Award Books by Genre: YALSA Award

The Elements book jacket
Gray, Theodore
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I truly have nothing bad to say about Theodore Gray’s book, The Elements. It is is both informational and entertaining, making it a super engaging read. It is chock full of facts about the periodic table and every element in it. Gray combines firsthand experience, intelligence and insight with wit and dry humor to make his element explanation stand out in the world of nonfiction. Along with the superior style in which is written, The Elements also uses stunning photographs of the author’s actual collection of items representing the periodic table’s vast content. In short, The Elements is an absolutely astonishing piece of work. Putting it down is impossible!

Reviewer's Name: Dominic
Awards:
Turtles All the Way Down book jacket
Green, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"Turtles All the Way Down" is a young adult novel written by John Green. The story follows the life of Aza Holmes, a 16-year-old girl dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Aza, along with her best friend Daisy, becomes involved in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a billionaire named Russell Pickett. As they investigate, Aza also navigates the challenges of her mental health and relationships.
In my opinion, "Turtles All the Way Down" is a compelling and emotionally resonant novel, earning my rating of 3/5. John Green brings depth and authenticity to the portrayal of Aza's struggles with OCD, providing readers with a unique and empathetic perspective. The exploration of friendship, love, and the complexities of mental health adds layers to the narrative. The book's strength lies in its realistic characters, poignant storytelling, and the author's ability to address important themes with sensitivity. While some may find the pacing or plot elements challenging or dull, the overall impact and the way it tackles mental health make it a worthwhile and thought-provoking read.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
An Abundance of Katherines book jacket
Green, John
2 stars = Meh
Review:

"An Abundance of Katherines" by John Green revolves around the quirky and intellectually gifted protagonist, Colin Singleton, who finds himself in a cycle of heartbreak. Having been dumped by 19 girls, all named Katherine, Colin sets out on a road trip with his best friend, Hassan, in an attempt to overcome the repetitive pattern in his love life. Along the journey, the novel explores themes of self-discovery, friendship, and the complexities of relationships. Green weaves in mathematical concepts and footnotes, adding an intellectual layer to the narrative as Colin attempts to create a formula predicting the duration of romantic relationships.
In my opinion, the novel falls short in execution. The heavy reliance on mathematical discussions, while unique, can be overwhelming or dull for readers not inclined towards that subject. The repetitiveness of the plot, with the central theme of Colin's romantic struggles, becomes a hindrance, making the story feel stagnant at times. Despite some moments of humor and insight, the overall experience may leave readers desiring more depth and variety in the narrative.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
The Naturals book jacket
Barnes, Jennifer Lynn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is about a teenage girl who gets enlisted in an FBI program, The Natural Program where she and other “Naturals” work to solve cold cases. I really liked the premise of this book. The teenagers are basically prodigies on reading people or reading crime scenes in a way adult agents can’t do . The protagonist, Cassie Hobbes, for example is really good at reading people and how they might react to situations. Others members are good at telling lies, knowing statistics or math, and reading emotions. I really enjoyed the found family trope with Cassie and the other Naturals and am hoping to see more of that as the series moves forwards. This first book while really good, kind of just felt like a beginning couple episodes to a tv show. We’re still learning about the characters, the program, and the main plot of the story as a whole. I will say it did encourage me to continue with the series and figure out how the Naturals react with other challenges and problems that come with being apart of the FBI.

