Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Realistic

Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus
Bowling, Dusti
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I enjoyed this book a lot.
Aven has done many things that could be hard for most people, like keeping a tarantula, learning guitar, and horseback riding. But perhaps the most impressive part of Aven's accomplishments is the fact that she did it all in the absence of arms, which she had been born without. This book is the sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, which is just as good, following the adventures of Aven as well. In her first months of high school, she experiences bullies, fake friends, real friends, lies, truths, and many difficult choices. And she lives to tell the tale of many Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus.
I liked Aven's perseverance and her refusal to let anyone destroy her happiness. She is very caring, and she likes to help out, but she also has a great sense of humor. I also liked the way the author described how the characters were feeling without an outright statement.

Reviewer's Name: Kelsey
This Is Where It Ends
Nijkamp, Marieke
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

This Is Where It Ends follows four students who recount their perspectives going through a school shooting at Opportunity High. Initially, I was intrigued to read this book since it covers a very sensitive topic and is a topic that I was interested in learning more about. However, the novel completely missed all my expectations. Instead of a thoughtful, heavily researched, realistic story, I got a novel that seemed to be an insult to any school shooting victim. The novel was way too action-packed, in such a way that every single plot point in the book seemed wildly exaggerated. Making it worse, the school shooter in the novel was way too villainized. With cheesy lines and no real reasoning behind his actions, the author made it seem like the shooter was some kind of superhero comic villain, with no other drive for his actions besides to incite fear in others. There was no psychological deep dive into why the shooter, a previous student in the school, ended up in the way he did, and why he thought his only solution to his problems was to murder his classmates. It was a shame to read such a novel meant to address a major problem in America, but was instead contorted and desensitized in a way to appeal to the entertainment industry, and failed to have any educational value at all. To put it shortly, This Is Where It Ends seems more of an action-thriller novel, not one that is meant to be taken seriously at all.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
Chomp book jacket
Hiaasen, Carl
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is a book that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. I've read it every year since I was in elementary school, and it's a great story about kids standing up to nonsensical adults in a humorous yet adventurous way. Wahoo is an observant, level-headed character who contrasts with his father's personality well. I also love the girl Tuna because she is brave for everyone except herself, which is such an interesting character trope to follow. There's a great message of the negative impacts of media, such as reality television, and finding beauty in unconventional things. It is a quick read that will stick with you for a long time.

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Big Nate: In a Class by Himself book jacket
Peirce, Lincoln
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Big Nate, or Nate Wright, is a boy who has to deal with an arrogant teacher suck-up Gina, his perfect sister Ellen, who, Nate says, adults are too short-sighted to see how annoying she is, and a number of teachers including the worst one of all, Mrs. Godfrey. She apparently fails to recognize that despite his lack of knowing anything about history, or really anything else academic, that he is destined for greatness in the future. Nate feels though that at the current stage in his life, 6th grade, he can't do much about people not realizing his greatness, especially when surrounded by misguided teachers, his clueless father, or his joking best friends Francis and Teddy. Luck strikes when Nate didn't eat breakfast and one of his best friends Teddy offers him a fortune cookie. Most of the time Nate wouldn't get anything worth thinking about, but this time is different because, "Today you will surpass all others." As soon as he gets this, He realizes that the only place that he will surpass all the others is at school because at home the only people he could surpass is his clueless dad and his annoying sister. Because of this, he tries every class out of the day to make it happen, causing him to land seven detentions throughout the day. Will Nate Wright be able to surpass all of the others, or will he be in detention, "In a class by himself."

I liked this book because Nate seems to not understand very much about what he should do in the world, so this means that he will inevitably make his own funny decisions. The only reason that I didn't like this book as much was because it was the first in the series and I just didn't feel like it was the best one out of them. I picked this book because I had already read some of the other books in the series, (I read them out of order,) and I decided that I probably should read the first one to see how the story began. This book surprised me because I had no idea what the "origin story" could possibly be for this kind of a character, but if I would have guessed, the story would have exceeded my expectations. I have read many books like this, this year so sadly I can't say that it is one of the best ones that I have read this year.

Reviewer's Name: Cooper
Restart book cover
Korman, Gordon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Restart is about a boy who fell off a roof, forcing him to relearn his entire life. His old life, however, is nothing like what he envisioned. From throwing rotten tomatoes at cars to terrorizing the school, Chase is no longer who is friends want him to be. I liked this book because you never know when a bit of his old life will pop out of a clear blue sky. The moral of the story, don't hide things on a roof.

