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All Book Reviews by Genre: Realistic

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:
Book Review: The Higher Power of Lucky
Patron, Susan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was a very good book. I listened to it on audio and the narrator was fantastic. The climax of the book takes place during a dust storm, which is a classic case of the natural elements reflecting the story line. A bit contrived, yes, but good for young readers. The conclusion was textbook, but also okay for younger readers. If you'd like to read a good story with no surprises, this book is for you.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Walk Two Moons
Creech, Sharon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Walk two moons is a great way to express the life of a teenager. I really liked the book because I can relate to some of the circumstances. When Sal is trying to solve mysteries about her life, and how her mom went missing, she also learns many things about herself. Sharon Creech did a very good job with portraying emotion throughout the whole book. The reader is able to feel empathy for all the character because of the detail in the book. Overall, I would very much recommend this book to over readers.

Reviewer's Name: Kate B.
Genres:
Book Review: A Man Called Ove
Backman, Fredrik
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book starts of slow and then continues a leisurely pace throughout. It was a bit hard for me to get through the first half of the novel as it mainly dealt with the thought process of a suicidal curmudgeon. But as the novel unfolds, Ove is unwrapped to show a man with quiet strength who is mourning the loss of his wife and his job. As the novel continues, we meet people who insert themselves into his life, showing him kindness and giving him purpose. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a quiet, leisurely novel about the power of friendship.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: Where the Red Fern Grows
Rawls, Wilson
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is so well written that it didn't matter that I had nothing in common with the narrator and no interest in hunting. In fact, I felt sorry for the coons. This is a story of love and devotion that had me enthralled, especially in the second half. The ending, while a bit contrived, was still beautiful.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Where Things Come Back
Whaley, John Corey
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In his novel, Where Things Come Back, Whaley explors many different stories of different characters that he somehow joins together to be coherent and related to one another. I loved this book! It was my second time reading it because I remember thinking it was a really good book the first time I read it and wanted to see if I missed anything. It encompasses the relationship between two brothers and the mystery of how and why one of them went missing. As I was reading it the second time, I realized all of the clues that Whaley put in the book as to tell you how Gabriel got taken. I had a love-hate relationship with this book because of some of the very sad, real, and deep characters Whaley includes. This book had me in tears of joy and sorrow as it goes through Cullen’s memories he had with his brother and also the HORRIBLE crazy man that stole Gabriel and the way he terrorizes him. Gabriel was definitely a character that I loved the most as he was calm and has unspoken humor. He also isn’t the average athlete as he has nerdy interests as well. The only thing I didn’t love was how insignificant the ending was compared to the rest of the story. I wish Whaley went into more depth of how Culen Reacted to the surprise at the end of the book. I recommend this book to an older audience as it has some very deep stories within the characters. I’d rate this book a 9/10 only because of the ending. I thought everything was so beautifully incorporated into the story.

Reviewer Grade:11

Reviewer's Name: Micah L.
Genres:
Book Review: It's Not Summer Without You
Han, Jenny
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han is the sequel to The Summer I Turned Pretty. It is even more heart wrenching than the first book but that makes it even better. Susannah Fisher, Belly’s second mother plays a huge role in her life now. Belly and Conrad started their relationship off strong just the way she always imagined it would be. When he starts to become distant, they call it off and Conrad disappears. Jeremiah calls Belly for help and together they look for him. She is still heartbroken from their breakup but she goes through those internal conflicts independently. Jeremiah has a big surprise in story for Belly and she is faced with many more struggles.
There is an aspect in this sequel that I really loved and that was Susannah. She is in Belly’s thoughts all the time and as a girl, that really gave me something to relate to. Always hearing my mother in the back of my head telling me what I need to hear. It’s Not Summer Without You is terribly sad but exciting at the same time. It is impossible to give up on Belly’s story as she faces her problems. If you read the first book and want to keep going, I highly recommend it. It only gets better from here.

Reviewer's Name: Alahna E.
Book Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty
Han, Jenny
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy by Jenny Han is my all time favorite series. I have read and reread all of them and they never fail to make me feel excited, heartbroken, angry, and satisfied all at the same time. (I only feel angry because the books come to an end.) The first book, The Summer I Turned Pretty is beautifully written. It tells the story of Belly who only lives in the summer. In the town of Cousins that she has gone to every single summer since her birth, she has everything she needs. The Fishers have always considered Belly and her family a part of theirs. Susannah, the woman of the Fisher house is acting off this summer. The two fisher boys, Conrad and Jeremiah, always seem to make summer the paradise that she loves. Although she is younger, Belly has always had an enormous crush on Conrad, who seems dark and moody but fun and intelligent at the same time. Jenny Han depicts the perfect story of heartbreak and first love all at the same time.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, The Summer I Turned Pretty is absolutely amazing. The characterization is incredible and you feel so connected to Belly and what she is going through. Even though the story starts when she is fifteen, the reader feels as though they have watched her grow up. Jenny Han knows exactly how to rip your heart to pieces and then sew it all back together. This book was given to me as a birthday present and it has stains and rips in the pages because I used to carry it everywhere! I 10/10 recommend The Summer I Turned Pretty to anyone.

Reviewer's Name: Alahna E.
Awards:
Book Review: Tell Me Three Things
Buxbaum, Julie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum is realistic fiction and romantic. Julie Buxbaum writes about, Jessie, a teenager who has her life changed forever when her mother dies from cancer and her father practically elopes with a stranger. From Chicago to Los Angeles, Jessie struggles with her identity and her place in the jungle of Wood Valley High School. From the popular girls mean comments to the falls in the classroom, she considers moving back to Chicago. That is until she receives an anonymous email from someone called “SN” short for “Somebody/Nobody.” This stranger gives her advice on how to survive in her new world. It is sweet and filled with mystery. SN seems to know her too well. Who could it really be?

This was one of my favorite books that I read this year because Jessie always had someone in mind that she thought could be SN but she really struggled trying to make sense of it all. It was such a fun read and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a little heartbreak and a little love. The story was pretty relatable to any girl who has ever been thoroughly confused by drama in her life or has suffered any kind of loss. It was not predictable like some high school novels can be, it was surprising yet satisfying at the same time. What caught my eye about this book was the cover which has hearts made out of half eaten waffles which I guessed was relevant to the story. It is definitely a thumbs up read from me!

Reviewer's Name: Alahna E.
Book Review: Turtles All the Way Down
Green, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Turtles All the Way Down is John Green's latest release. Aza Holmes struggles with anxiety every day. She discovers that the multi-millionaire father of one of her old friends, Davis Pickett, has disappeared. Because of this, Aza and Davis reconnect with each other. I believe that as many people as possible should read Turtles All the Way Down. John Green does a fantastic job of, to some degree, describing what it is like to struggle with mental illness. As someone who struggles with anxiety myself, I found that Aza and I had many thoughts in common. Even if you don't have depression or anxiety or OCD or another mental illness, I would still highly recommend this novel. If you have ever wondered how it feels, Green does a fantastic job of making Aza's trouble relate-able. I loved the range of emotion in the book, from happiness, to fear, to feeling forgotten, to feeling love, John Green has described them all. Though not one of the best books I have ever read, in order to have empathy for more people and their situations, I recommend this novel.

Reviewer's Name: Hannah H.
Genres:
The Longest Ride
Sparks, Nicholas
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The novel “The Longest Ride” by Nicholas Sparks unravels two beautiful romance stories. The two stories are more different than alike but each love story have its own unique characteristics. The first story is about a man named Ira. He gets into a wreck on a snowy night and starts hallucinating his wife, who died 9 years ago. They start recapping their “Longest Ride” together. There love story came to be in the 1900’s around World War 2, making for some tough times and some beautifully romantic times. The other story is about young Sophia and Luke. Sophia is in college and Luke rides bulls. They meet at a rodeo and their totally different worlds collide. They soon start a relationship that is different than any other they’ve had. I loved this book because I love romance novels. I recommend it if you love sappy romance.
Reviewer grade 10

