Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Historical

The Scarlet Letter
Hawthorne, Nathaniel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Rich with symbolism and human feeling, the compassionate author leads us to consider deepest plumes of human sentiment. We are artfully led by the hand into the inner corridors of human hearts, where we are taught to stare down passion, shame, despair, revenge and finally courage.

First, we are compelled to walk around in a world where there is no forgiveness. We are removed from the fresh and life-giving promises of scripture to a stale and unrelenting universe, a universe in which once you have sinned in certain ways, you are branded for life. Hawthorne’s world takes the world of Jesus and turns it upside down. Where Jesus welcomed the repentant prostitutes and the reformed tax collectors and had his very harshest words for the proud, exacting Pharisees, in Hawthorne’s world the town’s peoples’ sins of unforgiveness and pride are smugly overlooked.
Hawthorne’s world does to us what all good fiction ought to do: it causes us to shudder. We feel instinctively the cruelty of the sentence placed upon the young woman and the baby, although we acknowledge her sin. This should lead us to praise our God for the forgiveness and grace that is so freely offered us in scripture. As the Pharisees ask Jesus what they should do with the woman caught in the act of adultery (and where, I always wonder, is the man?), we should know his response: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” John 8:7

Yet we come to appreciate the large-heartedness of Jesus all the more as we come to live in the world of Hester Prynne. Hawthorne, understanding the longing that we all feel to be welcomed and loved unconditionally within a society of people, haunts us with the solitary and scorned life Hester Prynne is relinquished to. As we sink deep into the mire of her forlorn pit, our hearts should soar all the more with the blessed promises of our great God:
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Eph 2:12,13

As we walk around in Hester Prynne’s world, we know what it would be like to be separated from Christ, to be alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, to be cut off from the promises of God. And yet we rejoice, because we know by faith that Hawthorne’s world is a skewed, twisted world, bearing no resemblance to the true community of faith.

Hawthorne’s character Dimmesdale is as unlike to Christ as nearly any man can be. Dimmesdale’s portrayal of failed manhood is so epic, I can scarcely think of another rival in literature. Here we see a man so small, so petty, so devoid of the smallest scrap of courage or courtesy, that he sits back passively allowing a woman to not only care for, love, and instruct his child alone, but also do so while laboring under the unrelenting sorrow of his shame. He sees this woman daily scorned, reviled, despised, belittled, made an object of while he walks around enjoying his position of influence and respect in others’ eyes. The fact that his sin daily eats away at him till his health is completely deteriorated does not make him any less pathetic in my eyes. No, he is the more pathetic for it. For he shows none of the manly dominance over human affairs that God gave to Adam when he blessed him and gave him dominion over the world. Instead, Dimmesdale is a peon, a victim of circumstance, a shadow of man, resigned to say simply “come what may,”
devoid of action and refusing to take responsibility at every turn.

What a striking contrast to our mighty savior. It is the man Jesus Who in all things takes the initiative. Jesus takes the shame for sins He never committed. Jesus stands up and takes our punishment. Jesus bears all our sorrow and our shame. Jesus, though perfect, identified himself with the lowly, with sinners and allowed himself to be crucified in the most undignified and hideous fashion, next to violent criminals. Jesus, instead of leaving a woman to lonely sorrow while he enjoyed respect, became a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. (Is. 56)

Is the Scarlet Letter a book for today? Why else does abortion flourish today except that we are plagued with a generation of Arthur Dimmesdales walking our streets? We have everywhere men who will not take responsibility for their actions and protect the children they have carelessly fathered.
Instead, they take their women to the clinic in the shadows and leave them to the abortionist scalpel, which brands hearts with a letter so hot and scarring, only the red-hot blood of Christ will heal.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Avis Dolphin
Frieda Wishinsky
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book is about the sinking of the Lusitania. If you’re looking for major action of the sinking, this isn’t the right book for you. It takes about two pages for the ship to be under water. The majority of the book talks about the main character’s mild drama and doesn’t focus on the ship itself. It’s a good book, but when I read it, I was disappointed in the lack of focus on the sinking since I knew little about the Lusitania. If you’re a fan of Titanic, you’ll be pleased to know there are quite a few references to the ship. Although the book is short, the characters are easy to enjoy. I personally liked the professor. The imagination can run wild because the author does a great job describing the book’s events. I recommend this book for ages 11+ because it is a more serious topic. I rate Avis Dolphin a 3-star because it was a good read, but I don’t think I’ll ever choose to read it again.

