Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Biography/Memoir

You're the Only One I've Told: The Stories Behind Abortion
Shah, Meera, Dr.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

With all that goes on in the world, politically and socially, it is important to seek out resources and educate yourself on the topics you care about. This book was that for me. I like how the author used her credibility as a doctor to share facts about abortion while also opening up a platform for individuals to tell their deeply personal stories. This book is heavy and heartbreaking and empowering. I can't recommend it enough.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
When Breath Becomes Air
Kalanithi, Paul
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When Breath Becomes Air is an autobiographical, nonfiction, story of Paul Kalanithi, a man who has worked his whole life to pursue his dreams. Kalanithi is a top neurosurgeon-neuroscientist a couple years away from graduating medical school. Even before graduating, million dollar offers pour in for Kalanithi to head new, top research facilities. However, disaster strikes: lung cancer. Kalanithi talks about his progression from seeing people in the patient's chair to being the one in the chair. Throughout his journey, Kalanithi informs the reader of the life cycle, the importance of hard work, and most importantly, family and love.

Reviewer's Name: Finn
999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Jewish Transport to Auschwitz
Macadam, Heather Dune
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I wavered between a 4 and 5 star review here, but my reviews are based on storytelling ability, not necessarily how little I enjoyed hearing about the details of Auschwitz. This author did a fantastic job of telling the stories of nearly 1,000 women while letting some of their personal accounts lead the pace and tone. Though the characters were hard to keep track of at some points, there was constant clarification of individuals to develop empathy for the girls in the Holocaust. There was also some groundbreaking information on the sexist disparities between records of the female experience in Auschwitz- as soon as you think life couldn't have been worse for these prisoners, it is revealed that women were treated the absolute worst. Definitely worth the read if you can stomach the tragedy.

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Diary of a Young Girl book cover
Frank, Anne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Diary of a Young Girl is a series of diary entries written by Anne Frank, a young girl who recounts her experiences during the Holocaust. Anne writes her experiences using memorable quotes, and even through her tough experiences, still manages to write with a sense of hopeful optimism, and Anne's belief in the world and humanity are both inspiring and tear-jerking. Anne writes in the voice of a young girl but also writes in an astonishingly real and mature way. Reading her diary entries will educate all readers on what it was truly like to live through the Holocaust, and will help those who want to be informed to be more educated on the event. The Diary of a Young Girl carries out the message of hope and teaches readers the horrors of history. All age groups should most definitely read this novel, as it holds majorly valuable lessons and will hopefully teach all audiences not to repeat our past mistakes.

Reviewer's Name: Michelle Y
Winning Balance book jacket
Johnson, Shawn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I rate this book five stars. The book is an autobiography written by Shawn Johnson about her experience growing up as a gymnast. Beginning with her experience in school and ending with her experience at the 2008 Olympics, the book is both motivating and inspiring. I can relate to Shawn Johnson in her determination and the in the way she dreams big. I would recommend this book to anyone, and it is in my top ten books of all time.

Reviewer's Name: Katie
Born A Crime
Noah, Trevor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Born A Crime is the story of comedian Trevor Noah's childhood in South Africa. Each chapter follows a certain theme and features a lesson which Noah learns and takes with him as he grows up. Noah confronts darker, more serious topics with an endearing sense of humor and a resilient perspective, making the autobiography wise, poignant, funny, and heartfelt.

Trevor Noah's mother was the most influential person in his life. Being born to a black mother and white father during South Africa's apartheid, he was a "crime" under the law, but his mother made sure that he still had all the opportunities that other children did, and even more. She gave him knowledge and experiences, taught him how to respect women, and never stopped laughing. As Noah vividly portrays his mother, she comes alive on the pages of his autobiography. His story is also her story--of love, loss, pain, and joy.

This is a book that everyone should read. It speaks to the complexity of racism and its lasting consequences, but it is also entertaining and engaging. Noah tells stories of sadness and hardship alongside funny anecdotes that will make readers laugh out loud.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Skloot, Rebecca
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, written by Rebecca Skloot, is a book detailing the life of Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta Lacks unknowingly donated her cells to one of the most important fields of research, cancer cures. Her tumor cells, also known as “HeLa”, are extraordinary in that they replicate fast enough to create a whole new human in under 48 hours. This book is fascinating in more than one way: it explores the history of her and her cells, and it explores some gray areas in rights to cells and parts of dead entities. Instead of focusing just on one topic and one family, it expands to include many that have had to deal with bio material rights. I personally found this an interesting but slightly disturbing read. I recommend reading this one to learn about the history of cell rights and their gray areas.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan
Free Lunch
Ogle, Rex
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Free Lunch" by Rex Ogle was one of the best books I've read all year. A true story, this book follows a 6th grade boy living in poverty. Both his mom and dad are unemployed, and he is forced to babysit his two-year-old brother, rather than hang out with friends. He doesn't even have time to complete his homework. Rex is determined to succeed, but struggles to focus in class because of his constant hunger - all his family can afford us cheap junk food. I liked his character development throughout the story, and how he gradually grew to be a better and more mature person. I'd recommend this for anyone interested in nonfiction and coming-of-age stories. It's a fairly easy read with simple language, best for younger tweens and teens. Just a warning, though: the story deals with heavy topics which may be triggering to some, so if you are sensitive to this sort of material, it might be best to avoid.
Reviewer's Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Audrey
I Am Malala
Yousafzai, Malala
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I Am Malala is a moving story about a young girl and how she not only fought death from a bullet, but also fought for her rights to education. The main character in our story, Malala, was a strong young girl who stood up for herself and fought for her rights to education, and many other rights for women and girls. In 2012, Malala was shot point-blank on her head on her way back from school, and somehow survived. Even after almost dying, she continued to spread her message of hope, truth, and miracles, and even became the youngest person ever to earn a Nobel Peace Prize. I loved this book because Malala's words and actions were very inspirational, especially for a young women, and made anyone feel that if they try hard enough and stand their ground, they can inspire thousands. If I were to give this book a grade out of 10, I would give it a 10/10.

