Review Crew - book reviews by teens, for teens

This is Not a Test
Summers, Courtney
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is not a test focuses on a high school girl who experiences the end of the world. Humans have been infected and zombies have taken over her world. She has had a bad home life with her dad and sister. She believes she should no longer live. Her and a couple of other teenagers take shelter in the high school. The books tells the story of a girl who thinks this is her end but it really is just her beginning. I really loved how suspenseful this book was it made you want to keep reading. I enjoyed reading about a girl who things she has nothing more to offer for the world but then slowly realizes all the bad things that have happened in her life and led her to a single moment. She finally finds where she belongs. I feel like the book could have a better ending. Maybe they could have ended in the government shelter. Overall this book was pretty good. I definitely would recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: Megan
Genres:
We'll Always Have Summer
Han, Jenny
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

We'll Always Have Summer is the last novel in the Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy.
Like the second novel, We'll Always Have Summer was another book that did not contribute to the series at all and was another story of completely useless drawn-out drama. Somehow, the last novel's conflict was even worse than the last. Turns out, Belly and Jeremiah decide to get engaged, and surprise, surprise, Belly still harbors feelings for Conrad. Except for this time, Belly is about to be married to Jeremiah. With too many practically cheating moments to count, the novel makes you realize that Belly might not be much of a good person, and probably doesn't deserve Conrad or Jeremiah. In my opinion, the person you most feel sympathy for is not the protagonist or love interest, but Jeremiah himself. With his own brother and fiance sneaking around his back, the novel really attempts to romanticize Belly and Conrad's forbidden romance but fails miserably. Overall, We'll Always Have Summer is a pretty unsatisfying book to wrap up the trilogy and makes readers despise Belly and Conrad even more.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
It's Not Summer Without You
Han, Jenny
2 stars = Meh
Review:

It's Not Summer Without You is the second installment to The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy. In my opinion, this novel and plot seemed a little stretched out, in attempts to lengthen the series. The novel was pretty much the same as the first, with Belly constantly stringing along with Jeremiah while also battling feelings with Conrad. Except for this time, Belly is actually in a relationship with Jeremiah, making the whole situation much worse. Throughout the whole novel, I could not help but cringe constantly. The fact that Jeremiah and Conrad were brothers made the whole thing with Belly much worse. Belly is in a relationship with one brother, but secretly in love with the other. Clearly, a recipe for disaster, and Belly completely does not handle these situations in a logical or considerate way, making the whole novel seem like a huge jumbled mess. Overall, I feel like It's Not Summer Without You was a totally unnecessary addition to the series, and that the author could have wrapped up the plot easily at the end of the first novel of The Summer I Turned Pretty.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
The Summer I Turned Pretty
Han, Jenny
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Summer I Turned Pretty is a teen romance series written by Jenny Han, author of the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series. While the novel has a promising plot, containing a cute beachside childhood romance between Isabel "Belly" and her two childhood friends Jeremiah and Conrad Fisher, the plot for me got a little mixed up in the middle of the novel. Belly starts off by informing us readers of her longtime crush on Conrad but claiming that she doesn't have such feelings toward him anymore. However, it becomes painfully obvious that Belly does in fact still harbor feelings toward Conrad and is unhealthily pushing down these feelings by using other guys to make up for him. In my opinion, Belly is not a likable main character and displays many toxic traits throughout the novel. She consistently strings along innocent guys and is totally unaware of her own negative behaviors. However, I understand that the novel is supposed to encapsulate Belly being a typical teenager, discovering romance and etcetera. While I didn't particularly enjoy Belly in the first book, and couldn't really cheer her on as a protagonist, I have to admit that some of her rash behaviors did mirror common traits that many young teen girls, such as myself go through. Overall, while The Summer I Turned Pretty did not have a likable main character, it did have a couple of sweet moments and did illustrate the pains of growing up well.

