Book Reviews by Genre: Literature

1984 book jacket
Orwell, George
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Although George Orwell crafted a rather interesting dystopia, the story he built around it largely fell flat. It was apparent throughout the novel that Orwell was more of an essayist than a storyteller; he was more interested in explaining the structure of his setting to his audience rather than showing them how that structure affects the story. 1984 suffers from hundreds of pages of blunt exposition-dumping that disconnects the reader from the characters and plot. While there is significant payoff at the end, the rising action was rather lacking in weight as the main character spends more time describing the logistics of the 1984 world rather than where he fits in it. Some aspects of Orwell's famous dystopian are intriguing, like the use of Newspeak or the new family dynamics, though it is overall disappointing.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
Demon Copperhead book jacket
Kingsolver, Barbara
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The sole way to describe Demon Copperhead by Barbra Kingsolver is a long, dark coming-of-age narrative. Demon Copperhead, born and raised in the southern Appalachian mountains by a single drug-addicted teenage mother, is seemingly designed for failure the moment he was born. Throughout his childhood, Demon confronts an abusive stepfather, an addicted mother, exploitive fosters, and selfish friends. As he faces a life of mistrust, inadequacy, and poverty, Demon relies on his wits to survive. While the book is lengthy, there is never a dull moment or lull in the plot, and the characters within the narrative are dynamic, adding depth to the story. The writing style effectively lures the reader into the constructed world of Lee County.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
The Song of Achilles
Miller, Madeline
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I loved this book! The detail in these stories was terrific and made the book a lot easier to follow. The story was entertaining and kept you on the edge of your seat at some parts. My only dislike about this story is that in the beginning of the book when Patroclus is naming all of the different Greek gods and demigods and such, so many names did get a bit confusing. It was a bit hard to follow but only lasted for about the first chapter and was an easy read after that. I rated this book 5 stars because the Greek mythology base in the story was very interesting, and you grew to love the characters as you read it. It made me smile, laugh, and cry. Genuinely a great book. In my opinion, this book is meant for young adult readers, I would say 15+ in my opinion. It does contain some violence but nothing too graphic and one brief sexual content scene but does not go into much detail. Would definitely recommend it!

Reviewer's Name: Ashley
Invisible Man
Ellison, Ralph
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that explores the complexities of African American identity in a society that refuses to see them as anything but invisible. Published in 1952, the book tells the story of an unnamed narrator who struggles to find his place in a world that constantly denies his existence.

The novel is set in the early 20th century and follows the narrator's journey from his youth in the South to his experiences in the North, where he encounters racism, violence, and exploitation. The narrator's quest for identity is complicated by the fact that he is not only a black man in a white-dominated society but also an individual struggling to define himself.

Throughout the novel, Ellison employs richly symbolic imagery to convey the narrator's experiences and emotions. The use of motifs such as blindness, invisibility, and masks emphasizes the ways in which society seeks to hide or ignore the realities of racism and prejudice. At the same time, the narrator's invisibility serves as a metaphor for the struggle of African Americans to assert their identity and agency in a society that denies them these basic human rights.

Ellison's prose is both poetic and poignant, as he explores the complexities of race, identity, and power. He also addresses issues of class and gender, as the narrator navigates the world of white power brokers, black nationalists, and women who seek to control him.

Overall, "Invisible Man" is a powerful and important work that continues to resonate with readers today. It is a testament to the enduring legacy of racism and inequality in America, and a call to action for all those who seek to create a more just and equitable society. If you have not read this book yet, I highly recommend that you do so.

