within the walls are streamed live as reality entertainment that gives the vampires a rock-star quality. Those who escape are featured on the daily bounty hunter programs. These parallels to real life, as well as the characterizations of the vampires make them seem approachable and almost amiable. How close can Tana get before she is in danger?

Reviewer's Name: Renee
Meyer, Marissa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Linh Cinder is unusual. Her stepsisters and stepmother hate her. Her best friend is an android. Oh, and she’s a cyborg – and she wants to go to the ball. Politics, adventure, and a deadly plague all play roles in this book.

Cinder was fun and exciting. Cinder is a protagonist you can really root for. Prince Kai is complex and interesting – he’s more than just the love interest. Queen Levana is a great creepy villain. The futuristic sci-fi world of New Beijing is expansive and really quite interesting. The plot moved at a very fast pace.

I only have one complaint: the plot twists were a little predictable. But, besides that, it is a fun and interesting book! I have yet to read the rest of the series, but I really think they’re going to be spectacular based on what I’ve seen from this awesome book.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Cold Mountain
Frazier, Charles
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.
Genres:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has caused controversy over the years about whether it should be taught in schools. I personally, feel this book is one of the single most powerful novels written concerning prejudice, racism and the American Dream. It tells the story of a boy Huck Finn who escapes his abusive father and begins a journey down the Mississippi River where he soon joins with Jim, a runaway slave. Huck repeatedly faces the decision between turning Jim in as society has taught him or continuing to help him escape and lie as his conscious urges him to. Ultimately, Twain uses satire and Huck’s adventures to reveal the truth about the remaining prejudices in society and the idea that people need to think independently from society in order to preserve morals.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Tessa B.
The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is by far one of my very favorite. It tells the story of Daisy Buchanan and Mr. Jay Gatsby through the Nick, the narrator and a recent Yale graduate’s conscious. He opens the book recalling a piece of advice his father gave him about refraining from criticizing others. Nick views himself as separate yet apart of the world he creates for us. He becomes fascinated by his neighbor Mr. Jay Gatsby who throws lavish and extravagant parties and is known all through New York yet still seems dissatisfied with his lifestyle. After observing him staring longingly at a green light across the bay, Nick learns Gatsby has been pining after Daisy, who is married to Tom, for years since their young love was interrupted when he left for the war. Fitzgerald uses the historical context of the 20’s and the idea of disillusionment popular post WWI to create a novel that explored the society and lifestyle of the time and the human nature to yearn for both the past and the out of reach.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Tessa B.
Genres:
Book Review: Don't Breathe a Word
Cupala, Holly
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Wow. This book sucked. Stifled teenager runs away from loving family to escape abusive boyfriend. Why did she do this? Because she met a homeless boy whom she thought could 'save' her from this situation. Seriously?! How about having the abused girl save herself?! Homelessness is romanticized as she becomes part of a loving rascally unkempt band of misfits. Okay folks, let's get this straight. Being homeless sucks. If you have a loving family, like the main character does, there is no reason at all to be homeless. The main character is annoying and overly melodramatic. In fact, all of the characters are two dimensional and stereotypical, without exception. The symbolism is pedestrian and heavy handed. Even the "shocking" elements of the story seemed to be put in there as if the author was thinking,"Ooh, this is shocking! Let me put it in here to prove how edgy this novel is!" The ending was contrived and very unrealistic for a supposedly realistic novel.

Usually I won't finish a book this crappy, but I felt compelled to do so in this case just to have the satisfaction of skewering it. I do feel better having done so.

E-format only, thankfully.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Jacob Have I Loved
Paterson, Katherine
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

You know, I love Katherine Patterson. Bridge to Terabithia is my all-time favorite children's book. This book just didn't affect me the same way. Maybe it was the subject matter, I don't know. It was well written, just was missing the magic. But it's still worth a read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Love that Split the World
Henry, Emily
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Very unique book - I loved the characterization, and although the plot could be a little slow at points, it allowed you to fully immerse yourself in this strange, confusing world. What I think I loved most about the book was that it was more than just a love story. I really liked the fact that Natalie was learning to love herself for being different. She had a strong best friend who loved her no matter what kind of stories she was told, and she had a family who adored her. This is a book I know I will be thinking about for a while!

