Contemporary

Book Review: A Good Girl's Guide to Murder

Author
Jackson, Holly
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is a surprisingly dark and complex book. The main character, Pip, decides to investigate a "solved" murder in her town from five years ago, one that she is very close to. She teams up with the alleged murderer's brother and slowly unravels a well-hidden mystery. The book's organization made an otherwise-complicated crime easier to understand. You would read a chapter, then Pip would summarize the findings in her capstone project diary entry. This information was backed up with occasional maps and diagrams as well. Although I did get lost at some parts with there being so many names, I appreciated there being enough suspects that it was impossible to figure out the mystery until the characters did. Pip was clever and eloquent, so her handling of this personal investigation didn't take away from the story. Not to mention her friends along the way, who were pretty well-developed side characters. If you think the pacing is slow for the first part of the book, keep going!
Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: One of us is next

Author
McManus, Karen M.
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

The Bayview Four, the four pupils Simon falsely accused of being the cause of his death, are no longer together, and their younger classmates and relatives are forced to play a new round of gossip-filled Truth or Dare. One year has passed since the events of One of Us Is Lying, and a game of Truth or Dare has begun. However, this isn't your typical Truth or Dare. This game can be deadly. Accepting the dare could be risky, even fatal while telling the truth might reveal your deepest secrets. This sequel had a mixed record as far as success goes. First on the list is Phoebe. It's true if you decide not to play. Phoebe’s secret is dark and it keeps her relationships and family messed up until the very end when the truth is spilled. Maeve then enters the scene, and she ought to know better than always taking the dare. However, things have become dangerous by the time Knox is ready to be tagged. The dares have turned deadly, and Maeve has learned that she cannot rely on the authorities for assistance after what happened to Bronwyn last year. or security. Although Simon is no longer with us, someone is committed to preserving his legacy at Bayview High. And the regulations have altered. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending, so many things were left untouched like relationships and the truth or dare game that I feel like there must be a third book.

Reviewer's Name
Anushka

Book Review: Heartstopper: Volume Four

Author
Oseman, Alice
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Every time I think, "Alice Oseman can't possibly outshine previous Heartstopper books," she proves me wrong! This graphic novel had beautiful art and great representation. Heartstopper: Volume Four follows Charlie and Nick as they deal with separation anxiety, saying "I love you", and working through Charlie's declining mental health. There are some really important themes introduced, the biggest being Charlie's anorexia and OCD diagnosis. This was a really emotional part of the book, but it is also crucial for more young adult books like this to spread awareness about how common mental illnesses are. Charlie and Nick's relationship is strong, but it was also cool that they discussed how spending time with other loved ones instead will strengthen their relationship. Plus, their friends are diverse, endlessly kind, and could easily be real people. It is always a joy to read this series, and I can't wait for Volume Five!
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: All Good People Here

Author
Flowers, Ashley
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

I am a big fan of Ashley Flowers from her career with audiochuck podcasts, so reading her first novel was a no-brainer. The story is about a journalist named Margot who returns to the small town in which she grew up to care for her uncle struggling with memory loss. However, the disappearance of a young girl at the same time causes Margot to reflect on the unsolved murder from her childhood, decades back. Like a true investigator, she sets out to solve both cases once and for all. Previous reviews had hinted at constant plot twists, and I definitely experienced that the whole way through. The case wasn't truly solved until literally the last page. Overall, Flowers' writing style is just as eloquent as her podcasts, with unique characters and eerie suspense. Although a few side characters, like the police officer Margot befriends, are pretty bland, more time spent on the Jacobs family character development seemed like the intention all along. And as soon as one plot twist had been announced, it was written off to make way for the next one quite suddenly. It felt as though some character explanations were still unfinished. Finally, though I hate to say it, such an abrupt ending was kind of unsatisfying. It was almost a five star book through-and-through, and just one more chapter could have done it. Nonetheless, I will recommend this book any day!
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: The Shadows

