Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Historical

Anne of Green Gables
Montgomery, L. M.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I've read this book many times, and it's always been one of my favorites. It tells the story of Anne Shirley (Anne spelt with an e, mind you) -- a spirited orphan who, by mistake, is sent to live with the old pair of siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, on Green Gables farm in the small Canadian town of Avonlea. Anne is smart, friendly, talkative, and most of all, highly imaginative. She proves to be a handful for the Cuthberts, but overall, the friendships she develops, the scrapes she gets into, and just Anne herself are so lovely and heartwarming. I found her relatable on a profound level. While it may not be as thrilling as a fantasy, Anne of Green Gables is a classic that I would recommend to just about anyone.

Reviewer's Name: Elanor
The Red Pencil
Pinkney, Andrea Davis
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I actually analyzed The Red Pencil as a choice book for English class, but I really enjoyed it. It's told through a series of first-person poems, rather than the standard prose, which I liked because it helped me go deeper into the main character's perspective and her feelings about the things that were happening to her. The book tells the story of Amira, a twelve-year-old Sudanese girl whose village is destroyed by the Janjaweed as part of the Darfur conflict. She aspires to go to school where she can learn to read and write, and, among her numerous trials, finds relief through her art. The book is a work of fiction, but pulls from many stories that Andrea Davis-Pinkney gathered from real survivors of the Darfur conflict who faced similar challenges to Amira. The Red Pencil is very well-written and effective at evoking emotion and empathetic responses, and it provides the reader with insight into a life very different than the typical American's. I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

Reviewer's Name: Elanor
The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald brings the audience flying back to the roaring 20s. The roaring 20s where prohibition is in effect, there is a lot of money, and people are going to speakeasies. Throughout the Great Gatsby the reader sees the insides of the richer citizens of New York lives, which involves scandalous events, lies/cheating, and glamours parties. The story is told through the perspective of Nick Carraway about his neighbor, Jay Gatsby's life. Overall, the novel is very well-written and it keep me wanting to read more and more. I really liked the novel because it allowed me to see more into the roaring 20s rather than what a history books educates you on. Once you finish this book, you will be in complete and utter shock due to the surprise ending.
Reviewer grade:11

Reviewer's Name: Lana
Awards:
To Kill A Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
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
Villette
Bronte, Charlotte
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Villette is an incredibly hard read. The novel follows Lucy Snowe in her escape from England. She reminisces on her life's story and the overall storyline is intriguing. The side characters play their parts well, and certain tragedies in the story do leave hard-hitting impacts. Nevertheless, the book is over four-hundred pages of intricate literature with an incredible range of advanced vocabulary. However, the complexity of the read does add a bit of fun to the book, despite drawing attention away from the story itself. Looking up advanced English and French vocabulary almost makes the novel a neat, theatrical dictionary. While hard to understand and read, it allows the reader to dive deeper into each character and develop them more on a personal level. Overall, I would only recommend this book to people looking for a challenging read and with time on their hands.

Reviewer's Name: Steven
A Tale of Two Cities
Dickens, Charles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Tale of Two Cities is a grand novel by Charles Dickens that details the events of Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton, along with many other characters, throughout the beginning the middle of the French Revolution. The book starts off a little slow, but after getting through most of the exposition, the book turns into an undoubtable classic. The main characters are detailed thoroughly, and their motivations fuel their bond and the plot beautifully. The inner conflicts they face all fit into place like pieces of a puzzle over the course of the novel, which leaves the reader both satisfied and distraught at the same time. The sub-plots also tie the story together well, and the heroic ending is written perfectly. The setting of the French Revolution, romance, and character development throughout the story creates a captivating bond with the reader and always leaves one in a state of suspense. The themes relating to the greater scale of humanity and sacrifice also leave a lasting message. Although it is a decently long read, I would recommend A Tale of Two Cities to anyone as a must read.

Reviewer's Name: Steven
Stranger in Savannah
Price, Eugenia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Stranger in Savannah is the final chapter of Eugenia Price's Savannah Quartet series and fills the niche of a Southern historical romance novel.

