Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Historical

Al Capone Does My Homework
Choldenko, Gennifer
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Al Capone Does My Homework finishes off an amazing book series to read. This book is action packed and includes gambling, stolen belongings, and counterfeit money. Al Capone plays a surprising role in this story and saves someone's life. Moose's relationships with his friends are further developed in this novel, and his father is promoted which puts Moose's family in even more danger. This book is spectacular and filled with action. It is a very good closing to the series and gives all readers a different perspective of Al Capone.

Reviewer's Name: Miles
Zebra Forest
Gewirtz, Adina Rishe
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

The book Zebra Forest, by Adrina Gewirtz, tells a story of four lives that are held captive by their father and... the book is essentially just that. The plot is incredibly dull and basic, the characters have no real life to them, the book just seems ramble on and on, and here, everything that can be wrong with a book is present. The title doesn't even have any real importance in the book! I get how maybe a few people might like this book, but from a writing perspective, this book lacks in everything. The book tries so hard to address a somewhat difficult-to-cover topic but forgets that it's meant for older audiences and fails at both. Overall, I would only recommend this book only to the most desperate of readers, or a younger kid.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Awards:
The Poisonwood Bible
Kingsolver, Barbara
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Nathan Price moves his wife and four daughters out into the Congo in 1959. He's a prolific and die-hard evangelical Baptist pastor, with his mind set on converting the majority of the Congo population to Christianity. His wife, Orleanna, is submissive and silent, obeying him and allowing him to hit their children. Rachel, the eldest Price daughter, arrogant, self-centered, and sorely missing her comfortable 16 year-old life back in the States. Next come the twins, Adah and Leah. Adah is shriveled up and crippled, but her mind runs like a confusing, rampaging fire. Leah has cut her hair short and vows to shoot her bow and arrow as well as any village boys. And Ruth May, the baby of the family at 5 years old, with her warped and imaginative outlooks on their jungle surroundings. The Price family is trying to hold it together as the Congo fights for independence from Belgium, as they watch children starve to death on their doorstep, and the colorful like of the jungle swirl around their broken household. -Jordan T, 8th grade

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Genres:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

The classic tale "Huckleberry Finn" is about a young boy and his adventures with a slave named Jim amidst war and racism. I hated this book for two reasons. Firstly, the plot doesn't seem to go anywhere. It seemed that Finn and Jim just wandered aimlessly around, befriending unlikable people and getting into trouble. Secondly, Finn was a very unlikeable protagonist. He doesn't show any sort of compassion or kindness towards anyone -- and doesn't seem to care if his friend Jim lives or dies. It is difficult to root for and follow a hero that you hate. While I personally did not enjoy this book, don't let that stop you. I know many people who really enjoyed "Huckleberry Finn" -- I was just not one of them. But, if you are someone who likes a strong plot and a fairly likable hero, this one is not for you.

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, Scott F.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The classic tale of "The Great Gatsby" follows Nick Carraway, a newcomer to the city, who discovers the lavish and intoxicating life of Jay Gatsby, his next door neighbor. Nick soon becomes entangled in a net of secrets and deception that involves his friends Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom. After hearing so many incredible things about "The Great Gatsby", I came into the story with high expectations. Unfortunately, they were not really met. While the story is undeniably powerful, it lacks in some areas. I found all the characters extremely unlikable. There was no one to really root for. In addition, there were parts of the story that seemed to drag on for far too long. I found myself asking, "When is something going to happen?" at several points. All in all, I didn't hate this story, but it definitely wasn't my favorite classic to read. Grade 12.

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Awards:
Briar Rose
Yolen, Jane
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Based in modern day America, this novel tells the story of a girl trying to discover her grandmother's past after hearing the story of Briar Rose for many years. After her grandmother dies with her last words being, "Promise me you will find the castle. Promise me you will find the prince. Promise me you will find the maker of the spells," Becca will not give up looking for her grandmother's lost origins. She goes through the contents in the box left to her relentlessly, until she finds the name "Kulmhof" on a piece of paper. Becca proceeds to make some calls, and finally takes a trip to Poland where she meets a certain Josef Potocki. Josef then reveals to Becca the story of her grandmother's past. It was a brutal and ruthless history of origin occurring during the Holocaust.