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Genres:
Salt to the Sea
Sepetys, Ruta
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow. Another amazing historical novel by Ms. Sepetys. At first I wasn't sure about the short chapters that alternated by point of view, but by the end I didn't even notice. Beautiful writing, emotional story of a tragedy that I'm sure most people aren't even aware of. Good grief, I'm wrung out after reading this beautiful novel.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Awards:
Genres:
Jackaby
Ritter, William
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Nice idea, not especially well executed, but serviceable nevertheless. Penniless but daring young Abigail Rook is stuck in New England when she meets an eccentric private detective named Jackaby. He specializes in supernatural deduction using an ability to see what other people can't -- faeries, monsters, etc. He is also in need of an assistant. When a very odd murder occurs, Jackaby and Abigail are on the case. Who is the murderer? Can our heroes stop the killer in time to save innocent lives? And will we ever learn what Jackaby's initials stand for? At best, it's a really laudable middle-grade supernatural mystery. Unfortunately, Jackaby himself falls rather flat. He seems to be a collection of quirks and mannerisms borrowed from more famous characters. Abigail is by no means and ideal character, but she is independent in a way that many female protagonists aren't. There are several appealing secondary characters -- one of whom is a ghost -- who were a bit more unusual, but on the whole, this book does not have the most intriguing cast, although it does try very hard. The plot itself is reasonably interesting, but suffers from the same malady as the characterizations: originality, or rather, lack thereof. Anyone who's familiar with folklore (or has read Harry Potter) has a good chance at guessing the identities of the murderer and other characters long before the big reveal. If you want a lightweight, easy-read fantasy-mystery with some fun characters and fairly witty dialogue, you'll probably like it, but for really intense murder mystery fans, look elsewhere.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Caroline K.
Awards:
Witch & Wizard
Patterson, James
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Witch and Wizard is an extravagant book for young adults and teens. From a kidnapping to an evil tyrant, Whit and Wisty Allgood can't accept the fact that they are the children from the proficy, the children with powers, the children destined to save and rule the world. James Patterson takes his readers on an adventure that you can't put down. This book was unpredictable and left me wanting more from the very beginning. This is one of the best books of I have read since fourth grade and I've read a lot. On my free time I will go to a bookstore and grab as many books as my arms can carry and this time I tried to find as many James Patterson books as I could and this book was yelling my name from across the room. This book captivated me within just the first paragraph. The language and content flashbacks kept me engaged to the end. Whit and Wisty will do much more than keep you intrigued, they will keep you close through the whole series. I would rate this book five of five stars and I would recommend this book to teens from ages 11-15.
Reviewer Grade: 5