The novel follows the Browning, Mackay, and Stiles families and does an excellent job of creating drama related to the buildup of the American Civil War. While I do not often read romantic novels and the like, Stranger in Savannah feels very realistic thanks to its historic references. The setting of the Civil war and the air of political tension gave life to the drama, however, the underlying themes and Mark Browning as a character were all the more captivating. The book also drew me in with each characters' ambitions being intriguing and thoroughly fitting in major and minor plot points surrounding the setting and cast of the quartet. Overall, the novel was a fitting end to the series, and I would recommend not only this book but the entire Savannah Quartet to those interested in thematic historical romance.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
Refugee
Gratz, Alan
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The novel “Refugee” by Alan Gratz wasn’t a very good book in my opinion. I read it for my English class in high school and I didn’t really enjoy it. It’s about three refugees throughout history, but the stories are kind of connected. One refugee is a young boy escaping from Nazi Germany, the second is a young girl escaping from Cuba in the 90s and finally the third is a young boy escaping from Syria in 2016. Before reading this I had read a book about a boy who was in a concentration camp, and it was a true story written by him. Refugee doesn’t even come close to how good that book was. Along with that, it’s not very well written.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book, there are far better books about this topic.

Grade: 11th

Reviewer's Name: Emani
Great Expectations
Dickens, Charles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I read this book because it’s my mom’s favorite book of all time. It follows a young boy named Pip as he grows up. It’s a love story, and a pretty good one. Though it’s a little hard to read because of the old style English writing that Dickens used, it’s definitely worth reading. Overall, I would highly recommend this book!

grade: 11th

Reviewer's Name: Emani
Awards:
The Joy Luck Club
Tan, Amy
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.
The Crucible
Miller, Arthur
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I read this book in English class my junior year of high school. I find the Salem Witch Trials interesting, so I was excited to read this book. While this book is based on actual events, there are some added fictional parts. I thought it was interesting how rumors and blame could cause the deaths of so many people who did nothing wrong. Overall if you find the Salem Witch Trials interesting, I would highly recommend this book!

Reviewer's Name: Emani K.
Awards:
A Darker Shade of Magic
Schwab, V.E.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

A Darker Shade of Magic introduces the concept of four separate Londons from different worlds. Grey London: grim and without magic, Red London: vibrant, fantastical and full of magic, White London: losing its magic from an ongoing war and numerous power shifts, and Black London: a mystery that was closed off after a mysterious accident. The main character, Kell, is one of two people who are able to travel between the Londons through the use of a type of blood magic. He is the official messenger for Red London and brings messages to the kings of the different cites; however, unofficially he is a smuggler who sells objects from other worlds. He runs into a thief in Grey London after coming into possession of an artifact from Black London, and they must navigate its power and defeat the people that want to abuse it. Schwab's world building and magic systems are incredibly compelling and the concept as a whole sets up a fantastic series. However, the book overall was quite a let down as the story itself was quite overdone, which would not have been much of a problem if the characters were written well. In some parts of the book it become difficult to like the two main characters, which was disappointing because they had all the elements to be great. All of these faults were not the downfall of the book, and Schwab could have potentially gotten away with them; the main flaw was the pacing. At times the pacing was slow and uneventful, making it difficult to want to read the book. A Darker Shade of Magic had the potential to become an amazing fantasy novel because of its ingenuity, but its execution was lackluster.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Julia
Awards:
The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights
Steinbeck, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights by John Steinbeck is a vivid retelling of the already immortalized myths of legendary Arthur Pendragon and the knights that serve him. I enjoy the stories contained within and it is wonderful to have all the myths collected in one spot and rephrased by Steinbeck. However, there is one recommendation I have for readers and that is to go slowly because the wording in the book itself is fairly complicated and the text sometimes switches into extended metaphors without warning, leaving the reader lost and confused. I would not let this stop you from reading it, the book itself is amazing and the stories of King Arthur are captivating. I would recommend this book to everyone who has an interest in mythology or old stories, or simply anyone who wants an entertaining and captivating story.

Reviewer's Name: Harrison
Awards:
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Speare, Elizabeth George
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is the story of sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler who arrives in Connecticut in 1687. All the townspeople believe she is a witch after she does some "unusual" things such as swimming and acting out bible stories. Because of this separation she begins to hang out with the towns "witch" Hannah Tupper. This friendship leads to some major problems in the future.

