Review Crew - book reviews by teens, for teens

The Magician's Land
Grossman, Lev
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The final book of The Magicians trilogy follows Quentin back on Earth ready to take on a mission to steal a mysterious suit case along side other magically adept individuals, one being Plum, someone whom he knows from initial months after his expulsion from Fillory. Meanwhile, Eliot and Janet, along with new Fillorian royalty Josh and Poppy, work to save their world from destruction.
I really enjoyed this conclusion to this trilogy. The characters are given more depth (Janet makes her reappearance as an important character), storylines/loose ends from the previous books are solved or explained, and there are more perspectives rather than just Quentin. Seeing the story play out on both Earth and Fillory as they slowly come together near the end was a fun experience that wasn't shown in the other books due to their limited perspective.
The plot following Quentin and Plum was definitely a journey! Seeing the initial set up of the mission, the planning, and the execution and follow-up was deeply engaging. Not only were new things introduced, but it did a great job of creating its own story while connecting to previous storylines and the current plot with Fillory.
The events in Fillory were also fun, though they weren't as much of the story as Earth and didn't involve as much Josh and Poppy as I personally would have wanted. Regardless, this side of the story was also fun.
There were a few surprises that came up that were unexpected, but I'll leave them to you to see if you liked them or not.
Reader's Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Antwaan
Genres:
Legendary Children
Fitzgerald, Tom (Thomas)
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If you're looking to get educated on LGBTQ+ history, this is a great book to try. I loved hearing about some of the most influential figures of the LGBTQ+ movement and their impact on others. They persevered even through backlash from events like the AIDS epidemic and built a community where everyone is welcome to be themselves. Some parts can get slow to read, but the authors use modern language and humor to appeal to a variety of audiences and make history more entertaining. This book is so empowering, give it a try!

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Heartstopper
Oseman, Alice
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I'm not a huge graphic novel fan because previous ones I've read have been too complicated to get hooked on. This series totally changed my mind! Heartstopper is a wholesome story of two schoolboys who fall in love and deal with all sorts of backlash from it. Even through the pain and sadness that bullying can cause, Charlie and Nick have a lovely way of persevering and having great communication with their diverse support system. It teaches that no matter how alien you might feel, there is always someone ready to listen and accept you. Plus, if you like this series already, try out the Netflix series for a beautiful adaptation of it.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
We Were Liars
Lockhart, E.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The average reviews for this book are lower than usual, but it really surprised me. The story felt like a true story and dystopian and fiction all at once, not to mention the plot twist. The setting of an isolated vacation island set the background for a unique storyline between a few families with dark secrets. I enjoyed the main characters' personalities too, though there were some comments they made about homophobia and racism that were kind of weird and sounded like the author didn't do much research about the LGBTQ+ and POC communities. It was very entertaining still, and I would recommend it if you need a suspenseful story to read quickly.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
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
So This Is Love
Lim, Elizabeth
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book was a beautiful twisted tale based on Cinderella. It was a simple and quick read. I loved having it for a leisure book, it was a nice break between complex novels. On this note, I felt as though certain elements could have been developed better, such as the conspiracy within the castle. It was childishly simple to read, albeit that is part of what made this book so enjoyable. The biggest downside in my opinion was the ending. It felt far too rushed. Overall however this was a great read! I enjoyed where Elizabeth Lim picked up the story and cannot wait to read more books from her.

Reviewer's Name: Samantha
A Court of Thorns and Roses
Maas, Sarah J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book had me completely hooked! It almost follows the plot of Beauty and the Beast but in its own world with its own complex characters. Feyre's determination and strength was incredible to see in a female character. Not only is she the main character and heroin but she carries real and deep emotions. In addition to this, I love Tamlin and his court. Sarah J Mass's descriptions are in depth and I felt like I was really in the room experiencing everything as it happened. The end had my head spinning and I could not wait for the next book.

Reviewer's Name: Samantha
And Then There Were None
Christie, Agatha
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

And Then There Were None is one of the best that I have ever read. I loved watching the characters, especially because of the incredible detail that Agatha Christie used to describe them and their unique personalities. They all seem real to me. The book itself was ingenious, incorporating suspense and making every character a plausible suspect and a possible victim. I found myself turning back pages to get the facts again and again, without having a clue as to who was the murderer. I recommend this book for ages 13+ as all of the details and situations can be extremely hard to process.

