Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Historical

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
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
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:
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:
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
Compass South
Larson, Hope
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Compass South is the thrilling story of Alexander (Alex) and Cleopatra (Cleo) Dodge, twins in 1850s America. With their single father missing, and no money left to live, the twins abandon their gang-ridden home in Manhattan. Cleo and Alex set out to impersonate missing boys who are heirs to a rich uncle in California. Along the way, they meet suspicious characters, new friends, and obstacles of every kind. This graphic novel is a thrilling adventure with lush artwork, a solid story, and lovable characters. Each chapter slowly unravels the journey of the Dodge twins and was good enough for me to read in a single sitting. Highly recommended to lovers of graphic novels, adventure/mystery, and Mark Twain-type stories.

Reviewer's Name: Lily
Cover of the book The Crucible
Miller, Arthur
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Crucible is an allusion to the Salem Witch Trails of 1692. The main character, John Proctor, is a well-respected farmer in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts. When the first rumors that there are witches in Salem start stirring, Proctor pays little attention to them: he doesn't particularly believe in witchcraft and believes the townspeople are simply being hysterical. However, when his wife is accused of witchcraft, John has to put aside his personal feelings and find a way to save his wife and friends from hanging.

I hated the ending, but it made the play so much better. John develops significantly as a character. In the beginning, he only cared about protecting his reputation and hiding his affair, but in the final act, John became a martyr for the people of Salem. He's my favorite character in the play, and the movie is just as good!

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma M.
Awards:
Cover of the book Moloka'i
Brennert, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Moloka'i is a book about the undaunted and courageous spirit of humanity. At seven, Rachel Kalama is diagnosed with leprosy, a condition that would alter her life forever. She is taken from her family to spend her life in Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (imagine quarantine lasting for your entire lifetime). On the island, Rachel confronts the aura of death, as the disease progresses among residents without a known cure. Moloka'i is a tale of sadness, but also a tale of survival. In a world of death, there is warmth, love, humor, and hope. The book follows Rachels's life with many twists and turns. I absolutely loved this book and it was one of the best books that I have read this year. Reflecting on the book, it truly demonstrates how there is a lot of good in this world, even if you have to dig deeper to find it.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella J.
Awards:
Genres:
Lucky Broken Girl
Behar, Ruth
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Lucky Broken Girl is about is girl named Ruthie, who recently moved from
Castro's Cuba. When her father decides to buy a car and surprise the family,
they get into a terrible accident, testing the car out. Ruthie breaks her
leg, and must live in a body cast to mend her leg and to make sure one leg is
taller than the other, since she is growing. Ruthie must spend months in the
body cast. Along the way, Ruthie makes friends and loses friends, learns how
to paint, and continues her life, as much as possible, as to not get behind.
This is also a true story. The author changed some parts of the story, but it
is based off of true events.
I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me that not everyone's life is
perfect, and everyone is going through something. Even though the setting of
the book was in Ruthie's room most of the story, I had a lot of trouble
putting the book down. There are some sad parts but there are also a lot of
happy parts. This book is definitely a ten out of ten.

Reviewer's Name: Mackenzie
This Light Between Us
Fukuda, Andrew
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This Light Between Us by Andrew Fukuda is an extremely powerful and compelling historical fiction novel. I came upon this book completely by chance when I had nothing else to read, and decided to give it a chance and I am so glad I did! This Light Between Us, set before and during World War II, tells the story of two pen pals--a French-Jewish girl named Charlie and a Japanese-American boy named Alex. When they are ten years old, Alex's class gets assigned pen pals from France, and the teacher mistakes Charlie as a boy, therefore assigning her to be Alex's pen pal. Alex, who is a cartoonist and lives in his older brother Frank's shadow in their small town of Bainbridge Island, Washington, is shy and quiet and doesn't have a lot of friends. Popular, vivacious Charlie is instantly taken with the idea of writing to an American, and therefore wishes to continue their correspondence. For years, Alex and Charlie's letters fly across the Atlantic, including Alex's cartoons, and Charlie's tales of life in France. They discuss dreams, plans, ambitions, and how they finally will meet. The first part of this book is dedicated to the letters between Charlie and Alex, and as the situation in Europe worsens for Jewish people like Charlie, she finds solace in writing to Alex until the fateful day that Peal Harbor is bombed and all the Japanese Americans on Banbridge Island are directed to be sent to internment camps. Alex and his family are sent to the Manzanar Internment Camp in California right as Charlie's letters to Alex trickle to a stop. Determined to find the girl that Alex has come to love, Alex signs up to go to war.

