Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Fiction

The Kingdom of Back
Lu, Marie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Kingdom of Back is a historical fantasy novel about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, Maria Anna Mozart. Told from the perspective of Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl), this novel gives readers the untold story of her musical success and childhood fame. As a girl in the eighteenth century, Nannerl knows it will never be socially acceptable for her to compose like her brother, so she makes a wish--which leads her to a mysterious land of faeries and moonlight and castles, and a magical boy who promises to fulfill her wish if she helps him in return.

As the plot unfolds, readers are given a look into the life of the Mozarts and their grand tour around Europe to play for the most esteemed audiences. Both Nannerl and Wolfgang (Woferl) are incredibly impressive child prodigies; though Wolfgang is who comes to mind when we think of the name Mozart, his sister was also a musical genius. This book highlights Nannerl's perspective very well, diving into her insecurities and fears as well as her dreams. The fantasy aspect added an interesting element to Nannerl's story; I enjoyed Lu's vivid descriptions of the Kingdom, and the fantastical side of the plot permeated the historical one in a clever, well-thought-out way. The novel ends with a creative twist, leaving readers to think back over the whole story in a different way.

My only issues with this book were the repetitiveness of descriptions and thoughts, and the fact that the fantasy plot seemed very predictable until I reached the twist. But overall, I loved how well the fantasy and historical fiction elements blended together, and that Lu shed so much light on the power of music. This novel is perfect for anyone who enjoys fantasy, music, and history. Nannerl Mozart's story is one you won't forget.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa
Brave New World
Huxley, Aldous
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Brave New World is a classic dystopian novel, written in the early 1930s by Aldous Huxley. Set in a society in which humans are manufactured and programmed depending on their assigned social class, it addresses individualism, conformity, and the dangers of complete government control. Citizens in this dystopia frequently take a drug to subdue their emotions, living in a state of ignorance and 'bliss' as they go through the motions unquestioningly. In order to keep the system of manufacturing people running smoothly, certain things are considered taboo--such as literature, religion, and family--while what we typically consider unorthodox is commonplace in this society.

The story follow several central characters who don't completely fit in or believe there could be more to life than what they experience every day. Huxley takes readers to a 'Savage Camp' where John, the protagonist (whose ideals are completely different from everyone else's), is introduced, and the other characters experience an extreme contrast to their advanced and ordered society. Readers experience John's intense internal conflict as he attempts to find his place in the new world into which he is thrust; they also learn more about the ideology of the dystopia, and what goes on behind its 'perfect' facade.

I enjoyed most aspects of Brave New World, and would recommend it to dystopian readers who appreciate a deeper meaning. However, there were some parts of this novel that I found disturbing, as what's considered taboo is the opposite of how we view things in our world. Sometimes I had trouble connecting with the story emotionally, and I would've liked more specifics about how the dystopia came to be. But looking past the negatives, the themes Huxley brings up are very important, and even pertinent to society today. His characters have depth, the underlying themes make readers think, and overall it is an interesting concept of a future world with complete dictatorship. Brave New World is a classic that I believe everyone should read.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa
A Bend in the Stars
Barenbaum, Rachel
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Bend in the Stars is a fiction story about a Jewish family surviving the 1914 Holocaust. It rotates around Miri, a female surgeon in a world of Men. When the Holocaust starts, her whole life is turned upside down as the rush to America begins. I love this book for the honesty of elements like the interaction between Vanya and Kir, the two intelligent scientists, and the relationship between Sasha and Miri. I recommend this book to anyone who's looking for an interesting read.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan
The Night Circus
Morgenstern, Erin
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, is a beautiful, exquisitely written, spellbinding novel of magic, love, and a special circus only open at night.

Celia and Marco are two young magicians, students of respective magical instructors, one of whom is Celia's father. These magicians, fierce rivals for decades, propose a challenge-- an ambiguous feat where the two magicians compete against each other in an expansive setting. At the same time, a theatrical producer, Chandresh Christophe Lefevre, creates his newest masterpiece-- The Night Circus, an expansive theatrical production, where the theatrics are not confined to the stage. Celia and Marco become involved in this circus through the will of their instructors. Celia becomes the illusionist, disguising her magic powers as stage illusions. Marco becomes an assistant to Chandresh, running the circus from the inside, and helping with the coordinated particulars instead of traveling with the circus like Celia.