Even though the book was quite interesting and definitely kept me reading, there was some content I personally found disturbing. Most of this content consists of Josef Potocki being openly and quite obviously gay and a gay and lesbian agenda being enforced throughout the entire book. There was also a brief description of a sexual encounter between Josef and one of his former gay lovers that was completely disgusting.

Overall, I could not stop reading this book and found it very intriguing! The three stars is because of the unnecessary LGBTQ references and sexual encounter. If not for those few things, this book would have been downright amazing.

Reviewer's Name: Ella S.
Curtsies & Conspiracies
Carriger, Gail
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

As Sophronia Temminnick goes into her second year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality she is learning more and more ways to kill with weapons, poisons, and over tea. To infiltrate a hive of vampires. And to subdue you by simply looking at you. For this is no normal finishing academy, it is a school that is training her to be a spy. With 10 boys from Bunson's (school for evil geniuses in training) on board. Being friends with two boys Lord Mercy and Soap the sootie will be much harder than you will expect, considering that they are both fighting for her. As an unexpected trip to London appears out of nowhere what will Sophrnoia have to do to uncover the truth and save her friends?

Reviewer's Name: Anneka S.
America is Not the Heart
Castillo, Elaine
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Sometimes, this book had amazing descriptions about experiences and personalities. But the majority of the book was dreadfully dull and dragged on and on. The main character described, in detail, her hook-up stories and one-night stands, leading up to her more fruitful and lengthy relationship with a witty, quick woman named Rosalyn. I felt that although physical intimacy is a large factor in mature relationships, I really didn't need to hear about EVERYTHING they did to each other. I was drawn into the story because the plot seemed fascinating. In theory, it would be, but the author was so fixated on producing a lengthy novel that the story was drawn out. So the story line is this: Hero De Vera arrives in the US as an illegal Filipino immigrant. Her uncle welcomes them into his home, without questioning her very questionable past. The past where she dropped out of medical school, took up one night stands with near strangers, and joined the New People's Army, a discreet organization in the Philippines, where lots of murderous secrets lurk. Hero moves into her uncles house, and is welcomed into the work-alcoholic behavior of her uncle and aunt, who are trying to provide for their family and others. Their young, American-born Filipino daughter, Ronnie, is feisty and spunky. Hero meets Rosalyn and, almost instantaneously, begins to nurture a crush for her. That is, until their physical relationship begins. And THAT is when things got nasty. In conclusion, an intriguing plot, terrible writing, and unnecessary details on Hero's sexual pleasures. And it took a decent chunk out of my time, too.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Genres:
The City of Brass
Chakraborty, S.A.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

In S.A. Chakraborty’s debut novel, The City of Brass, we find some of the standard tropes that seem to be the foundation of the Young Adult genre. There are snippets of works like Harry Potter and Twilight that seem to leak through, their influences helping to shape the world that the author has created. However, while some of these tropes might be tired in any other setting, they are used to great effect here, as the author has created something grounded in culture and traditions that helps to enhance the fantasy world that lies just beyond our own.

While I did enjoy reading this book overall, there were a few weaknesses. The start of the story was action- packed and hooked me right from the get-go, but then the section leading up to the second half of the plot seemed to be bogged down with lots of exposition and world-building. It also wasn’t necessarily clear to me why the main character needed to go to the titular “City of Brass,” other than her brief hope that she’d be trained there. I also didn’t get the sense that the journey took months, as the traveling companions didn’t seem to be as exhausted from the trek as I thought they should be.

Despite this semi-minor weakness, the characters and the world were well developed and well thought out. I had to roll my eyes at the “love triangle,” mostly because it’s a cliché of the genre, but the three main characters involved in such romantic entanglements were unique and interesting individuals that made me want to keep reading. This book uses a lot of specific terminologies that took a little bit to pick up, especially from the perspective of a reader who isn’t as familiar with Middle Eastern languages. I was still able to pick it up via
context, only needing the glossary at the end to confirm my suspicions.

