Book Reviews by Genre: Contemporary

The Midnight Library book jacket
Haig, Matt
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

TW: A main theme of this book (and thus the review) is suicide. If this topic makes you uncomfortable, I would suggest finding a different book.

“The Midnight Library” is a story about Nora Seed, whose life has not gone how she’s expected. Worse yet, she feels as though it’s all her fault and her regrets weigh heavy on her. One night she decides to end her own life, but she wakes up in a library with her elementary school librarian. That’s when she gets the opportunity to live the lives she could have led if she’d made different decisions.

As the story goes along, we see many of Nora’s alternative lives. Some of them are just as disastrous as her regular life (her best friend dies, her husband cheats on her). Others are nearly perfect, but can’t be truly satisfying when she didn’t create them. I was glad that some of the alternate lives were good, otherwise it would have seemed like Nora’s original life was simply the lesser of two evils. All of them are interesting to read about. Another interesting aspect of the book is the library itself. The author knows when to reveal information and when to keep things vague.

There aren’t many characters to keep track of. Nora is the main character, and the reader gets a good sense of her interests and aspirations through her various lives. Her friends and family all get a decent amount of depth as well, though they’re not in focus most of the time.

I can’t pretend that I really resonated with the message of the book. I would have preferred if it focused a bit more on the good things that could happen in Nora’s future rather than the good things that happened in her alternate lives. However, that could be a problem exclusive to me.

Overall, I would recommend this book to almost anyone. It’s a fast read and a good story.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
What You are Looking For Is in the Library book jacket
Aoyama, Michiko
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"What You Are Looking For Is in the Library" is a book about a library connected to a community center and the unusually perceptive librarian, Sayuri Komachi. The book is told through five stories of people . Along with the books they came for, Mrs. Komachi gives them an unrelated book and a felt gift. This leads them to discovering new perspectives on their problems and their lives.

All the characters in this book are delightful. Since there are five stories, each with a different main character, it would take too long to go over all of them. However, the standouts for me were Tomoka, Natsumi, and Mrs. Komachi herself. Tomoka was relatable in her struggles, but also had a proactive nature that made her likeable. Natsumi has an interesting story about motherhood that isn't seen much in modern media. And of course Mrs. Komachi tows the line between mysterious and friendly in a charming way. Every once in a while there will be a character that appears in multiple stories, and the crossovers are pleasant without being distracting.

The stories themselves are all quite simple. Someone receives insight after reading a book, usually talking with friends and neighbors as they decide on their life's path. Though they're all quite short, none of them feel incomplete or rushed.

I would recommend this book for people looking for a comforting read or a story about the power of books.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
The Spanish Love Deception book jacket
Armas, Elena
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Lovable characters, an amazing plot, swoon-worthy chemistry, and a captivating writing style, what more could one ask for in a rom-com narrative? Like seriously. And those beautiful ideas are immaculately expressed in The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas. This book stole my heart—a truly well-done teaser love story. From the first page, Armas unfolds every parcel of the story with perfection, leaving just enough time before uncovering another equally interesting idea. The classic enemies-to-lovers trope is perfectly applied as mysterious and stone-cold Aaron meets open and bubby Catalina. At first, the motives are questionable; you’ll find yourself asking, “why would Catalina be soo adamant about finding a fake boyfriend to bring home for a wedding?” and if she hates Aaron with that much ferocity, “why did she put that aside and take him?” But as the plot unfolds, everything makes sense in a kinda sick way, and motives come to life. And through it all, Aaron and Catalina could not be more wholesome. They frankly stole my heart. It is honestly an emotional rollercoaster that I wish would never end. When it finally did, it was perfect.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
The American Roommate Experiment book jacket
Armas, Elena
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

What is a better way to start a relationship with someone, your best friend’s cousin, than calling the cops on them? Answer: There is none, especially if it's a rom-com novel—the perfect first encounter. This is what happens to Rosie Graham when she unexpectedly comes across Lucas Martin, her best friend’s cousin, “breaking into her out of town friends apartment” and calls the cops. New flash, he was not breaking in; he had a key, but little did she know that this was the start of an excellent relationship and a well-written, feel-good book because everyone needs a decent, feel-good book in their lives, right? Well, at least for me, that book is not The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas. I mean, yes, technically, the novel is a feel-good book, but it is also so much more. It's about overcoming your past and moving forward. It’s about loving yourself and supporting others. It’s about allowing yourself to rely on others. The American Roommate Experiment is an emotional rollercoaster bundled up into 400 pages. That made me feel anywhere from devastated to ecstatic, to awe, to hate, and to love in a single chapter.

That being said, I didn’t enjoy The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas as much as its prequel, The Spanish Love Deception. I found the plot too slow, even for a slow-burn-type book, and overly stacked with tropes. While I enjoy a good friends-to-lovers trope, in this case, I found it extremely frustrating, and generally, I found that Lucas and Rosie lacked the necessary chemistry. I mean, water and oil have better chemistry. Both Lucas and Rosie would, in my opinion, make better friends than lovers, and the romance piece felt like an afterthought in the plot and their relationship. It is still a well-written novel with fascinating characters and a well-needed message. I adored the character development that progressed but found the romance part severely lacking. The best way I would describe The American Roommate Experiment is a modern feel-good comedy, and if that is what you’re looking for? Great. It is a perfect read, but don’t go looking for a romance novel.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Love, Theoretically book jacket
Hazelwood, Ali
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Okay, so the plot may be a little silly. A desperate adjunct physics professor, Elsie Hannaway, makes up for her pathetic paycheck by becoming people’s fake girlfriend. Does she enjoy her jobs? No. During the day, she deals with pathetic and entitled college students who couldn’t care less about physics. At night, she people-pleases to make enough to live. All while living in a probably rat-infested apartment. Whoever said academia was easy? And when she finally might get an actual well-paying job at MIT, she runs into Jack Smith, the older brother of her favorite client. Who may or may not think she works at a library?

That being said, the classic enemies-to-lovers trope and the quirky, witty characters complement the plot perfectly. The chemistry between Jack and Elsie is palpable. Frankly, Love, Theoretically, brings out the uncontrollable laughter and wholesome feelings everyone needs. However, this is definitely not my favorite Hazelwood book, and out of all the protagonists of her other books, Elsie just didn’t make the same spark. Throughout the whole book, Elsie needs constant approval from those around her, and despite being a wonderful, smart person, she lacks self-esteem. And I mean, I get it; some people have trouble with self-esteem, but Elsie’s people-pleasing tendencies are taken to too much of an extreme. And Jack, the most wholesome, caring person, sends mixed signals the whole book. The “you don’t like me” phase was too drawn out and, at times, annoying. Still, I enjoyed the light, pleasant read like always.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Eight Hundred Grapes book jacket
Dave, Laura
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Eight Hundred Grapes" by Laura Dave is an exceptional novel that effortlessly earns a well-deserved 5-star rating. Set against the picturesque backdrop of a California vineyard, the story intricately weaves together themes of love, family, and self-discovery. Laura Dave's storytelling prowess shines through, creating a narrative that is both emotionally resonant and utterly captivating.
The vineyard setting adds an extra layer of charm and uniqueness to the narrative, creating a vivid backdrop that complements the story's themes. The novel explores the complexities of family dynamics, the choices we make, and the impact these decisions have on our lives.
What sets "Eight Hundred Grapes" apart is its ability to balance romance, drama, and introspection seamlessly. Laura Dave's writing style is engaging, pulling the reader into the lives of the characters and making the book difficult to put down. Overall I found "Eight Hundred Grapes" to be a literary gem, offering a rich and satisfying reading experience that warrants the highest praise.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
The Love Hypothesis book jacket
Hazelwood, Ali
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Let’s be real for a second: if you want a snarky and admirably catchy writing style and you’re not adamantly opposed to romance novels, you arguably have to read at least one of Ali Hazelwood’s books. For this reason, I’d highly recommend The Love Hypothesis. This charming, witty, romantic comedy follows Olive Smith as she navigates the treacherous path of a Stanford biology graduate program and complex relationships within her department. It is a classic enemies-to-lovers and grumpy meets sunshine trope, as Olive and Adam pretend to be a couple to appease her roommate and his family. The relationship between Olive and Adam is unbelievably wholesome and will fill your heart with warmth and happiness. Additionally, all of the characters in the story are simple yet relatable, so you won’t find yourself drowning in unnecessary information. While the plot is easy to predict, the snarky and witty writing style of Hazelwood transforms this romantic comedy into a master piece. That being said, the plot is still immaculate, with a perfect ending that will rip your heart in two. Chefs kiss.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder
Jackson, Holly
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, 5 years ago. It's a closed case. But Pippa doesn't think so. I absolutely loved A Good Girl's Guide to Murder.
The story follows Pippa Fitz-Amobi, or Pip, a 17 year-old girl whose end of year project is a solved murder case.
The "murder" of Andie Bell, and the suicide of her boyfriend that followed. Pip doesn't believe the end result of the case, and that Sal Singh, Andie's boyfriend wouldn't have murdered her.
Pip shows up at Sal's brother, Ravi Singh's door, asking for help. She tells him she doesn't think Sal did it, and wants help proving it. The rest of the book continues with Pip and Ravi doing what the police couldn't. A deep dive into Andie Bell and Sal Singh's life.
This book was very well written, and so were the other books and novella in this series. The plot twists were perfectly placed and made sense, yet not easy to guess. This was not a book to take lightly, details from the very beginning of the book would resurface.
The other books in the series connected perfectly with this one, and each page left you wanting more. There was definitely a romance subplot, as Ravi and Pip got to know each other, but it didn't take away from the mystery at any point.
Overall, I really liked A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, and would recommend it any day, whether you are just starting with mystery, or are an expert.

Reviewer's Name: Zara
Love on the Brain book jacket
Hazelwood, Ali
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Love on the Brain is stacked full of misunderstandings. When Bee Königswasser gets her dream job at NASA, she is ecstatic, except when she realizes her archnemesis, Levi, is her co-worker. So, who does she blame when her equipment stops working? Or when the staff ignores her? Levi. Through all of Bee’s misadventures, the reader is pulled along seamlessly and introduced into the narrative with an enviable writing style.

So here’s an equation: Romance plus STEM equals?

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
It Ends With Us book jacket
Hoover, Colleen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"It Ends With Us" by Colleen Hoover is a real and effective novel that explores the story of Lily Blossom and Ryle Kincaid. This book very evidently gives off the message, that it is okay to not be normal. To be scared to make tough choices. I think of this book as Hoover's courageous attempt in relation to her personal life to share awareness about abuse and harassment. I believe reading this novel will help change many lives that have been held under similar circumstances. This narrative will help teach people that sometimes, moving on or letting go is the best decision you can make for yourself. I felt proud when Lily was able to make extremely hard life-changing decisions to prioritize herself and her happiness. She is a character to admire and love. Hoover has derived so many layers to each character which adds depth to the story as a whole. Colleen Hoover’s subject is heartbreaking, but in our lives, it’s become such an ordinary deal that we naturally begin to avert our eyes easily from such content.
Love has no boundaries, but your health does. Real love should not end in excruciating pain. Taking your chances will only result in you getting used to the affliction.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
All Your Perfects book jacket
Hoover, Colleen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"All Your Perfects" by Colleen Hoover is a deep, emotional novel that delves into the complexities of marriage and the impact it has on the physical and emotional well-being of its characters. The story primarily revolves around Quinn and Graham, a couple who were once so deeply in love but find their relationship strained by the challenges of infertility, putting their marriage to the test. Colleen Hoover's narrative represents a tale of love, loss, and resilience, exploring the ups and downs of this couple's journey.
I give "All Your Perfects" a solid 4-star rating because the book shines in its depiction of the many struggles people face in maintaining a healthy, thriving marriage. I love how it addresses the issue of infertility, shedding light on how it can strain even the most loving relationships. This novel also doesn't shy away from the emotional toll this takes on the characters, which makes it a relatable and thought-provoking read for those who have faced similar challenges. Hoover's writing is very engaging, and she masterfully captures the depth of the emotional agitation that couples may tend to experience when dealing with such issues. This novel clearly excels in its portrayal of human vulnerability and the strength it takes to navigate the complexities of love and marriage, making it a compelling read.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
Good girl's guide
Jackson, Holly
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

One of my favorite books so far. The book is full of twists and turns and one of the most gripping story. I loved most of the characters.
Every chapter showed us a new suspicious person. Every chapter changed the perspective towards each character. I loved this series. At last it's not a book of black and white, there were so much gray ...