Reviewer's Name: Kaitlyn S
Snow Falling on Cedars
Guterson, David
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This was an amazingly written book with a centralized focus on a piece of history that is rarely paid much attention to. Focusing on the false trial of Kabuo Hiyamoto for murder, a Japanese-American man living on San Piedro Island, the book discusses prejudices harbored against Japanese people after WW2 and internment camps and tackles the idea of what is socially acceptable vs. what is morally correct. Guterson's writing style flows well and reads like an easygoing narrative, leaving most of the inferences and questioning to be made about morals to the reader. It questions human nature and the role of justice in vengeance, and leaves us wondering ourselves about humanity, with mixed feelings of both disgust at some of the characters and hope for the future.

Reviewer's Name: Gia D.
Awards:
Genres:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an amazing story with important underlying themes. I really enjoyed this book. I read To Kill a Mockingbird on my own and then in class, which only made me appreciate the book more. The book explores controversial issues such as prejudice, racism, what it means to be a woman/lady, and growing up, which are all still relevant in today’s society. However, this is not a book for people who enjoy eventful/plot driven stories. To Kill a Mockingbird is more of a character-driven story (in my opinion). Harper Lee’s usage of symbolism, language and setting add to the enjoyment of the book. I could not recommend this book enough. To Kill a Mockingbird is a thought-provoking and classic book that everyone should read before they die.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L.
Orphan Train
Kline, Christina Baker
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Orphan Train," a touching novel featuring the life stories of orphans in the mid 1900's, explores the importance of friendship and the need for human belonging. This book is a novel that you will remember for awhile. It is also a quick read; a page turner leaving you completely satisfied. This novel is well-written and excitement awaits every chapter. Vivian Daly is orphaned at a young age and is sent away on the famous 'orphan train.' The book unfolds her story; but in between a new character is introduced. Molly Ayer, a girl who needs to do service hours to earn her reputation back, meets Vivian and they instantly connect. Both women tell their stories, and each are left well educated and have a new friend. "Orphan Train" emphasizes the innocence of children and how society's actions can impact the lives of those innocent children. This book is available in a young reader's format, "Orphan Train Girl", which is better adapted for a younger audience. "Orphan Train" does include a few inappropriate scenes; mostly sexually. If you love a historical novel, touching reads, and a tremendously good book, "Orphan Train" is for you.

Reviewer's Name: Siena G.
Genres:
Thornewicke
Bishop, Charity
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Speculative fiction at its most fun and haunting in the Victorian period, with that little hint of Steampunk! Seventeen year old Evangeline is off to stay with her Aunt Henoria in the old house of Dragonspire, located in the northern wood and filled with things that like Evangeline herself...are not quite what they seem. Her life teeming with questions about these new mysteries, and her newfound powers, she tries to pry the questions out of her estranged aunt. And who are the Musgroves, why is the house so strange, and what is going on with the northern wood? This quick read is unique and comes from a local author, has the flair of Gothic Horror with a speculative fiction/steampunk twist in a Christian genre. Say that fast ten times. Basically, this is something fresh and new and I appreciate Ms. Bishop's humor and understanding of the Victorian era and what it takes to write good speculative fiction.

Reviewer's Name: C. Marie
Blood Water Paint
McCullough, Joy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Let me show you
what a woman can do."

Artemisia Gentileschi is a painter. But because she's a painter in Rome in the early 1600s, she cannot take credit for her work. All of the credit goes to her father, who is a painter himself, though not a good one. When her father solicits the help of fellow painter Agostino Tassi to develop Artemisia's perspective, she thinks that finally her work might get taken seriously. But after Tassi brutally rapes her, Artemisia must decide whether she wants her life to continue as close to "normal" as possible, or if she wants to speak her truth and risk her painting career or worse: death.

Unbeknownst to me until about halfway through the book, this story is actually based on a true one, which makes what is already a beautifully written gut-wrenching book all the more poignant. Artemisia is a woman unhappy with her unfair lot in life, and she uses her art to express that by depicting Biblical women (primarily Susana and Judith) realistically instead of through the male gaze. Judith and Susana's stories as told to Artemisia by her late mother are sprinkled throughout the book, and are the only parts not written in verse.

Blood Water Paint is so timely. It's primarily about a woman's ability to speak her truth, and as we live in the time of the #MeToo movement it all feels so horribly relevant. As terrible things are happening in the book, you can see them mirrored in today's society. But ultimately, even as it's depressing (and it is brutal), the book is empowering and inspirational, and Artemisia is the quintessential example of a strong female character - her strength in the face of insane adversity is even more affecting given that it's based on a real woman.