This book is very dull and not very exciting. I cannot find any reason to enjoy this book as it is so predictable and a very happily-ever-after type of story. I would not recommend this book because of its lack of suspense and very predictable plot.

Reviewer's Name: Emily
Becoming Mrs. Lewis
Callahan, Patti
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Becoming Mrs. Lewis, by Patti Callahan, is the fictionalized retelling of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman's unlikely love story. It is based around the correspondence between the two, their writings, and Joy's copious love sonnets. While C.S. Lewis is primarily known for his works of literature, his relationship with Joy was just as big--if not bigger--a part of his life as his work. The story is told entirely from Joy's perspective, with bits of correspondence sprinkled throughout her narration. Right out of the gate, Joy has an epiphany one night while living in a house in upstate New York with an abusive husband and two small sons. This holy experience leads to Joy's conversion to Christianity; then, searching for answers about faith, she comes into contact with the renowned author C.S. Lewis and they begin corresponding frequently. Eventually, Joy makes the choice to go to England because of health problems and her husband's abuse, and meets C.S. Lewis (whom she calls Jack) for the first time. The rest of the book is an agonizingly slow journey to their marriage, which happens under unfortunate circumstances at the very end.

I had awfully mixed feelings about this book. I was interested in learning more about the life of C.S. Lewis, but instead I received the sad, angsty story of Joy Davidman, and unfortunately, Joy Davidman--as portrayed by Callahan--is not a likeable character. She is impulsive in nearly all her actions, self-pitying and self-motivated (as exhibited by the fact that she leaves her two young sons in an abusive household while frolicking off to Europe), naive, obnoxious in much of her dialogue, excruciatingly desperate to be loved, and altogether irritating. However, I did like Jack's character, and overall there was some good character development. The plot itself was slow and redundant: dialogue dragged and nearly every conversation felt the same to me; I often found myself bored. It seemed like Callahan was running the plot in circles without ever achieving a climax. Also, as the story took place over several years in real life, Callahan was forced to glaze over several months at a time, never really going in depth about what took place in between Joy and Jack's meetings. As for the writing style itself--nothing to compliment. Callahan's syntax was unengaging and at times poorly executed, the story lacked imagery, and the use of British slang seemed forced, coming from an American author. Over the course of the book, Joy's feelings for Jack develop more quickly than his for her, and I couldn't help feeling disturbed by her physical attraction to a man 17 years older than her. Callahan should've backed off on Joy's excessive, out-of-the-blue thoughts of physical desire--they were disturbing and took away from Jack and Joy's friendship.

I believe the love story of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman would've been best left alone. While Callahan's novel is historically accurate, the fictionalization of intimate details and dialogue that belonged to the real Joy and Jack in their time did not sit well with me. I appreciated Callahan's inclusion of literary history--especially learning about Jack's life and how
it influenced his writing--and the last fifty pages of the book redeemed itself slightly, as the characters' growth was revealed and some important life lessons shone through. Occasionally I was immersed in the story and
rooting for Joy, but the mundane, repetitive, boring moments overshadowed those, and Callahan's Joy was not the female character I'd hoped she would be. I wouldn't call this book a romance, because it's simply desperation on
one side and friendzoning on the other until a dire situation wakes up the latter party to reality. Becoming Mrs. Lewis did not do it for me, and I don't recommend it unless you immensely enjoy poorly-written, many-liberties-taken fictionalized accounts of famous historical figures' lives. I believe Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis were probably wonderful individuals in reality, and I wish Callahan had done them justice.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa H.
Awards:
The Red Badge of Courage
Crane, Stephen
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The Red Badge of Courage is really not a great book. It is centered around the Civil War and tells the story of Henry, a Union soldier who leaves his farm to go fight. During the war he cannot make up his mind to run away from the field or stick with his friends in battle. While some might find the book interesting, personally it just dragged on and on. Sometimes it would go really in depth into a battle or a part of the story that was not very important and in others it would just gloss over a major part that you needed to understand. I would not recommend this book to anyone as it is hard to understand and is not very well written.

