Review Crew - book reviews by teens, for teens

Wild Horse Country
Philipps, David
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wild Horse Country, written by two time Pulitzer Prize winner and Colorado native David Philipps, is a masterpiece of investigative journalism. Philipps goes to every corner of the country to explore the current state of one of the final remnants of the Wild West: Mustangs. Even without a previous interest in wild horses and their current happenings, readers will be immersed in the stories of how they came to be, the people who have saved them, the people who haven't wanted them saved, and the people who have failed to do anything at all. Philipps explores the situation so fully, and immerses himself in the journey of learning, but still somehow manages to create a book that is unbiased and logical, rather than one based in the individual perspectives he sought out to chronicle in his book's pages. Each story, each piece of research and investigation, is captivating and beautifully written, but even more impressive than the stories and investigation themselves is the way the book can inspire a reader to do something. Not only within the situation of the wild horse, but in the everyday situations that surround us, Philipps inspires readers to learn.

Reviewer's Name: Malachi
Genres:
A Magic Steeped in Poison
Lin, Judy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If you're like me, you're a fantasy lover. If you're also like me, you've heard great things about this book. Most of them are true. A Magic Steeped in Poison is about Ning, whose sister is dying from a poison. Her last option is to compete in a tea making competition for a favor from the princess, and hope she has the cure.

Let's start with the obvious, the magic system is enchanting (pun intended). I've never seen anything quite like it, and I'd read a book just explaining exactly how everything works. Really, it's just refreshing to see a magic system that isn't 'pew pew, blast blast'. The plot is great too, and every stage of the competition brought something interesting. Ning is a pretty good protagonist, and I can't think of a time I didn't like her. Most of the characters are fairly strong, although nothing amazing. The princess is likable, but not perfect. The father has a bit of complexity. And I thought the judges were very well written. Really, I only had a few complaints.

The weakest aspect of the book is Ning's love interest. Kang is a nice enough character, but we don't know anything about him. If you've read the book, you're probably confused. After all, we know a ton about Kang's past. But that's the thing, we know about his past, not him. Can you think of a single personality trait he has? In the beginning he's super exitable (this never shows up again). Later in the book he loves history (never comes up before or again). Kang is just a generic, perfect boyfriend. There's nothing wrong with a shallow character, as long as the protagonist has some emotional distance from that character. With a love interest, the goal is to have as little emotional distance as possible. Other than that, everything is pretty solid. I would have liked to see some flashbacks with Shu (so we could get more attached), and maybe some more time with Lian.

Overall, I recommend this book, and I'm excited to read the sequel.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Genres:
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dumas, Alexandre
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Count of Monte Cristo serves as a literary masterpiece in both its prose and its raw images of humanity. Following Edmond Dantés on a journey of injustice, desperation, vengeance, success, readers are immersed in over a thousand pages of story about morality and the human experience. Through the chronicles of Dantés, his ruses, and his eventual persona, the Count of Monte Cristo, readers are able to explore France high society during the Napoleonic Wars, but also the injustices within the lower classes, and stories from everyday life of prisoners, laborers, and those outside of the elite. At its core, it's a book of adventure and romance, but the adventure is not without purpose. The manipulation, disappointment, and pure emotion are the driving forces of each character, and what makes the book such a special read.

Reviewer's Name: Malachi
The Things They Carried
O'Brien, Tim
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Things They Carried is a modern necessity. A series of stories and reflections follow the journey of a hypothetical O'Brien and his squad as they 'hump' through the mountains and forests of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The book plays with the ideas of reality and storytelling, and forces readers to construct a robust and complex understanding of the stories of war and the life after. At points, it becomes almost impossible to discern between reality and falsities, and the book itself is an intellectual journey. The stories tell the seemingly exciting and eventful moments of the war, but put a special emphasis on the trauma and shocking notes of the war. O'Brien contrasts each element with an essential counterpart: excitement with terror, nonfiction with fiction; storytelling with teaching. It's this contrasting of truths that makes The Things They Carried a staple on any bookshelf, and a read worthy of any audience.