Reviewer's Name: Lilleah
Unbroken book jacket
Hillenbrand, Laura
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Unbroken (teen version) is a well crafted biography written by Laura Hillenbrand. Unbroken tells the story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympian and bombardier of World War II. Louie was mischievous and trouble-making as a young boy until his older brother, Pete, introduced him to running. As Pete urged Louie into the sport of running, Louie began to desert his old ways and commit himself to running. Louie soon was at the top of his school in running, setting new records and winning numerous races. Louie’s skill carried him all the way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Reaching the strongest point of his life, Louie hoped to travel to Tokyo for the following Olympic games. Unfortunately, terror came and his dreams were to be put on hold. World War II struck, causing Louie to enter into the Army Air Forces as a bombardier. Louie and his team of airmen faced many near death experiences. Although these were blood-curdling situations, none would compare to what Louie was soon to face. On a rescue mission in May of 1943, Louie’s plane crashed. The crash led to a terrifying and unfathomable journey on which Louie survived life on a raft and the wrath of Japanese guards of the POW camp he resided at. Louie went through incomprehensible pain from being beaten by his captors, having to perform forced labor, going through starvation, and constantly battling a sickness. He was also robbed of his self-esteem and was treated like he was worthless. Consequently, Louie’s story is breathtaking and intriguing. Unbroken provides insight on the torturous lives of POW during WWII and the determination and perseverance of many during WWII.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a WWII buff, history lover, or is in search of a thrilling and breathtaking story. I enjoyed it because I am interested in learning about World War II and I found the book to be moving. Unbroken is fascinating and is not dull or boring. The book will leave you wanting more and you will find it hard to put it down. However, I found the beginning part to be a bit uninteresting and tedious, as it told about the planes and equipment for World War II. Once that part is over, though, the book is quite exhilarating. I would caution that younger children should not read the book, as there are some graphic and gruesome scenes of how the POWs were treated. I would suggest the book for teens between the ages of 13-16, since there is an adult version of the book for those older than these ages.
Unbroken is one of my favorite books, and anyone who is interested in history or is seeking an electrifying story should read it.

Reviewer's Name: Ava W.
The Glass Castle
Walls, Jeanette
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The book The Glass Castle is an autobiography by Jeanette Walls, going through her hectic life and how she handled everything. I liked this book, but it's about a really sensitive topic, and it could go through a lot of overwhelming and gross details towards the middle of the book, so I recommend for more sensitive readers not to read this. I picked this book because I saw that we had to read it in school, so of course, I wanted a little peek of what it was about. The start of the book was more calm, but readers could start to tell that her family isn't the way it's supposed to be. Throughout the book, there will be a lot of surprising and unexpected events, most not very wanted. I wouldn't say I "enjoyed" the book because that would sound wrong, but I felt the need to keep reading, seeing what happens next. I feel like a lot of students could relate to Jeanette. Maybe our conditions might not be as bad as hers, but readers could feel luckier and safe to be living a better life. But overall, I do recommend this book to less sensitive readers.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Trisha
Born A Crime
Noah, Trevor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This story explains what it was like to be born a crime. Trevor Noah is the child of a South African mother and a European father, which in South Africa, was illegal. Trevor has to learn how to stay positive with a racist government in control. This book does an excellent job explaining what it was like to grow up during Apartheid. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book because despite the bad circumstances, this book made me laugh a lot.

Reviewer's Name: Lotus
Profiles in Courage
Kennedy, John F
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book contained a lot of wisdom from a president’s point of view and was a very useful insight into his perspective. I appreciated the many different stories about many different historical figures and their trials, however, i did notice a strong bias against others and their perspectives. If i was to recommend this book to someone else, I would advise them to be careful about taking every word he says to heart, as he doesn’t phrase things from a neutral perspective. Overall i enjoyed the book, but it should be read by people looking for insight, not as an entertaining or exciting book. Though it may not have been thrilling or suspenseful, overall it was really good.