Reviewer's Name: Cara
Far From the Tree book jacket
Benway, Robin
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"Far From the Tree" by Robin Benway is a exploration of family, identity, and the bonds that tie people together. The book follows the interconnected lives of three siblings—Grace, Maya, and Joaquin—who are all separated and discover each other's existence and embark on a journey to understand the meaning of family. Benway skillfully intertwines the perspectives of these three characters, creating a narrative that unfolds with genuine emotion and authenticity. The story delves into themes of adoption, acceptance, and the profound impact of family connections on one's sense of self.
Awarding "Far From the Tree" a rating of 3/5 reflects my appreciation for the novel's engaging storyline and the author's adept portrayal of complex family dynamics. The characters are well-developed, and their individual struggles and growth are compelling. However, at times, the narrative can feel slightly formulaic, with certain plot points following predictable trajectories. Additionally, while the exploration of adoption is insightful, some aspects of the story may feel a bit too neatly resolved. Despite these minor critiques, Benway's ability to craft a touching narrative around the theme of found family makes "Far From the Tree" a solid and emotional read, deserving a 3 star rating.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
The Upside of Falling book jacket
Light, Alex
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In "The Upside of Falling" by Alex Light, readers are treated to a heartwarming and charming YA contemporary novel. This story revolves around Becca Hart, a high school student who, in an unexpected turn of fate, fake-dates Brett Wells, the most popular boy in school. Although the trope and theme may sound familiar, Light's storytelling immerses it with a fresh and engaging twist. Becca and Brett's journey through the ups and downs of their "pretend" romance is filled with humor, relatable characters, and a delightful exploration of the complexities of high school relationships.
I give "The Upside of Falling" four stars for its simplicity, like a cute, short Wattpad (where it was originally published) story. Alex Light's writing style is refreshingly light and accessible, making it an delightful read for fans of YA romance. The story's direct and endearing approach to love and self-discovery is very enjoyable, and the characters are relatable and easy to root for. This book's likable and uncomplicated narrative is suggestive of the online stories many readers adore, making it a perfect choice for those seeking a sweet and heartwarming escape into the world of high school romance.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
Awards:
The Fault in Our Stars book jacket
Green, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" is a heartwarming and pleasant YA novel that explores a variety of themes like love, illness, and essence. This particular story follows the narrative of Hazel and Augustus, two teenagers who battle cancer and embark on a journey of love and self-discovery together.
I rate "The Fault in Our Stars" 3 out of 5 stars for its easy readability, enjoyable narrative, and the extremely important message it conveys about cancer awareness through Hazel's and Augustus' characters. It is an incredibly nice, short book to read, particularly for audiences who are young adults. However, compared to some of the other books I've read, it doesn't delve as deeply and lacks the complex storytelling that I often seek while reading. While it certainly has its lovely positives that I enjoyed, the book, in my opinion, falls a little short in terms of depth and construction, which is why I choose to give it a 3-star rating.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
The Book Thief book jacket
Zusak, Markus
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book was awesome! I had to read it for school, but I ended up really loving it and the way Markus Zusak wrote it. This book takes place in Nazi Germany and follows a young girl named Liesel who loves words and stories but can’t read. The book is interesting because the narrator isn’t Liesel and it isn’t in third person, instead it’s narrated by Death himself. Through Death, we learn about Liesel’s development and the environment she is living through. We watch as she gets older and continues her love for stories and writing. While this story can be heartfelt, the focus still takes place in Nazi Germany where all kinds of tragedies were taking place and made me tear up more than once. This book was amazing but it’s something you have to read slowly because of all the figurative language and metaphors being described at once. You have to think about what Death is telling you and then compare it to Liesel’s story. I loved this book but I was ready to cry by then end of it because of all the events taking place.

Reviewer's Name: Cara
Illuminae book jacket
Kaufman, Amie
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This book was interesting. It takes place in 2575 so way in the future and includes a planet invasion and a plague. It was also written in the transcripts of files and emails, so even though it was a long book it was a quick read. It was slow at the beginning and a little hard to get into because of the different way of writing it, but it eventually got good. I was interested for a while, but then it just got confusing again. I also did not enjoy the main character or the way she acted, her character development just stopped making sense. I’m not sure if I would recommend this book, I think if you want a legit sci-fi novel you should read this, but be prepared to focus try to transcript emails and codes.

Reviewer's Name: Cara
Harry Potter
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For people who want to enjoy an intriguing, fast-paced novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the perfect book to read. It keeps you involved throughout the book as most chapters have cliffhangers at the end. This novel is the first of the seven famous Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling.

