National Book Award/Finalist

Book Review: Invisible Man

Book Review: Invisible Man
Author: 
Ellison, Ralph
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is an essential American classic. Written in the late 1940s, it tells the story of a young African American man who moves north during the Harlem Renaissance and faces many trials as he attempts to find his place in society. This novel is a candid portrayal of life for Black Americans in the pre-Civil Rights era, exposing the hardships and prejudices that are often overlooked in retrospect but were all too real for Blacks during this time. It is honest, reflective, and blunt; often unsettling and disturbing. A central theme of Ellison's novel is the idea of blindness and how it affects identity. The protagonist is left confused and misguided as a result of the blindness of those he encounters, trying to fit into the expectations of others, until at last he realizes that he is, and has always been, "invisible" to society. With this revelation, the invisible man at last finds his own identity.

The novel recounts all of the events leading to the protagonist's discovery of his invisibility, beginning at his colored college in the south and taking the audience north to Harlem. The protagonist faces many different circumstances which reveal just how marginalized Blacks were in the United States in the 30s; each episode is a testament to the challenges faced by African Americans (even a reflection of the challenges faced by African Americans today) due to the blind discrimination of white people. Each incident faced by the invisible man is largely a reiteration of previous ones, merely taking place in different circumstances, which emphasizes his lack of identity--even his own blindness. Eventually, due to an unfortunate incident, the protagonist loses all sense of who he used to be, and this is what allows him to begin to make change--for better or worse. There are numerous violent and suggestive scenes in this novel, so I would recommend it to older, more mature teenagers.

Ellison takes his readers on a powerful, enlightening journey with Invisible Man. His compelling writing is intertwined with tragic humor and soulful undertones of blues and jazz, the backdrop for an incredibly raw and moving novel. The invisible man's story is very relevant to society today, and Ellison's messages should serve as reminders to us all. I believe every American would benefit from reading this novel at some point in their life; it illustrates such an important part of our nation's history, and that of African Americans. Ellison portrays the protagonist's emotions with such introspective depth, every conflict and thought explored in all its complexities. Invisible Man may not be a particularly fun read, but it is important and it is worthwhile.

Reviewer's Name: 
Alexa

Book Review: Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
Author: 
Sheinkin, Steve
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin is a must-read for history buffs everywhere. It features the history of nuclear science, including the first nuclear reactors and the building of the initial Manhattan Project team. It follows the progress of the Manhattan Project, while also detailing US and Soviet efforts to prevent German bomb development. It speaks of the heroism of commandos destroying enrichment facilities, and the long nights pulled by sleep-deprived scientists, as well as the fantastic power of the first Trinity tests. I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in nuclear or WWII history.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Harrison

Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird
Author: 
Lee, Harper
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel entirely worthy of its praise. The humor, subtlety of the impact left by the narration from a young girl's perspective, and incredibly real themes all fit together perfectly. The story is a straightforward read and combined with the intricate storytelling based on the author's own life, the topics surrounding race and justice feel meaningful. The story follows Scout Finch, a young girl, and her friends Jem and Dill while depicting their views on life in the South during the Depression. The juxtaposition of childish natures and mature outlooks on violence, prejudice, and societal struggles brought about by the narration stand out. Each instance of injustice and depiction of the imperfections of humanity in a struggling society tie the development of the characters and rise to the climax together well. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, as it is a fantastic, and rather light read.

Reviewer's Name: 
Steven

Book Review: The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club
Author: 
Tan, Amy
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This book expresses the powerful spirits of four Chinese American mothers and daughters. The four mothers formed the Joy Luck Club after creating a strong bond with one another over mahjong after all four moved from China to San Francisco. Each mother holds her own unique struggle while living in China and while raising their "Americanized" children. As the daughters grow they realize that they shouldn't have rejected their Chinese heritage when they were young. Their mothers also wonder if they raised their daughters the right or wrong way because they were able to gift them with the independent spirit of an American, but may have disconnected them from their Chinese culture. While the book describes the lives of each mother and daughter, the plot mainly focuses on Jing-mei (June) Woo who, after her
mother passes away, travels to China to reconnect with the twin daughters her mother was forced to leave in China. Though this story follows the tales of Chinese women, I believe that anyone can find a connection to the struggles and conflicts these women faced.

Reviewer's Name: 
Jenna W.