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
Isla and the Happily Ever After
Perkins, Stephanie
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Isla and the Happily Ever After is the third installment in the Anna and the French Kiss series. In my opinion, this book was far better than the Anna and the French Kiss series but still contains a couple of flaws with it. To start off, Isla and Josh's love story was pretty sweet and contained just the right amount of cheesiness. I enjoyed that their romance followed a typical, but also a well-done trope of the sunshiney girl versus the more brooding introverted boy. However, despite some of the cute moments, I couldn't ignore the glaring fact that Isla and Josh's story seemed way too sudden. Right after they meet, they practically dive into their relationship right away, with no suspense or build-up. Isla and Josh rush right into the thick of things, something that made the story seem a little rushed and underdeveloped.
Isla as a character also seemed slightly underdeveloped, because I could not really find myself relating or having any strong feelings towards her at all. Isla was a very "meh" character, her personality traits mirroring mediocrity. Adding on to Isla, her obsession with Josh was also a little worrying. Isla seemed to pin everything about herself to Josh, to the point where she felt like she didn't deserve someone as great as him. At some point in the book, I felt that Isla's only character trait was her romance with Josh and that she relied on him far too much. Overall, while the novel had some weak points, I'd say it achieved the minimum of what a cheesy and sweet teen romance book should be. However, I hesitate to say that this book was a well-thought-out work. If a cheesy romance is what you're looking for, there are thousands of far better romances you should reach for before this one.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
Anna and the French Kiss
Perkins, Stephanie
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Anna and the French Kiss is supposed to be a sweet teen love story, following Anna, a senior in high school who suddenly gets sent to a foreign school in Paris. While I could see what Perkins was going for, the whole "teen cliche love story" was not executed well. For one, Anna is far from a likable protagonist. Although having dreams to be a professional female film critic, when Anna is forced to attend school in France, she claims that she is shocked when she discovers that movie theatres exist in France. It's hard to believe that an avid film watcher is so ignorant of the fact that other countries besides America also have movie theatres. Not to mention that France is one of the major film capitals of the world. Anna continues displaying an almost disbelieving amount of ignorance when she also avoids her school's cafeteria because she doesn't know how to order food in french. Later, she is told that the school's chef does indeed know how to speak English, and that one doesn't have to be fluent in French to speak to him. Anna also is unaware that in France, most people have a basic grasp of the English language, and thinks that nobody knows how to speak English, thus convincing herself that she must learn French. Anna is almost too oblivious of the world outside her to be believable, but over and over again, Anna continues to dumbfound readers by displaying more and more ignorant thoughts and behaviors. Adding on, Anna's love interest is also far from a likable character. Etienne St. Clair (a name that might be too overboardly french to be true), is a boy who conveniently has a British accent, but is also somehow French and American, all at the same time. It's almost like Perkins wanted Etienne to be French and American, but also to have the typical British accent that every teen fiction love interest must have all at once, thus resulting in the confusing cliche mess that Etienne is.
Lastly, Anna and the French Kiss, while containing problematic characters, also contains problematic behaviors, such as the romanticization of cheating and an absurdly ignorant and offensive main character. While I understand the route Perkins may have intended to take, Anna and the French Kiss was far from a cheesy and sweet romance novel.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
Wings
Pike, Aprilynne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Wings focuses on a teenage girl, Laurel, who starts to experience strange magic-like events all during the first few months of her moving and going to a public school. When I saw the book, the hints of magic, romance, and the beautiful cover accompanied by the imagery in the synopsis really caught my attention. I did enjoy the romance aspects of the novel as it showed a wholesomeness of teenage couples and the friendship that led to it. Additionally, I enjoyed seeing Laurel grow more into the role of a strong protagonist by taking risks and learning to love, both herself and others. When reading Wings I found parts of the story to be interesting and adventurous, but kept to the trope of magic faeries and many main plot points were fairly predictable. Even though parts of the book seem to be predictable, I would still recommend it, as it is an interesting take on magic in our world with Laurel developing more as a protagonist throughout.

Reviewer's Name: Tisha
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: