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All Book Reviews by Genre: Realistic

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine
Pla, Sally J.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Stanley is a whiz at comics trivia. Comics provide him with comfort when life becomes overwhelming and lately that's been all of the time! The principal at Peavey Middle School is obsessed with school safety and preparedness and this stresses Stanley out. He's able to escape from the school drills by spending them in a "safe room" where he creates a safety superhero, John Lockdown.

Stanley's best friend, Joon, wants to win VIP passes to Comic Fest by entering a Trivia Quest treasure hunt. While they begin as partners, Joon soon ditches him. Stanley decides to enter anyway to prove he can tackle his worries. As he faces the overwhelming and challenging day, he thinks, "What would John Lockdown do?"

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Genres:
Fangirl
Rowell, Rainbow
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Cath is moving away to college, but she doesn't feel anywhere near like an adult. In fact, she doesn't even entirely feel like she belongs in this world. Cath is obsessed with the Simon Snow series, i.e. the most famous series of novels ever written chronicling the adventures of a group of teenage wizards. She is one of the most well-known fan fiction writers in the entire Simon Snow fandom, earning tens of thousands of readers on each chapter. Her twin sister, Wren, used to help her write and fangirl over Simon with her, but lately they've grown apart. Despite going to the same college, Wren decided against sharing a dorm with Cath and is growing irritatingly close with her assigned roommate. By the contrary, Cath's roommate is unpleasant and distant and constantly has her handsome and annoyingly friendly boyfriend around their room. Every week, Cath escapes by writing in the library with a charming fellow English major. Even with her anxieties over the new experiences of college and writing stories using her own characters always in the back of her mind, Cath wrestles with her relationship with her sister, her dad's fragile mental state, romance, and trying to find herself.

Reviewer's Name: McKenna R.
Highly Illogical Behavior
Whaley, John Corey
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Highly Illogical Behavior is a story about a boy named Solomon Reed who not only has severe panic attacks but also has a fear of the outdoors which is known as agoraphobia. Lisa Praytor remembers the last time she saw "the boy in the fountain" in junior high when he had a panic attack and fell into the water fountain. She never knew him but she'd always wondered what had happened to him and where he went. This was the last time Solomon had gone outside for three years...it was better that way. He was safe from all of the world's craziness and despite his loneliness Solomon was happier living indoors because it was quiet and mundane and there was nothing for him to worry about. A girl named Lisa Praytor cannot wait to get out of the small town of Upland. One day Lisa saw an ad for Solomon's mother's dentistry practice in a newspaper so she immediately scheduled an appointment hoping to hear about how Solomon is doing. Lisa is interested in psychology and has to do an essay on her experience with mental illness. so she thinks that if she can meet Solomon and get him to slowly go outside and get over his agarophobia she would have a killer essay and would get accepted into a college that was far, far away from the small town of Upland. This book is one that is very hard to put down. The characters are very well-developed and all likeable in their own unique way. It's a quick read but nevertheless emotional and heart-filled.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth P.
Genres:
Stargirl
Spinelli, Jerry
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This past semester I took a children’s literature class that introduced me to a plethora of young adult novels; “Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli being one of them. Because of the curious title I decided to borrow the book from the library. I am so glad I did.
Jerry Spinelli’s book “Stargirl” tells the story of an unusual teenage girl who, after homeschooling her entire life, starts attending Mica High School in a small, Arizona town. The book is narrated by Leo, a regular teenage boy who becomes very interested with this peculiar new girl at his school. This peculiar girl goes by the name “Stargirl”. She confuses most of the school with her whimsical and unpredictable personality.
The way Jerry Spinelli tells his story through Leo, a regular kid, makes the reader feel as if they are one of the students at Mica High School noticing Stargirl for the first time. The unusual and sometimes startling things she does spark your interest and occasionally make you squirm in your seat. Stargirl is unlike anyone, and that is what makes her so fascinating; not only to Mica High School students but also to the reader. The story was not only great, but the message the book conveyed is very important. The book makes readers think about how often they adjust their personality and actions just to please those around them. It pointed out how rarely people are truly themselves anymore because of societal pressures.
Overall the story definitely made an impact on me and I would recommend this book to anyone who has a hard time being themselves because of pressures others have placed on them (Side note: I would recommend this book to anyone in general as well). The only reason I have decided to give this book 4 stars instead of 5 is because of the ending. Without giving any spoilers I will say that I love unexpected endings, but this one did not settle well with me. Nevertheless, I still loved almost the entire story and I will be reading it again in the future.

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn P.
Genres:
Cry, the Beloved Country
Paton, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The mystery of unbelief and rebellion and the misery that flows flows from it, is a great theme in scriptures and is played out painfully and powerfully in this epic novel. The questions surrounding unbelief, the pain to all who witness lives unraveling, and the consequences that lead to death can never be expounded upon simply. They are mysteries without simple answers.

In this profound book, some are driven to evil and misery by poverty and social injustice. But others, particularly two of the main characters, choose dark paths when they have been given every opportunity out. Light and life are offered but they follow after death and darkness.

Although this is story set in South Africa, it bears meaning for all time.
All are offered living water. "Come to me all you who thirst, come buy and eat, without money and without price." But many will not come. The dog returns to his vomit and sow to wallowing in his mud. To those who have tasted of the everlasting water, to those who know life and light, this remains among life's greatest mysteries. Everyone is offered cleansing waters of forgiveness, they are offered an eternal pardon, they are offered everlasting joy, they are offered peace and hope, but they love the darkness.
And they suffer for their choice as their life unravels thread by thread, and they bring grief upon grief on everyone who loves them. But they do not care and they do not turn. And Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood, but you were not willing."

A father weeps over a son and a sister, and as he weeps, he participates in the weeping of Jesus over Jerusalem. And yet, there is one in the story who flees corruption.

The ultimate crisis of this story takes place in the heart of the old priest who has led a faithful life. For darkness is predatory and never at rest, but it creeps and pursues and desires to consume and devour and distinguish all light. Will the priest be overtaken by hopelessness and despair and fear in his darkest hour? Will anger and perplexity and grief have the final word in his bereaved heart? Where will he turn to comfort? The darkness will not stop pursuing him and will not be content until he too has lost his joy in life.
How will he fight? What will he hold on to?

Highly recommend.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Awards:
Devos, Kelly
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Cookie Vonn is fat. And while she doesn’t want her weight to rule her life, she’s interested in fashion design. And in fashion, size is everything. Her dreams of getting out of Scottsdale, attending Parsons, an elite fashion design school, and becoming a fashion designer for women of all sizes might not work out if she can’t lose the weight.

Fast forward two years. Thanks to insane self-control, and the power of NutriMin (a stand in for Weight Watchers) Cookie has lost the weight. And the opportunities do start to roll in. She’s offered the chance to meet her idol and cover his fashion show for NutriMin. Better yet, after a breakfast meeting with him, she gets an offer to design a special plus size line that will be released as a preview for his upcoming Winter/Spring Collection. But even as Cookie’s life seems to be exactly what she wanted, she finds being skinny isn’t a panacea, and that somewhere along the way, she might have lost not only the weight, but herself.

This is a great new adult coming of age novel that I ate right up. It’s not my normal fare – I typically don’t read YA romances unless the protagonist is a person of color. While Cookie is white, she is fat, and that is definitely an underrepresented group of people in most modern literature, so I decided to take a chance on this one, and I’m really glad I did. I think some overweight readers will balk at the idea of this being a Cinderella story, but that’s not what this is – a lot of the book really centers on Cookie realizing that while her weight might be part of her identity, its not what makes her Cookie, and that realization is what makes this a strong coming of age tale.

The book switches back and forth between past and present Cookie (fat and skinny), a literary device that worked well here. We know Cookie gets skinny, but we learn why and how in the “fat” chapters, and we get to learn how she reaps the fruits of her labor in the “skinny” chapters. I wanted to know what happened to both versions of Cookies, and I found myself staying up way too late one night reading this. Cookie herself is a smart, resourceful young woman, and while she makes some seriously stupid decisions, they all seem in character and are the sort of decisions an inexperienced young woman might make – especially when the adults around her were sometimes giving her awful advice. I hated both of her relationships, but they seemed pretty realistic, and hopefully young women can learn from Cookie’s mistakes. I wish she had cut both guys out of her life as they were both toxic (one of them gets off way too easily), but that is my really my only major complaint.