Reviewer's Name: Kelsey
Shadow and Bone book jacket
Bardugo, Leigh
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Shadow and Bone contains many complex themes. It held my attention; I couldnt put it down. I fell in love with the characters. They are all complex and maintain that complexity throughout the story. Until the end that is. I was unimpressed with the ending. It felt like Alina went against her own moral code to "win" that final fight. It felt forced and quite frankly, anticlimactic. It just didn't fit.

Reviewer's Name: Samantha
The Magician King book jacket
Grossman, Lev
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The second book of The Magicians trilogy continues with Quentin, Julia, Eliot, and Janet as kings and queens of Fillory before a quest throws Quentin and Julia back to Earth, and that quest being a snippet of a bigger problem for all magicians.
I enjoyed this book better than the first one. The world is more fleshed out, the plot is more interesting, and characters are more fleshed out (Quentin remains more or less the same to me, though). The biggest aspect of the book to me is Julia. In the first book, she is rarely shown and when she is, there is zero context on what was going on with her. In this installment, we get to see her backstory and her current character as the book oscillates between the current conflict and Julia's story during the events of The Magicians. Seeing her change and how it affects her (especially at the end of the book) is such a pivotal point of her dynamic with Quentin, as well as a driving force for the plot and world building (remember hedge witches?).
Other characters from the first book make their reappearance, along with some new ones, which bring some new life into the story . However, one character is largely excluded: Janet. While she appears in the beginning, she is left off the majority of the story. While the story doesn't necessarily need her, being a key character in the first book and a queen of the setting of the story, it would have been nice to see her more within the pages.
This a definitely a good edition to the series, and with the ending and some loose ends, I wonder how the final book will tie everything together.
Reader's Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Antwaan
Genres:
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
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
Larson, Erik
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This is a compelling story of the popular World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the serial killer who took advantage of it. Set in the late 1800's, David Burnham and H. H. Holmes receive equal attention in alternating chapters between the fair's fascinating architecture and the growth of a heartless killer. I liked reading about the trials and errors of the fair and technology in the 19th century. Also, Holmes' terrifyingly calm demeanor added suspense to what would happen to his victims. It is a cool turn-of-the-century book, but the shift between monotone construction and graphic murders was an interesting style that isn't for everyone.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Simply Philosophy
Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2021
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Simply Philosophy is a collection of different ideas and concepts about a ton of topics, also showing different points of view.
This book remains one of my favorites because it takes ideas from famous philosophers in history, and then explains them in ways that are easier to understand. It uses helpful graphics and real-life examples to explain detailed concepts. One of the ideas I liked the most was from René Descartes, explaining why humans can never be sure that anything except their consciousness exists. The book was also very organized, putting similar ideas in the same sections.

Reviewer's Name: Kelsey
Genres:
Hamlet
Shakespeare, William
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Hamlet by William Shakespeare is a play that was wrote in the 1600’s. The play starts off with the death of Hamlet’s father, King Hamlet, and the mystery of how he died. Hamlet feels that he should avenge his father, but never acts on the way he feels. He continues this habit in his relationships causing them to be full of mistrust and in the end, betrayal. This play contains many themes that teach a big lesson that individuals can apply to their lives today. I recommend this book to anybody that wants a murder mystery with multiple plots twists.

Reviewer's Name: Jaala
When You Reach Me
Stead, Rebecca
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When You Reach Me is one of my favorite books of all time. It is such a compelling mystery from the perspective of a sixth-grader who is wise for her age. Miranda contemplates theories of time travel and the effect of the past on the future in a light-hearted manner that makes this story impossible to put down. I love every character and reading their dialogue always gets me to think about the importance of kindness and our relationships as humans during such a short time on Earth. If you love a philosophical mystery or are just looking to get out of a reading slump, give this book a try!