Reviewer's Name: Aman G.
A Little Life
Yaragihara, Hanya
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"A Little Life" by Hanya Yaragihara is a commendable literary fiction which will make you cry and smile, often both at the same time.
I read this book last year and I still think about it sometimes and that's how I know it's a good book.
Honestly, saying it's a 'good' book is an underestimation.
My sincerest apologies.
Let me correct myself, A Little Life is not a good book, it's a magnificent book. A fine piece of literary fiction.
After a couple of decades this book is going to be considered a classic from this
generation. I have dibs on it.
Reading it was quite an expedition,
It was as if I rode a rollercoaster of
emotions;
whereupon I felt the highest of highs and lowest of the lows, varying from small soothing ecstasies to immense crestfallenness.
The book is bildungsroman of sorts which simply means we follow characters from their childhood towards their adulthood and we basically read them go through their lives.
We circle the lives of four college friends, based in nyc, who technically grow up together.
But our focal point resides on Jude, our protagonist, whom we adore!
A little context: In his adult life, he is a successful litigator who has got his act together,
but little do we know, he's been through hell and back. We untangle his mind-boggling mysteries on this expedition of ours. Its a tragic tale really but despite the unfortunate trajectories there is something so beautiful and pure about this book,
I guess what I'm referring to is friendship.
The bond these college friends share.
These characters grow on you, you can tell they're written with love.
They re so complicated and real and even relatable, sometimes.
Moreover, text is simply elysian. I needn't say more.
The beauty is in the details, in the intricacies.
Once you get through the initial fifty pages, it'll grow on you indefinitely.
and it'll become unputdownable and your fingers would ache since its a mammoth of a book. And you're dread it when you're nearing the end,
dread it because you do not want it to end yet,
thats how lovely these people are, and their story is. Well, lovely and sad.
Once you devour the text,
you'd miss them.
your heart would be left rended all over the place, like mine was
and you'd think how the text wasn't long enough, like I did after reading 800 something pages,
I wished there were more to the book.
Adding some trigger warnings for this book at the end of my review-
sexual abuse, child sexual abuse, scary verbal abuse, psychological manipulation and gaslighting, kidnapping/
imprisonment, many modes of self-harm, suicide, rape.
I think I covered them all, look trigger warnings up once just to be sure.
Read this book. I insist and assure you will have a good time.

Reviewer's Name: Nishtha
To Kill a Mockingbird book jacket
Lee, Harper
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee explores themes of race, justice, and morality through the eyes of a young girl in a small Southern town. Set in the 1930s, the novel follows Scout Finch as she grows up and navigates the complex social and political landscape of Maycomb, Alabama. The plot of To Kill a Mockingbird is both compelling and emotionally resonant. Lee’s exploration of racism and prejudice is nuanced and insightful, offering a powerful critique of the social and political systems that perpetuate injustice. The trial of Tom Robinson, which forms the center of the novel, is both tense and heartbreaking, with Lee masterfully building tension and suspense as the case unfolds. This novel is very heavy in symbolism and encapsulates the perspective and voice of a young, naive girl very successfully. I enjoyed the wide variety of characters, bits of humor, and overall depth of meaning and thought that To Kill a Mockingbird provides. Overall, it was a very thought-provoking and deep read, perfect for classic lovers and those who enjoy realistic fiction.
Reviewer Grade: 11.

Reviewer's Name: Addison
Fahrenheit 451 book jacket
Bradbury, Ray
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury delves into the dangers of a society where books are banned and critical thinking is discouraged. The novel follows protagonist Guy Montag, a fireman whose job is to burn books, as he begins to question the oppressive society he lives in and seeks to uncover the truth about the value of literature. The plot of Fahrenheit 451 is both compelling and thought-provoking- Bradbury’s dystopian world is entirely possible, and his exploration of the consequences of censorship and intellectual suppression can be easily applied to modern times. The story is driven by Montag’s journey of self-discovery, which is filled with twists and turns that keep the reader engaged until the very end. Bradbury’s writing style is poetic and evocative, bringing the world of Fahrenheit 451 to life with vivid descriptions and metaphorical language. His use of symbolism is particularly effective, as he weaves in recurring motifs such as fire, the mechanical hound, and the phoenix to add depth and complexity to the story. The novel is also structured in a way that mirrors Montag’s journey, with the pace and tone shifting as he becomes more aware of the world around him. Overall, Fahrenheit 451 is a very thought-provoking and symbolic classic that really makes you rethink the value of intellectual freedom and education. Every time I read it, I recognize more symbols, hidden meanings, and references that really enrich my experience. I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it to anyone interested in dystopian, mind boggling novels.
Reviewer Grade: 11.