Author
North, Alex
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

The Shadows by Alex North is about a brutal crime that rocks a small town, and haunts the ones closest to it. Paul grew up alongside three boys, two of which would later murder one of their fellow students. Twenty-five years later, Paul returns to the town to visit his dying mother and is forced to uncover deeply-hidden secrets about the murder when new crimes start to happen. I liked how each chapter revealed new clues and the final result was difficult to guess. There were several plot twists that felt well-calculated. For as exciting as the plot was, Paul was a very bland main character. The way he described his childhood with the future murderers was boring, and I didn't like the lucid dreaming theme. It seemed like the author was going for a strange cult theme, but it was muddled with the constant flashbacks to present-day. It was a good read for the Halloween season, but not my favorite otherwise.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: Small Admissions

Author
Poeppel, Amy
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Small Admissions follows Kate Pearson, right after getting brutally dumped at an airport by her handsome, French, almost-fiancé. After the prodding of friends and family, Kate takes up a job with private school admissions, and is quickly thrown in to a mess of angry parents, bratty kids, scholarship grants, and interview skills. Throughout her journey, Kate and her friends will need to learn to let go, keep going, and grow up.
I love Amy Poeppel's books because each of her characters is so wonderfully flawed that it's a love letter to changing even as an adult. Every character in this book has a lot of issues, ranging between codependency, independency, over-confidence, under-confidence, and all possible maladies in between. This was very annoying in the beginning, but it lended to the catharsis of character development at the end. I never knew I could get so invested in a middle-aged woman making one good decision, but 300 pages of horrible decisions will do that for you! The characters themselves are amazingly vibrant and likable despite their horrible choices. There were a lot of names to remember at first, but each soon became memorable in their own way. They also interacted wonderfully throughout the book. Even though some characters got more time to shine than others, watching them bounce off each other was so fun. In particular, the female relationships in this novel get a lot of time and development, which I appreciate. The writing itself was great, not a ton of prose but very smooth and concise. The themes were phenomenal, and carried through the entire piece. There's a throughline of learning to let go of things you thought you'd always have, and while this at first seems obviously related to Kate's break-up, it applies to practically every character in the novel. People have to let go of jobs, schools, belief, and people, and it really is a love letter to letting yourself change for the better.
All in all, despite some issues with the large number of initially annoying characters, this book is phenomenal! I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants great character growth, a solid story, and a lesson on letting go!
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name
Eve

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author
Chbosky, Stephan
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

I chose this book because I had watched the movie and was curious as to how the book was in comparison. I found that both were great overall and I don't dislike one more than the other, but the book felt more mature than the movie. Overall I really did enjoy this book, the detail in the book was a great touch, as well as was relatable. Personally, I felt a connection to some of the characters having to leave for college and trying to get the best possible score on the SAT. There is only one thing I did not enjoy about this book though, which is that there is a lot of smoking. The smoking feels a bit excessive, especially when the book follows a freshman in high school, so the amount of smoking I feel like does not portray a true aspect of what that would look like in real life. I would recommend this book to an upper teenage audience since there are mature topics such as brief sexual scenes and smoking. I gave this book 4 stars since I felt like it was very well written and an enjoyable book to read; the deduction of one star was due to the portrayal of smoking. This is honestly a great read that I personally love, I would definitely recommend it!