I've read Farewell To Manzanar twice in school, and I found This Light Between Us tells the story of the Japanese internment camps in a much more accessible and heartbreaking way. This book is not a memoir, unlike Farewell To Manzanar, and even though the experiences described in both are the same, I connected to Alex's family's struggles in this book much more than I did in Farewell To Manzanar. The utter desperation of the entire family and the lack of hope described in this book is so heartbreaking that it is understandable why Alex signs up to go to war. I was also worried that the part of the book dedicated to Alex fighting in the war would be slow or even boring. Alex is constantly motivated by his desire to find Charlie. Every struggle in training, every battle he fights is for the purpose of finding her. The characters Alex experiences in his regiment are memorable and touching, and add to the narrative beautifully.

There is a quote from Jane Eyre that talks about a string being knotted in on person, right below their heart, and tied to another person, and however many miles away they may be, that string always will bring them back together. This concept is expressed and used many times in This Light Between Us, and truly represents the love that Alex and Charlie have for each other-- the idea of loving someone you've never met but who knows you better than anyone else is such a clever take on a historical fiction love story, and really sets This Light Between Us out from the crowd of WWII novels.

I loved this book. I read it in just a few days, and found it impossible to put down. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction, romance, or just a good story! This Light Between Us is a powerful gem of a book that I highly recommend!

Reviewer's Name: Allie
Genres:
Things Fall Apart
Achebe, Chinua
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Things Fall Apart is about a Nigerian man, Okonkwo, who watches as his village is destroyed by European missionaries. Once a feared and respected man in his village of Umuofia, Okonkwo is reduced to eventually taking the orders of white men. Okonkwo is a hard and emotionless man who believes that anything that is not masculine is weak and therefore unworthy. When missionaries come to Umuofia, Okonkwo urges his fellow villagers to resist the attempts to diminish their culture and replace their government, but he's met with little support. Eventually, Okonkwo is banned, and when he returns, his village has completely changed.

I liked Things Fall Apart because it's a great book that challenged the idea of African savagery and portrays African culture, specifically Nigerian culture, as complex and intricate, and not the 'uncivilized' society many people view Africans as today. Okonkwo is an interesting character because his unwillingness to adapt to the new change represents an internal struggle many pre-colonized Africans faced in the wake of colonization. The ending is symbolic because it represents the ultimate death of culture as a result of European exploration.

Overall, the novel provides a beautiful insight into another culture often ignored in mainstream media.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
No Longer at Ease
Achebe, Chinua
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

No Longer at Ease is the second installment in the African trilogy series. It is preceded by Things Fall Apart and follows the life of Obi, Okonkwo's grandson. Obi leaves his village in Nigeria to pursue an education in Britain where he meets Clara and falls in love with her. He returns to Nigeria and gets a job in civil service with the help of the board of elders. Obi is conflicted between his African culture and Western lifestyle, and heavy in debt, he takes a bribe.