The competition within the circus begins, Celia and Marco creating new tents in an attempt to outdo each other until one is declared a victor. And slowly, as they begin to realize that the other is their opponent, Celia and Marco fall in love, which sets off a chain of devastating events for the circus and all of the people in it.

Erin Morgenstern is a fantastic writer. Her sumptuous prose is gorgeous, and her level of detail in describing the circus makes it feel as if she had actually visited this place herself instead of creating it in her head. Even the smallest atmospherical details of the circus are mentioned, and such a rich and vivid setting envelopes the reader into the book. The story within the gorgeous setting, that of Celia and Marco, is exquisite. The book takes pace over a vast expanse of years, allowing them to grow and change and mature within their characters as the challenge progresses and they begin to fall in love with each other. Watching Celia and Marco grow throughout the novel from children to finally finding each other was a very satisfying process in the story.

The story does jump, from the main story of Celia and Marco to the story of Bailey, a young boy on a farm in Concord, Massachusetts, who visits the circus and becomes enamored with it, until the time of both stories intersect and Bailey's life crosses with Celia and Marco's.

I cannot say enough good things about The Night Circus. The story, the setting, the writing, and the characters are all wonderful. This book is such a gem, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy, romance, or just a good story. The Night Circus, with it's gorgeous setting and wonderful prose, is the kind of book every reader longs to read-- the kind of book that envelopes the reader into the world created in the story, one that readers will not want to leave long after the last page finished.

Reviewer's Name: Allie
Ready Player Two
Cline, Ernest
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Ernest Cline has written another masterpiece. While Ready Player One could have remained a stand-alone novel, Ernest Cline has given us a better look into his dystopian universe with this sequel. After James Halliday posthumously releases another quest, The High Five must once again unite to solve all of the riddles. However, this time the stakes are higher as the lives of the majority of OASIS users are on the line. With adventures that include John Hughes movies, Prince, The Lord of the Rings, and many more pop-culture references, Ready Player Two is a thrilling action-packed adventure. I highly recommend this novel for any middle school or high school aged reader, or any lover of pop-culture from the later part of the previous century.

Reviewer's Name: John
Things Fall Apart
Achebe, Chinua
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is an amazing description of pre-colonial African culture as well as a detailed description of the initial consequences and longer-term impacts of colonization. It follows Okonkwo, a man who was the most powerful member of his village up until the arrival of the colonists. Okonkwo is the manliest of men and believes he must show no weakness. Okonkwo is a representation of the African culture as the colonists arrive. His personal feelings and reactions are very similar to those of all Africans during this strange period. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about African culture, but I think everyone should try it because it is an important piece of history, telling the story of a people trying to survive against the colonial onslaught through the story of a man trying to find his way in the world.

Reviewer's Name: Harrison
Of Mice and Men
Steinbeck, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a tale of grief and hope in the midst of the great depression. It begins with two men, George and Lennie, who are searching for work on a farm. George is witty and small while Lennie is mentally handicapped but enormous and physically strong. Both George and Lennie, as well as the other workers they meet, begin to represent the nation as a whole during the depression. Showing the struggles of every person in those horrible times. I think the novel is a sad story but it is a good representation of the personal and societal impacts of the depression and I think everybody should read it at least once.

Reviewer's Name: Harrison
Awards:
The Eyes of the Dragon
King, Stephen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

5 stars(Gets a little dark, but that's to be expected from Stephen King)
The Eyes of the Dragon is about a royal family with its kingdom being torn down by a powerful Court Magician. The opening description is awesome and the characters are well sculpted. Stephen King describes the jealousy between the princes Thomas and Peter darkly and realistically. This realism made it a compelling read. I enjoyed this book so much that I finished it in one night. It is a great story with many twists and turns. I highly recommend this book to whomever wants to get into Stephen King’s works.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan
The Naturals
Barnes, Jennifer Lynn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Naturals is an amazing book that was so fun to read. The whole book was very exciting and kept me interested the whole time. The ending was so shocking so I was extremely happy to find out that it is a series. All the details of the book are very well thought out and the author did a great job of developing each character to be special. The book is very similar to the tv show Criminal Minds which I thought was awesome.

