Realistic

Book Review: Th1rteen R3asons Why

Th1rteen R3asons Why
Author: 
Asher, Jay
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

I read this book because I had heard a lot about the show, but I wanted to read the book rather than watch it. I was a little disappointed. It was a quick read, but it seemed to lack strong characterization. I especially did not like the narrator, Clay Jensen, just because he does not have much depth of character. The writing style is intriguing and mysterious, but it did not make up for the two-dimensional characters. This book was not bad, and it presented many meaningful issues, but the way it was written made it drab and even repetitive. However, I would still recommend this book to those who are interested in the show.

Reviewer's Name: 
Sabrina J.

Book Review: The Map of Salt and Stars

The Map of Salt and Stars
Author: 
Joukhadar, Jennifer Zeynab
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

You know you have come across an extraordinary book when you find yourself thinking about its beautiful story and characters several months after you have first read it. I first read this beautiful novel back in February when I received an ARC of it from the publisher, and today I still think of the book and its beautiful characters of Nour and her family as they flee their homeland, Syria in 2011, and become refugees venturing across several middle eastern countries as the situation becomes more and more unstable and the violence ever more brutal. Shifting between past and present, in a second duel story-line that takes places more than 800 years earlier in Medieval Syria, Jennifer Zeynab also tells a harrowing tale of a girl named Rawiya, her desire to see the world, her very real clash with supernatural myth, and her adventures with a famous cartographer.

Jennifer Joukhadar through the fictional characters of Nour and her family, discusses a relevant and timely topic of the experience of many refugees that flee persecution and violence. She also does it in a way, that is, for the most part, unbiased choosing to focus instead on the everyday human experience of a family, instead of political ideology, which is very refreshing in today’s global climate.

The atmospheric and beautiful prose are a delight to read as we get to experience the world the way Nour and Rawiya saw it through beauty, sorrow, color and light. The character development of Nour, as her personal identity and her idea of what home is shifts as her journey progresses through time and years, is especially strong as she reflects on all she has lost and gained. Though the character development of Rawiya, shows a progression and change as her journeys around the world challenges and changes her perspective on life, I do not think it was as strong as the story of Nour and her family. And though Rawiya’s story-line was beautiful and entertaining, I felt it sometimes took away, from what I think of, as the central story-line of Nour and her family’s refugee experience.

That issue aside, this novel which is rich with historical and mythical detail, was in my opinion, several steps above the rest as it tackled a relevant, continuous, and difficult issue with beauty, grace and a truly memorable story. This novel, it has been said, does for Syrian Refugees what the Kite Runner did for Afghan refugees and in my opinion, it is a fair and correct comparison.

Thank you to the publisher Touchstone Books for an ARC of this beautiful novel for review! If you have not yet, please put this book on your holds list, it is so beautiful!

Reviewer's Name: 
Tawnie

Book Review: Wonder

Wonder
Author: 
Palacio, R.J.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

After hearing nothing but praise for R.J. Palacio’s book, Wonder, I had to get my hands on a copy. It is now one of my favorite young adult novels that I have read. Wonder is about a young boy named Auggie who has a craniofacial condition which affects the way he looks. The story follows Auggie who, after homeschooling all his life, starts attending a private middle school.
Not only is the story as a whole beautiful, but R.J. Palacio’s writing skills are incredible. The book doesn’t really have “chapters” per se but it does have different parts that are written from the perspectives of different characters. This is what really makes the book stand out. It is so nice to be able to read the different characters’ thoughts and feelings about some of the same situations. This made Wonder truly great.
Another amazing aspect of Wonder was the message the book conveys. The main character Auggie struggles throughout the book because he looks different from everyone around him. The story presents topics such as bullying and living with differences. It is not only helpful for other kids who may also have a craniofacial condition to relate with Auggie, but it encourages readers to always be kind. Since the book is aimed for more middle-school aged readers it is all the more important since middle-school is rough for almost everyone. Readers young and old should read this story as a reminder to never be prejudice and always be kind.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: 
Ashlyn P.

Book Review: Max: Best Friend. Hero. Marine.

Author: 
Shotz, Jennifer
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Max is a service dog who's owner Kyle Wincott gets killed in a mission when he was in the marine corps. The only person Max can get along with is Kyles little Brother, a 14 year old boy named Justin. He get's help training max with the help of a young lady named Carmen, who is a cousin of Chuy who is Justin's best friend. Chuy has another cousin in this book who is a gangster, and his name is Emilio. Justin bootlegs video games for Emilio to receive money. Justin overhears a conversation on the phone between Emilio and Tyler, who was Kyle's best friend. He decides to track down Emilio and then when he finds out what they were talking about he tries to stop it. He uses Max's expertise to help him. This was a great read I would Highly recommend this book for dog lovers.

