Book Reviews by Genre: Contemporary

Truly Devious
Johnson, Maureen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Truly Devious is about a girl, Stevie, who goes to a school that is for genius students. At this school, two murders have happened. One from 1936 and one from when Stevie was there. Throughout the book, Stevie attempts to solve both murders. With her parents concerned about her safety, and her friends concerned about her sanity, Stevie digs into the deep and dirty details of the murders.
I loved this book! It kept me intrigued and I couldn't put the book down. The chapters were packed with detail and it was like I was solving the mystery as well. There is also a sequal, called the Vanishing Stairs, which is just as good!

Reviewer's Name: Mackenzie
Broken Beautiful Hearts
Garcia, Kami
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Kami Garcia's Broken Beautiful Hearts is a heart-felt teenage romance that highlights the importance of mending broken hearts and learning how to trust again. As a high school senior with a scholarship for soccer, Peyton is thrown into a dark time when she and her boyfriend, Reed, are at odds and he pushes her down a staircase causing a big injury that puts her out for many months. When it becomes uncomfortable to live in her town due to her pushy ex, she moves in with her twin cousins and uncle. There, she meets Owen, a fighter in the same league as Reed. Peyton distrusts the feelings she begins to feel for Owen because of the hurt from her past. As their relationship grows, Peyton learns how to trust again, and the heart Reed broke is slowly healed by Owen. If romance and healing hearts are your pace, Broken Beautiful Hearts will be a great fit.

Reviewer's Name: Sophi
If I Stay
Forman, Gayle
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If I Stay is about Mia, a 17 year old girl who used to have everything: a family that she loved, a boyfriend that cared about her, and a future with music. After, a tragic accident everything she loved is taken away from her. She has a choice to live or die, which will she choose?
I loved this book so much that I read it in under three hours. This is definitely a book to get lost in, you will forget that you are reading. I could relate so much to Mia and the thoughts that she was having when she making her choice to live or die. This book was also made into a movie, which is really good. It follows the book almost perfectly. This book is one of my favorites and it gets readers thinking about life, and what it means to live.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Hayden
The Midnight Library book jacket
Haig, Matt
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

‘Between life and death there is a library,’ she said. ‘And within that library, the shelves go on for ever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?’-Matt Haig- The Midnight Library is a fantasy novel, written by Matt Haig and published on 29 September 2020 by the editorial Penguin Publishing Group. This novel was an instant bestseller and a BBC Two Between the Covers Book Club pick and was winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction 2020. The Midnight Library is a book about life and its ending, focusing on the choices people make, how these affect them and how they regret so many things throughout their lives, always wishing they could undo the mistakes they made, which in real life is impossible, but in the Midnight Library this is a totally different story. It is fundamental that in life you have a passion, something you live for, something that makes you wake up every single morning, something that makes you feel enthusiasm, something that gives you happiness and something that fuels your heart.

Nora Seed, a 35 year old woman from Bedford, England, decided to kill herself. Twenty-seven hours before she decided to die, she sat on her sofa scrolling through other people’s happy lives, waiting for something to happen. Nine and a half hours before she decided to die, she lost her job. Nine hours before she decided to die, she received a text from a loved one telling he wanted to talk with her, something she did not do, not because she didn’t feel things for him, but because she did. Eight hours before she decided to die, Nora entered a newsagent, where she saw a magazine with a black hole and she realised that was what she was. Seven hours before she decided to die, she had no one to talk to, so she texted her friend Izzy, even when things had dried up between them, and she didn’t get an answer from her. Four hours before she decided to die, Nora passed her elderly neighbor and she comprehended that no one needed her and that everyone would be better without her in their lives. Two hours before she decided to die, Nora was regretting almost everything she did in life; she opened a bottle of wine and left her brother a message telling him how much she loved him and that nothing was his fault, he couldn’t do anything. It was twenty two minutes past eleven and the only thing Nora knew was that she didn’t want to reach tomorrow. She took a piece of paper and wrote her last letter, her suicide note, where she explains that she blew all the chances she had in life, that if she felt it was possible to stay she would had, but this wasn’t the case, and so she couldn’t because she made everyone’s life miserable. She took an overdose and faded away. At 00:00:00, she woke up at a place that looked magical and she found her school librarian from her younger days in Bedford, Mrs Elm. This old woman explained to Nora that between life and death there was a library, full of books that provide the possibility to try another life they could have lived. In this way, Mrs Elm became Nora's imagined guide through the Midnight Library and the wonderful and unexpected things that happen throughout this story.

