The Virgin Suicides is the elegy of the Lisbon girls, from the perspectives of the neighbors that are still haunted by them. The Lisbon family lives on a quaint suburban street in the Sun Belt, drenched in sunlight and white-washed shingles. Then one year, every Lisbon girl, starting with Cecilia and ending with Mary, commits suicide. This book is the observations and meditations of the boys across the street, the ones who loved them, who obsessed over them, who objectified them, and who watched them die one by one. The girls are doomed from the opening lines. The only question that remains is why they did it, and why our narrators can't let them go.
I read this book because I was told it was a staple of dark academia. It is not, no one here likes school. In reality, it is a treatise on girlhood, in all its insubstantial suffering. The first thing that struck me was the way the author sets the mood immediately. The entire book is dripping with malaise, the suffocating nature of sisterhood and parenthood on full display whenever the Lisbon house is described. The brief gasps of outside life are bright and crisp, while the references to the current day, middle-age life of the narrators is sad and listless. I wouldn't say this book is pleasant to read, but it is gripping in its complete commitment to its mood and setting. On that note, the choice of the author to tell the story entirely from outside perspectives was fascinating. The narrator is only described as "we", as the group of neighborhood boys who obsess over the girls in both childhood and adulthood. One conflict in the book is wondering if we are meant to sympathize with the boys who are scarred from the suicides, or see them as a commentary on the ways that the world seeks to capture and define teenage girls. I ended up seeing it as the latter, which likely made me view this book in better light than many of my peers. The boys actions always have an air of perversion about them, and at the end they seem to realize that all their breaches of privacy and decency have brought them no closer to understanding the girls. Another thing I liked about this book is the way that the girls are given a kind of privacy of thought from the narrators and the readers. Every attempt at scrutinizing their reasoning or emotions or motivations is always followed by a caveat. Nothing is certain with the Lisbon sisters, just the way nothing is every certain when we view the actions of others. The unknowability of their tight knit group gives them a dignity that their neighbors and community seem to want to violate constantly. This book is also a clear censure of suburbia. The neighbors try to do their best to help when they can, but still grumble amongst themselves about the Lisbon family leaving the leaves in their yard the fall after their youngest commits suicide. The great debutante balls and dances of the south are in full swing, but there is an undercurrent of corruption and distortion to the dancing and dating. The sexualization of the girls is also rampant, which, again, makes the book a lot harder to enjoy if you don't see it as a choice by the author in order to comment on it. In short, the suicide of the girls seems like a catharsis, a response to the disgusting and decaying world around them. Everyone around them represses their emotions, from their parents to the boys enraptured by them to their teachers to their peers. They are the only ones who get to set something free. The juxtaposition of the wailing EMTs to the quaint, straining neighborhood further demonstrates their freedom, even in their death.
This book did have problems. A lot of stuff is uncomfortable to read, even if viewed as a deliberate choice. The story often takes winding tangents that serve little purpose besides demonstrating the boredom and trivialities of suburban life. Still, the book is still a fantastic meditation on what its like to be a teenage girl, in all the wonderful and ghastly ways. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for good setting, shocking stories, and a good mystery to carry with them!