Book Review: Sula

Sula
Author: 
Morrison, Toni
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Sula, by Toni Morrison, was published in 1973. The book focuses on a black neighborhood and a friendship that develops between proper and traditionally raised Nelly and free spirited Sula. The two become very close; going on adventures and making huge mistakes throughout their adolescence, until they eventually grow apart. The novel, written by a Nobel Prize winner, is a star example of enriching African-American literature. Beautifully written, shocking, and yet also endearing, it takes readers on an insightful trip to Medallion, Ohio - one full of excitement and symbolism for modern themes.

Reviewer's Name: 
Malachi

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: 
Lee, Harper
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee creates a creative look on segregation in life in the 1930's. As the story goes along, Scout and her brother Jem experience many changes throughout the summer of 1935. Their father, Atticus Finch, defends a black man after the man was accused of an unsolved crime. The event creates much thought and debate on the subject of segregation. The book has many great turns and the potential of characters was used to a full extent. I highly recommend the read for it will give readers an excellent idea of how life was those many years ago.

Reviewer's Name: 
Kate

Book Review: Ghost

Book Review: Ghost
Author: 
Reynolds, Jason
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I had taken a break from reviewing books until I read Ghost. This book is really well written. The narrator is believable and the plot illustrates his struggles and growth. Ghost is a troubled kid who stumbles onto a track team and turns his life for the better. I both loved and hated the ending, because it was so good but I didn't want the book to end. Great quick read. I highly recommended giving it a whirl.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: 
Lee, Harper
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is an essential piece of literature. It tells a story that highlights the darkness of America's past, through the innocent eyes of a young girl. With this type of narrator, who almost only understands pure truth, joy, and rage, it is possible for readers to feel what she feels, and be brought into her small world (Alabama during the Great Depression) with simple, yet beautiful writing. The story itself is touching, and focuses on themes of family, racism, and solidarity. Aside from its essentiality in explaining America's history, it also can be read as a coming of age story, where the characters begin to see the harsh reality of the world in which they grew up, and in which they created lasting memories and relationships. It will make you laugh, cry, and feel.

Reviewer's Name: 
Malachi

Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye
Author: 
Salinger, J. D.
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

The Catcher In The Rye is about the life of Holden Caulfield and his views on the world as well as life. Holden drops out of a prep school in Pennsylvania to explore New York City. This book captures living in the 1950's and 1960's brilliantly, as well, as the spirit of rebellion that Holden has. I did not like this book because Holden complains way too much and has negative views on the world around him. He also has a bad habit of using profane language in every sentence. The message of the book however is meaningful as it discuses how kids should enjoy being themselves and to stop worrying about growing up and becoming an adult so fast.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ananth

Book Review: American Street

Cover of the book American Street
Author: 
Zoboi, Ibi
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

American Street is about a girl named Fabiola who moves from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, to Detroit to see her aunt and cousins. When Fabiola and her mom get to New York to go on there connecting flight to Detroit her mom got held back
in New York while Fabiola goes on to Detroit. Once she gets to Detroit and gets to her cousins house she finds out that her mom wasn't coming to Detroit because of immigration laws. So she stays with her cousins Chantal, Donna, and Pri and her aunt Jo till she can figure out how to get her mother to come to Detroit. Fabiola enrolls in school and struggles to adjust to America. She grows close to her cousins who were known as the "Three Bees," Pri is the brawn of the group, Chantal is the brains, and Donna is the beauty and together they made a good team. Fabiola becomes friends with a classmate to get help with homework and stuff. They slowly become fast friends. Slowly she falls in love with a boy named Kasim who was best friends with Donna's drug dealer boyfriend, Dray. Finally, she figures out that Kasim went to a party to sell drugs for Dray and something bad happened that left Fabiola and her cousins heartbroken. In the end Fabiola, Pri, Donna, Chantal, and Aunt Jo moved away from Detroit for good and left for New Jersey.

Something that I liked about this book is that it was moving and heartbreaking but still a beautiful piece of literature. Something that I didn't like about the book was that Dray and Kasim were friends because they were so different and Dray wasn't a good guy but Kasim was a good guy. I usually don't like books like this but this one was so passionate and moving that I had trouble putting the book down. Another good thing about this book was that the plot didn't take awhile to develop and Fabiola changed a lot with her visit to America.

Reviewer's Name: 
Kaitlyn B.

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