Reviewer's Name: Emily S.
A Tale of Two Cities
Dickens, Charles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Tale of Two Cities is a captivating book. Set during the period leading up to and during the French Revolution, the book details how the French aristocracy and the French Revolution affected the rich and the poor through the stories of Charles Darnay and Alexandre Monette. It also shows the angry and vengeful side of the Revolution through the Defarge's and their wine shop. A scene where a wine cask is dropped demonstrates the desperation and poverty experienced by the citizens of Paris that led to the anger behind the revolution. Dickens also brings the book to life through life-like characters that emotionally invest readers in the story. Alexandre Monette exhibits fatherly care for his daughter, yet he also struggles to deal with his time in prison, leading him to rely on his daughter for support. Sydney Carton contains likeable aspects mixed with relatable flaws that make him instantly lovable. Dickens expertly connects each scene to develop the story and foreshadows multiple aspects of the climactic ending throughout the book.

Reviewer's Name: Mark T.
Book Cover
Alcott, Louisa May
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Louisa May Alcott's well-known classic Little Women tells the story of four sisters in the time of the Civil War: Meg, who longs for a life without poverty; Jo, a tomboy and writer; Beth, quiet and kind; and Amy, who has elegant taste in art and life. These four girls, with the help of their mother, learn lessons that help them carry their burdens with thankful hearts and lean on each other throughout the trials they face. The novel spans ten years, and follows the lives of the March family and their friends. It highlights the small joys of childhood, adventures at home and abroad, growing up, loss, and falling in love.

Alcott's writing is insightful, touching, and humorous; she draws the reader in emotionally and offers her wisdom generously. Little Women is an important narrative of ordinary life which both amuses and grieves, and should be read by all teens. Not only does it put life into perspective; it also relates to teenagers today despite being written nearly two-hundred years ago. Any audience will be able to connect with at least one of the March sisters--especially young women. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy become as dear to readers as family throughout their journey to adulthood. If you enjoy heartwarming stories and historical fiction, this book is for you!

Reviewer's Name: Alexa H.
Chains
Anderson, Laurie Halse
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Isabel is a thirteen-year old slave who is trying to gain her and her
sister's freedom. After their master died, Isabel and Ruth were supposed to
be freed, but were sold to a Loyalist couple who brings them to New York.
After an incident where Isabel is branded, Ruth if sold to a family in a
different state. Determined to find her, Isabel takes the advice of her
friend and servant boy, Curzon. Isabel becomes a spy on her master and other
Loyalists and reports back to the Patriots. Later, when Curzon is arrested,
she breaks him out of jail and the two run away to look for her sister.

Even though the novel is fictional, the events are based on the American
Revolutionary War, and it's pretty accurate. As someone who likes history and
adventure, this book was a good balance of both. Despite her circumstances,
Isabel remains a positive character and does everything to protect her sister
and those she loves. Obviously, there's some sensitive topics since they're
slaves, but I do think this book gives good information about the
Revolutionary War and how African Americans were ironically very helpful to
the Patriot cause.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Genres:
Forge
Anderson, Laurie Halse
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The sequel to Chains, this story follows Curzon's life as a soldier for the
Patriots during the American Revolutionary War. After Isabel abandoned him to
look for her sister, Curzon finds himself on the outskirts of Valley Forge.
After saving a soldier from a British troop, Curzon enlists in the Colonial
Army for the next year. The book describes Curzon's life at Valley Forge: the
strenuous labor, harsh winter climate, lack of food and resources, and the
racism Curzon experiences from other soldiers. Not long in his stay, his
former master visits the camp and forces Curzon back into servitude. For the
rest of the novel, Curzon plots his escape and reunites with Isabel.

I wasn't expecting the second book to be told through a different point of
view, but Curzon's story is just as touching as Isabel's. I also think that
the book is a good perspective of the life of a soldier at Valley Forge. The
events were relatively accurate, and throughout, I felt tense and anxious to
know about what would happen next. I thoroughly enjoyed Curzon and Isabel's
reunion, and I'm thrilled that there's a third book to the series.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Genres:

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