National Book Award/Finalist

Book Review: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Author
Larson, Erik
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

This is a compelling story of the popular World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the serial killer who took advantage of it. Set in the late 1800's, David Burnham and H. H. Holmes receive equal attention in alternating chapters between the fair's fascinating architecture and the growth of a heartless killer. I liked reading about the trials and errors of the fair and technology in the 19th century. Also, Holmes' terrifyingly calm demeanor added suspense to what would happen to his victims. It is a cool turn-of-the-century book, but the shift between monotone construction and graphic murders was an interesting style that isn't for everyone.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: The House of the Scorpion

Author
Farmer, Nancy
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The House of Scorpion is a book set in the future in a place called Opium with a boy named Mateo who is a clone of a huge drug lord who goes by "El Patron". This book has always been a favorite of mine since I read in 6th grade for the first time, it stuck out to me because the creativity, plot, setting, it is such a fun book to read and the book also has a sequel, so its great that the book continues. There wasn't really a time I disliked the book, it always had my attention, and I think that truly matters when reading a book. I choose this book not only because its a childhood fave but I feel like others might love to read this book as much as I did.

Reviewer's Name
Makaia

Book Review: Pax

Author
Pennypacker, Sara
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

“Pax” is a story about a boy and his fox. Peter has been taking care of Pax since he was a small kit. Over time Peter and Pax became very close. Peter’s father makes him leave Pax in the forest because Peter has to go live with his grandfather. Pax can’t go with Peter to his grandfather’s. After arriving at his grandfather’s house Peter realizes the mistake that he made, he decides to go after Pax. Pax who is hundreds of miles away is still holding out hope that his boy will come back, learns a couple of things about life, and makes a few friends. Peter makes a friend on the way and learns many things on his journey. Both of them want each other but will they find each other again, over hundreds of miles?

“Pax is an amazing, emotional book. It tells an amazing and eloquent story. By showing both Paxs’ and Peter's points of view you become very attached to them and you desperately want Peter to succeed. It portrays a relationship between a human and an animal beautifully. The ending made me feel many emotions. In my opinion, the ending was beautiful but if you really look at it it could be called rush with the way it was written. The ending was amazing and undesirable but at some point in the book, I knew that it would end that way. The book shows change so well, from Peter and Volas's relationship to Bristle and Pax's relationship, and just the characters in general. The writing describes everything and it was a beautiful writing style. We don’t know where the book takes place so things that are brought up in the book throw you for a curve. We don’t see what happens with Peter’s grandfather due to the ending. This book was beautifully written and it touches your heart, while some events in this book are unlikely, so much of this book will remind you of real-life. This is a book about change and it is so applicable to life. “Pax” is definitely a book to read when you want a book that will touch your heart and make you feel many emotions.

Reviewer's Name
Jordan

Book Review: Speak

Author
Anderson, Laurie Halse
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

I thought to speak was a very good book. It was well written and had very deep concepts to deal with. This book made me feel and almost cry for some of the characters.
Melinda is a ninth-grade outcast who goes down a trail of depression. She has a few friends but all her old ones don't like her anymore. As the story goes on you learn about Mel's life and what happened to make her slip up at school.
I personally really enjoyed this book because it was from a perspective of a girl that doesn't live the same type of life as me but I believe even if this is your situation you'll enjoy the book and could relate to the main character. Many concepts that can be hard to deal with are shown in this book. Including depression, school slump, the act of hurting oneself, lying, untrustworthiness, and one of the hardest to grapple with harassment and being shamed for doing the right thing. throughout all the ups and downs of his life as a ninth-grader, this book will give anyone insight into what happens behind the scenes of a troubled teen. How one can fall under the challenges of modern life and what it means to keep a secret that almost ruined your life.

Reviewer's Name
Clare

Book Review: Homecoming

Author
Voight, Cynthia
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

The main plot of Homecoming begins when Dicey, Maybeth, James, and Sammy Tillerman are abandoned by their mother at a mall parking lot in the town of Peewauket for unclear reasons. Their father had already left them previously, so after many financial difficulties they were forced to take a trip to receive aid from their Great Aunt Cilla in Bridgeport, Connecticut. They were left with limited money, not enough for a bus, to somehow make their way to Bridgeport. Led by 13-year-old sister Dicey, they must rely on their wits and survival skills to pave the way to their home. Upon arrival, they hit roadblocks. Despite this, they are able to make more money and discover the valuable information their grandmother lives in the small town of Crisfield, Maryland. They are unsure whether or not she is safe because of the instability that runs in the family. Without anything to lose, they decide to make their way to Crisfield in a second attempt to find their home.