Reviewer's Name: 
Brendan M.

Book Review: Stanley Will Probably Be Fine

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine
Author: 
Pla, Sally J.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Stanley is a whiz at comics trivia. Comics provide him with comfort when life becomes overwhelming and lately that's been all of the time! The principal at Peavey Middle School is obsessed with school safety and preparedness and this stresses Stanley out. He's able to escape from the school drills by spending them in a "safe room" where he creates a safety superhero, John Lockdown.

Stanley's best friend, Joon, wants to win VIP passes to Comic Fest by entering a Trivia Quest treasure hunt. While they begin as partners, Joon soon ditches him. Stanley decides to enter anyway to prove he can tackle his worries. As he faces the overwhelming and challenging day, he thinks, "What would John Lockdown do?"

Reviewer's Name: 
Carol

Book Review: Fangirl

Fangirl
Author: 
Rowell, Rainbow
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Cath is moving away to college, but she doesn't feel anywhere near like an adult. In fact, she doesn't even entirely feel like she belongs in this world. Cath is obsessed with the Simon Snow series, i.e. the most famous series of novels ever written chronicling the adventures of a group of teenage wizards. She is one of the most well-known fan fiction writers in the entire Simon Snow fandom, earning tens of thousands of readers on each chapter. Her twin sister, Wren, used to help her write and fangirl over Simon with her, but lately they've grown apart. Despite going to the same college, Wren decided against sharing a dorm with Cath and is growing irritatingly close with her assigned roommate. By the contrary, Cath's roommate is unpleasant and distant and constantly has her handsome and annoyingly friendly boyfriend around their room. Every week, Cath escapes by writing in the library with a charming fellow English major. Even with her anxieties over the new experiences of college and writing stories using her own characters always in the back of her mind, Cath wrestles with her relationship with her sister, her dad's fragile mental state, romance, and trying to find herself.

Reviewer's Name: 
McKenna R.

Book Review: Highly Illogical Behavior

Highly Illogical Behavior
Author: 
Whaley, John Corey
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Highly Illogical Behavior is a story about a boy named Solomon Reed who not only has severe panic attacks but also has a fear of the outdoors which is known as agoraphobia. Lisa Praytor remembers the last time she saw "the boy in the fountain" in junior high when he had a panic attack and fell into the water fountain. She never knew him but she'd always wondered what had happened to him and where he went. This was the last time Solomon had gone outside for three years...it was better that way. He was safe from all of the world's craziness and despite his loneliness Solomon was happier living indoors because it was quiet and mundane and there was nothing for him to worry about. A girl named Lisa Praytor cannot wait to get out of the small town of Upland. One day Lisa saw an ad for Solomon's mother's dentistry practice in a newspaper so she immediately scheduled an appointment hoping to hear about how Solomon is doing. Lisa is interested in psychology and has to do an essay on her experience with mental illness. so she thinks that if she can meet Solomon and get him to slowly go outside and get over his agarophobia she would have a killer essay and would get accepted into a college that was far, far away from the small town of Upland. This book is one that is very hard to put down. The characters are very well-developed and all likeable in their own unique way. It's a quick read but nevertheless emotional and heart-filled.

Reviewer's Name: 
Elizabeth P.

Book Review: Stargirl

Stargirl
Author: 
Spinelli, Jerry
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This past semester I took a children’s literature class that introduced me to a plethora of young adult novels; “Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli being one of them. Because of the curious title I decided to borrow the book from the library. I am so glad I did.
Jerry Spinelli’s book “Stargirl” tells the story of an unusual teenage girl who, after homeschooling her entire life, starts attending Mica High School in a small, Arizona town. The book is narrated by Leo, a regular teenage boy who becomes very interested with this peculiar new girl at his school. This peculiar girl goes by the name “Stargirl”. She confuses most of the school with her whimsical and unpredictable personality.
The way Jerry Spinelli tells his story through Leo, a regular kid, makes the reader feel as if they are one of the students at Mica High School noticing Stargirl for the first time. The unusual and sometimes startling things she does spark your interest and occasionally make you squirm in your seat. Stargirl is unlike anyone, and that is what makes her so fascinating; not only to Mica High School students but also to the reader. The story was not only great, but the message the book conveyed is very important. The book makes readers think about how often they adjust their personality and actions just to please those around them. It pointed out how rarely people are truly themselves anymore because of societal pressures.
Overall the story definitely made an impact on me and I would recommend this book to anyone who has a hard time being themselves because of pressures others have placed on them (Side note: I would recommend this book to anyone in general as well). The only reason I have decided to give this book 4 stars instead of 5 is because of the ending. Without giving any spoilers I will say that I love unexpected endings, but this one did not settle well with me. Nevertheless, I still loved almost the entire story and I will be reading it again in the future.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ashlyn P.