Reviewer Grade: 12
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
If you consider yourself an experienced reader, you can probably state that there are barely a few books in this world that can touch your heart. You went through hundreds of human fates written on thousands of pages; you can easily predict the plots of love stories or detective novels; you can easily identify what figurative devices the author used here and there to make you feel sad, hopeful or amused. You feel so confident and think that nothing in the literature world can surprise you anymore, but then… you open this book, A Man Called Ove by the Swedish author Fredrik Backman. The main character has nothing to do with standardized cliche characters that we’re used to. It’s an old grumpy man called Ove, who believes that nobody in this world knows how to do their job anymore, but instead everybody tries to get more money for less effort. Not only is he deeply convinced in this, he also never skips a chance to remind this to everybody he meets and to inform them as well which rules they have broken and which lessons they have never learnt. He lives all alone, even his wife has left him, and from knowing Ove for about 50 pages we think we know why. But then the curtain opens for the readers, and we learn a beautiful and tragic story of Ove and his wife Sonja. Two absolutely different personalities, who tied themselves together for life with bonds of love, patience, understanding and selflessness. But now Sonja is gone, she’s gone forever and Ove doesn’t see any sense in life anymore. He tries to commit a suicide several times to reunite with Sonja, but all of his attempts fail once the new neighbors move into the house next to Ove’s. An absolutely clumsy IT-specialist Patrick, his pregnant Iranian wife Parvaneh and two of their daughters change his life and become a barrier for all his pessimistic plans. Unexpectedly and against Ove’s will, he rescues a cat and becomes his owner; takes Patrick to the hospital by his precious car Saab; helps a teenager Adrian to fix a bike for the girl that he likes; lets a homosexual barista, who was kicked out of the house by his very conservative father, stay over; fights for Rune, the man who’s been his main opponent the entire life, against Men In White Shirts; teaches Parvaneh driving a car and buys an iPad for her older daughter. Even though he denies it, Ove becomes friends with the entire neighborhood, remaining just as grumpy, rude and straightforward as he’s always been. One day he almost dies and that puts an end for his attempts to get to Heaven prematurely. He finally realizes that there is life after death (after Sonja’s death) and there is always something to fight for.
An amazing book that will make you laugh and cry. Ove’s sassiness and barbed character will pull up a smile on the readers faces and his endless loyalty to Soja will move even the biggest skeptics.The characters are bright and strong individuals that follow their principles and show us the world of their beliefs, so different, but never false. This novel teaches us the importance of friendship and helping each other. It shows us that even in the darkest times of life we can find light in people around us.
Reviewer Grade: 12
Next to the 1st book in this 12 series collection, this one is hands down my favorite. Nikki goes through a series of events in this book and it is a real attention grabber. I loved these books as long as I can remember, and I picked this one up today and realized how awesome these books are! Even in eighth grade, these books still leave me in a feeling of awe. I HIGHLY recommend these books to anyone looking for an easy to read book series. Considering this is the ninth book of this incredible series, I am not too sure how to sum this book up without spoiling the rest of the story line, but this is a ten out of ten book and the collection as a whole! 10/10 highly recommend!!!!
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.
This book is about a girl named Melody, who has cerebral palsy. The internal monologue and messages throughout the book are extremely wholesome. This book is a great lesson for numerous reasons especially for teenage readers. The audience for this book is more directed towards teens, but I believe anyone can read this and truly appreciate the novel. The book is extremely well written and enjoyable. One lesson in the book is essentially saying everyone needs a friend. Melody is an outcast due to her disability, and her inner thoughts show how much depth her character has. If you’re looking for an amazing read, I highly recommend picking up this book!
A Monster Calls is excellent for what it does. A young boy battles with his feelings over his sick and dying mother. He is haunted by a certain horrible nightmare. A monster outside his window causes havoc on various levels to evoke his true thoughts. He isn't afraid of anything, because nothing is scarier than his nightmare. The story reads similarly to a fable in that it weaves itself perfectly neatly. There are no subplots, extra characters, or excess in this novel. Instead, it marches on to the structure that one would expect, in three acts, each with appropriate escalation. The structure of this novel was refreshingly minimalist, and it helps highlight Conor's strengths and flaws in a powerful way. A Monster Calls is a short read, but it is heartbreaking and beautifully done.
Light Filters In is one of the rawest books I have ever read. The author gave us a full view of her mind, including every ugly scar and scratch we are too afraid to talk about. This get’s heavy, but in a way that’s very important today. Not only does it show the pain of trauma and poor mental health, but it lets us see Kaufman heal. If you are struggling, or have in the past, this book will touch you in a way not much else can. Wonderful read. (8th grade)
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
The book Max’s Story is a book within the ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ book series. This is a fiction novel about a small Yorkie-mix who needs to find his purpose in New York City. Living with family in an animal shelter, it becomes apparent that Max must find a new home. This novel was very heartwarming the first time I read it. A small dog with a huge heart is brought to life while reading the novel. I became overwhelmed with a sense of empathy wanting this dog to have the happy ending he deserves! Want to find out if it is a happily ever after? Read the book if you love heartwarming fictional stories!
Paper Towns by John Green is a thrilling, coming-of-age mystery. Readers get to solve the mystery along with the main character. The book provides interesting insights and a sense of grounded wonder and sparks deep thought about our own reality of life and inevitable death. It follows senior Quentin Jacobsen on a wild journey with dreamy but unattainable childhood friend later drifted away, Margo Roth Spiegelman. The mystery that surrounds her the next day is sure to excite readers with fear but also curiosity as they journey with Quentin inside his mind on the sublime adventure to uncover her whereabouts. On many occasions I found myself unable to stop reading even though the book took me into the late hours of the night. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for an exciting venture into the unknown!
We Were Liars is a mysterious young adult novel about a wealthy family who spends every summer on their private island. The story focuses on the main character, Cadence. After Cadence suffers a head injury during one of the summers, she cannot remember almost anything from that trip to the island. The next summer things are very different and Cadence has to try and remember why.
This book is quite a page-turner. As Cadence slowly remembers more and more details of the mysterious summer when she suffered her head injury, it is nearly impossible to put the book down. However, not all page-turners are necessarily great books. The story of We Were Liars may have been intriguing, but the content was not very substantial. There didn’t really seem to be any morals, and if there were, they weren’t very clear. Things just happened throughout the story, and although it was a mystery, nothing was truly deep or thought-provoking
Initially, the premise of this book caught my attention: a psychotherapist sees a patient who murdered her husband years ago (as revealed in the opening line) and has not spoken since. Without spoilers, the story is told in a fascinating way, and Michaelides makes the most of his creative freedom in the medium of novels. Right after I finished reading, I thought the book perfect for what it sought out to do; however, upon further reflection, I feel it missed the spark that makes a good book. Yes, the story was interesting and the flow of events was steady, but by the last third I felt there wasn't enough struggle or buildup to make the progress with Alicia impressive. The novel told two stories simultaneously (the one of Theo's wife and the one of his patient), which was a great artistic choice, but I think that left each individual plotline underdeveloped in the 300 page novel. The Silent Patient is well-written, organized, and unsettling. Although I struggle to grasp the greater message behind the nuanced story Michaelides told, I definitely enjoyed reading it.
A Quiet Life by Ethan Joella is an emotional, heartwarming story about human connection. Joella’s story tackles grief and loss, all the while remaining light-hearted and hopeful. A Quiet Life takes on the perspective of three different people, all struggling with their own hardships and trials. Chuck, an elderly man mourning the death of his wife, must decide whether or not he should venture back to their vacation home for their yearly trip. The pain is too much to bear, and imagining himself being there alone is heart wrenching. Ella, a single mother working a newspaper job, is trying desperately to find her missing daughter. Kirsten works at an animal rescue and tries her best to serve the community. However, after the quick and tragic murder of her father at a convenience store, Kirsten can hardly find the light in life again. A Quiet Life shows the intricacies and hardships that come with loss, all the while connecting every missing piece, and showing us how togetherness is what keeps us afloat.
(Reviewer Grade: 12)
Please believe me when I say, this book deserves the hype. It is genuinely one of the best books I have ever read. The storyline was unique, the pacing was perfect, and the characters were so interesting. Kya is a girl living in the marshlands of South Carolina who is abandoned by her family at a very young age. The book follows her journey to survive, using nature's resources and a few memorable lessons from her mother to become a strong and capable woman. Despite this accomplishment, Kya is labeled as an outsider and is linked to a cruel murder, whose ruling will determine if she will ever grow beyond the constraints of others' opinions. Kya is a character with much perseverance, and her gratitude for the simplest of things is a lesson to take to heart. The friends she meets along the way are also patient and caring. The jump between timelines kept things interesting, and the two dates finally colliding into one made it impossible to put the book down. It is worth reading this book for the themes of child psychology, social rejection, appreciation for nature, and much more.