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
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
There's Someone Inside Your House
Perkins, Stephanie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As an avid Stephanie Perkins reader, this book is not her best work but still worth your time to read. There was ample suspense as Makani Young navigated the unfolding of an active serial killer's crimes in a small town, with a fast pace to not bore readers. Similar to thrillers like One of Us is Lying, I was constantly changing my mind as to who the killer could be. Do we pay attention to Ollie, the typical loner, or even one of Makani's own friends? Unfortunately, the movie adaptation did not do this story justice. Do not waver from trying it out if you stumbled across the movie first! It's not the darkest thriller I've read, but still disturbing enough to introduce a passion for the genre and keep you up at night.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Ex Talk
Solomon, Rachel Lynn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a delightful book with great diversity and a unique topic of life on the radio. I loved how Shay and Dominic's personalities complimented each other throughout the story, especially as Shay experienced misogyny and the two worked to combat it. The romance was light-hearted and side conflicts like grief were refreshing to hear about. One thing I disliked, though, was Shay's reaction to an age gap of five years between her and Dominic. She constantly threw in "old jokes" and generational-gap comments despite them both pretty much being millennials. It made the age gap more of an issue than it would have been without such dialogue and even contradicted the author's message against unfair gender norms. Would an age gap like this have been discussed if Dominic was the older one? Other than that, this book got me back into NPR and podcasts so I recommend this any day!
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Odd 1s Out: The First Sequel
Rallison, James
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If you have read my first review, then you now that this sequel was a wish come true. I say this because I was so excited to have more stories from James Rallison in the first place, which I did not see coming. I am choosing one story to talk about in this review and that story is the missing mattress. He starts talking about how he isn't the "let me speak to your manager," type. This sets up the story pretty well because it gives that little bit of foreshadowing that makes you want to keep reading. The next thing that happens is that the movers don't bring his mattress from his old apartment to his new house, and they apparently have no idea where it is. He checked his account were all of the pictures of his stuff that needed to be moved had been posted, and lo and behold, his mattress wasn't there. He decided to call customer service and see if his mattress was on his friend's account and the other person on the phone asked him to describe it to confirm it was his. Normally he is an expert at mattress description, but today he was drawing a blank, so he just asked whether or not there were two mattresses in his roommate's account. Sadly he/she, couldn't, "disclose that information." Because of this, he attempted to fairly describe it and they said that they had a mattress that fit the description he gave. They said that they would move it to his account if it was his, but just to be safe, he called his roommate to look at his account and he said it only had one mattress in it, so he assumed they moved his mattress back to his account. He checked his account the next day and, NO MATTRESS. He filled out a missing item form on the website and still 2 days later, no mattress. He was going to have a guest room in his house, so he decided to just buy his guest bed and mattress now. The company finally found his mattress a week later, and he returned with a passport, a suntan, and passable Spanish.

I liked how the author made a sequel because it gave me even more hilarious stories to enjoy before I fell asleep at night. I didn't dislike anything about this book per say, but as I said before, I do wish there were even more stories. When you finish it, it is almost like a disappointment, and you just decide to read it again. I chose this because I had already read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the first one. It wasn't predictable because you can't really predict a book that is full of different stories with each of them having their own little plot. I would recommend this book to anyone who possesses the ability to read and enjoys a good laugh.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Cooper
Wrecking Ball
Kinney, Jeff
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The book, "Wrecking Ball," the main plot doesn't start immediately. First there are a couple of stories including a garage sale and a segment talking about how rich he would be when he grows up. When you finally get pass this entrance into the book, we can get to the beginning of the main plot. Greg Heffley and his family are initially devastated to find out that their Great Aunt Reba had died, but then they found out that she had left them a decent amount of money. This of course started to make them argue over what to do with it. Each suggested their own idea, but the mom's idea of expanding the kitchen won out despite unpopular response because she, quote on quote, was the only one who ever wrote Great Aunt Reba any Thank You cards. Nothing seemed like it could go wrong, the expansion began, and the family began to actually get excited about a bigger kitchen. But as you probably already know in these books, something goes wrong, but this time, everything goes wrong. Trash and concrete moving into the neighbors yard, toxins in the walls, and wasps getting into the house. The neighbors by this point were obviously not the agreeable type so when they found out that part of the extension was on one of the neighbors property, they had to take the extension down. The family hit down by this failure, decides that instead of improving the house, they're going to move to a new one in a new school district. Will this work out? Will Greg and Rowley stay friends? I guess you will just have to read.

I liked this book because it was a new story that didn't have any similarities to the previous books like some of the other stories have. I didn't dislike this book, but it was a fairly mediocre read for me and it didn't amaze me. I chose this book because I have been reading the series since I was young, and I enjoy getting the new book in the series when a new one comes out. I would recommend this book to anyone really who likes a good easy story to read before you fall asleep at night.

Reviewer's Name: Cooper