Reviewer's Name: Jana
Awards:
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Honeyman, Gail
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was a very interesting book that made me feel different every page. The book takes quite a long time to get interesting and once it does it still has weird boring spots. While the book wasn't always very interesting I was hooked because I had to know what the hints at the beginning of the book would lead to. I really liked the end of the book and how the character grows throughout the story though. I would recommend this book to a more mature reader because of some of the topics covered in the book.

Reviewer's Name: Jana
Sick Kids in Love
Moskowitz, Hannah
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Sick Kids in Love was a good book; however, throughout the whole book it felt like something was missing. It would skip what seemed like long periods of time and go to the next topic. It also felt like the same thing kept happening or was talked about over and over. There were some minor plot twits that made it interesting, but they didn't last long and were not really developed. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an easy read that doesn't go into much detail on anything and nothing too sad.

Reviewer's Name: Jana
Awards:
Emma in the Night
Walker, Wendy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Emma in the Night is an intense story that had me interested the whole time. While at times the book had me frustrated because it wasn't all making sense right away, in the end the whole story comes together. The author does a great job of having all the pieces add up and make everything be exactly what you wouldn't think. I didn't always love that it was switching perspectives, but it did add a twist to the story. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is wanting a book that they will not be able to put down until the whole mystery is solved.

Reviewer's Name: Jana
We All Looked Up
Wallach, Tommy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book We All Looked Up is from the point of view of what would happen if the world was ending very soon. There is no certainty that the world will end but they also can't be sure that it won't. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book, the uncertainty that there is throughout the whole story. I thought the choices the characters made were realistic and that it was all very well thought out and written. I loved how the book made me think about what I would do if I only had a certain amount of time left to live and what I would want to be doing with this time.

Reviewer's Name: Jana
Deep in the Alaskan Woods
Harper, Karen
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Deep in the Alaskan Woods is a mystery thriller that will keep you wanting to read till the end. Alex decides to visit her cousins in the Alaskan wilderness to serve as a gateway from her toxic relationship. Alex loves the Alaskan wilderness and enjoys getting to be unplugged from the internet. It is a great vacation until someone is found dead! Can Alex and the others find out what or who is responsible for this action? I liked this book because I love reading thrillers and this book was definitely a thriller. I disliked that the author repeated a lot of information through the book.

Reviewer's Name: Ananth
Animal Farm
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Animal Farm by George Orwell was published in 1945 16 years after Joseph Stalin came to power in the Soviet Union. The book chronicles the formation of the Soviet Union as well as major historical soviet events. The on twist, all Soviet leaders and classes of citizens are represented by farm animals! I love this book because the reader must infer who each animal represents. Once you have that figured out, there are many events in the book that can be tied to real-world events! I enjoyed this book a great deal and I would recommend it to anyone who has a desire to learn about Soviet history or enjoys books that make the reader piece together missing story elements.

Reviewer's Name: Harrison
Awards:
Honeymoon
Patterson, James & Roughan, Howard
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Nora is desired by every man and envied by every woman. She's beautiful, charming, and intelligent, but every man she's been with is dead, and FBI agent John O'Hara wants to know why. When Nora's millionaire fiance suddenly dies of a heart attack, John goes undercover as Craig Reynolds, the insurance man that will help manage Connor's finances. The more John learns about Nora, the more convinced he is that she's a killer...and the more he becomes attached to her.

The beginning of the book was a bit slow, but once Connor dies-wow!. As much as Nora is a serial killer, she's the most interesting character. We never know why she kills all the people she does, so the reader is left with a bunch of questions: Was she abused by a previous partner? Was she raised in an abusive household? Does she just hate men? Whatever the reason, Nora is good at what she does. This murder mystery book puts some murder shows to shame!

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Of Mice and Men
Steinbeck, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

George and Lennie are two laborers searching for work in California. While George is small and quick, Lennie is a man of tremendous size and has the mind of a young child. Despite their differences, they have formed a "family", clinging to their dream of owning an acre of land and producing their own produce. When they find a job at a ranch in the Salinas Valley, fulfilling their dream seems to be within their grasp, but conflict arises when Lennie begins a flirtatious relationship with the ranch owner's wife, and even George can't protect him from that.

