Review Crew - book reviews by teens, for teens

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
Cohn, Rachel and Levithan, David
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, co-authored by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, is a lighthearted romance set at Christmastime. When Lily, a spunky nerd, leaves a red notebook filled with mysterious clues at the Strand in New York City, an unexpected relationship begins. Her notebook is found by Dash, a cynic who detests Christmas, and thus begins a montage of absurd dares as the red notebook is passed back and forth around New York City by the two teenagers and their strategically-placed relatives. Along the way, Dash and Lily come to believe they love each other, though they’ve never set eyes on each other before.

This book lacks a stable plot and character development. Lily’s character is unbearably obnoxious and immature, while Dash’s cynicism is over-the-top and irritating. Lily undergoes virtually no change through the duration of the book; however, Dash does open up and become slightly less self-absorbed. The authors’ excessive use of big, flowery language did not fit the characters. It seemed as though the authors believed this was necessary in order to portray Dash and Lily (mostly Dash) as intelligent and intellectual beyond their years, but I found it to be distracting and inappropriate for the context. The plot of this book was severely lacking. It was chaotic and disjointed, and never reached a strong climax. I was irritated with the unrealistic and completely bizarre parts, and disappointed when the ‘romance’ fell flat.

I understand that this book is meant to be fun and amusing, but it would have been much higher quality with likable characters and a coherent plot. I enjoyed the Christmas-y setting, but I believe the authors could’ve used New York City in a more impressive way for the dares. Only read this book if you’re in the mood for a fluffy, vapid story with no substance whatsoever. There are lots of Christmas romances out there, and I’m sure most are better than this one.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa
The Midnight Library
Haig, Matt
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Matt Haig's unique novel The Midnight Library ponders the infinite possibilities of life. It is about a young woman named Nora Seed, who lives a monotonous, ordinary life and feels unwanted and unaccomplished. One night, her despair reaches a peak and she commits suicide. But the story doesn't end there--Nora gets a chance to experience various ways her life could've unfolded had she made slightly different choices. She finds herself in a place called the Midnight Library, which exists between life and death and is filled with books in which lie endless parallel lives she might've lived; she is given the chance to undo her regrets by trying out these lives, starting right where her alternate self would've been on the night she ended her life. While in the Midnight Library, Nora lives hundreds of lives and becomes hundreds of different versions of herself--some she'd never even fathomed--but she is faced with a difficult decision. She must decide what she is willing to sacrifice in order to live permanently in one of these 'ideal' lives, where they seem perfect for a time but, as she realizes, there are really new sets of challenges awaiting. Nora's exploration of herself is captivating as she attempts to discern what is really important in life.

This novel is very well-written and thought-provoking. Nora's emotions are deeply portrayed, and I was captivated by the depth of Haig's storytelling. While the concept is simple, it drew me in as a reader and encompassed so many different emotional experiences that come with life. I spent much of The Midnight Library reflecting on my own life and the decisions I've made, as well as looking to the future and imagining the infinite possibilities--this is a sign of a talented author. While I appreciated the depth of this novel, sometimes it took on a repetitive, almost pedantic tone when an important idea was already clear but kept being elaborated on--this was common when life lessons came up. There were also attempts to make Nora's life-jumping seem scientifically possible, with reference to quantum physics, and I didn't think this was necessary, as the focus was on Nora's life and personal growth. Overall, I very much enjoyed The Midnight Library. The character development, setting, and plot are engaging, while also discussing important themes such as mental health.

I would recommend The Midnight Library to teens and adults alike. It's a short, worthwhile read that will get you thinking and have you on the edge of your seat. And it may just awaken you to how much unlocked potential you have!

Reviewer's Name: Alexa
Outliers: The Story of Success
Gladwell, Malcolm
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Malcolm Gladwell takes a unique perspective on success in Outliers. Rather than focusing on the brilliance, innate talent, or incredible work ethic of successful people, Outliers concentrates on the advantages and unique opportunities surrounding the successful. Gladwell analyzes the culture, families, generation, and the upbringings of many successful people and groups of people from Bill Gates and successful New York lawyers to Canadian Hockey Players and airline pilots. Above all, Gladwell emphasizes that the truly successful do not do it alone, and Outliers encourages people to examine their own opportunities and advantages so that they too may become successful. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for everyone.