Reviewer's Name: Samantha K.
Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food
Schlosser, Eric
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Everyone knows what McDonald’s or Burger King is, but how many people know how they got here, how are they getting their food, and why do they target kids as a key consumer audience. In Chew on This, Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson explain who founded the fast food industries, how animals are mistreated in slaughterhouses,
and the horrible effects fast food has on our bodies. I personally loved this book because I am super interested in food and health and it’s shocking to learn that: high school dropouts started the biggest industries in the world, each can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, and that chicken slaughterhouses feed chickens leftover chickens. The authors profile stories of teens who have taken action to stop the fast food industry such as: A girl launching a campaign to remove soda machines from her school. I recommend this book to those interested in learning about the fast food industry and what they are actually doing. Chew on This is meant to show people, especially kids and teens, they can change the world by changing what they eat.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat
Pollan, Michael
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Do you ever wonder where your food comes from? How the potatoes in your french fries were grown? Or even what's in your burger. This book answers those questions and many more and it also lets you in on the food industry’s biggest secrets. It’s super interesting and educational. I mean did you know that corn is in about
everything from batteries to fireworks and that in cattle feed people put in M&M’s, hooves, corn, and cardboard?! I recommend this book to people interested in food and health since it teaches you the brutal truths behind industrial food production. It taught me what “real” food is and why I should stay away from processed foods. I loved this book because it actually taught me a lot about food that isn’t taught in school and I would recommend it to basically everyone because this is stuff you really need to know before you go grocery shopping.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Night
Wiesel, Elie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Elie Wiesel is a twelve year old Jewish boy living in Sighet, Romania in 1944 who loves to study the Talmud. When his instructor warns the people of the Nazi aggressors coming to threaten their peaceful lives, it is too late and Elie’s family is forced into ghettos. Elie and his father, Shlomo, are separated from the rest of their family and are sent to multiple concentration camps, just trying to survive. This is my second favorite book ever because it is written by Elie Wiesel himself and is about his life as a Holocaust survivor. I can’t even describe
how good this book is because once you realize it is nonfiction, it gives the book a whole new meaning. I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially those interested in the Holocaust or books about it such as The Diary of Anne Frank. I picked this book because I love autobiographies about the Holocaust and it just really shocked me at how life for Jews during that time was.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Anthem
Rand, Ayn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Equality 7-2521 is a street sweeper in a society ruled by a Communist/ Fascist type of dictatorship where individuals rights have been destroyed and everyone works only to serve their government. As a young boy, Equality 7-2521 witnessed the execution of someone who had spoken the “Unspeakable Word” and ever since
then, he has wondered what that word is. Resuming to the present, Equality 7-2521 one day discovers
a metal grill leading down into a dark tunnel from the Unmentionable Times, the ancient period prior to the establishment of the present society. For the next 2 years, he does secret experiments down in this tunnel and discovers electricity, but when he shows it to the World Council of Scholars, he is rejected and must escape from being persecuted. I love Anthem by Ayn Rand because it talks about a dystopian society and about a curious mind that defies the government and learns something great. The beginning is boring and is of backstory, but from there it becomes so interesting that it feels like you are there with the main character. Also it’s a short book for those who hate 800 page books and want a quick read for school or just to kill some free time.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
Marcelo in the Real World
Stork, Francisco X.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Don't get me wrong -- this is a good book. The narrator is Marcelo, a teenage boy with an Asperger's-like condition that allows him to hear music that no one else can hear, but that also means he has some difficulty with social interaction. He goes to a special school for autistic students, although to be honest he could probably manage in a regular school, it's just that he has been coddled his entire life -- no one has made him push himself to practice functioning in regular society. His parents realize this is the case, and offer him the option of attending a mainstream school for his senior year. To help him decide, his lawyer father his makes him work at his law firm over the summer -- forcing Marcelo to get used to the "real world."

Marcelo is extremely relatable and well-drawn -- he is a sympathetic character, and both earnest and honest. When he is faced with difficult choices, the reader experiences his conflict. Many of his interactions with other people seem realistic and believable. I loved the first half of the book. My problem was with the second half. A major plotline appeared that I simply didn't like -- it didn't seem to fit the rest of the narrative in the sense that it brought a new focus to the story that altered its tone. I didn't enjoy it very much, but I think that many other readers wouldn't mind it. The book as a whole is still definitely worth reading. If you like thoughtful, introspective books with appealing narration and moral conflict, this one does very well.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Caroline K.
Genres:
The Hidden Oracle
Riordan, Rick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Apollo – the Greek god of music, archery, healing, plague, and the sun – has been turned into a mortal teenager and dropped onto Earth as punishment from his father, Zeus. In order to earn his godly title back, he must be guided by a demigod and follow their orders – this demigod happens to be feisty Meg McCaffrey, “street urchin overlord”. The two must team up to help Apollo succeed in his trials and become a god again.

I read this book in 2 days – I could not put it down! It is adventurous and hilarious! Apollo is an interesting hero who must overcome his arrogance by becoming an average mortal teenager and proving himself to his fellow gods – and you totally root for him along the way. I would recommend reading the Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus books before reading this one because many of the old characters make appearances and it would be easier to understand the references to the other series. Being a longtime fan of these books, I was so excited to see that Rick had brought back almost the entire Argo II crew back!

This book was truly awesome – lots of humor and adventure. I highly recommend it. 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.

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