I liked this book! Lennie and George's relationship is heartwarming, and it shows that having close friends can make even the hardest life bearable. My favorite characters were Crooks and Lennie. Crooks, who lives by himself because he is the only black man on the ranch, shows how discrimination affects mental well-being. Like Lennie, Crooks has been outcasted and looked down upon by society for something he can't control, and I liked how Steinbeck brought two very different characters together by sharing their shared loneliness. George is a complicated character because, at the end of the book, he does what he believes is 'best for Lennie' but it begs the question of how far a friend should go if it's in 'your best interest'. I watched the movie as well, as it was also really good!

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Awards:
The Giver
Lowry, Lois
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Jonas lives in a society where everyone is treated equally and given the same opportunity. Except for the Committee of Elders and special people lie The Giver, no one has 'special privileges'. Jonas, like everyone in his society, has a sister and two parents who were specifically handpicked to be his 'perfect parents'. In Jonas' society, no one sees color or has memories of the 'time before' beside The Giver. Eventually, Jonas is picked as the next Giver and begins his training once he officially becomes a teenager. During his training, Jonas experiences pain and happiness for the first time, and he's granted the ability to see color. After The Giver dies and Jonas becomes the new Giver, he finds it difficult to cope with the burden of enduring all the pain and suffering from the past and decides to run away.

I liked this dystopian novel. Jonas' society seems perfect on the outside, but once I met The Giver, I realized that people like Jonas could live perfect lives at the detriment of people like the Giver and Birthmothers who are isolated from the rest of society and treated based on what they can provide instead of their actual character. At first, I didn't like Jonas because he didn't think for himself and he always followed the rules. By the end of the book, after he's received all The Giver's memories, he starts to stand up for what he believes in. He even tries to save his family but sees that they're too brainwashed by the Committee of Elders.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Nectar in a Sieve
Markandaya, Kamala
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This novel follows the life of a young Indian girl named Rukmani, who is married off at the age of twelve. She marries a poor farmer, Nathan: because she has three older sisters and is not as "desirable" by Indian standards, her parents cannot find a better suiter besides a poor farmer. Throughout their marriage, Rukmani and Nathan struggle with poverty, and misfortune. In addition, British colonizers have set up posts in their town, further destroying Rukmani and her family's sense of community and opportunity.

My favorite character is Rukmani because of her complexity. She is a flawed and interesting character because, on one hand, she breaks the gender norms of her culture and often finds ways to support the family even when Nathan can. However, I will argue that Rukmani is complacent in her poverty and accepts things as the way they are knowing she could do better. I also really liked how this book touched on intergenerational conflicts. Rukmani often finds herself detached from her children because they're growing up in westernized society. Nathan is my least favorite character because he's just...there. Overall, this was a good book because it exposed me to a different culture.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Tolkien, J.R.R.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Fellowship of the Ring is about a company of people of different sizes, shapes, and cultures, living in an imaginary world: Middle Earth. These people come together when Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, runs away from his house after his 111th birthday, but he leaves behind the Ring of Power. Hobbits are short people who live in Hobbiton, a place in Middle Earth. The Ring of Power is a ring that one of the antagonists, Sauron, created for the destruction of Middle Earth.

The company now comes together to destroy this Ring, but it can’t be destroyed with ordinary means, like stomping on it or casting it into fire. The ring can only be destroyed if it is thrown into the place it was created at, Mount Doom, a volcano in Sauron's evil layer known as Mordor. The company knows that Sauron will search all of Middle Earth for the Ring, so the company decides to take it to Mount Doom.

At a petrifying moment, the company goes over a mountain range, but it is too cold for people to survive, so they head to the Mines of Moria, an underground series of tunnels. Everything was going fine until a person accidentally made noise by throwing something down a well. Then, they have to run to the exit because they awakened their evil pursuers, like the Balrog of Moria, a giant humanoid creature with a whip. The Balrog drags a member of the company down a cliff, and they fall for over 8 whole days.

This book is full of fantasies, and it really holds a grip and is hard to put down, and for that reason, I'm going to go with 4/5 stars for The Fellowship of the Ring.

Reviewer's Name: Gurman

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