The book is about 11-year-old Harry Potter, who receives a letter saying that he is invited to attend Hogwarts, a school of witchcraft and wizardry. He then learns that a powerful wizard and his minions are after the sorcerer’s stone that will make this evil wizard immortal and undefeatable. Harry decides to go after the sorcerer’s stone before the wizard reaches it, but his loyal friends, Hermione and Ron don’t let Harry face this danger alone.

This book is full of fantasies and imagination like at one point, Harry Potter is asked to catch a flying golden ball while flying on his broomstick. Eventually Harry Potter stands on his broomstick and tries to reach for the ball, but he falls off the broomstick in a very tense moment. He unexpectedly throws up the golden ball winning the game for his team.

Harry Potter and a Sorcerer Stone is a good book to spark joy and imagination for anyone, regardless of age. But I would say it is most enjoyable for elementary school students, who can very well relate to the fantasy world. So I would say that it is a must-read for younger audiences, but it’s a good read in general.

Reviewer's Name: Igra
We Were Liars book jacket
Lockhart, E.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

We were liars is a young adult drama/thriller. It’s about the seemingly perfect Sinclair family and their summer private island. Cadence Sinclair is the heir to the Sinclair fortune and going to the island during the summers is what she looks forward to during the year. However, after an accident and two summers missed on the island, Cadence returns with little memory and a suspicious feeling.

This was an overall good book to read. It got a little slow at times, but it was not predictable and kept me on the edge of my seat. I will say I was expecting a predictable ending but the plot twist completely blew me away! It’s also not very long and a quick read but with a lot of emotions. E. Lockhart did a good job at making me feel things. I laughed, I cried, and had more than one jaw dropper. I would rate it a 3 just because it got a little boring and confusing, but I would recommend!

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Cara
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder book jacket
Jackson, Holly
2 stars = Meh
Review:

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder presents readers with the skeleton of a mystery novel while somehow excluding most of what makes a mystery novel compelling. Holly Jackson dives straight into the disappearance of Andie Bell at the beginning, ignoring all conventions of suspense of build-up. The disappearance is approached from a strikingly detached perspective, though, in contradiction, many of the key figures in the case are life-long friends of the narrator. This apparent lack of motive from Pippa rocks the very foundation of the novel, and readers have difficulty connecting with such a character. Jackson hastily attempts to patch this by claiming an emotional stake in the matter, but in Pippa's actions, she is all but sensitive. Her investigation is greatly reckless, unrealistic, and absurdly convenient. The mechanical nature of Pippa's progress only further disconnects the reader from the story, and it renders the suspense and climax completely arbitrary.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
Looking for Alaska book jacket
Green, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Looking for Alaska details the story of a kid who, in his pursuit of something new and, in the aim of sucking the marrow out of life, fails to recognize the plain truths of the people around him. He is entranced with the interesting world of Culver Creek, the mystical boarding school of his father's youth. He aids his roommate in pranks and grows closer with friends Lara, Takumi, and mysterious Alaska, all the while oblivious to her deep underlying hurt. At its heart, Looking for Alaska is about being blinded by one's own expectations to the point of pushing away important friends. The story itself, though somewhat meandering in its execution, is quite well-written, and John Green portrays a realistic, captivating, and unique cast of characters.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
The Summer I Turned Pretty
Han, Jenny
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

With this book series becoming a show, I was interested in reading the books, and I am glad that I did! These books follow a young girl named Belly who grows up with family friends at their beach house. The series tells the story as they all get older, and their bonds that break and grow back together. It is a comfort book that I would definitely recommend. I would recommend this book to young teenage readers, about 14+. I gave this book a rating of 4 stars because the characters were beautifully written, with you learning something new about the characters each time you turned the page. I personally enjoyed some of the flashbacks in time that detail when Belly was a kid at the beach. It has a sweet comforting feeling. I did not give this book 5 stars because it did take me a bit longer to read since there weren't many twists or turns that kept me super intrigued. At least not in the first book, but in the last two books the drama, and romance definitely keep you interested. If you are looking for a slow-burn comfort romance series for young readers, this is the book/series for you!