Reviewer's Name: Kai
500 Words or Less book cover
del Rosario, Juleah
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

500 Words or Less is about Nic Chen, a girl now hated by her high school after cheating on her beloved boyfriend. Nic is trying desperately to salvage her senior year, when she stumbles upon an opportunity to write admission essays for her frighteningly ambitious peers. As she writes and learns more about the people around her, she begins to understand how much she needs to learn about herself.
This book is almost entirely in verse, which is interesting. In some parts, it's basically a normal book, just put in a more vertical format. Other times, the structure really benefits the prose, and the beautiful writing lends to the more whimsical medium. The book was almost entirely sad, and crossed into heartbreaking at the end, making it great for catharsis. Although the story itself was fairly standard high school drama, the underlying currents of mental illness, grief, and acceptance lent it a lot of weight. The book made good use of repetition and symbolism to represent cyclical thought, and had some good twists, especially one at the end that was really gut punching. The main characters were really well fleshed out, especially some side characters that helped make the story less one note. The main characters conflicts also felt very realistic, and made her sympathetic despite many of the things she did.
All in all, this was a good book. I would recommend this to anyone who likes poetry, drama, and lots of introspection.

Reviewer's Name: Eve M
Charming as a Verb book jacket
Phillipe, Ben
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Charming As A Verb" follows Columbia-ambitious professional dog walker Henri, who works hard at the prestigious FATE academy to secure his future. When intense classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy threatens to expose the fraudulencies of his dog walking business, Henri is forced to help her increase her social standing to boost an application to a dream school of her own. Before long, the two of them become close, but will their college ambition tear them apart?
This book states what it is right on the cover: charming. The atmosphere of the book is calm and cool, easily laying out a protagonist with sparkling personality and quick wit. The setting is a hectic but homey New York, the perfect set for a cautionary tale on doomed ambitions. The characters and dialouge feel real and grounded, with their own flaws and quirks that keep them loveable and relatable. The plot is relatively slow-paced, but still draws in the audience with the underlying tension of college admissions. The book was fairly standard for its genre, but it does stand out with the conflict at the end. In short, near the end of the book the protagonist does something the audience finds unthinkable, but is still understandable after all that we've grown to know him. And the consequences afterward are realistic and dire, really nailing the lesson of the story home. I only had a couple criticisms. The first was that the love interest of the story was so over the top that she sometimes came off as a caricature rather than person, although this was improved over time. I also felt that the ending didn't fully follow through the consequences of the conflict, making it a bit flat.
All in all, this was still a really good book, which I'd definitely recommend to anyone who likes well written romance, fun characters, and cute descriptions of dogs.

Reviewer's Name: Eve
The Fault in Our Stars book jacket
Green, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

“The Fault in Our Stars” is about Hazel Grace, Augustus Waters, and many other things. We follow Hazel and Gus through their lives which seem to involve a lot of cancer. Hazel's lungs are not good lungs, they fill up with water with causes problems due to cancer. Augustus has one leg due to cancer but is doing fine. Gus and Hazel develop a relationship over reading Hazel's favorite book, An Imperial Affliction. The book leaves behind a lot of questions when it ends. In the novel we watch Hazel and Augustus navigate through their lives and become close to each other. We watch Hazel and Gus live their lives and watch life happen to them.

