YALSA Award

Book Review: Under a Painted Sky

Under a Painted Sky
Author: 
Lee, Stacey
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Under a Painted Sky is a fictional western story set in 1849 on the Oregon Trail. It is about two girls named Samantha and Annamae who after some unfortunate luck leave their home, Missouri, behind to start a new life, but they must first survive the Oregon Trail. While traveling along the Oregon Trail, Samantha and Annamae disguise themselves as boys to avoid unwanted attention and they join a group of cowboys, but will Samantha and Annamae be able to trust them? Under a Painted Sky is a story about friendship and self-discovery that leaves you wanting to read more. Overall, I really enjoyed reading Under a Painted Sky because Stacy Lee developed the characters very well and I would recommend reading it.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Emma G

Book Review: Chomp

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

Chomp is a book written by Carl Hiaasen. I would rate Chomp five out of five stars. In Chomp, Wahoo’s mom is on a trip working in China. The main character, Wahoo, and his dad, Mickey, get hired for a TV job. Their family is tight on money, and they are trying to pay off the mortgage of their house. While Wahoo’s mom is in China, he and his dad go on a rollercoaster of exciting events working for the show. It has a very exciting plot and swallowed me into the book. It is a funny tale about the love for animals. I enjoyed the character’s humor and how Wahoo reacted to tough problems. I loved this book and would recommend it to others. It is in a series, but it is a standalone book. I would recommend reading all of the other books in this fantastic series. The author is an amazing writer. That is why I would recommend Chomp to you.

Reviewer's Name: 
Hayden S

Book Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author: 
Foer, Jonathan Safran
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close follows a nine-year-old boy named Oscar coming to terms with life after his father's death on 9/11. When looking through his dad's things, Oscar breaks a vase and finds a key and a mysterious envelope labeled "Black". He decides to embark on a mission to find every person named Black in New York City in an attempt to find the one Black who knew his father. Along the way, he meets new friends and discovers more about those he already knew. This book is written from the alternating perspectives of Oscar, his grandmother, and his mute grandfather whom Oscar has never met. This adds an interesting layer to the story, as Oscar lost a parent in 9/11 and his grandparents, both children at the time, lost their families in the bombing of Dresden. This shows a theme throughout this book that grief from war and terror is universal. This book's overall commentary on the human experience and grief, both individual and collectively experienced by a nation, shows the skill and thoughtfulness of the author. On a personal level, I did not find the characters particularly enticing and had a hard time following the plot at times, but I would still recommend the book, especially to someone with an interest in 9/11 or the world wars.

Reviewer's Name: 
McKenna R

Book Review: The Help

The Help
Author: 
Stockett, Kathryn
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Help is a novel set in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960's, written by Kathryn Stockett. The main character, Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan, is a aspiring journalist who lives with her parents and has no intention of starting a family like all of her friends; what she really wants is to be a writer. She decides to take a big risk and interview the help--the African American women who work in the households of white families to make a living--and write about their experiences. Kathryn Stockett's novel follows the lives of three women: Skeeter and two African American women: Aibileen and Minnie. The Help is spectacularly written and very accurately depicts society during segregation. It will make readers laugh out loud, cry, and connect with the characters. The plot is unpredictable and enjoyable, told through several perspectives which creates the perfect character development.
I strongly recommend this book to all readers who enjoy historical fiction.

Reviewer's Name: 
Alexa H

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Author: 
Rowling, J.K.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book was a really good start to the Harry Potter series. I had been recommended to it a few times before reading it, and it was totally worth it. This book starts the series comprising of Harry Potter's adventures at Hogwarts, a school for witches and wizards. I liked how this book never really let me down with many exciting elements and details leading up to a huge climax. Although, it did seem to drag at the beginning. I didn't really like that, but once you get past Harry's life with his aunt and uncle, you will not be disappointed. This is a book to read if you are into fantasy, and action.

Reviewer's Name: 
Katie

Book Review: The Ruins of Gorlan

The Ruins of Gorlan
Author: 
Flanagan, John
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The first installment of Ranger's Apprentice, the Ruins of Gorlan, is a fantasy-based book telling the story of a young orphaned boy, Will. Living in the Kingdom of Araluen, Will grows up in the time of a coming war. His journey starts once he is assigned to his job in the Kingdom, to which he will later become one of the most renowned and powerful characters.