Reviewer's Name: John
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
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds
Sanderson, Brandon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I devoured this book (a set of three novellas) in three days and really enjoyed it. Brandon Sanderson is such a creative author, and here's yet another book of his that doesn't fail to impress. It tells the story of Stephen Leeds, who creates hallucinatory "aspects" with certain specialties to help him compartmentalize his knowledge to learn things and master abilities. He uses their help to solve mysteries as a way to give himself a purpose. Stephen's cases were intriguing to follow, and his aspects were really fun characters to get to know and get invested in. Stephen himself felt rather flat at the beginning, but as I read further, I realized that was an intentional decision. Because of his aspects, his personality is contained in all of them, so without them, he's sort of empty. It was awesome to watch him grow in this.

The only reason I gave the book 4 stars instead of 5 is because, as a set of novellas, the first two don't relate very much to the third, or to each other. I wish he had found a way to tie the cases into the finale more than he did. Otherwise, a great read, especially for a quiet weekend at home. I would definitely recommend!
Reviewer grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Elanor
The Alchemyst
Scott, Michael
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Alchemyst is a book following a pair of seemingly ordinary twins, Sophie and Josh. When the truth comes out about their role in the future, Nicholas Flamel races against time to keep them safe. At the same time, Dee, an old enemy of Flamel, is holding his wife captive. This adds extra stress on Flamel, with the already strenuous task of keeping the twins safe. One of the things I enjoy in this book is the magic involved. To create the magic spells and objects, you have to sacrifice something. For example, when Sophie creates some very sudden fog, she sacrifices a lot of calories and most of her self-replenishing aura. This is a good book for anyone looking for magical adventures, and a mystery as old as Earth itself.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan
Genres:
Ender's Game
Card, Orson Scott
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I've read this book so many times, and I always love it. It tells the story of the child prodigy Ender Wiggin, who starts the book at only six years old. In a dystopian world that's in the midst of a war with the alien Buggers, Ender and other highly gifted children are taken to Battle School to prepare them to fight in the Third Invasion, when Earth plans to invade the Buggers and hopefully beat them once and for all. Ender is smart, creative, and compassionate, while also sometimes being cruel in moments he needs to protect himself. He's such a well-developed and dynamic character, and I can always find myself relating to him, whether it's as a gifted child, as he questions who he is, as he grows up, or as he misses home and the way things used to be. It's easy to feel for him, from outrage at the officers to treating him unfairly to warmth in your heart when he builds relationships despite his forced isolation. He faces the trials of Battle School, but he also faces the trials of childhood and growing up. The book tackles themes of lies, control, isolation, free will, family, childhood, compassion, enemies, and prejudice in ways that are always very well-done. It balances action and shocking twists with character development and philosophy into a narrative that flows beautifully and keeps you engrossed from the first page to the last. Everything about it is exceptional, and I don't think I could ever get tired of it. I would recommend to anyone, any gender, any age, because it is certainly very near the top of the best books I've ever read.
(note: there is a small amount of language)

Reviewer grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Elanor
Unlocked
Messenger, Shannon
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I was honestly kind of disappointed with this book, and it felt like a cash grab to me more than anything. I've been enjoying the Keeper of the Lost Cities series for years and I was looking forward to this release as much as any other, but it was anticlimactic, to say the least. As advertised, the majority of the book isn't actually story, but "exclusive Keeper details" that had me excited at first, but after I read the book, felt more like the author had copy and pasted her world building document. I understand that world building is fun and that she wants to share all these interesting details she's come up with, but most of it was information people already know if they've read the rest of the books, and I'm disappointed she mixed it in with a book in the series, forcing everyone to buy unnecessary content when the only actual series content is a short novella at the end that's hardly able to advance the plot. I wish that, if she wanted to release an extra world building book, she had done it separately from the yearly release so that people can read it if they want, but don't have to. The novella though, that actually continued the series, was great! I loved the alternating point of view between Sophie and Keefe.

Reviewer's Name: Elanor
Genres:
The Golden Compass
Pullman, Philip
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Golden Compass is elegantly crafted with beautiful word choice, and I would definitely recommend it. The plot was gripping with many exciting twists and revelations along the way as protagonist Lyra Belacqua and her daemon, Pantalaimon, who's basically an animal manifestation of her soul, embark on a journey across their world to the North. There, Lyra intends to both rescue her friend and find her uncle. Lyra is such a fun character to read about, being clever and witty and ultimately someone the reader will root for and invest themself in through the whole book. The world-building, too, is really well done. Pullman paints a picture of a world parallel to ours, yet different in so many ways, and things like daemons, gyptians, armored bears, and dust are all incredibly creative. The one thing I would warn against is some somewhat anti-religious commentary (not so much in this book, but it grows more prominent in the Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass) that may make some readers uncomfortable.