“The Fault in Our Stars” is a book that will break your heart, be prepared for it. Both Augustus and Hazel will make you fall in love with them. Their dynamic is adorable and so adorable and so enjoyable. Isaac was such a wonderful character. He was a friend of Augustus and personally he is one of my favorite characters. The medical accuracy is probably meh but it made sense to me, who is not a medical person. This book is part realistic, romantic, and bittersweet. The writing style describes the emotions so well. The figurative elements are used in such fun and creative ways. This book is beautiful, the characters are beautiful, the plot was beautiful, and the writing style was beautiful. The book shows the characters getting screwed over by life and it was great at showing that life isn’t perfect and that sometimes life seems to bite you in the butt. This book progresses at the perfect speed, makes you love the characters, and then breaks your heart. This book is perfect for anyone searching for an emotional book that just is realistic and beautiful.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan
Goodbye Stranger book jacket
Stead, Rebecca
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Goodbye Stranger is a love letter to the changing points, the shaky areas of childhood that help us figure out who we are in a world that constantly wants us to change. Bridge survived a being hit by a car, currently wears cat ears, and wonders why she's still alive. Sherm writes letters to his grandfather and refuses to answer his calls. Emily and Tabitha made a pact with Bridge to never argue, but are being pulled inextricably apart by text messages and social justice clubs. An unnamed wanderer navigates a world where everything is made of lava, and best friends are replaced by horrid outsiders. As their stories collide and come apart, they'll need to figure out what to do when those they know best become strangers.
I read Rebecca Stead's "When You Reach Me" when I was in middle school, and it blew me away. I read her "Goodbye Stranger", now in high school, and found that the change in years didn't change the impact. The thing that astounded me was, despite me being well outside the age range of her characters, I found the book entrancing for all ages. The characters problems and personalities don't seem juvenile or trite. They seem human, a little heartbreaking, and highly relatable. I think the thing that makes this book are the characters. They're each as unique as a fingerprint, but they maintain their ability to sound strangely like the people you go to school with, or work with, or live with. Each of their motivations are perfectly obvious, each of their flaws on stunning display, fleshing out characters that feel like you'd see them wandering around your school on any given day. The book has a lot of heavy topics and sorrow packed into barely 300 pages, but still feels light enough that you aren't miserable the whole time. There's a lot of heart, a lot of happiness, and a lot of good changes alongside the tragedies of middle-school, or just regular, life. The book has a floating quality that makes it feel strangely detached. I can't tell you if this is a good or bad thing, but its definitely intentional, and it definitely messed with my ahead enough to make me want to keep reading. The only concrete things I can really say about this book is that the prose was excellent, the writing was accessible, the characters were interesting, the topics were thoughtful, and the ending was satisfying.
All in all, this book is really hard to describe. It's happy and sad and very realistic and very detached from reality and simplistic and strangely complex. I don't know what to call this book except a good read for those that like small stories, cat ears, friendships, broken friendships, and the infinite potential of strangers.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Eve
Michigan vs. the Boys
Allen, Carrie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is a great way to be introduced to larger ideas while still being entertained by an athletic young adult novel. In the book, Michigan is a high school hockey player who is forced to push back against misogynistic stereotypes when she joins a boys' team. What happens when teenage boys are encouraged by (or at least not restricted from) adult role models to play into the idea that Michigan doesn't fit in? The play between unreliable adults and teenagers who make mistakes but are still doing their best is one of the most realistic and fulfilling stories. It sends a message about the athletic community as well as public schools and the way they respond to serious situations. I highly recommend this read.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Outsiders book jacket
Hinton, S. E.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you're looking for an awesome book that makes you truly fall in love with its characters, you've found the right novel with The Outsiders! Meet Ponyboy, a greaser living in 1950s Tulsa, Oklahoma with his two brothers: Sodapop and Darry and all of his friends including troublemaker Dallas Winston and his best friend, Johnny Cade. The boys are all stuck in an intense turf war with the richer kids also known as the Socs, but will they find a way out of the intensity or will life only get rougher for them? I absolutely loved the characters in this book, you will grow to love their fun personalities and their strong bond, showing that family is not just connected by blood but by love. I also enjoy how this book focuses a lot on the differences economically during this time, showing that the 50s weren't just poodle skirts and milkshakes, but also difficult for those who couldn't afford to be rich. If you want a book that will leave you on the edge of your seat, wanting more, don't overlook the Outsiders for a minute.

Reviewer Grade: Senior/12th

Reviewer's Name: Alexis
Gracefully Grayson
Polonsky, Ami
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Gracefully Grayson is about a boy in sixth grade who is forced to go through the struggles of transfering to a girl. In the middle of sixth grade, Grayson has the opportunity to try out for a school play. He has not done any after school, but he decided to go out on a limb and try out, but for the lead girl part. He ends up getting the part, but word spreads fast around his school, and him and his teacher, who is the play director, both get hate. While he rehearses for the play, he has to deal with bullies, the weight of thinking that he might get his teacher fired, and his aunt not supporting him fully. He also has to figure out whether he wants to show off everything he wants to wear, or stick to the boring ways boys act and what they wear.
This book was ok. It showed the pressure that LGBTQ people go through every day, but there were no huge plots. The book was boring at parts, but overall, it was a good story and book. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an easy read.

Reviewer's Name: Mackenzie
Auggie and Me
Palacio, R.J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you have already read the award-winning story Wonder, you would know the story of an ordinary boy who has a face, that is not so ordinary. August Pullman is a boy who was born with no physical disability, but a severe facial deformity. He has to make his way through middle school, his first public school experience. He has to deal with name calling and isolation, but eventually he wins over the hearts of middle school society with his wonderful inner spirit. This amazing story that has warmed so many hearts, you might think, would be ruined by the sequel Auggie & Me, as sequels usually discredit the original story, but the special thing about this sequel is it is the same story but from some different perspectives that weren't in the original book. These perspectives are from Charlotte, a girl who has always been nice to August but didn't say much in the book, Christopher, August's best friend that moved away when he was younger, and Julian, the bully. This last one is especially important because many people looked at him like a "devil child" but what many forgot to remember was that everyone has their own battle. This new perspective helps his case. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like a new perspective and a further view of the characters in the book Wonder.

I liked this book because of the fact that it gave me even more closure on an already amazing book. I picked this book because I had already read, and loved, Wonder and I wanted to see the next book from R. J. Palacio. The thing that I enjoyed most about this book, surprisingly, was the new perspective on Charlotte. In the book Wonder it said that it "was a boys war." This quote is key because with the new perspective of Charlotte, it gives us way more of the perspective the girls had and the friends that they became. I honestly didn't dislike a single bit of this book. It wasn't predictable at all, and it was able to spin a wonderful addition to an already amazing story. One character I could relate to was Christopher because he had to leave his best friend and his school and go to a new place where no one else was going. I can relate to this because when I went to middle school, I went to a middle school that no one I knew went to. This was hard for me, and I saw that with Christophers Experience as well as mine. Because of this and other reasons stated, this is 100% one of the best books I have read all year.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Cooper
100 Days of Sunlight book jacket
Emmons, Abbie
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Abbie Emmon's debut novel is a contemporary romance following Tessa Dickinson, a poetry blogger who temporarily loses her eyesight, and Weston Ludivico, who is hired to help her type her poetry onto her blog. Tessa is upset by his presence and claims he doesn't understand what she's going through - what she doesn't know is that Weston lost both of his legs three years ago and has been wearing prosethics ever since.
The idea behind this novel is something that I rarely see, and I appreciate the representation of different disabilities and how that affects the character's lives. However, the romance feels very unrealistic and unhealthy. The pacing is very slow until the ending, and I couldn't relate to Tessa at all, unlike Weston. The book felt very predictable, especially by the end, and I never felt interested in the romance or like I was rooting for the main characters. I did enjoy Weston's backstory, but Tessa felt comparatively one dimensional. However, the book did have a sweet overall message and quite a few good lines.
If you are not looking for something very serious and like a sappy, fluffy romance, I think you would enjoy this novel. Weston is a very sweet character that I enjoyed reading about, and Tessa's thought process is interesting. However, the pacing problems and lack of character development can be very difficult to get through.

Reviewer grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Havah
I Am the Messenger book jacket
Zusak, Markus
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I am the Messenger is about an ordinary guy that makes something of himself when he gets playing cards in the mail telling him to help people. I thought this book was ok. It tried to have a quick and clever writing style, but there are other books that are much better for that. The plot is ok, and it is entertaining. While I'm not going to spoil the ending, it is kind of a disappointment. Overall, I would say that this book is ok, but there are much better books out there.

Reviewer's Name: Emani
Seedfolks book jacket
Fleischman, Paul
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

With its short chapters and simple tone, Paul Fleischman's book Seedfolks is a quick and inspiring read. The story begins with a young Vietnamese girl planting lima beans in a vacant lot on an apartment block in Cleveland. From there, more and more people begin to contribute, and just as the vacant lot grows into a garden, these people--all of different ages and ethnicities--grow into a community. Each chapter features a different perspective, incorporating previous characters, showing how they interact with each other. The small impact these strangers have on the lives of their neighbors is wholesome and profound.

