Contemporary

Book Review: We Were Liars

Author
Lockhart, E.
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

The average reviews for this book are lower than usual, but it really surprised me. The story felt like a true story and dystopian and fiction all at once, not to mention the plot twist. The setting of an isolated vacation island set the background for a unique storyline between a few families with dark secrets. I enjoyed the main characters' personalities too, though there were some comments they made about homophobia and racism that were kind of weird and sounded like the author didn't do much research about the LGBTQ+ and POC communities. It was very entertaining still, and I would recommend it if you need a suspenseful story to read quickly.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: This Is Where It Ends

Author
Nijkamp, Marieke
Rating
1 star = Yuck!
Review

This Is Where It Ends follows four students who recount their perspectives going through a school shooting at Opportunity High. Initially, I was intrigued to read this book since it covers a very sensitive topic and is a topic that I was interested in learning more about. However, the novel completely missed all my expectations. Instead of a thoughtful, heavily researched, realistic story, I got a novel that seemed to be an insult to any school shooting victim. The novel was way too action-packed, in such a way that every single plot point in the book seemed wildly exaggerated. Making it worse, the school shooter in the novel was way too villainized. With cheesy lines and no real reasoning behind his actions, the author made it seem like the shooter was some kind of superhero comic villain, with no other drive for his actions besides to incite fear in others. There was no psychological deep dive into why the shooter, a previous student in the school, ended up in the way he did, and why he thought his only solution to his problems was to murder his classmates. It was a shame to read such a novel meant to address a major problem in America, but was instead contorted and desensitized in a way to appeal to the entertainment industry, and failed to have any educational value at all. To put it shortly, This Is Where It Ends seems more of an action-thriller novel, not one that is meant to be taken seriously at all.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Michelle

Book Review: The Ex Talk

Author
Solomon, Rachel Lynn
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

This is a delightful book with great diversity and a unique topic of life on the radio. I loved how Shay and Dominic's personalities complimented each other throughout the story, especially as Shay experienced misogyny and the two worked to combat it. The romance was light-hearted and side conflicts like grief were refreshing to hear about. One thing I disliked, though, was Shay's reaction to an age gap of five years between her and Dominic. She constantly threw in "old jokes" and generational-gap comments despite them both pretty much being millennials. It made the age gap more of an issue than it would have been without such dialogue and even contradicted the author's message against unfair gender norms. Would an age gap like this have been discussed if Dominic was the older one? Other than that, this book got me back into NPR and podcasts so I recommend this any day!
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: Songbirds

Author
Lefteri, Christy
Rating
2 stars = Meh
Review

Songbirds is about the disappearance of domestic workers in Cyprus--women who had no choice but to leave their families in Sri Lanka or Vietnam or the Philippines and find work as maids in the homes of Cyprus's wealthy class. Nisha, whom the story centers on, is a Sri Lankan woman who has faced much loss. She comes to Cyprus, leaving her daughter behind, and becomes a mother figure for Aliki, the daughter of a somber, grieving widow named Petra. Though Nisha has such an impact on the people around her, especially Petra and Aliki, she is merely seen as a maid, overlooked, taken for granted. In a parallel plot line, Yiannis is a poacher who hunts songbirds for a living. He and Nisha have a secret relationship, which would jeopardize everything if discovered by Petra, and when he finally tells Nisha about the poaching, she is deeply disappointed in him, though Yiannis doesn't stop his senseless killing of songbirds. One night, Nisha goes missing. What ensues is a long, agonizing search in which the police refuse to do anything and Petra begins to realize that she relied on Nisha for nearly everything and didn't appreciate her while she was there. Petra and Yiannis team up, determined to find out what happened.
In my opinion, this story could've been told so much better. The metaphor of the songbirds was far too loud and became redundant and irritating. Lefteri could've more effectively woven together the plot lines of Petra and Yiannis without being so blunt with her metaphor. However, I did find it very interesting--and saddening--to learn about the missing domestic workers of Cyprus. Just as in The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Lefteri brings to light real issues that go beyond news coverage and should be talked about but somehow aren't. These maids are just as human as anyone, having sacrificed lives in their home countries for the benefit of their families. I would have enjoyed this novel more if the pacing had been faster and the plot hadn't been so repetitive; the characters also weren't the most likable.
I wouldn't necessary recommend this book, but the premise is worth knowing.

Reviewer's Name
Alexa

Book Review: One of Us Is Next

Author
McManus, Karen
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This book is the sequal to One of us is lying. In this book, there is a person who would like to continue Simon's legacy. A boy who framed 4 teenagers in detention on his death. But, it's a game of Truth or Dare. You do a crazy dare, like kiss someone or get one of your deepest secrets exposed. It turns out, this is just based on a revenge plan from 2 people, looking to ruin someone's life based off of past incidents.
This book is AMAZING. It was just a good as the first book, if not better. It has a great story line and plot and truly does keep you intrigued the whole time. I loved this book and would rate it a 10/10.

