National Book Award/Finalist

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

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

Author
Lee, Harper
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a novel about Jean Louise Finch (Scout), living through her father Atticus' controversial decision to defend a black man in court. Along with experiencing the tribulations of racism in her home town of Maycomb County, Scout, her brother Jem, and her friend Dill explore the curiosities of the town and investigate the mysterious Boo Radley. The plot gave me excitement to continuing reading, and the joining of the two plots at the end created a perfect ending to the story. I thought that the book was really good due to the knowledge that was gained about the history during the Great Depression and the progression throughout the book that helped develop the main character. This was a school required book, but I would definitely recommend it to readers in high school and above.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name
Nicola

Book Review: Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

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

Look Both Ways By Jason Reynolds is a ten different short stories about kids walking home from school. The ten stories are woven together by the context of a school bus falling from the sky. But no one knows because they were all too busy with their lives. In ten different walks home from school, Look Both Ways captures the humor, poetry, and liveliness encompassing middle school and early high school life. It also explores seeing two sides or more of the same perspective. For example, the ‘bad kid’ may be good-hearted. I think the book was masterfully put together and woven ten stories seamlessly together. This book made me laugh, hope, cry, and believe. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book with 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name
Lucia

Book Review: Profiles in Courage

Author
Kennedy, John F
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

This book contained a lot of wisdom from a president’s point of view and was a very useful insight into his perspective. I appreciated the many different stories about many different historical figures and their trials, however, i did notice a strong bias against others and their perspectives. If i was to recommend this book to someone else, I would advise them to be careful about taking every word he says to heart, as he doesn’t phrase things from a neutral perspective. Overall i enjoyed the book, but it should be read by people looking for insight, not as an entertaining or exciting book. Though it may not have been thrilling or suspenseful, overall it was really good.

Reviewer's Name
Aubrey

Book Review: The Color Purple

Author
Walker, Alice
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

I loved this book. Celie, Shug, Nettie, and Sofia were such strong women, facing a hard life and rising above it. Celie in particular has cemented herself in my mind as one of the great female protagonists in all of literature. I love how she didn't let her circumstances squash her spirit. I learned so much about a wide variety of things in this book. I learned a lot about Africa in the 30s leading up to WWII and the desecration of the tribal land by the English. I learned about the treatment of African American women by African American men and about their resilience and bravery. I loved the ending. Perfect.

Reviewer's Name
vfranklyn

Book Review: The Hate U Give

Author
Thomas, Angie
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is about Starr Carter who is constantly switching between her Garden Heights self and Williamson Prep self. She switches her speech, personality, and behavior to match where she is at. After a shooting with her childhood friend, Starr finds it increasingly difficult for both Starrs’ to remain separated. Angie Thomas does a wonderful job at making you love some characters, hate others, and at times make you feel genuinely uncomfortable along with an ending that will make you feel satisfied. All in all, I loved this book and at times could not set it down and would recommend this book with a 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name
Lucia

Book Review: The Hate U Give

Author
Thomas, Angie
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Starr is a sixteen-year-old Black teen living in Garden Heights. Although she lives in a poor neighborhood, Starr attends a private school in a predominately white affluent neighborhood. While Starr is at a party in her neighborhood, a shooting forces her to leave with her friend, Khalil. On their way back, they're pulled over by police, and when Khalil is asked to step out of the car, he's shot and killed. Following his death, Starr finds it increasingly more difficult to balance her two lives, and gains attention when she takes getting justice for Khalil into her own hands.

I loved this book! Besdies the fact that it addresses a real world issue, it was also full of the everyday and the mundane, which was a good balance to the overall conflict in the story. I also liked how the ending was realistic, even if it was sad. Starr is my favorite character because her story is an important example of how each of us has a voice that is valuable, and she also shows that advocacy doesn't always have to be through demonstrations or riots.

Reviewer's Name
Nneoma

Book Review: Invisible Man

Author
Ellison, Ralph
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is an essential American classic. Written in the late 1940s, it tells the story of a young African American man who moves north during the Harlem Renaissance and faces many trials as he attempts to find his place in society. This novel is a candid portrayal of life for Black Americans in the pre-Civil Rights era, exposing the hardships and prejudices that are often overlooked in retrospect but were all too real for Blacks during this time. It is honest, reflective, and blunt; often unsettling and disturbing. A central theme of Ellison's novel is the idea of blindness and how it affects identity. The protagonist is left confused and misguided as a result of the blindness of those he encounters, trying to fit into the expectations of others, until at last he realizes that he is, and has always been, "invisible" to society. With this revelation, the invisible man at last finds his own identity.

The novel recounts all of the events leading to the protagonist's discovery of his invisibility, beginning at his colored college in the south and taking the audience north to Harlem. The protagonist faces many different circumstances which reveal just how marginalized Blacks were in the United States in the 30s; each episode is a testament to the challenges faced by African Americans (even a reflection of the challenges faced by African Americans today) due to the blind discrimination of white people. Each incident faced by the invisible man is largely a reiteration of previous ones, merely taking place in different circumstances, which emphasizes his lack of identity--even his own blindness. Eventually, due to an unfortunate incident, the protagonist loses all sense of who he used to be, and this is what allows him to begin to make change--for better or worse. There are numerous violent and suggestive scenes in this novel, so I would recommend it to older, more mature teenagers.

Ellison takes his readers on a powerful, enlightening journey with Invisible Man. His compelling writing is intertwined with tragic humor and soulful undertones of blues and jazz, the backdrop for an incredibly raw and moving novel. The invisible man's story is very relevant to society today, and Ellison's messages should serve as reminders to us all. I believe every American would benefit from reading this novel at some point in their life; it illustrates such an important part of our nation's history, and that of African Americans. Ellison portrays the protagonist's emotions with such introspective depth, every conflict and thought explored in all its complexities. Invisible Man may not be a particularly fun read, but it is important and it is worthwhile.

Reviewer's Name
Alexa

Book Review: Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Author
Sheinkin, Steve
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin is a must-read for history buffs everywhere. It features the history of nuclear science, including the first nuclear reactors and the building of the initial Manhattan Project team. It follows the progress of the Manhattan Project, while also detailing US and Soviet efforts to prevent German bomb development. It speaks of the heroism of commandos destroying enrichment facilities, and the long nights pulled by sleep-deprived scientists, as well as the fantastic power of the first Trinity tests. I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in nuclear or WWII history.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Harrison