Reviewer's Name: Subhashini
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue book jacket
Schwab, Victoria
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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

Reviewer's Name: Hana
The Outsiders book jacket
Hinton, S. E.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton is a timeless classic that explores the lives of teenage boys growing up in a society divided by socioeconomic class. The novel's plot centers around Ponyboy, a member of a gang known as the "greasers," who are constantly at odds with the wealthier "Socs." When Ponyboy's best friend Johnny kills a Soc in self-defense, the gang is forced to go on the run, leading to a series of events that force Ponyboy to confront the harsh realities of his world. Hinton's portrayal of Ponyboy and the other greasers is one of the novel's greatest strengths. Through Ponyboy's eyes, we see the struggles and challenges of growing up in poverty, dealing with absent parents, and trying to find a place in a world that seems to be against you. The characters are all fully developed and unique, each with their own backstory, motivations, and distinct personalities, adding depth and complexity to the story. Hinton's portrayal of the greasers' bond highlights the importance of having a support system, even in the face of adversity. Additionally, the novel explores themes of social inequality, prejudice, and the challenges of coming of age in a world that is often unfair and unjust. I really enjoyed the authenticity of this novel through the abundance of dialogue and interactions between characters. I highly recommend this book as The Outsiders resonates with readers of all ages.

Reviewer Grade: 11.

Reviewer's Name: Addison
The Perks of Being a Wallflower book jacket
Chbosky, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Addison
Turtles All the Way Down book jacket
Green, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green is a very insightful novel that explores themes of mental health, friendship, and self-discovery. The story follows the life of 16-year-old Aza Holmes, a young girl who is struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety, as she navigates the challenges of adolescence and tries to solve a mystery involving a missing billionaire. Aza's struggles with mental health serving as a powerful critique of the ways in which society can stigmatize and marginalize those with mental illnesses. Her relationships with her best friend Daisy and her love interest Davis provide an intriguing exploration of the challenges of friendship and the complexities of romantic relationships. Green’s prose perfectly captures the voice of a young girl struggling with mental illness- his descriptions of Aza’s thought processes and compulsions are vivid and immersive, offering a nuanced portrayal of the experience of living with obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. His use of metaphor, such as the titular “turtles all the way down,” adds depth and meaning to the story, inviting readers to reflect on the deeper themes of the novel. I loved the depth and detail that this book had, and I feel like each and every character had so many layers to them that really helped me visualize the story as I read. Turtles All the Way Down is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, and I plan to read it again. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys coming of age, narrative style books with strong takeaways.

Reviewer Grade: 11.

Reviewer's Name: Addison
Other Birds book jacket
Allen, Sarah Addison
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Other Birds" is a slice of life story with mild paranormal elements. It does not have a high stakes plot, but rather focuses on the personal struggles of the characters. Overall it is a very refreshing and relaxing read. The paranormal element is not explored much, but it adds to the book's charm. The prose is lovely, especially regarding descriptions of food.
All of the characters are fairly interesting. Charlotte, Mac, and Lizbeth were my favorites. They all had interesting pasts and clear personalities. Zoey and Oliver were also interesting, but felt a little under developed. Lucy is only present for about a dozen pages. She's not so much of a character as she is a mystery, and she serves that role well.
The twists in this book are all fairly solid. I guessed one of them immediately, but it still felt impactful. I didn't guess one, but it didn't add anything to the story. Two of them were genuine surprises, and added depth to the story.
This book is not incredible, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and heartwarming. I would recommend it to lovers of character driven stories.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Less book jacket
Greer, Andrew Sean
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
We All Fall Down book jacket
Richards, Natalie D
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Romance, thriller, and horror all wrapped into one. Natalie D Richards does it once a great with a book you won't be able to put down until the final page. When two best friends in love have a falling out over a fight at a party it seems nothing could bring them together again. Except for the bridge that is. Strange things keep bringing them back to the place of the party and back to each other. Lock on bridges and hearts hold mystery but the views of both parties is being clouded by their own mental struggles. This is a very emotional book and capitating one that I can't wait to read again. Readers enjoy and beware of the bridge.

Reviewer's Name: McKenna
Family of Liars book jacket
Lockhart, .E
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Back to the beautiful family of Sinclairs, still liars. Family of Liars, the prequel to We Were Liars, takes readers back to the private island of the Sinclairs. What really happened in that tragedy two years ago? Or was it even one tragedy at all? This E Lockhart book will leave you captivated once again. The book may even cause you to return to E. Lochart's first Liars book to realign all the pieces of the mystery. Will the dots be connected or will more mystery unravel?
11th grade

Reviewer's Name: McKenna