Reviewer's Name: Malachi
The BFG
Dahl, Roald
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The BFG is the type of book you read once and continue to read over and over again. Personally, I have read this book several times all the way from elementary school to high school, and has remained one of my favorites to this very day (for more context I first read this book in school). From the crazy word concepts to the illustrations, this book keeps you interested with every page. I recommend this book to those in grade school and above; the language is easy to read as it tells the story from the viewpoint of a young girl. There isn't much I could say I disliked about this book, the end of the story was very heartwarming while the book kept you on you're toes all throughout. Fair warning, a frequent scene in this book is giants eating children, so if you are reading this to someone younger who may be scared easily, I would take that into consideration (in clarification the scenes are NOT graphic and are kid-friendly). It was an exciting read, and the illustrations do a great job at giving your mind something to picture as you read along throughout the book. The book isn't too long itself but I feel like it suits the storyline well. I gave this book 5 stars for several reasons, but the main idea is that: it's very well written and illustrated, a good read for young ages and above, and it is genuinely a very good book.

Reviewer's Name: Ashley
Breasts and Eggs
Kawakami, Mieko
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Breasts and Eggs, lengthened from its original version, is a breakthrough piece for Mieko Kawakami, but also for the literary world. Her masterful prose is able to capture the attention of any reader, and draw anyone into the worlds she creates. The book is centered around a family of low-income Japanese women, battling their way through life and facing poverty, the image of their bodies, each other, and their desires for the future. Each conversation is written as if it's taking place in the readers' living room, and each sense is captured on every page. Kawakami works through seemingly every contemporary issue effortlessly, putting each piece into place within the story, instead of unnaturally breaking the flow of her storytelling She plays with issues of fertility through a character whose journey should, on paper, be shocking and different than anything readers have seen, but does it in a way that makes it feel real and beyond possible. The book is so fantastic that it could be read in a day if readers can't make themselves put it down, but it would be a rollercoaster of a day.

Reviewer's Name: Malachi
Spy School
Gibbs, Stuart
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Where many spy novels explore the skill and expertise on display with fully trained spies, Spy School takes it back to basics. Ben Ripley, a normal middle school student, is chosen by the CIA to attend an academy for spies. Ben may not be the best spy there - or even in the top 90% - but he might be the only person who can stop a plot against the whole school.
A great novel for young readers looking for action and comedy, Spy School is a great introduction to the spy genre. Complete with interesting characters (although not without some flat characters as well), the plot moves at a quick pace while still keeping its reader engaged and excited. Although it is the first novel in a series, it works well as a standalone. However, the series has tended to improve as it has continued, maturing with its readers, so I would say continuing to read the series is worth your while.
If you're looking for a thriller for young readers, Spy School is the book for you!

Reviewer's Name: Locke
Genres:
Crime and Punishment
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Crime and Punishment is a novel like no other. Set in Russia in the mid-1800s, Crime and Punishment watches the mental anguish suffered by a poor man forced to turn to murder in order to survive. The work has been cemented as one of the greatest pieces of psychological writing of all time and for good reason. Raskolnikov is a deeply tortured protagonist, and Dostoevsky brutally captures his emotions, fears, and motivations throughout the novel. As other characters with conflicting motivations threaten Raskolnikov's plans and schemes, his stress only becomes more powerful.
Crime and Punishment is not an easy novel by any means. The writing style is fairly archaic, and conversations can run on for what feels like forever. However, the story is so well thought out and executed that it deserves a read from anyone interested in psychology, literature, or even acting (the story serves as an excellent example of a character study from which one can take notes). Do not expect light reading or a feel-good story, as this book will take the reader into the desperation and pain experienced by the protagonist.
Crime and Punishment is one of the best novels of all time, and although it is a challenge to read, it is absolutely worth it for its views on society and man's mental state. If this review has sounded interesting to you, do yourself a favor and check it out today.

Reviewer's Name: Locke
Genres:
Grenade
Gratz, Alan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Grenade by Alan Gratz is a great book perfect for most ages. It is a historical fiction that will take you back to 1945 on Okinawa Island, Japan, in the grip of World War II. The two perspectives of Hideki, a native on the island, and Ray, an American Marine, both have never experienced war before and are fighting on opposite sides. Hideki is pulled out of school and drafted into the Blood and Iron Student Corps, they expect him to fight for the Japanese army and all he is given is a grenade. Ray, has landed in Okinawa with his group of soldiers, he is surrounded by the enemy and has no idea if he will live through the war. Both have to fight their way through the island and eventually they meet. The choices they make could change both of them severely.
This story is thrilling, suspenseful, and fun to read! I loved this book because it is constantly surprising and it puts you in 1945 with the characters, who have extravagant emotions and conflicts. I stayed up all night reading this book and it was so worth it! It can be a little violent but overall it is an amazing book. I was recommended it by a friend because I don't normally read historical fiction but it did not disappoint! I love all of Alan Gratz's books and I would certainly recommend them and Grenade.