Book Review: Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry, the Beloved Country
Author: 
Paton, Alan
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The mystery of unbelief and rebellion and the misery that flows flows from it, is a great theme in scriptures and is played out painfully and powerfully in this epic novel. The questions surrounding unbelief, the pain to all who witness lives unraveling, and the consequences that lead to death can never be expounded upon simply. They are mysteries without simple answers.

In this profound book, some are driven to evil and misery by poverty and social injustice. But others, particularly two of the main characters, choose dark paths when they have been given every opportunity out. Light and life are offered but they follow after death and darkness.

Although this is story set in South Africa, it bears meaning for all time.
All are offered living water. "Come to me all you who thirst, come buy and eat, without money and without price." But many will not come. The dog returns to his vomit and sow to wallowing in his mud. To those who have tasted of the everlasting water, to those who know life and light, this remains among life's greatest mysteries. Everyone is offered cleansing waters of forgiveness, they are offered an eternal pardon, they are offered everlasting joy, they are offered peace and hope, but they love the darkness.
And they suffer for their choice as their life unravels thread by thread, and they bring grief upon grief on everyone who loves them. But they do not care and they do not turn. And Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood, but you were not willing."

A father weeps over a son and a sister, and as he weeps, he participates in the weeping of Jesus over Jerusalem. And yet, there is one in the story who flees corruption.

The ultimate crisis of this story takes place in the heart of the old priest who has led a faithful life. For darkness is predatory and never at rest, but it creeps and pursues and desires to consume and devour and distinguish all light. Will the priest be overtaken by hopelessness and despair and fear in his darkest hour? Will anger and perplexity and grief have the final word in his bereaved heart? Where will he turn to comfort? The darkness will not stop pursuing him and will not be content until he too has lost his joy in life.
How will he fight? What will he hold on to?

Highly recommend.

Reviewer's Name: 
Leslie Taylor

Fat Girl on a Plane

Author: 
Devos, Kelly
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Cookie Vonn is fat. And while she doesn’t want her weight to rule her life, she’s interested in fashion design. And in fashion, size is everything. Her dreams of getting out of Scottsdale, attending Parsons, an elite fashion design school, and becoming a fashion designer for women of all sizes might not work out if she can’t lose the weight.

Fast forward two years. Thanks to insane self-control, and the power of NutriMin (a stand in for Weight Watchers) Cookie has lost the weight. And the opportunities do start to roll in. She’s offered the chance to meet her idol and cover his fashion show for NutriMin. Better yet, after a breakfast meeting with him, she gets an offer to design a special plus size line that will be released as a preview for his upcoming Winter/Spring Collection. But even as Cookie’s life seems to be exactly what she wanted, she finds being skinny isn’t a panacea, and that somewhere along the way, she might have lost not only the weight, but herself.

This is a great new adult coming of age novel that I ate right up. It’s not my normal fare – I typically don’t read YA romances unless the protagonist is a person of color. While Cookie is white, she is fat, and that is definitely an underrepresented group of people in most modern literature, so I decided to take a chance on this one, and I’m really glad I did. I think some overweight readers will balk at the idea of this being a Cinderella story, but that’s not what this is – a lot of the book really centers on Cookie realizing that while her weight might be part of her identity, its not what makes her Cookie, and that realization is what makes this a strong coming of age tale.

The book switches back and forth between past and present Cookie (fat and skinny), a literary device that worked well here. We know Cookie gets skinny, but we learn why and how in the “fat” chapters, and we get to learn how she reaps the fruits of her labor in the “skinny” chapters. I wanted to know what happened to both versions of Cookies, and I found myself staying up way too late one night reading this. Cookie herself is a smart, resourceful young woman, and while she makes some seriously stupid decisions, they all seem in character and are the sort of decisions an inexperienced young woman might make – especially when the adults around her were sometimes giving her awful advice. I hated both of her relationships, but they seemed pretty realistic, and hopefully young women can learn from Cookie’s mistakes. I wish she had cut both guys out of her life as they were both toxic (one of them gets off way too easily), but that is my really my only major complaint.

I really liked this one, and I think new adults and older teens who enjoy contemporary reads will as well. If you like Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella or Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’, this book is definitely for you. 4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin Teen for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Fat Girl on a Plane is available for purchase now, and you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

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