Nora Seed was a woman who had everything to make her life great, but she didn’t because of her outstanding depression and anxiety, the reason why she decided she didn’t want to live anymore. Joe Seed is Nora's brother, an extremely talented musician who struggled with addiction. Mrs Elm is the librarian from Nora’s school, 19 years before Nora decided to die they had a conversation about the future and all the possible lives ahead of her. Dan is Nora’s ex-fiance, which she loved and regrets not marrying.

From my point of view this book has a strong and meaningful lesson, and it is that the average human being spends their life regretting every wrong move they made. This drains their energy, and is not worth it because instead of worrying about things that you clearly can’t undo, you should be focusing on learning about your errors and put all you have on being better everyday, understanding that everyone makes mistakes and the most important is to keep going and never look back, only forward.

I recommend this novel to everyone that is struggling with mental health issues, because it can help you to appreciate things and it can also teach you many valuable lessons, such as finding your purpose in life so you can actually enjoy it. As well, this is an inclusive publication, taking in consideration that Nora’s brother, Joe, is homosexual. I enjoyed all the fantasy this book has, reading this is like travelling to the Midnight Library, feeling all the powerful emotions that take place there, and lastly but not least, connecting with every character’s story. The main lesson that this awesome book gave me is that it is ok to get lost, as long as you find your way back; and also there is people that are all the colors in one at full brightness, but some situations in their lives can turn them off, that’s why you should always be there to support your loved ones.

Reviewer's Name: Gabriela
Admission
Buxbaum, Julie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Chloe Wynn Berringer is a privileged teen in Beverly Hills who leads a normal life, with a movie star mom, a genius sister, and a cool best friend. But everything is flipped on its head when Chloe's mom is arrested as part of the famous admissions scandal. As the paparazzi swarm her house, as she loses old friends, as the nation turns again her, and as the charges are brought forward, Chloe must grapple with her part in the matter. Will this ruin her family? Do they deserve it? Did she know? Or did she choose not to know?
This story was very interesting, as it takes the average admission scandal story and flips the perspective. Instead of shaking our heads from the sidelines, the audience is meant to sit in her perspective, in the shoes of the child who must grapple with their worth after their parents spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and commit hundreds of misdemeanors and crimes to get them into college. It also forces the reader to confront the toxic culture of college applications in America. The parents in this book often end up in prison just to get their child a name-brand college. It exposes the obsessive culture of the elite, while also exploring the way wealthy parents feel obligated to give their children everything their wealth can buy. The characters in this book all play a part in this narrative of privilege and college culture. Every part of the story is focused towards the main goal, with no throwaway side characters, which made the story tight and more memorable, in my opinion. While the prose wasn't excessive in this book , the thing that bumped it up to 4 stars for me was the main character, Chloe, and her development. Chloe goes from believing herself a complete victim, to questioning herself, to reconsidering her life of privilege and her worth. Another notable thing is, in the end, everyone gets what they deserved. No punches are pulled, and the characters are forced to learn from their mistakes. Overall, while this was in no way a perfect book, it was a page turner, and I really enjoyed it!
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Eve
The Skin I'm In
Flake, Sharon G.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake is a realistic fiction novel from the point of view of seventh grade Maleeka. Maleeka has low self-esteem and poor body image because of people teasing her for being too black and too tall. When Maleeka meets Miss Saunders, the new English teacher, who has messed up skin from a rare skin condition, Miss Saunders is taunted by the children. But, she never lets it get to her. Throughout the book, Maleeka rethinks her biases and her insecurities. This book's story is powerful, and there is a lesson to be learned through Maleeka's experience about overcoming low self-esteem. The author illustrates the problems of this century perfectly and guides the reader through a rollercoaster of emotions.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Neverwhere book jacket
Gaiman, Neil
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Neverwhere is the story of a regular man who is thrown into a completely nonsensical world beneath the London streets. Richard Mayhew is just a normal person, with an accounting job and a troll collection. When he does a good deed for Door, a street kid who's more than she seems, he is plunged into a grimy, grim, and glorious world full of Hunters and rat-speakers and angels, where's the two of them fight to escape the clutches of an unfathomable enemy and his unbeatable henchmen.
I was originally recommended this book, and had enjoyed previous books by Neil Gaiman, so I gave it a shot. All in all, I loved it. London Below is painted in vivid, horrible detail. It was definitely interesting in having a magical, fantastical world that didn't feel like somewhere one would want to live, but did feel like it was somewhere adventure happened. The final antagonist was amazing, as were the smaller one's as the story passed! They were just so full of personality, like almost all of the characters in the book. The story was crooked and strange and often sad, but beautiful and hopeful all the same. And the ending was perfect! I'd definitely recommend to any fantasy or adventure fans, although the language and content and gore makes this book not for the too faint of heart.

Reviewer's Name: Eve M.
The Fault In Our Stars
Green, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A romance novel about a teen struggling with cancer, this story is down-to-earth, beautiful, and painfully sad. As an avid reader of John Green's works, Green's writing style continues to blow me away. The constant memorable and hard-hitting lines still linger in my mind from time to time, even after years of reading this novel.
I loved this book when I was in middle school, and as a high schooler, I'd still have to say that it's one of my favorites. Normally, YA romance stories have me rolling my eyes at the cliché lines or unrealistic premises, but The Fault in Our Stars did not do that.
Our protagonist, Hazel Grace Lancaster, has been struggling with cancer for almost all her life. But when she meets Augustus "Gus" Waters, a cancer survivor, her life completely changes. Sounds cheesy, I know. But unlike other YA romances, this novel was beautifully and heartbreakingly realistic. The chemistry between Hazel and Gus seemed genuinely real like I was standing there with them, and I really enjoyed the many gorgeous lines written in the story.
I know some people have mixed emotions about this book, but I recommend you give it a try. It'll make you laugh, scream, and cry.
However, the reason why I docked one star off of this book, was because there were a few things I didn't particularly like very much. For example, a few scenes seemed a little odd and out of place, like they were trying too hard to be "quirky."
The movie was also far less enjoyable than the book, which is why I would still recommend giving the story a try even after watching the movie since there are some pretty different scenes.

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
We Were Liars book jacket
Lockhart, E.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

We Were Liars is about a family called the Sinclair's. The plot follows Cadence or "Cady," a member of this rich and privileged family, and illustrates the friendships she has with the other four teenagers who vacation on the private island that the Sinclairs own. The novel has an interesting writing style and the premise is that Cady has been suffering from memory loss, and can't remember parts of what happened last summer on the island. However, there is clearly something bad that happened last summer that nobody will talk about. This leaves Cady to figure out herself and put together the pieces on why her memory is blank on the events of last summer, and what exactly happened. We readers have to solve the clues to figure out what this huge unspoken secret is along with Cady.
I understand the gist of what the author meant to do here. When I first began to read, it wasn’t a bad story. I actually didn’t mind the writing style unlike most readers, and yes, while the main character was pretty privileged and slightly ignorant, she wasn’t the worst character. However, the thing that was the dealbreaker for me was the big secret. The plot twist that the author had been hinting at for most of the book. The issue was, is that the big revelation wasn't very interesting or something to gasp about at all. I feel like there wasn’t enough groundwork laid in the earlier portions of the story for the plot twist, so when the huge secret was unveiled, it seemed very abrupt, random, and unsatisfying. There were too many holes and loose ends, and I think as a reader, most people will leave very unsatisfied and slightly confused after finishing this book.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
Find Me Andre Aciman
Aciman, Andre
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is the sequel to Call Me By Your Name, and it is incredible! The novel is split into four sections, each following the lives of Samuel (Elio's father), Elio, and Oliver, characters who were first introduced in the first book. It isn't clear who the narrator is for each section, but and I love the ambiguity that it adds to the plot. The book is so beautifully written: I loved the metaphors and vivid imagery, and the overall theme of the book. Call Me By Your Name ended sadly, but this book was the closure I hadn't realized I needed.