Just like his grandfather, Obi is strong-minded and stubborn. He intends on marrying Clara although she is an osu, and begins taking bribes when he cannot pay his debts. He questions Nigerian traditions, and often compares Africa to Britain, ultimately positioning him in a place where he finds it nearly impossible to balance both cultures. However stubborn and sometimes reckless Obi is, he's a symbol of generational growth: unlike his grandfather and father, Obi ultimately understood that one culture was not better than the other, and change was imminent. Okonkwo, Nwoye, and Obi symbolize the different industrial stages of Nigeria and the social turmoil that followed, and they show the theme of western versus eastern culture clashes.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Mexican Gothic
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

“Mexican Gothic” follows Noemí Taboada’s mission to uncover the dark secrets of the High Place. Her journey begins when she receives a mysterious letter from her cousin with talk of poison and ghosts. Upon arriving, the Doyle household proves to be untrustworthy with the exception of the family’s youngest son. The Doyle family hid prying eyes behind the walls of the High Palace but Noemí’s sleuthing unlocks a wave of violence and madness.

I enjoyed this book and was hooked from the beginning. I recommend this book for people who enjoy reading about mysteries and paranormal activity. There is a hint of romance but the plot does not revolve around that.

Reviewer's Name: Valeria
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The amount of description in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is
amazing. Like, Sherlock Holmes good. The characters are well mapped out, the
interactions felt thought through, and the relationships are believable. I
personally didn’t get all the detail the first read through, just from
enjoying the characters too much. The history is realistic, considering the
time period and how poorly the blacks were treated. All things considered,
this is an engaging read with some actual history.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
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
Cover of The Bluest Eye
Morrison, Toni
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Bluest Eye is about a young African-American girl named Pecola living in 1940's Ohio. Pecola lives with her brother and abusive parents who constantly tell her she is ugly because of her dark skin and kinky hair. On top of that, the children at her school bully her for the fact that her father is an alcoholic. All her life, Pecola has wanted blue eyes to feel pretty. Her only friends, Freida and Claudia try to defend her against the colorism in their community, but Pecola is unable to embrace her features and becomes obsessive over her desire for blue eyes.

One of the reasons I read this book is because of Morrison's writing style and her thematic elements. The book is very intellectually stimulating and gave me better insight into colorism and how it is still largely prevalent today in the African-American community. I really liked how Morrison used a young girl as a main character to show how these feelings of low-esteem and poor body image are started at a young age, and how the people around us influence our thoughts and feelings.

There are a lot of complex characters and you get to hear each of their stories about why they're the way they are. Claudia is my favorite character because she represents women and girls who challenge our ideas of beauty. The ending was sad, but it really brought light to how damaging our obsession with beauty is.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Book Cover
Berry, Julie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

After being caught with her lover, Ares, Aphrodite tells the stories of two couples that fell in love during World War 1. James and Hazel met at a party that Hazel was playing piano for. They start to go on dates and they really like each other, but James is shipped of to the battlefield. Hazel decides to join the Red Cross to be closer to James. There she meets Colette, who becomes a fast friend.

This book was amazing! I loved the perspective of the gods on the story. They often make appearances to discuss specific parts of the story relating to the gods' affinities. I also loved seeing the couples be together, even during their struggles. While reading this book I cried multiple times and couldn't be happier about that.

I would also highly recommend the audiobook. There were so many different narrators it truly felt like I was in the story. One of the characters passions is composing music and in the audiobook you can actually hear the music! It is a wonderful experience.

Reviewer's Name: Savannah H.
Book Cover
Riggs, Ransom
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Jacob's grandfather has always told crazy stories. Stories about faceless monsters and kids with mysterious abilities. When he was younger Jacob believed these stories because his grandpa had scary pictures of these strange kids, but as he got older Jacob thought these were just little kid stories until a family tragedy brings one of those monsters from his childhood to life. This tragedy gets him to travel to a small island off the coast of Whales, where he begins to discover more about his grandpa the peculiar children from his stories.

The atmosphere that the author created for this book was amazing. You can feel eeriness of the things that Jacob sees through the pages. It is only enhanced by the pictures of strange things scattered throughout the story. The unique characters and idea held my attention completely and the fast-paced plot made me think it was over to soon. This book is part of a long series that I can't wait to continue!

Reviewer's Name: Savannah H.

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