I really liked this one, and I think new adults and older teens who enjoy contemporary reads will as well. If you like Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella or Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’, this book is definitely for you. 4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin Teen for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Fat Girl on a Plane is available for purchase now, and you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
How to Disappear
Roat, Sharon Huss
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

THIS IS A MUST READ! How to Disappear really made me think about how I treat others and how they see me. If you’re feeling alone, or a bit of an outcast, this book is for you. It helped me to realize that I need to be more open to other people and not judge them so quickly. At first, I found slight difficulty in connecting with the main character, Vicky, but towards the middle of the book I began to understand her. I recommend this book to ages 12+ because it contains mature themes like suicide prevention, going to therapy, cussing, etc. I firmly believe that if you go deep into How to Disappear, you’ll come back with a new perspective on how much one person can help others. Live vicariously.

Reviewer's Name: Kaitlyn S
Awards:
Genres:
Hoot
Hiaasen, Carl
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Mother Paula's, a beloved international pancake franchise, is looking to build its 469th restaurant in Coconut Cove, Florida. However, the site on which this restaurant is to be built is home to several families of burrowing owls, an endangered species. However, the owls are hardly ever visible so no one knows about them. That is except for Roy Eberhart and a mysterious boy known only as Mullet Fingers. It's up to these two middle schoolers to save the owls. However, they struggle with school bullies, fences, guard dogs, cops, and Mullet Fingers' parents who think that he is in military school in Alabama. This book really is a hoot and I recommend it for all middle school and early high school readers.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Genres:
Chomp
Hiaasen, Carl
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Mickey Cray is a professional animal wrangler in the Florida Everglades. He has rented out his animals to countless television shows and movies. However, he knows that he is in trouble when Derek Badger, a "survivalist" on a reality TV show, wants to rent some of his animals and to hire Mickey Cray to be his bodyguard for wild Florida animals in the Everglades. This book is packed with wild animal encounters, including gators, snakes, and bats. In addition, Chomp includes escaping from a crazed gunman and tons of humor. I highly recommend this book for all middle school and early high school readers.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Flush
Hiaasen, Carl
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Coral Queen, a very profitable casino boat, is dumping all of its sewage into the ocean. The only problem is that Dusty Muleman, the owner of the Coral Queen, is getting away with the illegal dumping since there is no evidence. Noah's Dad is concerned with the environment and always likes to do the right thing. However, he sometimes gets carried away. Therefore, Noah's Dad decides to sink the Coral Queen, but gets caught in the process and sent to jail. Now it is up to Noah to clear his dad's name and bust Dusty Muleman.
This book is hilarious and has a great moral. There are unexpected twists and turns throughout the entire book. I highly recommend this book to all middle and early high school aged readers.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Counting by 7s
Sloan, Holly Goldberg
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Willow Chance is a twelve year old genius whose main interests are gardening and medical conditions. At the beginning of the book, Willow is driving home with her school counselor, Dell Duke, when she spots police officers waiting around in her driveway. Willow immediately knows something is wrong. She soon discovers from the officers that both of her parents, Jimmy and Roberta Chance, were killed in a deadly car accident which leaves Willow heartbroken and confused. Who would take her and how long would it take to find a permanent home? This book is very well written and really shows the impact of this tragedy on Willow's life as well as showing how she gradually started to move on and continue her everyday life including starting to refresh her old hobbies and make friends at her new school. I would recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with the loss of a loved one, for someone who is trying to discover who they are, or for someone that's afraid to show their REAL self. Really... everyone could relate this book to a part of their life.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth P
Genres:
All the Light We Cannot See
Doeer, Anthony
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If All the Light We Cannot See were a movie, I would consider it “Oscar bait.” Set during the most romantic of World Wars: check. Main character with disability: check. Drama, tragedy, and suspense: check, check, and check. It’s then no wonder that All the Light We Cannot See ended up winning a Pulitzer. Sure, it’s filled with plenty of the “award” tropes that we tend to see repeated over and over again—but it works. What helps this book stand out from the rest of the books and movies that try too hard to earn awards is twofold: its characters and its plot.

Before I get too far into my praise for this book, I have to mention that the narrator for the audiobook version seemed to mispronounce a few words early on, which threw me for a loop and made me wonder if I’ve been mispronouncing them myself. Similarly, it was a little challenging to track the timeframes for some of the subplots, but the impact of the book was still the same. The author was able to paint a vivid set of lives set on opposite sides of a global conflict. From the blind French girl forced to survive on her own to the prodigious German boy with a penchant for radios and STEM, their internal and external conflicts were prime examples of gripping and engaging storytelling.

While there didn’t seem to be one primary driving plot in this book, the addition of the handful of subplots worked in concert to create a gem of a story (har har). These subplots were natural to the characters that embodied them, which helped to produce an amount of realism that held everything together. Everything just made sense, and even the semi-tragic ending was a satisfying end that left no subplot or loose end untied.

A beautiful piece of prose worthy of its Pulitzer, I give All the Light We Cannot See 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Agresti, Aimee
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Every four years, presidential candidates and their staffers travel the country searching for funding and votes. Campaign Widows follows five people who have been left behind by their partners as they work for electoral victory. But don't kid yourself - these "widows" have lives of their own. There is Cady, a newcomer to DC who is producing a show that is sagging in the ratings, Reagan, a speechwriter who is now doing freelance work as the recent mother to two twin girls, Birdie, a media mogul and DC taste-maker, Madison, whose husband Hank is in the running to be president, and Jay, whose partner Sky who got quickly upgraded from the "culture" section of the Queue (think Huffpost) to "politics" due to a staffing shortage. The book covers each of these dynamic characters as they live their own lives and effect the election in their own ways - with or without their partners' support.

This book is the perfect summer beach read, which is to say that its a light, fluffy read that would be great for any vacation (no beach necessary). The premise and setting were unique - I've not read a ton of women's fiction that is politically centered or even set in DC, and that really added to the title's value for me. All of the characters were well drawn and interesting in their own way. Often, when I read a book with multiple POVs, I find myself more invested in certain stories and then race through the chapters I don't much care for, but that was not the case here. Everyone was likable and engaging.

On the downside, I wanted more political satire than I got. While there definitely was some satire (Hank is a Trump stand-in, for example), and some dream scenarios (a three person dead heat race), I wanted more. Everyone's arcs were tied up a little too neatly for my taste, and it also made the book feel a bit less realistic.

Overall, I would recommend this read to anyone who enjoys the genre and likes happy and easy reads. It reminded me of Crazy Rich Asians in tone and style, so if you liked that book, give this one a try! I hope it gets made into a TV show or movie, because it'd be excellent in either of those formats if the drama and comedy were both amped up a bit. If you are looking for a light summer read, look no farther. 4 stars - its a stand-out in its genre!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Graydon House through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Campaign Widows became available for purchase on 22 May, and you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Counting by 7s
Sloan, Holly Goldberg
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Counting By 7s" by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a story about a girl and her struggles of going to school for the first time. The main character has to face many difficulties, and find herself along the way. I loved this book when I read it; usually I donate books once I finish them, but this book was a keeper. For my reading level, I found this book really good; not too easy and not too hard. I really loved the plot of this book, and liked seeing the view of the different characters. This book does talk about some heavy topics (including death), but is a very good book to learn about empathy and the impacts your actions have. If you love a happy ending and a satisfying novel, this book is for you!

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
Genres:
The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet
Dionne, Erin
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet", a story about a middle school teen and her struggles of trying to fit in, demonstrates the fact that family is always first. This book talks about Hamlet, a girl going through 8th grade. First of all, I am in 8th grade and find the reading level a little bit easier than I am used to. It is a very well-written novel, but aimed toward a younger audience; on one of the websites that sell this book, it is suggested for 4-7 graders. But other than age, this book is pretty good. It talks about some issues that sometimes/rarely come up with public schooling (this book talks about an extreme of this), and how to deal with fears and anger. Along with being a fictional novel, this book is a mystery.
If you like narrative stories including some elements of mystery and staying strong, then this book is for you!

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
Awards:
Genres:
Hello, Universe
Kelly, Erin Entrada
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Virgil is very shy but his family is incredibly loud. His mom calls
him Turtle and he really hates that. His fortune teller, 12 year old Kaori,
tells him to watch out for the color red and that starts a disastrous day of
being bullied and getting stuck in a deep well. Will his life end with his
disappearance? Every chapter of Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly will
delight readers 9-12 as they uncover a story with many pieces that fit
together beautifully at the end.

Reviewer's Name: Anonymous
Genres:
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Sanchez, Erika L.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Julia was happy that her older sister Olga fulfilled the role of "perfect Mexican daughter." Prim and proper, Olga always did what she was told and followed the rules. During Julia's junior year in high school, Olga was run over by a semi-truck and killed. After Olga's death, Julia is surprised when she finds some scandalous items in Olga's off-limits room. As Julia tries to learn more about her dead sister, she finds herself learning more about her family, friends, and ultimately, herself.

YA contemporary fiction is not really my thing - I went on a reading spree of this genre recently as I was reviewing my Goodreads "read" list from 2018 and realized that I have read zero books in this genre. Because I need to read it for work, I decided to go with award winning books and/or authors from a different background than myself. This book, a National Book Award finalist about the daughter of Mexican immigrants living in the US, met that metric and appealed to me on the diversity front. I gave it a go, and was quite pleasantly surprised.

Julia is an extremely sympathetic character, and not just because she does fairly well in the face of a lot of adversity. Her voice is at times raw and honest and at other times snarky and hilarious, which really worked for me. Even though we don't have a lot in common, I was able to connect with Julia and I really cared about her and her story.

There's a lot of character development as Julia slowly learns more about her family members and their pasts, and there's just enough intrigue to keep the pages turning.

In addition to being a good coming of age story, this book covers some really important topics. Obviously, there's a lot about grief and how we grieve differently. Julia is suffering from depression, and the book is not shy about discussing her mental illness. The end of the book is followed by a section entitled "Mental Health Resources." Moreover, I learned a bit about some aspects of Mexican culture, and I got to take a peak into the lives of folks who had recently immigrated into the US from Mexico.

Considering this wasn't really my thing in the first place, I quite enjoyed it! Readers of contemporary YA will like this one - its got a touch of romance, a likable protagonist, and loads of substance. 3.5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Every Note Played
Genova, Lisa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

As with all of this authors' novels, this book was beautifully written. I honestly didn't like either of the main characters in the beginning, but as they came to accept the changes in their lives and atone for wrongs they committed to each other I felt more and more empathy for what they went through. This disease is absolutely awful and it is painful to read about its progression, but I'm glad Ms. Genova continues to shed light on illnesses such as this in a way that is accessible. Highly recommended (unless you are feeling blue, then you might want to try something a little lighter!).

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Genres:
Simon vs.The Homo Sapiens Agenda
Albertalli, Becky
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Due to the fact that the new movie, "Love Simon", came out recently, I thought it'd be fitting to review the book it's based on! Simon is a mildly popular theatre kid who loves music - and is gay. One day he sees an anonymous message from another boy just like him on his school's Tumblr. His name is Blue, and over a series of emails, they form a kinship as they get to know each other better - without ever revealing their true identities. At the same time, a boy named Martin finds out about Simon and Blue's relationship and threatens to out Simon if he doesn't help Martin get to his crush, Abby. As the months pass, Simon realizes he's fallen in love with Blue and is determined to find out who he really is. The author drops clues throughout the whole novel as to who Blue might be, each one pointing to a different suspect. As each possible candidate was introduced, I felt everything from joy to confusion to dread. All in all, Albertalli creates an engaging and believable narrative of the experience of a gay teen I would recommend everyone to read.

Reviewer's Name: Mckenna R.
Lock and Key
Dessen, Sarah
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen tells the story of a high school girl named Ruby. The book starts after her alcoholic mother abandons her and Ruby moves in with her older sister who she hasn't seen for 10 years. Ruby has to go from living with an unstable mother and having to be the parent in family, to a rich, preppy life with people who actually want to be there for her. Ruby won't have it, she plans on staying till her 18th birthday then leaving. Her plans change when she meets Nate, a jock who has an interesting past but is now used to the rich life. Will Ruby and Nate let their walls divide them or break them down and become closer? I would rate this book a 5 out of 5 because it instantly grabbed my attention from the beginning and kept it. The author has a way of bringing her characters to life, like you could see it happening in real life. I would recommend this book to people who like realistic and romantic stories.

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle F.
Awards:

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