Reviewer's Name: Ella
Awards:
Deep and Dark and Dangerous
Hahn, Mary Downing
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I really enjoyed this book while reading and after finishing it. This book was a combination of the two things I love most; mystery and thriller.
Mary Downing Hahn is a great author and I love reading her books and going down a spiral of questions. All of her books are clever, it’s like watching a movie without a screen! This is by far my favorite book by Mary Downing Hahn.
Ali is a thirteen year old girl who stumbles across a torn picture of her mother and aunt. Who’s the third person? This book is about Ali’s journey attempting to solve this mystery. I definitely recommend this for mystery lovers, horror lovers or both!
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Abigail
My Nonidentical Twin
Evie, Meg
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I enjoyed this nonfiction book a lot. This book was very informative of what Tourette’s Syndrome is. The author, Evie, walked the readers through the pros and cons of having Tourette’s Syndrome.
I follow Evie on social media platforms and see this journey documented through there too. However, her channel is not as informative as this book. I love how this book brings awareness to Tourette’s Syndrome and the people who suffer from it.
If any reader wants to be more aware of this condition, I recommend reading this well written autobiography by Evie Meg.

Reviewer's Name: Abigail
The Betrayed
Cass, Kiera
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After being slightly disappointed by The Betrothed, I stayed loyal to Kiera Cass and picked up a signed copy of The Betrayed. It was good! Hollis lives outside of the palace and vows to defeat a group of assassins who work for an evil king, all while avoiding the other king she left behind. The morals had changed from the first book to be focused on overcoming grief and juggling different family values. Plus, the unpredictable love story didn't hurt. Hollis' personality developed to be even more obstinate due to her experiences. The ending was, just like the first book, a little deflating, but I see the author's vision for an atypical female empowerment story to combat any criticism from The Selection and I will give her credit for being creative with the storyline.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Betrothed
Cass, Kiera
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Three stars is pretty tough for me to rate, seeing as I love the Selection series so much! Kiera Cass is a great author, but The Betrothed didn't blow me away. The main character, Hollis, follows everyone else's lead in trying to seduce King Jameson and is surprised to succeed. She has trained in the ways of a queen her whole life and is prepared for life as a royal- until a handsome palace worker shows up and Hollis questions everything she thought she knew about true love. Hollis is a level-headed, passionate character (although a little whiny at times) and I liked her character arc from a conforming queen-to-be into a rebellious person who cares more about love than money or a title. What I didn't like as much was the disheartening twist and a complete change in the mood of the book. Many readers enjoy a good dark plot twist, but it felt like I had started reading a whole different book after being so invested in the first one.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
It
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Despite the high page count, I've been looking to reread It by Stephen King for some time. It was a great book; it just took some time to get through. Seven friends all team up to fight an other-worldly murderous clown after several people turn up dead in the small town of Derry. This clown feasts on your worst thoughts and fears, and destroys your mind as well as your body. The switch between the seven friends as kids versus adults was entertaining, because they handled emergency situations differently as well as having different motives because of how the clown affected their childhoods. The chapters could get tedious at times and have a lot of fluff (in a horror book? YES!). I would even call the last hundred or so pages strange as the final battle became sort of biblical and unlike the direction of the rest of the book. Still, if you're a fast reader and would like to get a horror book under your belt, try it out!
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Genres:
Mexican Gothic
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Mexican Gothic follows an interesting take on haunted houses and distant ancestry. The resilient main character, Noemi, travels to a small town to visit her newly-married cousin at a house called High Place out of concern for her cousin's illness. The longer she stays, though, the more she realizes that there is something more sinister going on than an isolated family. Unlike some reviews I saw, the pacing was engaging for me. It was broken into short chapters with a lot of action in the last hundred or so pages, which is how a lot of thrillers are organized. This helped me be motivated to read more when the story line was not quite my taste. It was cool, however, that Noemi was realistic in her thoughts and reactions. It made the story feel more genuine as the plot got crazier. This isn't something I would necessarily recommend, but it was still enjoyable.

