YALSA Award

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets book jacket
Author: 
Rowling, J.K.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The second book to the Harry Potter series, the Chamber of Secrets continues on with the adventures of Harry Potter at Hogwarts. Although still relatively new to Hogwarts, Potter will expect nothing more than trouble and new enemies along the way. Including spiders, lively trees, and flying cars, he will be unprepared for what is coming ahead.

The Chamber of Secrets is a successful follow up to its predecessor, Sorcerer's Stone. Bringing more character development, it introduces a variety of themes and messages found throughout that keeps the story interesting. It is highly recommended for those that have started to read to continue on to this book.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Nam T

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

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

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone uncovers the first book of the Harry Potter series. Here, Harry learns that he is a child of two of powerful wizards. On his birthday, he is summoned to the Wizard world, to which he will begin his new life at the school Hogwarts. Harry encounters a variety of magical fights that will ultimately lead him to becoming a powerful wizard himself.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was an enjoyable book. Interfacing with an original setting and story line, the Sorcerer's Stone is highly recommended to be read by either casual or advanced readers. It brings out a new story arc that induces those who are interested in fantasy to continue on with the story.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Nam T

Book Review: Divergent

Divergent book jacket
Author: 
Roth, Veronica
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The journey of a girl who only had a mere spark, but soon let it engulf in flames.
Beatrice Prior lives in a dystopian world where people are categorized by personality and lifestyle preferences. There are five sections: Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, Abnegation, and Candor. Beatrice lives in the abnegation faction, with nothing to her name but her father's presence in the council.
That becomes an issue when Beatrice discovers that she is different from everyone else. Something inside of her has been trying to tell her that, but she left it to simmer. When she makes a life-altering decision to change her faction, she fears that she has disappointed her family. Beatrice soon learns to let go of what once held her back and fight for what she truly wants. In, "Divergent," the reader sees first-hand how grueling life can be and how becoming completely and utterly obsessed with the things you want only sets you up for success. In a dystopian world of chaos and mayhem, Beatrice not only sets out to find herself but is desperate to find the truth. Who is really behind all of this destruction? And how brave do you need to be to figure it out?
(Reviewer Grade: 9)

Reviewer's Name: 
Hanna S

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars book cover
Author: 
Green, John
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Nobody was more devastated than Hazel Grace’s mother when Hazel was diagnosed with lung cancer. Hazel was forced by her mom to attend a support group for cancer patients because her mom thought it would be beneficial for her mental health. At first Hazel was not excited to be in a support group, that is until she meets Augustus Waters. Augustus is a young man who had lost his leg to cancer, but through all of his hardships uses cancer for the basis of his sarcastic humor. Hazel and Augustus hit it off, and enjoy the bliss of a whirlwind romance. However, their happiness is cut short by a sudden tragedy that leaves one of them in total despair. And as John Green writes in this novel “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
Reviewer Grade:12

Reviewer's Name: 
Madison S

Book Reviews: If I Stay

If I Stay book cover
Author: 
Forman, Gayle
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

A tragic story, reflecting the struggle of a girl who clings to life. This novel brought many tears to my eyes as I read it. The main character Mia and her family had just been in life threatening car crash; when in the hospital Mia wakes up but outside of her body. She is faced with a heartbreaking
decision: to stay and live, or to die and leave. Mia while in this conscious drift apart from her physical body re-lives all the life changing moments of her past and witnesses all of her relatives and friends as they come to the hospital to potentially say goodbye. Mia is then faced with the decision of whether she should stay. Sadness, memories, romance, heartbreak, the novel If I Stay has it all.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: 
Madison S

Book Review: Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie book cover
Author: 
Albom, Mitch
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Tuesdays with Morrie is the most moving and sentimental novel I have ever read. The first person narrative told by the author Mitch Albom, walks through Albom’s life changing journey with his old college professor, Morrie. Albom spends a series of Tuesdays learning from Morrie, who had been diagnosed with ALS and has a very limited time to live. In this true story Morrie Schwartz speaks valuable truth and offers insight into what is important in life and why he wasn’t scared to die. My favorite quote from the novel is “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” Tuesdays with Morrie teaches all its readers how important everyday truly is, and how to not take life for granted.

Reviewer Grade:12

Reviewer's Name: 
Madison S
Awards: 

Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees
Author: 
Kidd, Sue Monk
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Phenomenal. That is one of the best words I can use to describe this book. The secret life of bees is an amazing story about a girl who leaves her abusive home with her housekeeper (1950s-60s era) and finds herself living with three sisters who make honey. A story bursting with vivid description and creative storytelling, the secret life of bees draws you in and keeps you there until you are suddenly done with the book. Truly an amazing story that shows that the family you're born with isn't always the family you end up with.

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie K

Book Review: Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines
Author: 
Reeve, Philip
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

In yet another case of watching a movie first before reading the books, I finally got around to reading Mortal Engines after absolutely loving the 2018 movie. While I understand middle-grade or Young Adult readers are the intended audiences, it left me wanting in its presentation. Sure, most of the elements that made it into the film were there (with some less-than-necessary parts being cut from the screenplay for obvious reasons), but the way it was written felt a bit too flowery for my tastes. In fact, the engineer in me would have loved a lot more world-building than I got in this short volume. I did still appreciate the post apocalyptic steampunk world of Mortal Engines—if for no other reason than its ridiculous premise. The idea that whole cities would transform into moving monstrosities that devour lesser towns in a “predator and prey” relationship is such an intriguing notion that I had to give it a chance. Even if I don’t expect there to be movies to finish out the adaptation of the quartet of books, I can definitely look forward to exploring the rest of this series to have my world-building needs satiated in the next volume.

While the young protagonists were flat and singularly minded, some of the adults had enough meat on them to make their actions reasonable and realistic. Sure, there are always going to be clichés in stories meant for younger audiences. However, I don’t usually tolerate character-based clichés as much as I do plot-based ones. And while the writing certainly had a creative bent to its vocabulary, it became tiresome having to sit through it for a whole book. Purple prose is good in short bursts, but too much of a good thing can ruin the immersion of the reader.

A fantastic idea with semi-flat characters and far too flowery language, I give Mortal Engines 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Pride

Pride
Author: 
Zoboi, Ibi Aanu
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

A modern take on Jane Austen's "Pride and Predjudice", "Pride" focuses on Brooklyn proud Zuri who writes poetry and hates seeing her neighborhood change. Zuri deals with the introduction of a rich new family to her block and the subsequent gentrification of her neighborhood. With themes of romance, reluctance, and pessimism, "Pride" makes for an interesting exploration of modern romance. Along with that, there is an interesting insight on the idea of what a neighborhood is: people you know, places where you know what to expect, and the true feeling of home. "Pride" is a great read for those who want a romance but also relate to the struggles of high school and family as a teenager.

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie K

Book Review: Mirage

Mirage
Author: 
Daud, Somaiya
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

"Mirage", an immersive and captivating book, tells the story of a girl stolen from her home to become identical stand-in for an intergalactic princess with a target on her back. The main character Amani is a simple and traditional girl who is kidnapped and tortured for the soul fact that she looks exactly like the hated princess of the galaxy. An incredibly intriguing story about self, love, and revolution, "Mirage" captures the conflict of learning to love someone you shouldn't and coming to love the person who enslaved you. "Mirage" incorporates South-East Asian culture along with subtly hinting at the tensions between Europeans and South-East Asians. A beautiful book, "Mirage" is certainly a great read if you want a beautiful and empowering story.

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie K

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