Reviewer's Name: Addison
The Catcher in the Rye book jacket
Salinger, J. D.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is a timeless classic that explores the complexities of adolescence and the search for identity. The story follows the life of the main character and narrator, sixteen year old Holden Caulfield, over the course of two days after he has been expelled from prep school. Disillusioned and struggling to come to terms with the world around him, Caulfield's story is masterfully told through Salinger's unique and captivating writing style that immerses the reader in Holden's world and captures the essence of teenage angst and rebellion. This classic novel is unlike any other that I have read, containing several humorous instances and a main character with a very strong personality that kept me hooked. Holden's interactions with his family, friends, and strangers are both funny and poignant, highlighting the challenges of growing up in a world that often seems confusing and unfair. Overall. The Catcher in the Rye is one of my all-time favorite pieces of classical literature that resonates with many age groups and provides for a very interesting read. I have read this novel at least five times and have yet to tire of it.
Reviewer Grade: 11.

Reviewer's Name: Addison
Watership Down book jacket
Adams, Richard
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is a book designed for lovers of Xenofiction (books from non-human perspectives). "Watership Down" is a book about a warren of rabbits. Hazel's brother Fiver has a disturbing vision that prompts him and others to leave the warren. Along the way they run into other, sinister warrens. Interwoven with the story, short segments describing the mythology of El-ahrairah ( a figure similar to Robin Hood).

Some may be familiar with the violent reputation of "Watership Down". This is an earned reputation. Although no main characters die, they do suffer grievous harm. Aside from that, there is a vivid and disturbing description of the original warren's description. However, I felt that the most disturbing parts of the books were the parts exploring the almost dystopian warrens the group meet. If you plan to read this book, keep this in mind. Do not read this if you are sensitive to violence.

If you can get past the disturbing content, this is an excellent read. The characters are incredibly charming. Hazel is an inventive leader, who sometimes acts recklessly to show off. Fiver is a timid rabbit who has glimpses of the future, based on the famous Greek oracle Cassandra. Bigwig is a gruff ally, who occasionally doubts Hazel's leadership, but has a big heart. The plot is equally as interesting, leaving me anxious at parts when things seemed to be going eerily well. The segments regarding El-ahrairah are also entertaining, giving insight into the rabbit culture.

All in all, if you aren't sensitive to violence, I would definitely recommend trying this book.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
A Little Life book jacket
Yanagihara, Hanya
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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

Reviewer's Name: Makenna
The Virgin Suicides book jacket
Eugenides, Jeffrey
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

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

Reviewer's Name: Eve
Flowers for Algernon book jacket
Keyes, Daniel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Flowers for Algernon is stunning commentary on the way society perceives intelligence and its connection to personal value. The creative liberties taken with this book to modify diction to match Charlie Gordon's knowledge create a more personal connection with the beloved narrator. I found myself celebrating the first time he used a comma or a metaphor. Although this book was difficult to read at first, I understand that those creative choices enhance the impact of the story later on in the book. The reason I wouldn't call Flowers for Algernon perfect is I feel some of the development in the middle diverted from his climactic conversations with the doctor and professor. The story seems to split into two at once: one of Charlie's emotional intelligence struggling to keep up with his knowledge, and one of his environment's reactions to his sudden genius. Though I enjoy both perspectives, I feel the conjunction creates clutter in what could be one flawlessly streamlined story. However, both stories are executed beautifully, and the journey of Charlie Gordon is both profound and emotionally charged. Flowers for Algernon is certainly a novel I'll mull over in years to come.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
Luster
Leilani, Raven
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If it weren’t so gorgeously written, it’d be too wincingly real to read. I felt deeply connected to Edie in all her messiness and compulsive curiosity. Leilani’s characters are all their own: weird, self-possessed, sort of perverse, clearly loved into being.