Seedfolks is a great read for kids, teens, and adults alike. It follows a simple plot but carries more complex undertones of race and class, while creating a hopeful atmosphere. I found the story creative and inspiring. As someone who often gets caught up in thinking about the unknown lives of strangers, I enjoyed seeing through Seedfolks how everyone we encounter has an impact on our lives, and how, whether or not we realize it, we do the same for others. In a world that tries to divide people, it is possible to come together, coexist, and support each other--even across the lines drawn by society.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa
Speak book jacket
Anderson, Laurie Halse
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I thought to speak was a very good book. It was well written and had very deep concepts to deal with. This book made me feel and almost cry for some of the characters.
Melinda is a ninth-grade outcast who goes down a trail of depression. She has a few friends but all her old ones don't like her anymore. As the story goes on you learn about Mel's life and what happened to make her slip up at school.
I personally really enjoyed this book because it was from a perspective of a girl that doesn't live the same type of life as me but I believe even if this is your situation you'll enjoy the book and could relate to the main character. Many concepts that can be hard to deal with are shown in this book. Including depression, school slump, the act of hurting oneself, lying, untrustworthiness, and one of the hardest to grapple with harassment and being shamed for doing the right thing. throughout all the ups and downs of his life as a ninth-grader, this book will give anyone insight into what happens behind the scenes of a troubled teen. How one can fall under the challenges of modern life and what it means to keep a secret that almost ruined your life.

Reviewer's Name: Clare
Book Review: Homecoming
Voight, Cynthia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The main plot of Homecoming begins when Dicey, Maybeth, James, and Sammy Tillerman are abandoned by their mother at a mall parking lot in the town of Peewauket for unclear reasons. Their father had already left them previously, so after many financial difficulties they were forced to take a trip to receive aid from their Great Aunt Cilla in Bridgeport, Connecticut. They were left with limited money, not enough for a bus, to somehow make their way to Bridgeport. Led by 13-year-old sister Dicey, they must rely on their wits and survival skills to pave the way to their home. Upon arrival, they hit roadblocks. Despite this, they are able to make more money and discover the valuable information their grandmother lives in the small town of Crisfield, Maryland. They are unsure whether or not she is safe because of the instability that runs in the family. Without anything to lose, they decide to make their way to Crisfield in a second attempt to find their home.

I really enjoyed this book because of how they hooked me in really well by creating an atmosphere of desperation and mystery. For example, "why did their father leave?" or, "was their grandmother crazy?" The even better part about this is at the end of the book, it spun up the story very well for a book in a series. Most books in a series, in my opinion, leave you wanting too much at the end of a book. This one just left us with a few key questions left to answer. One of the characters that I felt like I related to, or rather that I hope to relate to, was a character named Windy. Windy was a student at college who took the Tillerman's in when they needed him the most. He was extremely kind towards them and better yet, he did it in a humble way. I hope I can be like this character so I can shine brightness into someone's life that needs it someday. I believe, even though the year is young, that this will be one of the best books I will have read this year. This book was an amazing tale, which I would recommend to anyone in eighth grade or higher.

Reviewer's Name: Cooper
Here in the Real World book cover
Pennypacker, Sara
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I would highly recommend "Here in the Real World" to any introvert looking for a lighthearted weekend read. When Ware's parents want him to be a more "normal" boy, they send him off to a summer camp, hoping he'll learn to like social interaction if he gives it a try. But instead of actually attending the camp each day, Ware hides out with a girl he meets named Jolene.

Jolene has been inhabiting a local church over the summer, and growing a small garden there. Since she's not willing to move, Ware begins helping with the garden every day, and a friendship blossoms between the two. However, trouble emerges once again when the two hear of city plans to demolish the rundown church. It's up to the two kids to save their garden - and the environment - before it's too late.

I found this story to be reminiscent of "Hoot" by Carl Hiassen, and think anyone who likes realistic fiction should give it a read. I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because I thought the low level of supervision the children had was a bit unreasonable and not realistic in today's society. But other than that, it's a superb book.

Reviewer's Name: Audrey
Where the Red Fern Grows book jacket
Rawls, Wilson
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is an emotional masterpiece, and it is the first book that ever made me truly cry. Watch as Billy Colman scrapes together the money he needs to fulfill his dream, buying two hounds to hunt racoons. Thrill as Billy quickly becomes famous for his exploits, and fall in love with his trusty furry companions Little Ann and Old Dan. This book will emotionally connect with anyone who has ever has a furry friend and it will take your heartstrings along for the ride as Billy and his dogs go through thick and thin. I would recommend this exceptional book to anyone who is looking for a heavier and more emotional read.

Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Harrison