Reviewer's Name
Ashley

Book Review: Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Author
Austin, Emily
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a story about Gilda, who is an atheist, twenty-something years old, highly anxious, and gay. When she goes to a church after hearing about free therapy and assumed to be applying for the receptionist position, Gilda can't bring herself to correct anyone. Over her term as a Catholic receptionist, Gilda will have to lie about a dead woman, learn the lines for mass, hide her new girlfriend, and discover the hope that can come with the truth.
This book is the type of realistic fiction I usually call "a day in the life." It isn't about extraordinary circumstances or new love or changing lives. It's just someone struggling to survive the way that they always have, perhaps while working to get themselves out of it. Gilda's life is terrifying and constrictive. She's constantly afraid of what other's think of her, of people's disapproval, and yet is often so exhausted that she can barely communicate with the people she cares about. She's also, as the title foreshadows, constantly obsessing over death. Seeing the world through Gilda's eyes is strange and sad and scary. But it's also extremely enlightening. Even though Gilda is definitely an neurotic anomaly, her quirks and struggles are extraordinary relatable. The author really forces the reader to stare in the mirror, to see the fears and embarrassments that hold us back on a daily basis. One example could be Gilda's focus on death, which is almost paradoxical since her fixation on the end of her life keeps her living the life she has right now. I know that when I finished this book, it filled me with the desire to live my life to the fullest. The book also stands out with great prose, memorable characters, and vivid atmosphere!
All in all, this book might be unpleasant to read sometimes due to the depressing subject matter, but it's so educational and important that I'd recommend everyone read this at least once!
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name
Eve

Book Review: Yolk

Author
Choi, Mary H. K.
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Yolk follows two sisters. They're both in their 20s and in New York City, but that's where their similarities end. Jayne is emotional, artistic, extroverted, and endlessly neurotic. June is stiff, high-performing, self-sufficient, and horrifically condescending. The two of them want nothing to with each other. But when their lives start burning up around them, and their past starts weighing down on them, they'll have to come together to find a way to move forward.
This is one of the most realistic books I've ever read. I don't mean realistic in terms of it being sad, or technical, or boring. I mean this book creates a perfect picture of sisters, children of immigrants, the weight of expectations, and the struggles of just being alive. Starting on the sisters, I loved how the author portrayed June and Jayne. Jayne is the main point of view, but the author still manages to flesh out June for the audience without too much of Jayne's bias. They're both very flawed, they're both very talented, they both hate each other, and they both love each other. Their exchanges were the best part of this book, just as snippy and reflexive as real siblings. I also liked how Jayne, the point of view, was portrayed. She clearly doesn't like herself, and lots of that goes into her narration, but the audience is still able to marvel at her courage and resourcefulness even if she doesn't see it herself. This book also went very in-depth to Asian and immigrant culture in general. You can feel the cataclysmic effects this has upon the family, and how it still effects them all decades later. You can also see the struggles with being an immigrant/minority in the US, from microaggressions to family expectations to finding the right type of noodle at the very limited amount of Asian markets. On this point, the weight of expectations is a well done, and a driving theme of the novel. Both these girls, regardless of if their successes, feel crushed by what their parents expect of them. And their parents are shown to also be conflicted, feeling like outsiders in America.
Basically, this book has very fleshed out characters, accurate relationships, and fun dialogue! I'd recommend this to anyone fascinated by New York, sisterhood, and the struggles that make life worthwhile!

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name
Eve

Book Review: Some Other Now

Author
Everett, Sarah
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Some Other Now is about a girl torn between two summers, two brothers, the mistake that will destroy them all, and what it's going to take for her to move forward.
This book is pretty solid, very emotional, has some good characters, and doesn't do much else. I did like reading it, but it was a very typical story. Some of the tropes seemed played out and overly dramatic, especially in the romantic scenarios. But the things it does well, it does very well. I really liked the contrast between the narrator in the first summer and the narrator in the second summer, and how it showed her guilt and grief. I liked the complexity of her family structure, both chosen and biological, and how it weighed on her. The main character overall is very well developed, with a lot of complexity and flaws and inherent kindness that makes her very easy to root for. I honestly didn't like either brother that much, but that's to be expected. The story does a great job of exploring depression and grief and guilt and mistakes that we can't take back, making it very relatable.
All in all, it's a very typical story, but done very well, and I don't have much to say about it. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a sad story, some drama, and good characters!

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name
Eve