Reviewer grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Elanor
Genres:
Refugee
Gratz, Alan
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The novel “Refugee” by Alan Gratz wasn’t a very good book in my opinion. I read it for my English class in high school and I didn’t really enjoy it. It’s about three refugees throughout history, but the stories are kind of connected. One refugee is a young boy escaping from Nazi Germany, the second is a young girl escaping from Cuba in the 90s and finally the third is a young boy escaping from Syria in 2016. Before reading this I had read a book about a boy who was in a concentration camp, and it was a true story written by him. Refugee doesn’t even come close to how good that book was. Along with that, it’s not very well written.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book, there are far better books about this topic.

Grade: 11th

Reviewer's Name: Emani
Stop Telling Women to Smile : stories of street harassment and how we're taking back our power
Fazlalizadeh, Tatyana
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In this anthology, Fazlalizadeh shares interviews with twelve women in cities all across America about street harassment and sexual objectification, and describes her efforts to use art to communicate the pain that these encounters cause. Many girls and women can relate to her descriptions catcalling and degrading encounters, and this book confronts these discussions head on, forcing them to the forefront of conversation and refusing to let you ignore them. It gives a voice to people that are often silenced, and demands that the reader confront their own silence on the issues she describes.

I read this book as part of a research project I'm doing on gender, and am currently working on a section on objectification, especially when it comes to women. This book summed up a lot of the common encounters and the dangers of the world they create for both women and men. It gave words to people who may not have felt like they had the words before. And coupled with the poignant illustrations and quotes on every page, the book is simply beautiful to read. I think everyone should hear these women's stories, regardless of gender. "Stop Telling Women to Smile" speaks to the powerful truth of the human experience. It refuses to gloss over the pain that many people feel while also offering genuine hope for a more inclusive and kind future grounded in mutual respect.

Reviewer's Name: Mercy
Throne of Glass
Maas, Sarah J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Throne of Glass is about an 18-year old assassin named Celaena Sardothien. She was put into the slave camp, Endovier, to serve her sentence. As Celaena stays in Endovier, the King of Adarlan holds a competition to find his personal assassin. Celaena as well as other assassins from the area have come to compete. If she wins, she wins her freedom from Endovier and the freedom to live in the Kingdom.

The author, Sarah J. Maas, does an amazing job giving each of her characters throughout the book a very deep back story that impacts the plotline of Throne of Glass as well as the later books in the series. She gives the book lots of details and twists while adding bits of humor. The protagonist Celaena is very humorous and relatable while also being a strong, confident female lead. All in all, I would highly recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Natalie
Genres:
Empire of Storms
Maas, Sarah J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book Empire of Storms is the 5th or 6th book (depending on which way you read it) in the Throne of Glass series. The protagonist Aelin Galathynius is beginning to learn of the important part she will play in the war against Maeve and Erawan as she learns the history of her ancestor’s past. Rowan Whitethorne, Aedion Ashryver, and Lysandra journey with Aelin to find allies to aid them in the war. Manon Blackbeak, heir to the Blackbeak throne, calls a meeting with Erawan to discuss what their next step will be. Erawan orders her to fly with her 13 other witches and bring Dorian Havilliard to him. Manon has sent the niece of one of Erawan’s cruel follows with a Wyrd Stone to find Aelin.

This book was very well written. The author, Sarah J. Maas really starts to take details that were mentioned in the first few books and really starts to make them key elements of the plot. The book is very interesting as all the characters began to meet each other and form alliances. If you choose to read this book, the ending is very sad and has a major cliffhanger, but it is so worth the read. The whole series is amazing.

Reviewer's Name: Natalie
Genres:
Clockwork Angel
Clare, Cassandra
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare follows the protagonist Theresa (Tessa) Gray. She has just moved to London to live with her brother after her grandmother’s death. Upon arrival, two elderly ladies pick her up saying that her brother sent them. The ladies whose names are Mrs. Dark and Mrs. Black take Tessa back to their house. Tessa quickly finds out that her brother didn’t send them. They try to force her to change. Being from New York and the mundane realm, she has no idea what they want her to become. After about six weeks of being forced to change, a young Shadowhunter named William Herondale saves her from the ladies and takes her to a safe haven. From here on out, Tessa begins to learn of the Shadowhunter world and all it has to offer.