Reviewer's Name: Ashley
Awards:
The Graveyard Book book jacket
Gaiman, Neil
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Graveyard Book, written by Neil Gaiman, is a mystical, interesting book. In the book, a young boy is taken in and cared for by ghosts of a graveyard. The boy is kept in secret, and is named Bod, short for Nobody. The book follows Bod's adventures in growing up and continuing his life, in and out of the graveyard. I thought this was a great book, packed full of magic special characters. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, but mostly a more mature audience, because there are some parts that I feel are harder to understand if you are younger, and at some parts the book is a little slow. But overall I think this was one of the best books I've read this year!

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Ella
Into the Wild book jacket
Krakauer, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild" might be the greatest nonfiction book I have read this year. I was assigned this book to read over my summer break for my English class. I am extremely grateful for this because it was very likely that I would not have discovered this masterpiece on my own. My favorite part about the book was the exact thing that Krakauer wared about in his forward; the author's similar personal experience. In a more general term, I savored every moment where Krakauer connected McCandless' story to other lesser-known examples in history, like John M. Waterman or Gene Rosellini. My least favorite part about the book wasn't explicitly in the book: the lack of definitive information outside of Into the Wild about McCandless makes me doubt some of the credibility of the information that Krakauer provided. Even if the factual information was true, I am still confronted with the author's admission that some of the details in the book were opinionated by Krakauer. The book was full of surprises. I will not spoil any, but the father's reaction when seeing "the scene" shocked me. I personally could not relate to any of the characters in this book. I lack the all-consuming drive to
reach a mostly independent state from society, and I have never fretted over a lost child. Regardless of my lack of a personal connection, this book was an extremely powerful book about those in society that wish to be outside society.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Ryder L.
Dracula book jacket
Stoker, Bram
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Dracula, written by Bram Stoker, is a fictional account of a vampire hunt in Transylvania. Jonathan Harker, a lawyer, is sent by his boss to Castle Dracula to assist in a real estate transaction with a wealthy man named Count Dracula. However, he is soon not allowed out of the castle, and slowly he realizes the the Count is no ordinary man. Harker manages to escape and eventually teams up with a colleague to hunt down Count Dracula. I enjoyed the book, it was full of complex back stories that merged into one beautiful crescendo: the hunt of the Count. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to expand their vocabulary, as the book is rich with complex words and sentences. I would also recommend this book to avid readers; (as it is a classic) it should be ensured that to be a genuine reader one must read this famous work of art.

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

It's a good book.

Reviewer's Name: Jashmitha
Genres:
All Our Yesterdays
Terrill, Cristin
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow. I could not put this book down. It was so action packed, I really enjoyed the character development, the twists. One of those books that leaves your mind spinning and you’re so wrapped up in the world you’re not sure how to move on to another book. I’m surprised all this was able to be done so well in a singular novel. But the pacing felt great and there wasn’t anything I was left wanting from the book. Were there any character flaws or plot holes? I mean sure but nothing that was so noticeable to me that it deterred my enjoyment while reading. Definitely one of my favorite YA novels.

Reviewer's Name: Becca
Awards:
Among the Hidden
Haddix, Margaret Peterson
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In a future where the Population Police enforce the law limiting a family to only two children, Luke has lived all his twelve years in isolation and fear on his family’s farm, until another “third” convinces him that the government is wrong.

The book is a dystopian world set in present day where teenagers are able to come together in crisis to try and change the government and let their voice be heard. I chose to read this book back in third grade and still remember to this day how good it was. The elements of the book were enticing and had me looking forward to what was next. It gave great arguments of why the government is wrong and how the rich, called “barons,” get to do what they want. As a kid I didn’t have any negative thoughts, and if I were to pick it back up, I would still have good thoughts about it. This book is part of the Shadow Children collection, with seven books in it and each of the books get better. People who enjoy adventure, plot twists, and exploring different perspectives would like Among the Hidden.

Reviewer's Name: Janeika