Reviewer's Name
Mackenzie

Book Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe

Author
Graham, Lauren
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Lauren Graham, the charismatic actress, writes an endearing and entertaining story about the struggles of show business in her novel Someday, Someday, Maybe. Franny Banks is a frazzled young woman with big dreams of making it in New York City, but she finds herself stuck in an unfortunate cycle of disappointment, only booking the occasional commercial acting job. When she finally gets an agent, Franny thinks things are looking up, but instead she becomes consumed by a toxic acting culture and loses sight of herself. Graham tells Franny's story with wit and relatability, conveying hard truths through sarcastic, sometimes hyperbolic observations, complete with Franny's amusing inner commentary and scribbly, sketch-filled planner pages. This novel could be a rude awakening to those who wish to pursue the acting industry or show business, but the truths it tells about life are important. Sometimes we forget what's best for ourselves when trying to please others. Sometimes failure can lead to the unexpected. And sometimes things don't work out like we hoped they would.

Reviewer's Name
Alexa

Book Review: One of Us Is Lying

Author
McManus, Karen
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This book is about 4 highschool students who are in the classroom when another student dies. Since they are the only ones in the room, they are the ones who have to fight to prove that they are innocent and try to get their normal lives back. Throughout the book, each person gets framed at least once, with new evidence. You get a point of view of each person and others on who did it, and why.
This book was AMAZING! It kept me engaged the whole entire time and had me gasping at every plot twist. I know that alot of people have been posting about this book, but it is definitely worth the read. There is also a sequal, called One of us is next. I would rate this book a 10/10.

Reviewer's Name
Mackenzie

Book Review: She Drives Me Crazy

Author
Quindlen, Kelly
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

She Drives Me Crazy opens with Scottie Zajac horrendously losing the first basketball game of the season to her ex-girlfriend. And it keeps going downhill after that. After a horrendous fender-bender in the parking lot after the game, Scottie is forced to carpool with Irene Abraham, the beautiful head cheerleader with a heart of stone. But after a few twists and turns, Scottie comes up with a perfect way to get back at her ex: fake date Irene until their next basketball battle. But within their fake relationship, Scottie finds that maybe feelings, relationships, and exes aren't as simple as she thought.
This book was fairly simple. It was a standard rivalry turned forced cooperation turned love story, with lots of shenanigans along the way. The things that made this book stand out from the simplistic romances of its peers was surprisingly not how the main love story was handled, but rather how the previous one was. Scottie had been in a nasty breakup caused by a nasty relationship, and it shows. She's torn about her ex and is constantly conflicted over whether ending the relationship was a good idea or not, something that's sadly very common for victims of toxic relationships. Her self esteem is noticeably impacted, and she has to struggle with this throughout the rest of the book. The book also handles a lot of other difficult subjects really well, like the demonization and trivialization of cheerleading, and the criticisms given to gay athletes. Despite these heavy topics, the book still delivers the fun romance it promises, with a few interesting twists thrown in that complement the themes of toxic relationships and moving on. The characters of the book were also surprisingly endearing. Scottie was loveable despite her flaws, Irene was one of the coolest female characters I've read in years, and even the side characters each shone and grew in really unique ways.
All in all, this was a great book, which I'd definitely recommend for lovers of romance, rivalry, character growth, and some 90's era romantic gestures!

Reviewer's Name
Eve

Book Review: Restart

Image
Restart book cover
Author
Korman, Gordon
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Restart is about a boy who fell off a roof, forcing him to relearn his entire life. His old life, however, is nothing like what he envisioned. From throwing rotten tomatoes at cars to terrorizing the school, Chase is no longer who is friends want him to be. I liked this book because you never know when a bit of his old life will pop out of a clear blue sky. The moral of the story, don't hide things on a roof.

Reviewer's Name
Kai

Book Review: 500 Words or Less

Author
del Rosario, Juleah
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

500 Words or Less is about Nic Chen, a girl now hated by her high school after cheating on her beloved boyfriend. Nic is trying desperately to salvage her senior year, when she stumbles upon an opportunity to write admission essays for her frighteningly ambitious peers. As she writes and learns more about the people around her, she begins to understand how much she needs to learn about herself.
This book is almost entirely in verse, which is interesting. In some parts, it's basically a normal book, just put in a more vertical format. Other times, the structure really benefits the prose, and the beautiful writing lends to the more whimsical medium. The book was almost entirely sad, and crossed into heartbreaking at the end, making it great for catharsis. Although the story itself was fairly standard high school drama, the underlying currents of mental illness, grief, and acceptance lent it a lot of weight. The book made good use of repetition and symbolism to represent cyclical thought, and had some good twists, especially one at the end that was really gut punching. The main characters were really well fleshed out, especially some side characters that helped make the story less one note. The main characters conflicts also felt very realistic, and made her sympathetic despite many of the things she did.
All in all, this was a good book. I would recommend this to anyone who likes poetry, drama, and lots of introspection.

Local Author?
Yes
Reviewer's Name
Eve M