You'll Be the Death of Me was disappointing to say the least. McManus' other book, One of Us is Lying, had fascinating characters and a clever plot. This book felt like a knock-off. Ivy, Mateo, and Cal are three high school students who skip school one day and get swept up in a shocking murder mystery. The actual plot and eventual killer was kind of interesting, but not enough of a shock to be fully entertained. This is one of those mysteries that you can absolutely guess midway through the book. The three main characters are pretty bland and don't have good chemistry. Why do they just remember this one "Best Day Ever" in middle school and decide to randomly skip school? Were they actually long-term friends or just acquaintances? It seems like the author couldn't decide. Plus, every romantic interaction felt forced and uncomfortable. Not my favorite.
Finally! Two main characters with different, yet well-developed, personalities! I really loved Pepper and Jack, both of whom struggle with the pressures of running the social media side of their family businesses. The two are considered enemies, but fall in love on an anonymous texting app. Their busy lives with balancing swim team and good grades made each chapter entertaining. Their banter throughout the book was great, sarcastic and witty without being mean. I was kind of put off at the beginning because Jack and Pepper realized they were both fighting on Twitter very quickly, so I wondered what the rest of the book would be if the main plot was already spoiled. However, they had been clueless on more platforms than one! If contemporary enemies-to-lovers books intrigue you, this one will not disappoint.
A twelve-year-old boy in a small California town named Trevor McKinney accepts his teacher's challenge to earn extra credit by coming up with and creating a plan to improve the world in the lovely and inspiring book Pay It Forward. When others hear about Trevor's idea, they immediately dismiss it because it is so simple and naive. Even Trevor starts to have second thoughts when his "pay it forward" scheme seems to fail due to a mix of bad luck and the worst aspects of human nature. This book is incredibly realistic, enjoyable, and motivating. The main characters all have distinct personalities that set them apart from one another. As you read on, you can clearly visualize the characters in your head. It's difficult to keep reading this book without taking a break. There is plenty of drama, action, and romance in the book. I adore that this book has a deep significance behind its title, Pay it Forward. This was chosen by the American Library Association for its list of the Best Books for Young Adults, and it has been distributed in more than 30 countries by being translated into more than two dozen different languages. This is a very powerful, moving story. At first, I found the style a bit difficult to read as it kept jumping around to different viewpoints. This was a different read for me at first. It had characters that were coming into the story, and didn't know how they fit in. Later it made sense Once I figured the actors read smoother.
Reviewer’s Grade 8th
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.
What You Can See from Here follows a small cast of characters in their small town as the world changes around them. There's Selma, the old woman who sees an okapi whenever someone is about to die. There's the optician, who is desperately in love with Selma and doesn't know how to tell her. There's Selma's granddaughter Luise, our confused and content protagonist. There's Japanese monks, ten-year-old strongmen, experts on light, and one truly unpleasant neighbor. Together, this community will learn to process love, loss, and the ties that bind us together.
This book is something strange and special. It took me a very long time to read, and yet is completely entrancing. There's a scattershot plot, yet I could follow every theme perfectly. It was translated from German, but you can hardly tell with the expert job the translator did at keeping the prose spellbinding and heartbreakingly beautiful. Honestly, the fact that the prosaic writing was still the strongest part of this book despite it being from a foreign language is a testament to the expertise of both writers. Besides the stellar writing, the characters in this book have so much life to them. Losing any of them is a genuine blow to the reader despite the large amounts of foreshadowing, since over the course of the novel we grow to know them as well as the real people in our lives. They're also funny and fascinating, making it so fun just to watch them interact and learn and grow from each other.
There are issues with this book, mainly the pacing. There are a lot of slow parts of the novel that make it difficult to stay focused. But I hesitate to condemn the book for this, since even the slower pacing feels intentional. This is a book all about the slow parts of life, about the gaps in between. A major theme is how taking the time for something or someone is very often worth it, and that's what I think about the book itself. I also appreciated that the book was willing to spend so much time on character and backstories, since it really gave me the feeling that I was living in this small town right alongside Luise. The ending of the book was also wholly satisfying. It was cyclical without being repetitive, and I find myself thinking about it and what it means from time to time.
All in all, this book was mystical and grounded and heartbreaking and hilarious. I would recommend it for anyone looking to learn a bit more about what life and love means, and how our community traps and shapes and grows us all the same.
Reviewer Grade: 12