As a start to a large series, the Ruins of Gorlan is a perfect set-up to the characters and plot. It introduces characters in a unique standpoint, without rushing to develop each character in the start. Will is a relatable protagonist to the audience, where he is equally balanced in regards to strengths and weaknesses. One aspect that is most enjoyable is the successful combination with fantasy into medieval times.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Nam T

Book Review: Eragon

Eragon
Author: 
Paolini, Christopher
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Finding a blue stone by Princess Arya, the orphaned farm boy Eragon finds out that it is a dragon egg. Once the dragon, Saphira, had been born, Eragon is trained to become a dragon rider by his teacher Brom. His legacy would become a prophecy to free his people from the tyrannical ruler, Galbatorix.

Eragon was a well-written and well-paced book. The character development had a strong foundation, leading to relating with the characters. One of its most unique details in the story is originality and ability to emphasize upon fantasy, yet demonstrate it in a reasonable way. The things I enjoyed most from the book was the setting.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Nam T

Book Review: Wild Bird

Wild Bird
Author: 
Van Drannen, Wendelin
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Wild Bird, by Wendelin Van Draanen, is an amazing, unforgettable book that you won't be able to put down. The theme of Wild Bird is that anyone can transform their lifestyles and become better people. This book's main character is a willful, fourteen year old girl named Wren whose biggest fault is being unable to say no. This has lead her to be involved with the wrong crowd and make very bad decisions, including smoking weed, shoplifting, and even being a drug runner for her "friend" Nico. One day, Wren ends up in the hospital, being both wasted and having drugs in her system. Her parents used to believe she was "sick" but this day in the hospital they realize she's been lying to them. Before she knows it, Wren is sent off to an eight week camp in Utah that supposedly helps change the lives of people her age with similar issues and addictions. Wren is extremely angry at her parents and the doctors and everyone who she thinks may be to blame for sending her here. But there in the desert of Utah, Wren learns to survive and she begins to realize over time that maybe it isn't their fault after all, and that maybe, just maybe, she needs to change her life around. In the desert, Wren has to face her feelings and realizes that there is no escaping her mistakes.

This book is amazing. I love the way the author created the character of Wren. She's willful, which at first was a weakness, but she later uses it as a strength. She's courageous and as the book goes on you just fall in love with her. I recommend this to anyone who may be struggling with an addiction, anyone who knows deep down in their heart that their life needs change, and, of course, to any readers who love books with adventure and drama.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Elizabeth P

Book Review: Everything Everything

Everything Everything
Author: 
Yoon, Nicola
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I really enjoyed this book. Though cheesy, it was full of cute romantic scenes. If you are into romance, you would LOVE this book. The medical element of the story was very interesting and added some meaning to the story. However, the unrealistic relationship in this story can become irritating further through the book. It follows two main characters (Madeline and Olly) on a journey finding love despite Madeline's deadly illness that prohibits her from being outside. Away from the world for almost her whole life, Madeline has gotten used to being alone with her mother and nurse. But Olly changes everything, and soon she doesn't want to be trapped outside anymore.
This book's twist at the end made me rate it 4 stars rather than 3, because its is executed beautifully and smoothly and will make you gasp out loud in surprise. I highly recommend this book for the romantic type, or if you liked the book "The Sun Is Also A Star". Though this book starts out slow, it later picks up pace and becomes more interesting and attaching. If you are willing, give this book a try. You won't regret it!
- Reviewer Grade 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Anna C

Book Review: Gone

Gone
Author: 
Grant, Michael
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Michael Grant has renewed a classic for the next generation of readers. Gone has a very similar structure to Lord of the Flies but has enhanced the story in many ways. Gone presents added science fiction elements to the story that will draw in many readers and provides conflict that will force you to keep reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. However, some readers may find some elements of the story slightly disturbing. Therefore, I recommend this book for high school aged readers and up.

Reviewer's Name: 
John B

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