An excellent debut that pulls from a rich and unique culture to create its fantasy, I give The City of Brass 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards:
Anna and the Swallow Man
Savit, Gavriel
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Oh MY GOSH this book was incredible!! It reminded me a lot of the Boy in Striped Pajamas, because it's told innocently from the perspective of a child in WWII. It was heartbreaking. Few books make me cry, but I was on the verge of tears in this book. The characters had depth and complexity, they weren't 2d with one personality. They were like real people-- irrational, scared, kind, sly. I loved it so much, you won't understand until you read it.
So when Anna's Jewish father is killed when the Nazi's invade Poland, she finds herself in the care of the Swallow Man-- dubbed so because he reminds her of Soloman, but it wouldn't be wise to call him that in the time of WWII.
He insists on keeping up the pretense that they are father and daughter, because he is coping with the premature death of his daughter, who is around Anna'a age (7 years, I think). They travel across Europe on foot, with seemingly no predetermined destination. The Swallow Man says that keeping still makes it easier to be found, and one should never be found. It is better to be lost than to be found in times of war, he says. So the Swallow Man instills wisdom and new ideas into Anna, and teaches her how to survive by talking the language of Road, which is essentially not telling the whole truth, or maybe sprinkling in some truth to a big lie, or just convincingly lying to get what you want. So they pass checkpoints, borders, and strangers, talking Road and surviving. Then they find a Jew, who is used to horrors, but ignorant on how to avoid them. He entertains Anna with Jewish prayers and songs while they walk. The end leaves a lot to want, it was heart-wrenching and sad, but I won't give it away (you're welcome).
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Awards:
Genres:
Shadow Spinner
Fletcher, Susan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I LOVED this book! It incorporated a love and talent for storytelling perfectly, and infused it with a colorful and entertaining story. As an aspiring writer, I cherished reading about another storyteller, and how it changed her life.
Marjan is a young, crippled girl around the age of 13 in medieval Persia, where the there is a strict class contrast between prosperous sultans and poor beggars. She's loved telling stories, and admires Shahrazad. Her husband, the sultan, forcibly married a young girl every night and murdered the following morning, because he was convinced all women were despicable after his wife betrayed him. But Shahrazad stays alive by telling a story every night, keeping him intrigued and saving her life by morning, living another day. But after a thousand and one nights, she begins to run out of stories to tell, and so she enlists Marjan to find stories. Marjan seeks out a begging storyteller she saw in the market, and suddenly is thrust into a world where she has to become sneaky and smart in order to stay alive.
All in all, Shadow Spinner was really intriguing and I loved reading it.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Awards:
Blood for Blood
Graudin, Ryan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Axis Tour may be over, however Yael's journey is far from over. Blood for Blood starts right after Yael shot Hitler only to realize it was a skin shifter portraying Hitler. As Yael escapes SS men she can’t help but wonder how many skin shifters exist. Unsure who is real and who is a skin shifter she doesn’t know who to trust. Yael doesn’t even know if operation Valkyrie worked.
Luka witnessed Adele Wolfe shoot Hitler, or so he thought. The girl he thought was Adele Wolfe over the course of the Axis Tour was someone entirely different. In search of the true identity of inmate 121358ΔX Luka chases after her, whoever she may be.
Who is inmate 121358ΔX? How many other skin shifters exist? After a daring race around the world, and Hitler appearing dead, will the world fall apart?
Blood for Blood focuses so much on the relationships and development of the characters. Blood for Blood made me feel the characters emotions. The development of Yael over the series is incredible. At the beginning of this book Yael couldn’t face her history, but in the end of the book she conquers her fear and the past. I really enjoyed seeing different side of Luka and Felix. For example the feelings of Felix as he underwent interrogation. The ending was unexpected but fitting to the series. I highly recommend this book and series. I already want to read it again. If you have read Wolf by Wolf then you need to read Blood for Blood, it is totally worth reading.
Reviewer Grade: 9th

Reviewer's Name: McKenzie W.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Huckleberry Finn is a rebel against school, church, and the respectable society that wants to civilize him. Therefore, after faking his own death, Huck embarkes on a raft journey down the Mississippi River along with Jim, a runaway slave. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel full of shenanigans, adventures, schemes, and pranks in addition to deep contemplation that gives some great advice. This adventure is truly a classic and I highly recommend it for any middle schooler or older since there is something in this book for all ages.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
Lee, Mackenzi
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This is one of those books you could crank through in a day. The first third was hilarious, and kept me hooked throughout the following two thirds, which, admittedly, were boring by contrast. To be honest, this book was a light and fluffy book you read just to keep you occupied, not to get to you to think or be creative. If any of you have read 'The Upside of Unrequited', the first third was so similar to that. But then the author attempted to make it an action book with a romantic twist, and I gagged. Essentially, the son of an English lord, Monty, is in love with his best friend, Percy. Throughout the entire book, he's giggling over how cute/handsome he is, but worrying about how Percy, his oppressing father, and upright and historic English society will handle a bisexual lord, so he doesn't come out. But Monty, Percy, and Monty's sister must complete a tour around Europe for a year. Soon they are thrown off course when Monty steals a precious treasure from the room of another lord when Monty is making out with some pretty lady he picked up at a party. (Another thing that bugged me: Monty was constantly drowning his feelings by getting wasted/picking up gorgeous people at parties). And this was when the book went downhill. Monty is such an annoyingly flawed character, which is the author's way of proving he's 'only human'. Even though he's falling for Percy, when Percy kisses him, he pretends he doesn't care as a way to hide his true feelings and protect himself. He also sneaks out and gets drunk on a regular basis, and when he
can't get wasted, he complains. Then the author attempted to make the book adventurous and thrilling, but it was just boring. Once Monty stole the treasure from someone's room, he quickly realises that he had stolen the 'key' to a tomb in a sinking island that holds a 'heart' that, when transplanted into a human body, allows the human to neither live nor die. Basically, they're brain dead; not medically dead, but no brain activity. It was okay, and not terrible. At points I wanted to reach through the book, grab Monty, shake him, and scream, "Stop it!" into his ear. I don't recommend it, but if you're going on vacation or a long plane ride, this book is good for you not having to actually think about what you're reading.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Bud, Not Buddy
Curtis, Christopher Paul
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is absolutely A+ amazing!! Heartwarming story about what a 10 year old boy's life may have been like in 1936. It is entertaining, yet informational at the same time. It keeps you on the edge of your seat with adventure and humor. The way Curtis explains and describes everything is also amazing as well. Overall very very great.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Francesca J.
Genres:
Book Review: Fawkes
Brandes, Nadine
2 stars = Meh
Review:

If you aren’t familiar with Guy Fawkes Day, every year in England on 05 November, citizens burn Fawkes’ effigy to celebrate his failed attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605. Fawkes tells the story of Thomas Fawkes, Guy’s son, with a fantasy twist. In this world, folks have powers based on colors. Some folks can manipulate some colors, others all colors, which leads to different magical schools of thought and serves as a stand in for the Catholic-Protestant tensions of the time.

If you know anything about my reading preferences (I read mostly fantasy), this next thought is a bit shocking: the fantasy elements really ruin this book. Unfortunately, the worldbuilding is really shallow. You’ll be left with loads of questions about color power like: What if something is more than one color? Paint? How does that work? Why can’t someone who can control Green also control Blue and Yellow? Or vice versa? And so on.

I really wish the book had been written as straight historical fiction. A point about religious persecution could have been made (that was perhaps attempted, but for me it didn’t land). The story might not have dragged for the first three quarters of the book. Add to the weird pacing and lackluster worldbuilding the fact the main character manages both to be extremely judgmental and lack any convictions for most of the book, and you’ve got a book that really isn’t fun to read. I found myself skimming just to get through it.

With that being said, I did enjoy the last quarter of the book. The pacing picks up, Thomas develops a backbone, we get to spend some time with my favorite character (Emma!), and Guy Fawkes gets a tiny bit of development.

This wasn’t for me, but perhaps some folks will be swept away by the romance and intrigue. For fans of historical fiction that can look past the weak fantasy elements. 2 stars. Meh.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson, HarperCollins Christian Publishing and Netgalley for the free eARC, which I received for review consideration. Fawkes will be available for purchase on 10 July, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Help
Stockett, Kathryn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

After watching the critically acclaimed movie I could not help but read Kathryn Stocket’s book, The Help. Watching the movie before reading the book is something I rarely do, and I knew the book would be better in this case, but I underestimated just how good the book would be.

The Help takes place in the 1960s and is a about a girl named Skeeter who wants to write a book about the African Americans who help in white households. However, different chapters are narrated by different characters so each character has somewhat their own story within the story.

This may be a bold statement, but The Help is my favorite book I have ever read. As an avid reader, I loved how long the book was. The book did not seem to end and the characters were so interesting, I didn’t want it to. Stocket’s writing abilities are phenomenal and the fact that each character was so distinctly different from one another was very impressive. I enjoyed the different chapters being narrated by different characters so much since I got to see what each character was thinking and feeling. I also loved the descriptions in the book. It wasn’t so descriptive that it got boring but
it also wasn’t so little that you couldn’t picture the situation. It was the perfect amount and it added to the reality of the story so well.

Overall I would highly recommend this book, especially for long summer reading. The only thing that I can think of that wasn’t great about the book were two specific chapters. They weren’t awful, I just felt that the book could have easily done without them. But obviously they didn’t really take away from the story and I still adore this book.

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn P.
Genres:
Ghost Hawk
Cooper, Susan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Ghost Hawk is about a native American boy named Little hawk returning to his village after a 3 month ceremony were boys survive in the woods alone and come back a man after three months, when he returns to his village he finds that most of every one is dead, except his grandmother named Suncatcher. Suncatcher tells Little Hawk that the white mans plague came in and killed most of the village. Then leaping Turtle returns, a friend of Little Hawk. So Little hawk, Suncatcher, and Leaping Turtle go out to find the other survivors. After the reunion Little Hawk meets John, a white 10 year settler from England, these two become friends but when John's father gets stuck under a fallen tree, Little Hawk tries to help but the English soldiers mistake it for an attack. Read the book to find out was happens next.

Reviewer's Name: Brendan M.
Twain, Mark
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Mark Twain's beloved nineteenth-century novel is a thrill. Tom Sawyer is the story of a boy that everyone can relate to. From being bored in Sunday school to playing pranks on the teacher to running away and playing pirates, Tom Sawyer is full of boyhood adventures. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is filled with comedy, warmth, and youthful innocence. However, below the surface, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is about young boys facing the cruel adult world. This novel is truly a classic and can be enjoyed by all ages, especially upper elementary, middle schoolers, and high schoolers.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Wolf by Wolf
Graudin, Ryan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wolf by Wolf takes place in an alternate reality where the United States never fought in World War II, and Hitler was left undefeated. The book focuses on a jewish girl named Yael. She had been experimented on while in a internment camp. As a result of being experimented on she can change her appearance . Years after her escape she plans to kill Hitler. Looking and acting as Adele Wolfe Yael enters a race known as the Axis Tour. The Axis Tour was cross continental motorcycle race, with rough terrain, and many other challenges. Yael hopes to win the Axis Tour and have the chance to dance with Hitler. This dance could be her chance to kill Hitler. Will Yael survive the challenges of the Axis Tour? Will she win the Axis Tour? Most importantly, doe shse kill Hitler? All of these questions are answer in Wolf by Wolf.

I was recommended this book by friends so many times I had to read it. Ryan Graudin developed Yael's background slowly, revealing more about her throughout the book. Just when you think you know Yael you discover more of her past, and learn about a new "wolf". While I did enjoy the slow development of Yael's background I disliked the beginning of the book. The Axis Tour didn't start until until a few chapters into the book. Which made the book boring at first. However once the Axis Tour portion of the book began the plot became more interesting and complex. While the book focuses on Yael I also enjoyed Felix Wolfe, and Luka Lowe. Yael's relationships with both Luka and Felix make the book more realistic and the plot more complicated.Once the book reached its climax I couldn't put it down. I had to know how it ended. If you are interested in a book with a balance of good characters and action this perfect for you. If your read this book I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Reviewer's Name: McKenzie W.

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