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Reid, Taylor Jenkins
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

It is a deal breaker for me when a book's main character is unlikeable. This book was not like that. Evelyn is a talented and determined character who was able to break away from her traumatic experiences and pave the way for female actresses that don't match Hollywood's cookie cutter movie stars. She isn't always polite and malleable, which was cool to see when other books set in the same time period only focus on men's perspectives. I was invested in Evelyn's life throughout the progression of her seven marriages and how they ended. Monique is a scatter-brained but relatable character as well. I enjoyed how she and Evelyn interacted and the twist of how their stories intertwined. Try this book if you like historical fiction and being uplifted by female empowerment.

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Scythe
Shusterman, Neal
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In a perfect world where overpopulation is the only problem, an elite group of unbiased assassins called Scyths are expected to “glean” the population to keep it at a manageable level. This is by far one of the best young adult sci-fi books that I've ever read. With its fast-paced plot, Scythe is a captivating story of two teenagers faced with enormous responsibility and life-or-death consequences. I have a soft spot for skillful world-building, action, and fleeting romance; this book was a masterful concoction of all three! Also, on a personal note, I have read far too many books with idiotic plot twists. I am pleased to say that this was not one of them. Get ready for an addicting read, as this book isn't easy to set down.

Reviewer's Name: Kate
Interpreter of Maladies
Lahiri, Jhumpa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri is a collection of nine short stories about cultural differences. In each of the nine stories, the beautifully composed characters are taken through inspirational journeys, whether conflicts about romance, communication, cultural differences between India and America, or separation. Not all endings are happy, but a lesson can be learned from each story. It is a must-read book that challenges cultural differences and will transform a mindful reader's perspective. Overall, I would rate the book five out of five stars.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
The Son of Neptune
Riordan, Rick
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

“The Son of Neptune” was a good book and a good sequel. This is a book in the “Heroes of Olympus” series which takes place after the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series. This book is about Percy, Hazel, and Frank, three demigods who will end up going on a quest together. While guarding the entrance to the Roman camp for demigods, Hazel and Frank see Percy Jackson haphazardly making his way towards the camp with monsters following him. The monsters that are following him don’t seem to stay dead. Once Percy gets accepted to camp, he gets asked to go on a quest with his new friends to free Death so that the monsters will stay dead. Frank is a demigod who doesn’t know who his godly parent is and he is a very adorable and clumsy character, especially around Hazel. Hazel is supposed to be dead but has a new chance at life to fix mistakes that she made about forty years ago. Percy remembers nothing, except a name, Annabeth. Each main character has secrets that are revealed during the quest and almost dies while trying to free Death and save their camp.

This book was pretty good and it really helps to have read the series that comes before this one. It introduces some new characters (Hazel and Frank), and you can’t help but love them. I enjoyed how there were details/hints that tied back to the first series. The Greek vs Roman was well portrayed in my opinion, in both the cultures overall and fighting styles. I also enjoyed the explanation of why there were both Roman and Greek gods. I want to hug Hazel and Frank, their characters were so cute and relatable! I do feel like a lot of Hazels' personality is dependent on how she treats others. Percy is not as relatable because he has no memory so we don’t get that much information about him to relate to. The writing style as usual was very funny and descriptive. The plot connects well to myths, the modern worlds, the other books in the series/world, and the characters. Overall, a good book and a very fun take on Greek and Roman mythology.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan
Six of Crows
Bardugo, Leigh
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Six of Crows is the first book in Leigh Bardugo's duology following her Shadow and Bone trilogy. This novel is the story of Kaz Brekker and his attempt to put together a crew to pull off an impossible heist - sneak into the impenetrable Ice Court of Fjerda. Kaz Brekker, also known as "Dirtyhands" in the Barrel (the slums of Ketterdam) is a part of the Dregs (a gang built out of those "scraped from the bottom of the Barrel"). Then we have Inej, or "the Wraith" who has an impeccable talent for sneaking around and has a liking to knives. There's Jesper (a personal favorite), a sharpshooter who never misses, but has a serious gambling problem. Wylan, a intelligent bomb master, who's also the insurance in case the plan fails. Finally, we have Nina (also a favorite of mine), a Grisha heartrender, and Matthias, the outsider who has insider knowledge. For 30 million kruge (or 323,848,425 USD), the six teenagers decide that a mission that will probably get them killed, will still be worth it, because together, they are more dangerous than all of the soldiers inside of the Fjerdan Ice Court. Teenage drama, messy romance, plot-twists that can change everyone's opinion of one another. This book was probably my favorite out of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha series. There isn't anything I would change, and would definitely consider re-reading.
Reviewers Grade: 11th

Reviewer's Name: Nataleigh
Genres: