Reviews of Teen Books

Click here to read reviews by PPLD’s Review Crew - book reviews by teens, for teens.
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.
Eat, Pray, Love
Gilbert, Elizabeth
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Elizabeth Gilbert has everything a normal person wants: loving husband, country home, a great career, and much more. But for some reason she was not happy, instead she felt confused and lost in her own world of thoughts. So, through a painful process, she leaves behind everything (her marriage, job, home) and plans a year round trip to Italy, India, and Indonesia, hoping that traveling to these places will help her find herself. I began reading this book this year for a school assignment and I have to say I didn’t like it from the cover and the first few pages. What made it interesting was that Eat, Pray, Love is an auto-biography by Elizabeth herself about her journey for self-actualization and also that you are able to learn a little bit more about the culture of these countries. I recommend this book to those who are having trouble about knowing who they are in the world, but while I was able to be intrigued by the book and it did grab my attention, let’s just say it didn’t have me standing on the edge of my seat and isn’t one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
Pathfinder
Card, Orson Scott
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This sci-fi by Orson Scott Card, the writer of Ender's Game, will warp your mind. Full, of interesting theories about time and space, this book is meant for adults and older teens. Every chapter there seems to be a new moral decision for the characters to make. This book creates great debates, and all of Card's ideas are well explained.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Fred W.
Awards:
The Namesake
Lahiri, Jhumpa
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Gogol Ganguli regrets his parents decision of giving him his humiliating name ever since he was born. But when we rewind to 1968, we see the newly immigrated Gangulis’ give birth to a baby boy and in order to be released from the hospital, they must break their Bengali culture and give their son an official name, which they decide to be Gogol. Growing up, Gogol hates his name, but once he learns of its origin he rethinks its meaning and after a life-changing incident, Gogol learns to embrace his culture and his family heritage. Bringing you on a journey of love, self- realization, and of a life or death situation, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is an amazing novel and I found it super interesting to me because it related so much to how I grew up. There are many suspenseful and attention grabbing parts and I highly recommend it. I had to read this book for an assignment, but I ended up loving it, except for some boring parts especially in the first few chapters since it's just introduction. I recommend this book to those who have an interest in cross-cultural conflict books, but most people in my class disliked it so I’m assuming it wasn’t interesting to them.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
Genres:
Animal Farm
Orwell, George
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The Manor Farm is home to animals who, noticeably, hate being controlled and oppressed by their farmer, Mr. Jones. One night Old Major, a wise boar, gathers the animals for a meeting and tells them of a dream he has where all animals live together with no human beings to oppress or control them. After his death, the animals take over the farm under the leadership of the pigs. As the story progresses the pigs move away from Animalism and move towards becoming human beings. Animal Farm by George Orwell is number 9 in my top books list mostly because it is a satire about the Russian Revolution and Stalinism. I did not like it in the fact that it overused personification and the use of animals to represent Russia in the 1970’s, but if we look at the book as a story just about animals taking over a farm, it is actually really interesting. I would recommend it to some people, not to others (those who dislike personification and satires).

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Six year old Scout Finch is living in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression. Raised by Atticus Finch, Scout and her brother, Jem, are very comfortable with Maycomb and understand the well being of their neighbors, except the house of the mysterious Arthur Radley, whom they obsess over. Half the book is basically about Scout, Jem, and Dill (their new friend) trying to lure Arthur Radley out of his house. However, when Atticus, a lawyer, decides to take the case of a black man named Tom Robinson, tensions become high and the trial to see whether Tom Robinson is guilty or innocent based on his crime and, especially, his skin color is at stake. I absolutely love To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and it is my #1 favorite book because the structure of this book is so eye-opening since it addresses the struggle and tensions between African- Americans and Whites during a time period where slavery was abolished just less-than a century ago. I highly recommend this book because it is just so jaw-dropping and it hit me with surprises that had me at the edge of my seat.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Genres:

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