Review Crew - book reviews by teens, for teens

The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Speare, Elizabeth George
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is the story of sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler who arrives in Connecticut in 1687. All the townspeople believe she is a witch after she does some "unusual" things such as swimming and acting out bible stories. Because of this separation she begins to hang out with the towns "witch" Hannah Tupper. This friendship leads to some major problems in the future.

This book is very dull and not very exciting. I cannot find any reason to enjoy this book as it is so predictable and a very happily-ever-after type of story. I would not recommend this book because of its lack of suspense and very predictable plot.

Reviewer's Name: Emily
Twelfth Night
Shakespeare, William
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Twelfth Night is a play written by William Shakespeare. It is about multiple love triangles that take place in Illyria. The main problem is that two twins both think the other is dead and are mistaken for each other which creates many problems.

Twelfth Night is a horrible play/book. It is very dull and extremely confusing as people's names are changed throughout the play and people are constantly being mistaken for each other. Unless you have to read this, I would not recommend this book to anyone unless they want to sit through a very confusing, dull play.

Reviewer's Name: Emily
The Secret Life of Pronouns
Pennebaker, James W.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book looks at what our pronoun usage in our language says about us. There is also an online website which uses the same tools Pennebaker uses in his studies, providing the reader with an interactive aspect as well. The concepts in the book about how different pronouns correlate with different social status, group dynamics, gender, and other factors provide an insight on an aspect of daily life most people never think about. It also includes charts and graphs to help convey information, although Pennebaker does not provide his raw data for portions of the book, only his conclusion. By the end of the book many points he makes feel repetitive, making the later chapters less interesting to read.

Reviewer's Name: Mark T.
Life of Pi
Martel, Yann
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Life of Pi starts off slowly, with a lot of details that I thought were irrelevant to the story. While Pi is moving with his family and their zoo, their ship sinks in a storm. Pi makes it to a life boat, but there are also four animals from the zoo on it. One of the animals is a tiger, which Pi must learn to control. He must also get food, water, and protection from the sun and sea in order to survive. This book shows the struggles to survive while isolated from society and also shows the fight to retain one's humanity throughout this struggle.

Reviewer's Name: Mark T.
Dune
Herbert, Frank
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I chose to read Dune in anticipation of the coming movie, and as a much appreciated suggestion from my father. Dune follows the adventures of a young boy Paul as he enters manhood. He fights to keep the planet of Arrakis, and then goes on to fight for the title of emperor. It addresses a group of people, the Fremen and their religion of turning Arrakis, the desert planet, into a beautiful land through terraformation. This book draws you in and keeps you hooked, telling a story of becoming a man, while also making it a book worthy of praise, always surprising you with one twist or another.

Reviewer's Name: Sam W.
The Selection
Cass, Kiera
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Selection by Kiera Cass, is the first book in The Selection series. I have read this book multiple times for it is one of my favorite stories. With intriguing twists, the story carries you through the story of America and her journey into the unknown. While this story has many parts that have you on the edge of your seat, I also found myself feeling scared, angry, happy, sad, and many more emotions. With an interesting love triangle, the romance parts are what keep you drawn in. A book has never stood out to me in the way this story has.

Reviewer's Name: Kate
The Elite
Cass, Kiera
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Heir by Kiera Cass is the second book in the series The Selection. While this is one of my favorite series, this book is my least favorite of the three books. Even with turning twists and unnerving events, I feel the story did not get too far along with the plot. This book was still very well written and gave us a backstory on many characters. Although it was my favorite book, I highly recommend the read for it will help readers understand the third and last book of the series. Overall, this book was thought out well and brings many new emotions to the readers.

Reviewer's Name: Kate
Paper Girl
Wilson, Cindy R.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Paper Girl is about a girl whose world is caving in around her, and is not able to cope very well with it, until a boy comes into her life. All the characters are so well developed and all have great backstories. The whole book is a big question if she will overcome and has you wondering the whole time, which I loved. Something that I did not love about the book is how the main character's mental illness is portrayed. It is very hard to relate to I feel, unless you have felt similarly. This did not take much away from the book's overall greatness though. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good, cute teen romance book.

Reviewer's Name: Jana M.
Sharp Objects
Flynn, Gillian
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Sharp Objects is about a writer who must go back to her small hometown to report on the disappearances of young girls. The book is very interesting the whole time and is one I was not able to put down until I had finished. The ending is nothing even close to what I would have ever pictured, and it is never even hinted towards. The book overall is quite disturbing though. From the topic of extreme self harm to very inappropriate behavior from quite young girls, there were many moments that were disgusting.

Reviewer's Name: Jana M.
Crave
Wolff, Tracy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Crave is about a girl who must move to a school where not everything is as it seems, after her parents die. This school is full of creatures. I absolutely loved this book. It is a very thick book that I had to finish in one day, that's how good it is. The characters are so fun and the whole book is interesting. There comes a time when it seems like it will get boring, but then come the plot twists that make it so much better. The romance between the main characters is amazing and always keeps you guessing. Overall this book is so good and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a teen romance/ supernatural book.

Reviewer's Name: Jana M.
All In
Barnes, Jennifer Lynn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

All In is a sequel in The Naturals series that focuses on 5 teens with natural talents that make them special, so they work with the FBI to solve cases. The book/series is absolutely amazing and so well written. Every character has a great backstory and all are very well developed. In this book there are so many twists and turns that keep you absolutely hooked. The details and how creative the ideas in the murders and investigations are amazes me. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a great book to keep you hooked and anyone who loves the show Criminal Minds.

Reviewer's Name: Jana M.
Bad Blood
Barnes, Jennifer Lynn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Bad Blood is about 5 teens with natural skills that lead them to work with the FBI to solve cases. In this book they are going back to look into their pasts especially the main female character to try to lead to a murderer, or multiple. I was not able to put the book down and ended up finishing it in a day. Everything comes together so nicely. All the details play into each other and I can not imagine how the author came up with such elaborate ideas that are so complex. This book is for anyone who loves the show Criminal minds because they are so similar or is looking for an amazing crime book.

Reviewer's Name: Jana M.
The Lover's Dictionary
Levithan, David
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The book "The Lovers Dictionary" by David Leviathan gets a "meh" review. While the book seems like it'll be a hopeful love story, it actually spins a web of lies and heartbreak. Each chapter is a new word, and the chapter explains the definition, through a story. While this seems to be a cool idea, it was not well planned out in this book. Sudden changes in setting, as well as changes in the timeline, leave this book quite confusing. It makes you want to get entranced by the book, but also makes it difficult to do so. Had the author better explained both the timing and the reasoning behind the flashbacks of sorts, the story would have been better able to comprehend and relate with. The story also has these thought-changing scenes that make no sense. One second the narrator is madly in love and very happy about it, and the next he is broken-hearted and considering leaving his partner. The constant back and forth is difficult to follow and honestly quite frustrated. I think the idea of the book was a great idea, however, I do not believe the author knew quite how to plan it out.

Reviewer's Name: Star B.
Cut

Cut

McCormick, Patricia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book tackles some very tough topics in very realistic and accurate ways. Main character Callie has been placed into a residential treatment center, shortly after her family discovers that Callie had begun to use self-harm to cope with many issues. The stress of being in this facility, as well as familial and mental stress, leads Callie to silence. Acting on selective mutism, Callie chooses to stop talking. Many people try, and yet fail, to help her open up and speak. Through the book, from memories and dialogues that run through Callie's brain, we discover that Callie has an extremely stressful home life that has become detrimental to her mental health. This book speaks on the reality of mental health facilities in America, as well as the type of home life that many live and suffer through silently. This story faces the reality of self-harm and mental illnesses. These topics are very uncomfortable for many, and almost taboo, but "Cut" breaks through that and breaks down the walls of real-life issues, and progress through mental health issues.

Reviewer's Name: Star B.
Awards:
Becoming Mrs. Lewis
Callahan, Patti
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Becoming Mrs. Lewis, by Patti Callahan, is the fictionalized retelling of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman's unlikely love story. It is based around the correspondence between the two, their writings, and Joy's copious love sonnets. While C.S. Lewis is primarily known for his works of literature, his relationship with Joy was just as big--if not bigger--a part of his life as his work. The story is told entirely from Joy's perspective, with bits of correspondence sprinkled throughout her narration. Right out of the gate, Joy has an epiphany one night while living in a house in upstate New York with an abusive husband and two small sons. This holy experience leads to Joy's conversion to Christianity; then, searching for answers about faith, she comes into contact with the renowned author C.S. Lewis and they begin corresponding frequently. Eventually, Joy makes the choice to go to England because of health problems and her husband's abuse, and meets C.S. Lewis (whom she calls Jack) for the first time. The rest of the book is an agonizingly slow journey to their marriage, which happens under unfortunate circumstances at the very end.