Reviewer's Name: Aubrey
Priceless : How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures
Wittman, Robert K.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Are you a fan of true crime novels? Do you just love the excitement, the suspense of solving mysteries? Or do you like art and the masters like Leonardo de Vinci? This book is for you. Well on the outside this book might just seem like another true crime story it is really different. I always liked crime novels and tv shows and I was and still am interested in the work organizations like the FBI do to prevent crime. This book has a different approach to your classic true crime novel by not just focusing on how the FBI solves murders but by focusing on how one man (the author) went undercover in the FBI to help recover some of the world's most famous stolen art pieces. It centers around his life and shows other things than just his cases, like how he was suspected of killing his friend. It also tells the story of how he founded the FBI's Art Crime Team. Well this book may not be for everyone if you like a good true crime book this book may work for you. It is slow in parts but makes up for that by telling stories that seem absurd to realize actually happened.

Reviewer's Name: Emily
Small steps: the year I got polio
Kehret, Peg
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In this amazing autobiography, Peg tells the story about how she got polio and cheated death. When Peg found out she had polio her life changed. When she got to the hospital, she was terrified! When Peg meet her roommates, she realized that this was not the end of the world. She fights her battle with polio and wins it with the help of doctors therapists and her family. This book will entertain with ages from 6 to adult! I defiantly recommend this to read is your looking for a short great read.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Estella
Man's Search for Meaning
Frankl, Viktor E.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Man’s Search for Meaning gives a rare perspective on life during the Holocaust. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was forced into four different labor camps during WWII, and ultimately survived, while his family members were all slaughtered. Most books from the Holocaust are centered around horror stories from prison camps, and the sheer brutality of one of human history’s most devastating genocides. Frankl gives the psychiatrist’s view on life after camp and works to answer one essential question - how do we move on from grief? He recounts the moment he was free to leave as confusing - almost more shocking than freeing. What do you do after your entire family is killed? Where do you go after being released from a death camp hundreds of miles from home?

The book’s storytelling is devastating and beautifully crafted, and its exploration of humanity’s search for lives worth living - lives significant for the individual - has become one of America’s most influential pieces of literature. The book is heartbreaking, but so is any story worth telling. It has everything to be expected from such a terrifying chapter in our history, but what makes it so unique is the way it addresses life after the terror ends. Anyone wanting to search for meaning in their own lives, or at the very least get a new perspective on the Holocaust, needs to read this.

Reviewer's Name: Malachi
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
Kamkwamba, William and Mealer, Bryan
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book is one of the most inspirational stories I've ever read. The journey put forth, following William, is truly a gem that makes you think about what could've happened if something had been different. I loved reading it because I felt every details of William's journey to develop his windmill that put him on fame. His determination to prove that science is 'real' and can make a difference, especially during a time and in a culture that rejects it, shows his character and his want for a better life in his land. He perseveres through the struggles of drought and hunger, and overcomes the ridicule thrown from all sides to be able to rise up and rise above, and make his visions come true. A really inspirational story, that shows a hero's journey in a way not usually thought.

Reviewer's Name: Evelyn
Wild Swans
Chang, Jung
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Jung Chang recalls the experiences of her grandmother, her mother, and finally herself, all in distinct eras of China in Wild Swans. While the book is about Chang's family and the hardships they faced under changing authorities, the account is just as much about the consequences of ideologies, and how our loyalties shape who we are. Chang describes the brutalities of Japanese occupation, as well as the callous nature of China under Mao Zedong. The book is slow at first but becomes thrilling with the rise of Mao, and Chang's detailing of life under Communism. Highly recommended for those interested in learning more about China in the twentieth century.

Reviewer's Name: Lily
Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave
Douglass, Frederick
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass illustrates Douglass's life during slavery in Maryland and his attempts to make it to freedom. This narrative demonstrates the horrific situations/events and the terrible way slaves were treated throughout the time period of slavery way deeper than the average history text book. The narrative is extremely informative about life's of slaves since it goes into specifics about slaves being born, their living quarters, amounts of food, the masters, etc. It is very difficult to relate to or know exactly how a slave was treated in this time period; however, this book allows readers to understand the hideous and fearful actions that were taken against these human beings. This narrative brought tears to my eyes and shocking expressions to my face when reading certain real events that took place. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it was extremely well written because it allowed me to see more than what is taught in an American History class because Frederick Douglass goes so in-depth about his experiences in slavery throughout the narrative.

Reviewer grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Lana
The Girl with Seven Names
Lee, Hyeonseo with David John.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Hyeonseo Lee is a young woman who was able to escape North Korea after years of determination and courage. Lee explains in great detail the brainwashing she and all other North Koreans have gone through and how they continue to be treated by their oppressive government. She also offers an insight into the daily life of a North Korean and thoroughly explains that the indoctrination is not the fault of the people, but the tyrannical governments. At the young age of 17, Lee must leave everything she has known behind as she escapes on her own and makes her way across the North Koreans and Chinese border (intending to make South Korea her final destination). While on the run, Lee realizes that her journey may not be as easy as she expected. Following her successful mission, she is able to flourish even more than she originally envisioned. As you read this book, you'll finally learn why she came to be known as "the girl with seven names."

Reviewer's Name: Jenna W.