"Far From the Tree" by Robin Benway is a exploration of family, identity, and the bonds that tie people together. The book follows the interconnected lives of three siblings—Grace, Maya, and Joaquin—who are all separated and discover each other's existence and embark on a journey to understand the meaning of family. Benway skillfully intertwines the perspectives of these three characters, creating a narrative that unfolds with genuine emotion and authenticity. The story delves into themes of adoption, acceptance, and the profound impact of family connections on one's sense of self.
Awarding "Far From the Tree" a rating of 3/5 reflects my appreciation for the novel's engaging storyline and the author's adept portrayal of complex family dynamics. The characters are well-developed, and their individual struggles and growth are compelling. However, at times, the narrative can feel slightly formulaic, with certain plot points following predictable trajectories. Additionally, while the exploration of adoption is insightful, some aspects of the story may feel a bit too neatly resolved. Despite these minor critiques, Benway's ability to craft a touching narrative around the theme of found family makes "Far From the Tree" a solid and emotional read, deserving a 3 star rating.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is about a French girl who did not want to get married and prayed to a dangerous higher being made a deal. The deal makes Addie cursed to live until she gets tired of living and not being able to remember as she lives. Throughout the novel Addie is alone for 300 years her only company this higher being who enjoys to mock her. Finally after 300 years someone remembers her.
The novel is written in a bit of a slow pace, but it slowly builds up as it goes on. The novel switches between the past of characters lives and the present. The ending is a little surprising. The book is worth the read.
Reviewer Grade: 9
"Summer and July" by Paul Moiser is a warm novel about a girl named Juliet. Juliet's mother is a nurse who has to travel to California for the summer. Juliet is very upset about the move because she did not want to leave her best-friend Fern. Then Juliet meets Summer, a local surfer girl. Summer helps her adjust to the new surrounding, (which is very hard due to her mental illness). She faces her struggles with her new positive companion. When Summer reveals her own pains, Juliet must now be the one to help Summer overcome them.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, written by Stephen Chbosky, is a coming-of-age novel that explores the complexities of adolescence and the struggles of navigating social and emotional challenges. The novel is narrated by the protagonist, Charlie, a high school freshman who is struggling to fit in and find his place in the world. Charlie is a sympathetic protagonist, with his struggles with mental health and social anxiety serving as a powerful critique of the challenges of adolescence. His relationships with his friends Sam and Patrick provide an exploration of the complexities of friendship and the ways in which it can provide a sense of belonging and acceptance. Chbosky combines elements of romance, personal drama, and coming-of-age themes to create a plot that is emotionally resonant and suspenseful. The novel's themes, particularly mental health and the effects of trauma, are poignant and impactful, with Charlie's struggles serving as a critique of societal marginalization and stigmatization. Chbosky's descriptions of Charlie's thoughts and emotions are vivid, immersing readers in the experience of living with mental illness and navigating social and emotional challenges. His use of literary devices, such as symbolism and foreshadowing, adds depth and meaning to the story that kept me engaged throughout. While this book was heartwarming, it was also heartbreaking and took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. I would recommend this novel to all who love a sappy, coming of age, insightful read that gets you thinking about life.
Reviewer Grade: 11.
This graphic novel has a really interesting way of storytelling- it has multiple stories running simultaneously that add depth to one another. The author uses fairy tales, like the Magic Fish, to represent the actual characters in the main story. It follows a young boy who struggles to tell his mother he is gay and he experiences a crush on one of his close friends. It touches on some sensitive topics but ends really sweetly. Another bonus is the gorgeous artwork and use of color in the different storylines. Despite being a quick read, it was meaningful and a good story.
The book Less follows a middle-aged, gay author named Arthur Less, and recounts his loves and losses from a third person point of view. His lover of many years, Freddy, leaves him for a more serious relationship, he goes on a trip around the world partly to avoid Freddy's wedding and his upcoming 50th birthday. The book explores themes such as love, heartbreak, self-doubt, fear of aging, and sexuality. In Less's journey, he discovers that he can't run from his fears by traveling across oceans, he must face them. A Pulitzer prize winner, the language in the book is mature and riddled with literary references spanning throughout history. The author uses many intricate metaphors to describe Less's situation, and then book ends with an incredible twist that will make your jaw drop. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary literature and wants a meaningful, yet entertaining read.
Nona the Ninth is the third book in the Locked Tomb series. It was an unprecedented addition, as the series was originally meant to be a trilogy that would end with Alecto the Ninth. And after reading this book, I couldn't imagine the series any other way. This book takes a step away from our principle protagonists and inter-planetary conflict to zoom in on Nona, a young woman who has technically only been alive for six months. She is a great teacher's aid, a fantastic dog watcher, and a caring friend. As her city crumbles around her and the secrets of her origin begin to come to light, Nona must keep trust in herself and the people she loves if she hopes to make it to her birthday.
I've seen a lot of reviews comparing this book to the first two in the series. In my opinion, there is no comparison to be made between any of them. The first is a thriller mystery in a nightmare castle with newfound friends. The second is a psychological horror story that occasionally becomes a soap opera. The third is slice of life, and the most heartbreaking of all three. I agree fully with the choice to make this a separate book, instead of trying to cram this into a climactic series ending. The series needed time to breathe from the revelations and consequences of the first two books, and to develop many of the wonderful side characters. On this note, the side characters in this book ruined me. They are constantly hilarious. They are perpetually heartbreaking. They have so much love for each other and it tears me apart. They are also fantastically developed, to the point where the thought of losing any of them almost stopped me from finishing the book. A large part of what made them special was seeing them through Nona's eyes, which was a fantastic combination of naively loving and strangely perceptive. Speaking of which, Nona's perspective was a special treat. Throughout the series, the author usually increases tension and intrigue by seriously limiting someone’s perspective. Previously this had been by outside parties hiding information or the unreliability of the narrator, but Nona being a mental six-month-old was a special treat. She attempts to relay everything with accuracy, but with limited experience and vocabulary the audience is forced to experience everything with fresh eyes to try to see it for what it is. Beyond all this, the story shined in all the usual departments for this series. The humor was exceptional, probably the funniest the series has been since the beginning of Gideon the Ninth. I particularly enjoyed the dream sequence narrations, as they were beautiful, insightful, and insanely funny. Sometimes I feel like Muir makes nearly every one of her characters funny so they can rip your heart out later with a little extra oomph. The worldbuilding continues to be a harrowing endeavor in the best way, as you have to take the time to figure it out for yourself with what little glimpses the book gives you. The only complaint I feel like someone could make about this book is that the pacing was pretty slow in the beginning to establish the ensemble cast, but I loved every minute of it so I can’t complain.
In conclusion, this book is another triumph for the Locked Tomb trilogy, and I can’t wait to see what comes next! I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves found family, slice of life stories, lots of explosions, zombie princes, and dogs with too many legs!
Reviewer Grade: 12
In light of the Netflix series getting its second season, I decided to pick up Six of Crows. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised.
This is a fantasy heist story, which is already a standout. Kaz Brekker and his gang are tasked to steal from the Ice Court, one of the most secure places in the world. If they succeed they’ll get unimaginable amounts of money. Each of his crew members have a different motivation as they head in to break out a prisoner.
The characters are all well developed. Kaz is the standout, with a nice mix of mastermind villain and sympathetic protagonist. Inej and Nina are the most sympathetic, each having somewhat altruistic motivations. Matthias is horrible, but his redemption arc is interesting. Jesper and Wylan are a bit flat at times, but are both fun enough to make me ignore that.
The plot is easy to follow, while still having a reasonable amount of twists and turns. The main problem I have comes up late in the story. I won’t spoil anything, but two characters are set up for a betrayal. When it’s time for them to follow through, they just don’t. I’m sure it gets explored more in the sequel, but it rings a bit hollow for now.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book. Especially if you like morally gray protagonists.
We Are Okay is a beautifully written novel about depression and trauma from the perspective of Marin, a girl who ran off to college shortly after her grandfather's death. It's also about Mabel, her childhood best friend, and the evolution of their relationship. The book explores these themes through artful language, flawless dialogue, and many small acts of service; where it falls short, however, is the plot itself. I adore the book, but the big reveal of the grandfather's secret falls painfully flat. What should have been the climax of the novel, as foreshadowed from the very first page, is reduced to a few vague sentences alluding to greater truths. Marin claims to have "never known her grandfather," yet as a reader, I don't understand why she feels that way. Due to its design, the novel simply demands for a clearer climax without messy time-jumps. I was disappointed that a near-perfect book couldn't pack a punch with its climax, but the well-written characters and relationships make it worth the read anyway.
This book was unlike any other I've read before. I got it annotated by a friend as a Christmas present, and it was the best gift in the world. The first line alone shocked me, and made me want to keep reading. I love when a book starts off really interesting, and Margaret Owen nailed it. The characters are so funny, especially Jasimir, and Tavin is a wonderfully written brave and witty character too. I felt like I lived in the book, it was so vivid and the imagery was amazing. The gore was just enough to have an impact, but not be overwhelming. I would recommend this book in a heartbeat. Can't wait to read the sequel!!!
Reviewer grade: 11
Until this book, I had not read anything that had impacted me this much. It was an absolutely heart wrenching book that was so beautifully written and was overall amazing. I love books that touch on the dark and uncomfortable parts of life and the human experience that aren't talked about very often and this is one of those types of books (check the trigger warnings before reading it because there are a lot of tough subjects in it).
A Little Life follows a man named Jude throughout his whole life. It focuses mainly on him and his friends when they met in college and follows them beyond, well into adulthood. It has flashbacks to Jude's childhood and the trauma he went through and how he coped with that trauma and how his relationships were affected. It has a strong message about friendship and has underlying themes of dealing with grief and abuse along with other tough subjects. This is hands down the best book I have read in a long time. The characters were incredibly developed and they felt real, it was one of those types of books that took me a long time to recover from after I finished it because I felt so close to the characters and the story. Even though some of the topics covered in this book are tough and uncomfortable, they are important to talk about and I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys raw and slightly gut wrenching books.
Reviewer Grade: 11
We Deserve Monuments follows a seventeen-year-old girl named Avery as her and her family leave Washington, D.C. to return to her mother's childhood home. Avery's grandmother is dying, but somehow her mother and her grandmother still can't bring themselves to reconcile over decade-old, hidden arguments. While Avery struggles to adjust to a new school and new friends, she must also try to untangle the deep roots of family resentment that could keep her family broken forever.
This book is beautifully done. The prose is something out of a dream, and stays light and airy in the same way that small towns seem to hover in a landscape. The past is interwoven into the landscape to create a truly textured story. Every moment is given the weight and wonder that it deserves, and is a glorious reflection on the raptures of youth. Honestly, my only issue is the plot. I feel like the story would've benefited from more focus on Avery and her family, and less on the drama with her friends. I appreciated it in the beginning, but I felt like things fell apart so quickly that I couldn't get invested in what was going on. Avery herself was sympathetic, but both her and every other younger character in the book makes some truly stupid decisions. It worked better for Avery, since it showed her struggling to grow up and be an adult in her family situation while still embracing her teenage years, but I'm not sure if anyone else has enough of an excuse. With the three generations being examined, I wished that Avery's mom had gotten more of a spotlight in the story instead of whatever was happening with the kids all of the time. The story was still tight, and I felt like the ending was deserved and poignant.
I know it sounds like I didn't like this book that much, but that's just because its a very well done story with lots of style and a lot of things to nitpick. My opening notes still stand: this is one of the most poignant and affecting books I've read this year, with a lot of heart and charm distilled into it. I would recommend it to anyone that wants to read some beautiful prose and cry over family!
Reviewer Grade: 12
Although I was skeptical at first, I quickly fell in love with the bizarre world of Dellecher and its fourth-year theater students. The worldbuilding and three-dimensional characters transcended expectations. I read this novel in a mere 3 days, and it didn't take long to get me hooked. I'm obsessed the way these students were with Shakespeare. Unfortunately, this beautifully written novel has some glaring flaws that it wasn't poetic enough to cover. The plot started off strong but lost its way in the whirlwind of the theater world. It veered towards a tangled romance before reluctantly wandering back to its roots abruptly before the novel ended. I would've liked more development in any and all realms besides Oliver and Meredith. In fact, I would happily read a series of books detailing these seven students' journey through university. After about six hours spent reading, I feel I only have a vague idea of these characters, and I'm on the edge of my seat for more. Regardless, it was a thrilling ride, and I'm optimistic for Rio's other works.
I had heard a lot of wonderful reviews about this book and the book definitely met every one. The book focuses on the scandalous life of the mysterious and legendary actress Evelyn Hugo as she retells the story to unknown journalist Monique Grant. During her retelling, the story unfolds that connects everything, leaving the readers still wanting more. I was happily surprised reading and would love to get the chance to be able to experience the story for the first time again. I enjoyed the old timeliness of Hollywood and the resemblance to Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe. If you want to be engrossed by a book with twists and turns till the end, then this book is for you!
Reviewer Grade 12
Have you ever read a book that’s so bad it’s good? Maybe even great? Even if you haven’t, there is room for one of these books in everyone’s lives. This book for me is Horror Hotel. Cringey, “Gen Z” dialogue? Horror Hotel has it. Badly written plot with an obvious twist? You can find that in Horror Hotel. One dimensional characters? You guessed it, Horror Hotel. Though, I will give this book credit where it’s due. I had found myself laughing harder than I’ve ever had at a book. It has the exact same energy of something you’d write with your friends at 3 AM. If you are looking for grade-A trash, you’ll definitely find it in Horror Hotel.
The Song of Achilles was written in 2011 by American writer Madeline Miller. It is an adoption of Homer's Iliad and is a retelling of the great Greek warrior Achilles. The tale is told from the perspective of Patroclus. The novel follows the romantic relationship between Patroclus and Achilles as it is written in the novel.
*"He is half of my soul, as the poets say."*
*Madeline Miller, by using their relationship, is trying to show the role of men in ancient Greek society and how homosexuality was viewed in that era. The most pleasing thing about this novel is Miller's poetic writing and how beautifully she has painted the vivid picture of the emotions of all the characters, and it has taken me into another world while I was reading.
There are some debates that have been going on for centuries until today. For example, the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles has been debated for centuries, and still there is no clear evidence of whether they were lovers or close comrades. The second one is that Helen was the cause of the Trojan War, and destroying thousands of ships and men just for a woman is foolishness. As Dr. Faustus says:
*"Was this the face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium?"*
Mean by there, is she that much beautiful that kings are willing to destroy anything?
The novel also contains many themes. The first one is *"honour and pride".* Achilles fights for his honour because he wants his name to be remembered, in the same way Agamemnon and Menelaus fight for their pride, which they lost when Helen was kidnapped by the king of Troy. For Greeks, honour and pride is everything, and they prefer to sacrifice their lives over honour and glory. They believe that sometimes violence is needed to prove one's pride. As it is set down in the text:
" *The sons of Troy are known for their skill in battle, and their deaths will lift your name to the stars."*
The second major theme is *impulse to show power*. Achilles, Agamemnon, and Menelaus fight for power and want to have control over their lives; one of the biggest reasons for participating in battle is to showcase their power. Besides this,the powerlessness of women like Helen, Briseis, and Deidmeia can be seen in the novel. Agamemnon treats Briseis badly as a wench or a war prize, and also, Helen is forced to choose a husband even though she doesn't want a husband.
*To conclude* , the novel is a wonderful piece of literature and deserves to be read because the way Medellin Miller has described all the events and feelings of all the characters makes you feel the same.
Alice Oseman's Heartstopper series blew me away, so I was excited to see her take on a contemporary novel. It was... pretty good. The main character Georgia has a very relatable personality as she experiences her freshman year of college, as she tends to overthink interactions and struggles with finding her identity. The close relationship she has with friends was a really beautiful story to read about, so that part was amazing. Pip was a really funny character, and I liked how she also had depth as a side character and didn't need to be with Georgia at all times. However, the plot revolves mostly around Georgia discovering her sexuality, and that felt very repetitive. It was really cool to have asexual aromantic representation, and finding peace in that identity with the loving LGBTQ+ community. I do just think that Georgia kept having the same discussion with herself and dragging friends into experiments with her sexuality for no reason. For example, I found it weird that her roommate, Rooney, was obsessed with getting Georgia a romantic partner. Georgia mentioned being single once, and now Rooney just won't let it go? The book would have been much better if Georgia had just consulted her friends instead of dragging them into this great mission of finding a partner (but it would be a short book if everyone communicated too well!). Overall, I would really recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with their sexuality or just a new experience like going away for college. It is a great coming-of-age piece.
Every time I think, "Alice Oseman can't possibly outshine previous Heartstopper books," she proves me wrong! This graphic novel had beautiful art and great representation. Heartstopper: Volume Four follows Charlie and Nick as they deal with separation anxiety, saying "I love you", and working through Charlie's declining mental health. There are some really important themes introduced, the biggest being Charlie's anorexia and OCD diagnosis. This was a really emotional part of the book, but it is also crucial for more young adult books like this to spread awareness about how common mental illnesses are. Charlie and Nick's relationship is strong, but it was also cool that they discussed how spending time with other loved ones instead will strengthen their relationship. Plus, their friends are diverse, endlessly kind, and could easily be real people. It is always a joy to read this series, and I can't wait for Volume Five!
I chose this book because I had watched the movie and was curious as to how the book was in comparison. I found that both were great overall and I don't dislike one more than the other, but the book felt more mature than the movie. Overall I really did enjoy this book, the detail in the book was a great touch, as well as was relatable. Personally, I felt a connection to some of the characters having to leave for college and trying to get the best possible score on the SAT. There is only one thing I did not enjoy about this book though, which is that there is a lot of smoking. The smoking feels a bit excessive, especially when the book follows a freshman in high school, so the amount of smoking I feel like does not portray a true aspect of what that would look like in real life. I would recommend this book to an upper teenage audience since there are mature topics such as brief sexual scenes and smoking. I gave this book 4 stars since I felt like it was very well written and an enjoyable book to read; the deduction of one star was due to the portrayal of smoking. This is honestly a great read that I personally love, I would definitely recommend it!
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a story about Gilda, who is an atheist, twenty-something years old, highly anxious, and gay. When she goes to a church after hearing about free therapy and assumed to be applying for the receptionist position, Gilda can't bring herself to correct anyone. Over her term as a Catholic receptionist, Gilda will have to lie about a dead woman, learn the lines for mass, hide her new girlfriend, and discover the hope that can come with the truth.
This book is the type of realistic fiction I usually call "a day in the life." It isn't about extraordinary circumstances or new love or changing lives. It's just someone struggling to survive the way that they always have, perhaps while working to get themselves out of it. Gilda's life is terrifying and constrictive. She's constantly afraid of what other's think of her, of people's disapproval, and yet is often so exhausted that she can barely communicate with the people she cares about. She's also, as the title foreshadows, constantly obsessing over death. Seeing the world through Gilda's eyes is strange and sad and scary. But it's also extremely enlightening. Even though Gilda is definitely an neurotic anomaly, her quirks and struggles are extraordinary relatable. The author really forces the reader to stare in the mirror, to see the fears and embarrassments that hold us back on a daily basis. One example could be Gilda's focus on death, which is almost paradoxical since her fixation on the end of her life keeps her living the life she has right now. I know that when I finished this book, it filled me with the desire to live my life to the fullest. The book also stands out with great prose, memorable characters, and vivid atmosphere!
All in all, this book might be unpleasant to read sometimes due to the depressing subject matter, but it's so educational and important that I'd recommend everyone read this at least once!
Reviewer Grade: 12