Reviewer's Name: Kate
The Bell Jar
Plath, Sylvia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

You will understand why she was so depressed and attempted suicide three times after reading this novel. It tells the tale of a young girl who suffers a lot throughout her entire life. All the events of her life are beautifully executed with the help of Easter's character in this novel. Sylvia wants to be a poet, but society forces her to be a housewife, have children, or someone else. Sylvia Plath's father dies when she most needs him. Being without a father means you are alone with creatures in this cruel world that does not care about anyone. She seems very lonely, and sometimes she feels like she is in a bell jar, like a dead baby. She is depressed by the silence. It is not the silence of silence, it is her own silence. The novel also depicts the situation of women in the 1940s they were supposed to do what their men wanted them to do. If the person is loyal, he should get the same person, but that is not the case with Slviya Plath. Every boy friend she finds has an affair with another woman. She sacrifices her body for the peace of mind and her virginity for the sake of experience.

Reviewer's Name: Nasir
A Quiet Life book jacket
Joella, Ethan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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)

Reviewer's Name: Hanna
The Picture of Dorian Gray book jacket
Wilde, Oscar
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

At first, I only picked this book as a classic for school, but I quickly learned it's a classic for a reason. I'd known of the general plot of the novel where a portrait reveals the ugliness of the inside of a man while he remains young, but the way it's written and described makes the full story. The story starts with painter Basil basically putting so much work and devotion into a portrait of Dorian Gray, the painting comes to life. Dorian wishes to stay forever young, and the painting reflects his evilness (vanity, etc.). I enjoyed the sense of mysticism and how everything connects to the theme of appearances are not what they seem. Dorian looks beautiful, but his actions (the thing that makes a person) are grotesque and horrid. The gothic fiction genre is reflected by the dark evilness of Dorian's actions and the magic of the portrait. This book is my favorite class I read this year and the plot surprised me with the characters always returning and a sense of incompletedness when characters leave. If you're looking for a medium-read classic with thought-provoking ideas, then this is for you!
Reviewer Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Tisha
The Song of Achilles
Miller, Madeline
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Muhammad N.
Fahrenheit 451 book jacket
Bradbury, Ray
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

451͒ Fahrenheit is the temperature when paper starts burning. Guy Monteg knows it for sure. He’s a fireman. However, his job is not to put out the fire, but to make it and burn the books. He likes his job, but there is something that he hides from everyone, including his wife.
From every fire, Guy saves a book. In his society, books are forbidden, as they are considered to make people unhappy, evolving complicated emotions and making the readers think. No books means no worries, but a careless life, full of joy and simple entertainment.
One day, Guy Monteg decides that he does not want to live like he used to anymore. He finds a former English professor and asks to teach him to understand what he reads about. Together, they make a plan to save more books in the hope that war will destroy the existing system that they have to live in.
But any secret becomes clear, and the next night Guy gets an order to burn his own house. He destroys it with a flamethrower, as well as his captain, co-workers and the Mechanical Hound.
Monteg escapes. He does not know though, that after all the dangers on his way, he will finally find his destination and meet those whom he will belong to.
It may be hard to feel, but the book is sharp and straightforward. Through the adventure in a fictional universe, Ray Bradbury shows us what might happen, if humanity keeps moving in a direction that will only satisfy basic needs and bring momentary pleasures. I’m sure, some of us can already recognize ourselves with shame in Beatty or Mildred. We’ve already made that first step on the path to the world, where people burn books. This dystopia teaches us that we can always make a difference in the world and change our lives the way that we believe is right. There will be those who will try to destroy you, but there will also be those, whom you will be able to rely on.
The novel creates a tense engaging atmosphere, where you can smell threat in the air and hear the chase behind your back. It does not let the reader go till the very end and stays in mind days after.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Oleksandra
Twelfth Night
Shakespeare, William
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Great book! It's actually so hilarious because of the love triangle. Highly recommended!!

Reviewer's Name: Maurice
The Catcher in the Rye
Salinger, J.D.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I don't understand why this is a classic. I only vagally understand the book. the main character, Holden Caufield, doesn't learn anything. I can't see any reason to read.

Reviewer's Name: Susan Q.