I really enjoyed this book because of how they hooked me in really well by creating an atmosphere of desperation and mystery. For example, "why did their father leave?" or, "was their grandmother crazy?" The even better part about this is at the end of the book, it spun up the story very well for a book in a series. Most books in a series, in my opinion, leave you wanting too much at the end of a book. This one just left us with a few key questions left to answer. One of the characters that I felt like I related to, or rather that I hope to relate to, was a character named Windy. Windy was a student at college who took the Tillerman's in when they needed him the most. He was extremely kind towards them and better yet, he did it in a humble way. I hope I can be like this character so I can shine brightness into someone's life that needs it someday. I believe, even though the year is young, that this will be one of the best books I will have read this year. This book was an amazing tale, which I would recommend to anyone in eighth grade or higher.

Reviewer's Name
Cooper

Book Review: We Are Not Free

Author
Chee, Traci
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

We are Not Free, by Traci Chee is about the point of view of Japanese people throughout World War two. The book starts by showing slight racism from "ketos," and how their lives are getting torn apart because of the war. They then get shipped off to internment camps because Americans don't trust them enough to let them be free. The book focuses a chapter on each character to get the full amount of emotions and feelings about being trapped, not being trusted, and racism against each person in the book.
This book is the best book you will ever read. It gives such a great mix of emotions (I was jumping with joy one minute and crying the next.) It opens your eyes to bigger problems in this world and how lucky you might have it. Don't walk, run to the nearest library and read this book!

Reviewer's Name
Mackenzie

Book Review: The Sun is Also a Star

Author
Yoon, Nicola
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

This book is cute. We follow Natasha, a science and fact-based person, trying to do everything she can to prevent her family from being deported. And Daniel, a creative, hopeless romantic, is doing everything he can to please his parents by going to a Yale alumni interview. While on their own ways, their paths intersect. Daniel becomes determined to prove to Natasha that love is more than chemicals and is a real thing. While Natasha is determined to not fall in love with Daniel and stop her family from being deported.
As said before, this book is cute and explores what life is and what it can be. It does have a form of insta love, but it works with the setup and plot and is well used. I loved Natasha, she was relatable because of her fact-based ways. Then, Daniel was the kind of person that people are drawn to, funny, creative, and peotic. This book explores how much one person can affect so many other people's lives. It shows so many people besides the main character, and we learn so much about them. It is such a hopeful book and it's sp refreshing. Natasha and Daniel's relationship is rushed especially in the beginning. The social and racial aspects of this book are amazing, it was so well explained. There was history so that you could deeply understand why it was the way it was. This book makes you ponder about life, the universe, and fate. The chapters are so short that is it an easy and quick read. Overall it's a cute book that makes you think about life.

Reviewer's Name
Jordan

Book Review: The Westing Game

Author
Raskin, Ellen
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

The Westing Game is a fun, murder-mystery that follows 16 unlikely people working together to solve a mystery of "who-dunnit?". To sum it all up, this book is about a deceased man named Sam Westing, who planned a gathering for all of his distant relatives at his hotel to play a game that will uncover who murdered him. Sam Westing had said in his will that the very person who murdered him is one of the 16, and whoever had figured out who did it, would win the game and be the heir to his fortune. I liked this book because it was very fun trying to solve the mystery along with our characters and to see all of the different perspectives and thought processes of each of them. I did often find some of the characters frustrating to deal with, however, because they didn't try to work together and only tried to solve it for themselves. If I were to give this book a grade out of 10, I would give it a 7.

Reviewer's Name
Lilleah

Book Review: Hell of a Book

Author
Mott, Jason
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The premise of the book Hell of a Book by Jason Mott is as follows: an African American author has written a book and is touring the country to promote it. On his tour, he keeps encountering the same small child everywhere he goes. I can't say much beyond that without giving too much away.

This book recently won the 2021 National Book Award for fiction and I just don't think my review of it will do it justice. Not only that, but I hate writing overly exuberant reviews of books that are this unusual, because not everybody is going to love this book. Or understand it. But, that's the whole point, I think.

It's unusual. It's transcendent. It's elusive. It's ironic. It's deep. It's moving. It gives you tons to think about but very little to grasp onto.

I absolutely loved it. And I already want to read it again.

Reviewer's Name
Marika G.

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

Author
Lee, Harper
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This book is in the top 10 definitely! To Kill A Mockingbird is a story of prejudice Jim Crowe South and the constant fight for justice. Jem is the older brother of 'Scout', a tomboy constantly trying to fit in with the big kids. In the story, they attempt to fight for a black mans rights in attempt to prove his innocence in a rape trial. I would highly recommend this book to middle and high schoolers. This book has a deep meaning of the powerful message that kids can have and their outlook in bad situations.

Reviewer's Name
Luke