Clockwork Angel, being the first book in Cassandra Clare’s series, The Infernal Devices, does an amazing job of hooking the reader within the first few pages. The Infernal Devices is somewhat of a prequel series to the original series, The Mortal Instruments. Cassandra Clare creates a very interesting and thorough job of creating a plot that doesn’t give everything away too soon. The characters are also very believable and relatable. All in all, I would recommend reading The Mortal Instruments before The Infernal Devices because there are small details that will make the Clockwork Angel even more interesting and enjoyable.

Reviewer's Name: Natalie
City of Bones
Clare, Cassandra
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the book City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, just 16-year-old Clary Fray and her best friend Simon head out to the New York club called Pandemonium. While there, Clary witnesses a murder committed by three teenagers. But, the peculiar part of the murder is that the person dissolves into nothing. As the next few days progress, Clary Fray becomes thrown into the Shadowhunter world and all of their politics and problems.

Cassandra Clare really hooks her reader in the first few chapters of the book. Not only does she create funny and engaging characters, but she also mixes so many worlds and makes it all sensical and realistic. The New York City world also blends quickly with the Shadowhunters, werewolves, faeries, vampires, and warlocks. All in all, I would totally recommend this book, it’s highly enticing.

Reviewer's Name: Natalie
Cinder
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book Cinder by Marissa Meyer follows Cinder, a cyborg in New Beijing. Cinder is a mechanic in the futuristic city of New Beijing. She lives with her adopted mother Lihn Adri and her two adopted sisters Peony and Peral. One day, while she is in the market square, the Prince Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth, comes to visit her about his droid. The droid Nainsi had key information about the lost princess, Selene, of Luna. With the new disease Letumosis spreading rapidly around the globe, a cure needs to be found immediately.

The futuristic retelling of the classic tale Cinderella was truly amazing. There were lots of hints at the original story that were incorporated into the plot consistently. Marissa Meyer even includes the ball at the end of the book with her own twist on the tale. All in all, the book was truly amazing and very engaging.

Reviewer's Name: Natalie
The Maze Runner
Dashner, James
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book The Maze Runner by James Dashner follows Thomas. Thomas awakens in a box remembering nothing but his name. Before he knows it, other teenagers, all boys, open the box and greet them. He soon finds out that they have been living in the place they call the Glade for about two years. Not one of them remembers anything but their name. Every day, a few chosen go out into the endless maze and run it trying to figure a way out. However, in the evening, the gate closes, and if you don’t make it back in time, the Grievers that only come out at night in the maze will eat you alive.

James Dashner engages the reader in the first few chapters of the book and the characters are relatable and funny. He takes his first three books in the series and connects them very well. Fair warning, if you chose to read this series, the third book, The Death Cure, is very sad, but all in all, I would totally recommend reading the series.

Reviewer's Name: Natalie
The Selection
Cass, Kiera
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The book The Selection by Keira Cass follows the protagonist America Singer. As Prince Maxon of Illea comes of age to pick a wife, all the eligible girls of the Kingdom submit a form to the palace. Then Prince Maxon chooses 32 of the thousands upon thousands of girls to come to the palace and meet with him. Their society is ranked by numbers, one being royal and eight being the untouchables. America is a five, part of the entertaining class, and Maxon has taken interest in her.

The Selection is a very sweet love story that quickly turns more and more enticing as the book progresses. It gives the reader a feel of a utopian future and a medieval past. Each of her characters has a different past and personality giving the book a lot of different perspectives. All in all, the book is very sweet and an amazing read.

Reviewer's Name: Natalie
Darkest Minds
Bracken, Alexandra
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken follows the protagonist Ruby. When the disease the IAAN (Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration) plagued the United States, rarely any of the children survived. If they did survive, they develop superpowers. There are five levels of power that they can develop. Green gives the person enhanced intelligence, Blue is telekinesis, Yellow is electrokinesis, Orange is telepathic mind control and Red is pyrokinesis. If they show signs of having one of these powers they are shipped off to a containment camp until they are able to find a cure for the disease.

Alexandra Bracken creates characters that are funny and relatable. She also places the story in real towns around the United States that you can look up to help imagine the places where the story is set. I had a very fun time doing this and would recommend doing this as you read the book.

Reviewer's Name: Natalie
Great Expectations
Dickens, Charles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I read this book because it’s my mom’s favorite book of all time. It follows a young boy named Pip as he grows up. It’s a love story, and a pretty good one. Though it’s a little hard to read because of the old style English writing that Dickens used, it’s definitely worth reading. Overall, I would highly recommend this book!

grade: 11th

Reviewer's Name: Emani
Awards:

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