I can think of no better book to read for National Women's History Month (or really, at any time). I'd strongly recommend this to both teens and adults, and I won't be surprised should it garner several nominations and/or wins when book award season rolls back around. This is one that is not to be missed. 5 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and Dutton Books for Young Readers for the eARC, which I received for review consideration. Blood Water Paint is available now!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Crossing Ebenezer Creek
Bolden, Tonya
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Living as a slave her whole life and with it many stories and scars, Mariah and some family and friends are finally saved when the Yankees come and take them along as they march towards the war. The slaves will be dropped off at a free state, but they must endure the troubles. Mariah meets Caleb, someone who assists the soldiers. He ends up falling in love with her, but is too afraid to become attached to someone due to experiences in the past. As Mariah tries to overcome troubles and thoughts, Caleb fights his internal struggle, both hoping for something more.
This book is based around a real event that happened during the civil war at Ebenezer Creek, and the author did a wonderful job illustrating and spreading a story not much have heard. I recommend this story to anyone who is into war history and romance.

Reviewer's Name: Mona H
Awards:
Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The novel Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, is a 'meh' romance novel. While I may not be a big fan of the genre (which is why I personally find it excruciatingly boring), the book exceeds in describing how relationships were the main influence of wealth and power in Britain around the 1800s. Jane Austen also gives each character an 'okay' backstory. Other than that, the book struggles to keep the reader interested. The characters are bland, their relationships have a very poor development, and some of the well-developed side characters just leave without any sort of sentimental goodbye. The book just seems to be a monotonous lecture with all of the uneventful dialogue, and overall, the book just doesn’t seem to capture the reader. I would maybe recommend this to some hardcore fans of romance, but other than that, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. There’s a reason they had to call the movie, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Torrent
Bergren, Lisa T.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Please, please, please read this book! You won’t regret it! It is the third and final book in the River of Time. Please read the books in order to avoid serious confusion. It is a mixed of different genars to time-travel to romance to adventure. You will not get bored with this book. It is one of the best books I have read ever!

Reviewer Grade 8.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth C.
Cascade
Bergren, Lisa T.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you haven’t already PLEASE READ THIS BOOK! It is a great book to read!
It is the second book in the River of Time trilogy. Please read the books in order or you will have no clue what’s going on. It is a time-travel, historical fiction, adventure, and romance book. This book will keep you on your toes. It is one of the best books I have read this year!

Reviewer Grade 8.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth C.
Waterfall
Bergren, Lisa T.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is an amazing book! It is a time-travel and historical fiction novel with adventure and mixed in. Also there is some romance (so boys might not like this book). It is the first book in the River of Time trilogy (please read the books in order). There’s not one slow part in this book however, there is a cliffhanger at the end. It is one of the best books I have read all year! Reviewer Grade 8.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth C.
Awards:
Heart of Darkness
Conrad, Joseph
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

What is the Heart of Darkness? Is it a metaphorical thing such as thoughts and mindsets, or is it a literal tangible place? Joseph Conrad’s novel follows the story of Marlow, an introspective sailor, who recounts his journey up the Congo River to five men who are on the same ship as Marlow:
the Director of Companies, who is also the captain and host, the Lawyer, the Accountant, Marlow, and the unnamed Narrator. What’s interesting is that the story is told from the point of view of the unnamed narrator who is conveying to the readers what marlow is telling him. Marlow explains in detail of his journey into the African Continent and his venture up the Congo River. He tells of acts of imperialism, acts of racism, and acts of evil commited within the region. The Heart of Darkness has gained much praise and criticism since its release, nevertheless it explores Conrad’s view of evil and darkness, but also leaves it up to the reader to make their own conclusion. I recommend this novel to readers who are seniors in high school or above because this novel is extremely difficult to read as Conrad’s style is very complex. To fully experience the novel, one must read it multiple times.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Book Review: How Few Remain
Turtledove, Harry
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

How Few Remain is a alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove. In his book, it depicts an alternate universe where the south wins the American Civil War, and the Confederate States of America is now its own independent country. What I enjoyed about this novel is the many different characters and how they view the other country. In every page you can just see the tension that will eventually snap between the two powers. People from the North and the South always spewing insults at each other. Each character that comes into play are very interesting and all seem like they have their own backstory. My favorite character in the story would be Abraham Lincoln. Just because you get to see what his life is like and how the country views the man who lost the civil war. The book is also just the first part of a series which goes through the period of World War I and World War II and how the North and South react to that. I believe there are two things that make this book standout, its characters, and its lore. For those two reasons alone I will have to recommend this book. Or the entire series, what ever is your cup of tea.

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

In Kathryn Stockett’s, The Help, she writes about African-American maids in Southern Mississippi during the 1960’s. Skeeter, one of the protagonists in the story, brings light to their circumstances by publishing a book about their experiences. Through her interviews, I began to love every single character for different reasons, even Hilly Holbrook. I thought it was a heart-warming story that I could not put down! It’s good for all ages to read as it lets you in to some history, comedy, and respectful romance. I was interested into reading this book because I’d seen the movie a dozen times and still am not tired of it. I heard that the book was better than the movie and I thought that was just not possible and needed to find out for myself. Inspite of my efforts to prove them wrong, they were right! The book is better than the movie as it goes more in to depth about Mini, Abbigail, Hilly, and Keeter and her relationship with her Mother. Out of all the books that I’ve read, this is definately in my top three and I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a exciting and witty story where justice is served for whats right. I also don’t think that watching the movie before the book ruins the story. As I read the book and Stockett was describing the characters, I pictured Emma Stone and the rest of the cast as if they were actually made for the book.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Micah L.
Genres:
The Jungle
Sinclair, Upton
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book I picked to read for a summer book report on a fiction American novel. The book was recommend to me by my mom who had read the book a few years earlier in a college catering class. The book describes the story of Jurgis who moved to America from Lithuania in search of a better life. The story goes on to discuss the flaws of the food and meatpacking industry and the poor working conditions. The struggles of the everyday American man are revealed along with the unsanitary process of meat packing. The book was unpredictable as Jurgis is faced with one problem after another not only within the food industry but with the constant life of struggling to keep himself and family alive with little to no money. The book was very depressing and may not be the first choice of those looking for a heroic or uplifting story. The story was never boring and there was never a time that something new wasn't being introduced into the book that added more to the story every second. The historical aspects found in the book are very accurate considering that one of Upton Sinclair's closet friends was Mother Jones who was a huge part in the labor movement during the 1900s. The book was also interesting in the fact of how much America has changed throughout the years and it what ways it is still the same and not much has been done. The book did help me throughout the rest of the year in both English and US history classes to understand the lives in which the everyday American lived. I found this book very interesting and fun, especially for a summer reading, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to take a trip into the 1900s.
Reviewer Grade:11

Reviewer's Name: Madison G.
Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See
Doerr, Anthony
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is the story of two teenagers living during World War Two. Marie-Laure LeBlanc is blind, and lives with her father in France. Werner Pfennig lives in a coal mining town in Germany. As war draws near, Marie-Laure and her father move to the French coast to try to avoid the war while Werner is pressed into service in the German army. Both of the main characters learn to accept and cope with war in their own unique ways. They come of age through the war, and learn to navigate their war-torn world. This novel was recommended to me by my grandmother. I took her recommendation eagerly, as I love studying history. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the author used different points of view to show many sides of one story. Each of the characters must learn to interpret their own experience whether that is Marie-Laure memorizing her way around her city or Werner in his military service. I found both of the main characters very relate-able, despite their story taking place decades ago. Marie-Laure has a never-ending curiosity and Werner is constantly questioning the morals he is presented by his society. These characteristics are things that I think many teenagers, of any era, can relate to. This has been one of my favorite reads this year, and I would highly recommend reading this novel.

Reviewer's Name: Hannah H.
Genres:
The Girl in the Tower
Arden, Katherine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Katherine Arden's The Girl In The Tower is just as good, if not better, than the first book, The Bear and The Nightingale. Filled with more Russian Fairy tales, atmospheric literary prose, rich and strong characters, and the same enchanting setting of Medieval Russia, this book picks up right where the first one left off. It follows the story of Vasya, now a grown up woman she, instead of conforming to the role woman in her day usually play, of marriage or life in a convent, chooses instead a life of adventure. Leaving her home and traveling the vast Russian Wilderness while dressed as a boy, she soon is called upon to defend the city of Moscow and finds the threat greater and more deadly than she imagined. While fighting this threat, only she can stop, she is also forced to protect her secret as she comes upon her brother and attracts the attention of the Grand Prince of Moscow.

Part of what drew me to this book is the fairy tales, yes, but also the historical setting of Medieval Russia. Katherine Arden does a masterful job of weaving fantasy elements with real life historical details only a great historian would discover. Blurring the line between history, fantasy, and reality this book and, more importantly this series, is contemporary historical fantasy at its best. It is a sketch not only of real life in Medieval Russia, but also displays the power of story and demonstrates the importance of fairy tales and the lessons they can teach us.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie M.
Awards:
The Pox Party
Anderson, M.T.
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I didn’t enjoy this book at all. It is not a classic but it is written like one. It is historical fiction and there is some pretty disgusting parts in this book. Warning: do not read before eating. However, do not let my opinion discourage you. You may love this book and you may not. I, on the other hand won’t read this book again.

Reviewer grade: 8th

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth C.
Genres:
The Bear and the Nightingale
Arden, Katherine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A perfect winter read! A beautiful atmospheric retelling of the fairytale Jack Frost set in a wintry town on the edge of the Russian wilderness in Medieval Russia. Plus a strong independent female protagonist who risks everything to save her family from the evil forces all around her! What's not to love! Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale is a must read! This novel has it all mystery, magic, adventure, and love! With well developed characters and beautiful, atmospheric, lyrical writing that makes you almost feel the cold wind on your skin and see the snow flakes falling this book cannot be passed up! I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out, The Girl in The Tower!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie

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