I had awfully mixed feelings about this book. I was interested in learning more about the life of C.S. Lewis, but instead I received the sad, angsty story of Joy Davidman, and unfortunately, Joy Davidman--as portrayed by Callahan--is not a likeable character. She is impulsive in nearly all her actions, self-pitying and self-motivated (as exhibited by the fact that she leaves her two young sons in an abusive household while frolicking off to Europe), naive, obnoxious in much of her dialogue, excruciatingly desperate to be loved, and altogether irritating. However, I did like Jack's character, and overall there was some good character development. The plot itself was slow and redundant: dialogue dragged and nearly every conversation felt the same to me; I often found myself bored. It seemed like Callahan was running the plot in circles without ever achieving a climax. Also, as the story took place over several years in real life, Callahan was forced to glaze over several months at a time, never really going in depth about what took place in between Joy and Jack's meetings. As for the writing style itself--nothing to compliment. Callahan's syntax was unengaging and at times poorly executed, the story lacked imagery, and the use of British slang seemed forced, coming from an American author. Over the course of the book, Joy's feelings for Jack develop more quickly than his for her, and I couldn't help feeling disturbed by her physical attraction to a man 17 years older than her. Callahan should've backed off on Joy's excessive, out-of-the-blue thoughts of physical desire--they were disturbing and took away from Jack and Joy's friendship.

I believe the love story of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman would've been best left alone. While Callahan's novel is historically accurate, the fictionalization of intimate details and dialogue that belonged to the real Joy and Jack in their time did not sit well with me. I appreciated Callahan's inclusion of literary history--especially learning about Jack's life and how
it influenced his writing--and the last fifty pages of the book redeemed itself slightly, as the characters' growth was revealed and some important life lessons shone through. Occasionally I was immersed in the story and
rooting for Joy, but the mundane, repetitive, boring moments overshadowed those, and Callahan's Joy was not the female character I'd hoped she would be. I wouldn't call this book a romance, because it's simply desperation on
one side and friendzoning on the other until a dire situation wakes up the latter party to reality. Becoming Mrs. Lewis did not do it for me, and I don't recommend it unless you immensely enjoy poorly-written, many-liberties-taken fictionalized accounts of famous historical figures' lives. I believe Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis were probably wonderful individuals in reality, and I wish Callahan had done them justice.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa H.
Awards:
Everything's Eventual
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I read this book because I watched the movie “1408” which is based on the short story by Stephen King thats in “Everything’s Eventual” and I wanted to see if the book was as good as the movie. Everything’s Eventual is a book that’s full of short story’s, and while I didn’t like a few, there was also a couple really good ones! I would highly recommend one of the short story’s called “The Road Virus Heads North”. It has actually become one of my favorite Stephen King stories. Also, I personally thought it was one of his creepiest. Overall, if you are a big Stephen King fan like me, I would recommend reading this book.

Reviewer's Name: Emani K.
Awards:
Fortitude
Crenshaw, Dan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is fantastic! Dan Crenshaw offers brilliant advice on mental toughness and how to combat the outrage culture with critical thinking. Crenshaw's methods are simple, easy to practice, and are what is missing in today's society. Written from his life experiences of being a Navy SEAL and United States Congressman, Crenshaw makes this book relatable and applicable to everyone's lives. Crenshaw also cites many articles, studies, and medical experts to backup his advice. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to become a well-informed voter, contributing citizen, or successful person.

Reviewer's Name: John
4 Kids Walk Into a Bank
Rosenberg, Matthew
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank follows a group of four middle school kids planning a bank robbery. Throughout the story the characters face the prospect that right and wrong may not be as binary as their games make them out to be. This graphic novel does the Goonies, Stand by Me, and Stranger Things middle school group trope beautifully well, with notes of comedy and friendship. Although the story maintains a dark tone, Rosenberg includes brilliant humorous moments that add levity to the story and highlight the friendship between each of the characters. The art by Tyler Boss is phenomenal, completely immersing the reader into the book and constantly leaving us in awe. Each page is a masterpiece perfectly encapsulating the tone of the book and adding to the brilliant pacing of the book. The timing of each word and picture are masterfully placed becoming almost Wes Anderson. This graphic novel has easily become my all time favorite stand alone graphic novel and gets better each time I read it.

Reviewer's Name: Julia
Murder on the Orient Express
Crhistie, Agatha
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Murder on the Orient Express is the story of detective Hercule Poirot who is taking the train the Orient Express when a man gets murdered on board. With the help of the the doctor and other staff members on board, Poirot plans to solve the murder before the train arrives at its destination and the murder is free to walk away.

This book is very well written and has many plot twists so you are constantly looking forward to what comes next. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery. It is fairly easy to understand and could be easily read by anyone 5th grade and up.

Reviewer's Name: Emily S.
Awards:
The Red Badge of Courage
Crane, Stephen
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The Red Badge of Courage is really not a great book. It is centered around the Civil War and tells the story of Henry, a Union soldier who leaves his farm to go fight. During the war he cannot make up his mind to run away from the field or stick with his friends in battle. While some might find the book interesting, personally it just dragged on and on. Sometimes it would go really in depth into a battle or a part of the story that was not very important and in others it would just gloss over a major part that you needed to understand. I would not recommend this book to anyone as it is hard to understand and is not very well written.

Reviewer's Name: Emily S.

Pages