Reviewer's Name: Reaghan D.
Paper Towns
Green, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The novel “Paper Towns” by John Green is an amazing journey that takes a boy named Quentin to places he never thought he’d be. It starts off with a girl named Margo sneaking into his room to then convince him to sneak out with her. They have an amazing night full of adrenaline. Margo made Quentin step out of his comfort zone and see a whole new world. But the next morning when Quentin wakes up, Margo is gone. She goes missing for weeks, and no one knows why. Quentin then starts finding clues left by Margo which starts his adventure to find the mysterious Margo. I enjoyed this book because something interesting happened every chapter and I couldn’t put the book down. This book is also about people in high school, so I can relate to it. This book is a drama/mystery novel which makes it very intriguing. This book was not very predictable, it tends to leave you in edge. I’d recommend it to someone who like to read high school stories. I also watched the movie before reading this and still loved the book!
Reviewer grade 10

Reviewer's Name: Reaghan D.
Sing, Unburied, Sing
Ward, Jesmyn
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Jo Jo and his mother Leonie have been living on a farm in rural Missisippi for their entire lives. Jo Jo's father, Michael, has been in jail for drug related crimes, and thus most of Jo Jo and his sister Kayla's upbringing has been done by their grandparents: the gruff but ultimately loving Pop and the cancer-ridden matriarch, Mam. Everyone's world is about to be upended, though, as time grows near for Michael to get out of prison.

Writing any sort of synopsis for this book was particularly challenging, as there's not much in the way of plot. I don't mean that in a bad way. I sometimes love books that focus solely character development, and that is absolutely what this is. The writing is insanely gorgeous and it's obvious from the gruesome beginning scene as to why this won the National Book Award.

Ward manages to make almost all of the characters relatable or lovable even as they do and say and think terrible things. She absolutely captures some of the wonderfully horrible aspects of the human condition, and here is a lot to love in this book.

That being said, I did not much care for certain aspects of the audiobook. First, by the time I got the book, I had forgotten what it was actually about. I did not remember that ghosts were a part of the story and was really confused for the first part of the book (are these flashbacks? how is that character here? I thought he was dead?), but I eventually figured it out. For me, the ghosts detracted from the story and I could have done without that element, even though magical realism is often my jam. The biggest problem for me, however, was Rutina Wesley's performance (which, hilariously enough, is why I went for this in audiobook format - I liked her in the few seasons I watched of True Blood). It was over enunciated especially given that Leonie is from Mississippi, and I found her parts to be melodramatic as there were a lot of weird pauses and words said breathlessly. It just didn't work for me, and I wanted to skip all of Leonie's parts.

If you would like to read a gorgeously written character study/family drama with a compelling setting, then this is a great bet. Just read it, don't listen to it. 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: Small Great Things
Picoult, Jodi
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Here's the problem I have with Jodi Picoult. She always does some left field plot twist at the end of her books. I find it very annoying. This book is no exception. Something completely weird happens toward the end. Otherwise I enjoyed this book. Especially the Turk chapters. Fascinating and disturbing. Some of the book was heavy handed, but it's hard for a white woman to write about race, so she has my sympathy.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
If I Stay
Forman, Gayle
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This book was very popular a few years back amongst the girls who loved romantic books. I had very high expectations for it since it had its own movie. I was let down with a sad, sappy story that barely intrigued me.
It's what you would think of when someone brings up the average young adult novel. It's the classic story of a young beautiful girl, but supposedly normal, girl who faces a challenge. Along the way, she has a love interest who is head over heels for her. In the end she faces her challenge and lives happily ever after. The book was a bit boring to read. I have read books that have made me cry with the characters, and been angry with the characters, and so on. This... was not one of those. There were many sad things that happened in this book, but the author just couldn't reach me. Overall, I give this book 2 out of 5 stars for the lack of originality and its failed attempt to try to make it sad.

Reviewer's Name: Izzy C.
Handle With Care
Picoult, Jodi
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors, as her stories always involve a complex moral dilemma her well-developed characters are grappling with. This story in particular tugs at the heart strings of mothers who would do anything to protect their suffering child. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about the deeper, melancholy moments of life.

Reviewer's Name: Bethany P.

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