National Book Critics Circle Award

Book Review: The Joy Luck Club

Author
Tan, Amy
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This book expresses the powerful spirits of four Chinese American mothers and daughters. The four mothers formed the Joy Luck Club after creating a strong bond with one another over mahjong after all four moved from China to San Francisco. Each mother holds her own unique struggle while living in China and while raising their "Americanized" children. As the daughters grow they realize that they shouldn't have rejected their Chinese heritage when they were young. Their mothers also wonder if they raised their daughters the right or wrong way because they were able to gift them with the independent spirit of an American, but may have disconnected them from their Chinese culture. While the book describes the lives of each mother and daughter, the plot mainly focuses on Jing-mei (June) Woo who, after her
mother passes away, travels to China to reconnect with the twin daughters her mother was forced to leave in China. Though this story follows the tales of Chinese women, I believe that anyone can find a connection to the struggles and conflicts these women faced.

Reviewer's Name
Jenna W.

Book Review: The Emperor of All Maladies

Author
Mukherjee, Siddhartha
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The Emperor of all Maladies is an informative and gripping history of cancer. Starting with the first recorded cases in ancient times and the remedies used by ancient doctors and progressing to the medical breakthroughs of chemotherapy and radiation, the book provides a wealth of information in a riveting tale. Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee tells the stories of cancer’s most prominent adversaries like Dr. Sidney Farber as they work to develop life-saving treatments and procedures. The book is quite lengthy but kept me engaged throughout while teaching me about cancer history and treatment in a form that feels more like a novel than a textbook. If you want to learn more about one of the most prolific diseases in human history while viewing history through the lens of cancer researchers, The Emperor of all Maladies is perfect for you!

Reviewer's Name
Harrison

Book Review: Educated

Author
Westover, Tara
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Growing up on the prairie in the past meant you were mostly isolated from the rest of society for better or worse. In the 1990s growing up in isolation in the U.S was very rare. Most people lived in cities, or suburbs, or small farming communities. Tara Westover was part of this abnormality. She grew up in rural Idaho and was homeschooled and rarely spent much time without her family. Which causes her to believe almost everything her parents and,siblings believed but when she began college she learned a lot more about the world than what she ever knew before.

I don’t typically pick up a memoir but this one was very highly recommended so I decided to give it a read. I thought the beginning was a bit slow but once you get through some of the background it becomes important in later portions of the book. I thought the book had a really good message and very unique perspective. It made me think a lot about how the school system could be improved and how outdated some of the typical school experiences are. I would recommend this book to teachers, school administrators, parents and students since they are so involved in education. I think it would be a good book to read at school and discuss as well.

Reviewer's Name
McKenzie

Book Review: Homegoing

Author
Gyasi, Yaa
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi follows two bloodlines, from half sisters in Ghana. Each chapter is about one descendant, switching between families somthat two chapters in a row are one generation. The book is well written and includes details that tie well into real life history or beliefs, and each chapter is in fact written in correlation with a major historical event. Through these tie-ins, the book is able to remain exciting, and each chapter could be read as a standalone short story. Each character has an important story, and is revisited in following chapters from their bloodline, either from memory or real life interactions between their children or grandchildren. In addition to the basic storytelling and history included in the book, there is also an aspect of mysticism, and values/traditions that are native to African culture, making it a solid read for increasing knowledge or understanding of Ghanan culture. For me, there are moments in the book that seem unnecessary to the general plot and sometimes vulgar, but they end up being essential in the consistency of the way the story is told. Readers are able to attach themselves to each character, story arc, anddetail, then follow them throughout the series of stories.

Reviewer's Name
Malachi

Book Review: The Things They Carried

Author
O'Brien, Tim
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The Things They Carried follows through the perspective of a soldier within the 23rd Infantry Division. Enlisted during the Vietnam War, the book covers over the soldier's, as well as the platoons experiences throughout. The Things They Carried is a collection of stories that correlate to one another, bringing an ultimate immersion to those that are interested of any war, or historical context.

The Things They Carried is a book that has a deeper insight within the emotional, mental, and physical state of the soldiers that went through the Vietnam War. Having a darker and more serious tone than other novels, it is one that stands out and deserves recognition.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Nam T

Book Review: Into Thin Air

Author
Krakauer, Jon
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Into Thin Air is a narrative story of the author and climber, Jon Krakauer.
He establishes that ever since he was a kid, climbing Mt. Everest was his dream. He later accomplishes his ambition down the line, but with more consequences than anything rewarding.

Into Thin Air uses a consistent tone of language to identify whether the situation represents relief or tension. This gathers more intensity for those who are interested in thrillers and adventurous stories. The narrative offers a variety of twists and turns throughout the plot in order to continue the use of curiosity and unpredictability of the end. The story is very interesting, and builds upon every single detail, from the start until the end of the book.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Nam T

Book Review: Maus II: A Survivor's Tale

Author
Spiegelman, Art
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Maus II, the sequel/continuation to Maus, continues the story of Vladek Spiegelman told by his son in the form of a comic book. This book is amazing because, just like the first, it uses an animal metaphor to easily show the reader who is who in the story. Maus II takes a darker turn because Vladek is now in the depths of Aushwitz. I love these books and their creative outlook on the War and the Holocaust. No other historical book has made me this intrigued and want to continue reading.

Reviewer's Name
Maddie K.

Book Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing

Author
Ward, Jesmyn
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

This book is a mix of old folklore and spirituality, racism, social stereotypes, and empathy. It revolves around a family who face racism from the white grandfather of black children. The main characters are the mother, the son, and the baby daughter, who relies more on her brother than her own mom. Her mother spends more time doing drugs than raising her kids, so the grandparents have generally brought them up. Their father, a white drug dealer, is in prison, and the book follows the family’s road trip to go and pick him up. The novel switches between a modern setting, and the prison but from the 1940s, when the black grandfather was in jail. The story analyzes the reasons behind a broken family, and brings to light the continued racism in the southern USA. However, the spirituality plays a role because another character who joins the road trip is the mother’s dead brother, who appears as a ghost and brings up the idea of family. I enjoyed this book very much because of its complexity. The book can be a slow read, as all the scenery and characters are continually described in precise detail, but the author leaves no point unexplained. The meanings behind the plot are subtle, and the supernatural aspect is a good point of interest to tie together the past and the present. I loved the honesty behind the author’s writing, and I enjoyed the beautiful writing style. I would highly recommend this book, and would give it four out of five stars.

Reviewer's Name
Molly Q

Book Review: Skink No Surrender

Author
Hiaasen, Carl
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Richard's cousin, Malley, has always been rebellious. However, this time Richard is really worried about her. Malley ran off with some guy that she met online and the cops can't find her. Richard knows that he can find her so he embarkes on an adventure along with Skink, a moderately sane one-eyed wandering vigilante. Skink No Surrender is awesome. Complete with daunting storms, poisonous snakes, giant gators, flying bullets, and a supposedly extinct woodpecker. Skink No Surrender is full of twists and turns that makes it impossible to put down. I read this book in under two days and I highly recommend it for any middle schooler or high schooler that is looking for a great adventure story.

Reviewer's Name
John B.

Book Review: Gilead

Author
Robinson, Marilynne
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

I feel the same way about this book as I do certain of my favorite foods: I absolutely love it but I can understand why someone else wouldn't. The very distinctness of this book is what makes it so lovely. If you're looking for an action-packed page-turner, keep looking. This is a book to be savored.

On the pages of Gilead, I was confronted with the transcendence, the miracle that is everyday life. The author beckoned me to see the smallest detail of existence as a thing to be cherished. I found myself deeply moved by the quiet steadiness of a man who had lived in one small, inconsequential town his whole life. He wrote no great books, and made no national waves, but he was faithful and content. What a concept! Yet he fought real battles! They were the struggles he waged in his own heart. For instance, he fought hard to love the wayward son of his best friend who had caused the family so much grief for decades, and had now returned. But in the end, he rose as a victor, and gave a blessing so moving it could change the course of a life. He had struggled for decades with loneliness. While his best friend had a household of eight kids, he had remained wifeless and childless for years after his first wife had died in childbirth. But this eventually served only as a platform to make him a stronger and more sensitive man--a man able to love more deeply because of all his heartache. All of this is described so skillfully, so carefully, that the reader cannot help but love all that the author loves. And what else is a good story for if not to capture the affections?

Reviewer's Name
Leslie Taylor