The events of the book take place twenty years after the first book. In the first part, Samuel meets a young woman on a train and they quickly begin a romantic relationship. In the second part, Elio is now an established pianist and begins a relationship with an older man, but they break up later. In the third section, Oliver is married with two children and teaches at a university in New Hampshire. Often, he finds himself thinking of Elio and the time they spent together twenty years ago. In the final section, Elio and Oliver reunite and are raising Elio's half-brother. Overall, I definitely recommend reading this book (and reading the first one)! The movie for the first book is also a must-watch.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Every Other Weekend book jacket
Johnson, Abigail
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The life of Adam Moynihan got turned upside down after his brother died. Before, his family was almost perfect. His brother and him didn't fight and his mother and father were happy and Adam made straight A's. After, his brother and him couldn't have one conversation without fighting each other without fighting and his mother and father decided that they couldn't be happy together so they decided to take a break from each other. Everything was messed up for Adam.

Jolene Timber's life was the opposite. Her life was full of nothing but chaos and mental pain. Her parents divorced when she was younger and had been fighting with each other since. Adam and Jolene had both been forced to stay with one of their parents in the same apartment building which is where they met each other. Almost as soon as Adam and Jolene met, they had an immediate connection. Adam and Jolene needed each other to help one another get through their equally tough situations. Adam and Jolene both knew that they had had romantic feelings for eachother since the beginning, but they didn't want to ruin their amazing friendship. Adam and Jolene were both going through extremely difficult times but they helped and supported each other throughout the whole thing.

I chose to read this book because in the summary it told me about the problems that both Jolene and Adam went through. I also happened to relate with one of the problems that Adam went through. The reality of the book really satisfied me because it's easier for me to follow along with a storyline when it's easier to relate to. The book also included some humorous content which I think is very important to accompany serious events. There weren't many things that I didn't like about this book, however, the switch between points of view did mess me up quite frequently.

If you appreciate a book with things that would happen in real life, you'd appreciate this book immensely. If you enjoy funny characters who slowly fall in love with each other then you would fall in love with this book by Abigail Johnson.

Reviewer's Name: Cece T.
The Inheritance Games
Barnes, Jennifer
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Avery always felt like wallpaper at her school, practically invisible. That was until Tobias Hawthorne, a complete stranger, left her billions. She has to uproot her life and move to Texas to inherit the billions. She has to figure out why she inherited the money. Though it is hard while most of the household holds a grudge against her. There Avery finds a complex puzzle waiting to be solved, and not to mention a love triangle.

This book was an amazing read. It tells Avery's story and her scavenger hunt of a life time. It's a great book to help get out of a reading slump. Highly recommend!

Reviewer's Name: Lilly
Look Both Ways
Reynolds, Jason
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Look Both Ways By Jason Reynolds is a ten different short stories about kids walking home from school. The ten stories are woven together by the context of a school bus falling from the sky. But no one knows because they were all too busy with their lives. In ten different walks home from school, Look Both Ways captures the humor, poetry, and liveliness encompassing middle school and early high school life. It also explores seeing two sides or more of the same perspective. For example, the ‘bad kid’ may be good-hearted. I think the book was masterfully put together and woven ten stories seamlessly together. This book made me laugh, hope, cry, and believe. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book with 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
One of Us Is Lying
McManus, Karen M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This story is written in several points of view to truly capture how one regular detention turned into a murder scene. Four kids from Bayview High, full of hidden truths and an app that exposes everyone if they like it or not. The kids were from different social clicks, the classic "no-good" boy, the baseball star, miss perfect, and the girl who has her heart full of dedication to join Yale. Everywhere they went they were constantly watched, no alone time without someone bothering them about the boy that died from something so simple as an allergic reaction. The possibilities are endless when it comes to solving the puzzle, did the four students do it, or did someone from outside the room do it?

Reviewer's Name: Savanah
Out of My Mind book jacket
Draper, Sharon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is written from the perspective of Melody
Brooks, an eleven year old kid that cannot talk, walk, or feed herself. Even
with all of her challenges Melody is incredibly smart with a photographic
memory. However because of people's prejudices against her people think she
is dumb, doctors, teachers, and other students. Out of My Mind tells an
amazing story about overcoming disabilities and prejudices in both life and
school. This book broke my heart and left me with hope through a powerful
ending. I would recommend this book with a 4 out of 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
The Reading List book jacket
Adams, Sara Nisha
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book has left me gutted, happy, and exhausted. It summed up everything I've loved about books since I was little, how stories can be a way to escape, but also how they allow you to step into someone else's shoes for a while, and hopefully understand not only each other's differences, but also our similarities. An emotional rollercoaster, definitely one of my favorites of the year.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
We Are Okay
LaCour, Nina
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

We are ok is about a girl who recently lost a family member who wasn't as trustworthy as she thought. When Marin's gramps passes away, she realizes that he had made her forgotten about her deceased mother because he had more pictures, dreams, and memories than he had said. Marin, now a year older, is visited by her childhood friend. Throughout the visit, she gets memories of her life before her gramps died. I love this book. It had all my emotions mixed up and I couldn't put it down. This book is great for people that can handle mature topics and words. I rate this book 10/10.

Reviewer's Name: Mackenzie
Transcendent Kingdom
Gyasi, Yaa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

There was no sophomore slump for author Yaa Gyasi, who lit the literary world ablaze with her searing debut novel, Homegoing (2016). That work of historical fiction was deeply personal and her exceptional contemporary follow-up Transcendent Kingdom (2020) draws upon her experiences growing up with Ghanaian parents in in northern Alabama. This powerful and emotionally raw novel centers on Giffy, a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the connections between depression and addiction. Her brother was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal, deeply religious mother is bedridden. Dad left long ago. Giffy hopes science will find the why behind the suffering. But she still hungers for her childhood faith and struggles to find a balance between religion and science, hope and despair, living and inertia. It’s a personal journey with a conclusion that will leave you with hope, if not a clear answer.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Paper Towns
Green, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

When I was looking for good books to read for teenagers, this book came up, so I decided to read it, also since I've seen the cover before. I also know that there's a movie about this book and I enjoy comparing books to their
movies. This book is very interesting and suspenseful, and I think that teenagers would really love reading this book.

It's about a guy named Quentin who is secretly in love with a girl named Margo. They become really close, in distance and relationship, because they are also neighbors. During their high school years, they drift apart until one day Margo asks Quentin for a favor getting revenge on her cheating boyfriend and her friends. Quentin agrees and they complete their mission. Things start to look up for Quentin as Margo shows signs of her liking him back and they start to hangout.
A little while later, Margo is reported missing. Quentin becomes scared for Margo and attempts finding her and helping her, with the help of his friends. They discover a bunch of mysteries and secrets about her on the path to find out what happened to her. They soon find clues about where she might be, but Quentin begins to worry if Margo might've killed herself. What happened to Margo? Will Quentin find her? Did she run away or did someone kidnap her?
Read this book to find out.

Reviewer's Name: Trisha V
One of Us Is Lying
McManus, Karen M.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

One of Us Is Lying is a captivating mystery written from the perspective of four main characters. The author brings you into the lives of four teenagers who have all witnessed the death of a classmate. Each of these kids is suspected of murdering Simon, but having been one of the most hated kids in school it is hard to pin his death on one person. Every page I read I got even more involved in these characters' lives. All their stories were so realistic I felt connected to them through more than just the tragedy that made all their lives change. Secrets are hard to live with and get over, but this book shows how whole schools taken by a gossip site can grow with them or fail to live up to the challenge. The surprising twists and very sincere characters give you a look into how fast life can change because of one person and what secrets can do to people. Karen McManus brought up many difficult topics in this book and melded them with the character's lives showing how they dealt with them and lived through their different hardships. This book leaves you thinking about how anything can happen to you but what happens after and how you react to it is always most important in the end. The feeling of satisfaction and happiness the characters make you feel is rewarding and shows you that it's possible to get through what seems impossible.

Reviewer's Name: Clare