Review Crew - book reviews by teens, for teens

Killer Cruise
Levine, Laura
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Jaine Austen is looking forward to a relaxing Mexican cruise, but things go south when her cat Prozac hitches a ride in and is caught by one of the staff, who blackmails her into editing and typing a huge and unreadable story in just a few days, as well as denying her any luxury. On top of that, one of her only allies has been accused of murdering her unfaithful boyfriend and is being detained below the deck. Determined to save her friend and clear her name, Jaine dives into her most dangerous case yet, all with a furry castaway locked in her room.

I cannot stress how much I love every part of the Jaine Austen mystery series, and this book is no exception. I felt like everything in this novel is done to perfection, even one detail I'm usually critical of. While it still has the problem of its finale being just like every other entry in the series, this book actually does what I didn't expect: make that unpredictable to the reader. I'm confident in saying that Killer Cruise is the Jaine Austen mystery series at its best.

Reviewer's Name: Naomi
The Thirteenth Tale
Setterfield, Diane
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Thirteenth Tale is a story of a woman telling a mysterious story about her childhood and her origins.It starts off with Margeret Lea, the main character, helping her father in his bookstore, and receiving a letter from a famous writer. I enjoy rereading this book because of how much mystery and confusion there is surrounding the core story, a book about twins. This is high on my list for recommendations because of how ensnaring it is to read.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan
Awards:
The Boy Crisis
Farrell, Warren & Gray, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a controversial book. Designed as a critique to modern day feminism, Farrell and Gray draw on decades of joint research and experience to debunk the patriarchy and discuss the way that our society is neglecting the needs of young boys and men. They argue that feminism has led to a crisis of education, mental health, and sexuality for boys and men whose needs are not being met.

As a feminist myself, I had a lot of reservations about reading this. I originally checked it out as part of ongoing research for an article I'm writing on cultural standards around masculinity and femininity in the US, but I disagreed with almost everything it stood for. However, I was stunned by how thoughtful and well researched this book is. Instead of being an attempt by privileged men to degrade women or advocate a traditional "women should be in the kitchen" philosophy, this book draws on decades worth of cutting-edge statistics to draw attention to the ways that a gendered society hurts everyone. It explained bias against men in the family court and criminal justice system, and questions the lack of conversation around male victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. These were all things that I had never even thought about or realized were a problem.

If you're anything like me, this is a book that will make you uncomfortable. It will challenge your preconceptions and force you to reconsider entire worldviews you've built your beliefs upon. The book is more than likely to hit the wall at least once before you're finished reading it. However, it will also deeply affect you. I came out of this book with a much more nuanced and well-rounded picture of what gender means in this world. I didn't agree with everything, and I'm still a feminist through and through, but I now realize that feminism is for men too. Gender equality is so much more complicated than what first meets the eye.

This book a must-read for anyone who's interested in gender politics. My biggest criticism (and the reason I didn't give it five stars) was that it often went off topic, particularly in the mental health section, and often discussed homeopathic remedies to ADHD and other things that felt irrelevant and detracted from the main message of the story.

Reviewer's Name: Mercy
Ready Player One
Cline, Ernest
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I was given Ready Player One for my birthday. I would suggest this book to readers interested in science fiction and immersive video games. The author writes with surprising detail, going through Wade's thought process and adding twist and turns at each chapter. The author makes semi-relatable characters, fighting to win the ultimate prize. The entire book speaks of the time, heart, and soul the author spent writing a fabulous book.

Reviewer's Name: Samuel
Ready Player Two
Cline, Ernest
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I received Ready Player Two as a gift. I would suggest this book to anyone who enjoyed the first book. Although this book is not as good as the first one, I enjoyed it immensely. Wade hunts down shards for a new Easter egg in the oasis. Wade's compelling character meets new people and gains a completely new quest. Ernest leads you on a journey you don't want to end.

Reviewer's Name: Samuel
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

5 stars(A magical book)
Welcome to a magical world, filled with witchcraft, wizardry, dark magic, and wonder. This book starts off with Harry Potter, a boy close to the age of 11, being bullied by his only family about how strange he is. It follows him as he enters a mysterious school, learning more about why he is so strange. I enjoy this book because of the many different aspects of mystery there are. I would recommend this book to any person looking for a magical read.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan
Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science
Wheelan, Charles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan is an immersive and amazingly simple look at global economics. The explanations and simple and number-free and the examples Wheelan uses give life to the subject which is considered torture buy adults and children alike. The book was required reading for an AP Economics class I took, and it brought the field to life, showing the massive effect of market forces and changes in exports and inflation and much more. It is an amazing introduction to the concepts of economics without the statistics. Anyone who is interested in how economics works or what is really going on when you listen to the federal reserve chair should read this book.

Reviewer's Name: Harrison
Genres:
Cover of The Federalist Papers
Hamilton, Alexander; Madison, James; and Jay, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Federalist Papers are one of the most fundamental documents in US history. It is not only an explanation of the functions of the Constitution, but it is a gateway into the minds and personalities of the founding fathers John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. I learned more about the Constitution than I ever thought possible. I learned the amazing complexities that were built into the most important document in the United States and the intended purposes of the three branches of government, as well as the arguments for increased federal power in governments. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about the foundations of American government and the minds of its founders.

Reviewer's Name: Harrison B.
Genres:
Christine book cover
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I love Stephen King and cars, so when I found out there was a book by Stephen King about a car, I had to read it. The book “Christine” by Stephen King is about a couple of 17-year-olds and a '58 Plymouth Fury named Christine. When I first heard about this book, I thought it would just be about a car that went around and just killed people. However, it's more than that. I mean, yes, people do get run over by Christine, but there’s also ghosts and people getting possessed. Also, there’s a really cool car chase between the Fury and a Camaro, which I thought was awesome. Overall, I would highly recommend this book, and it’s a lot better than the movie plot-wise.

Reviewer's Name: Emani K.
Awards:
Varjak Paw book cover
Said, S. F.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

4 stars (little young for me).

Varjak Paw is a fantasy written from the point of view of a cat. This book caught my attention because it was about a cat descended from a family of ‘special’ cats, who has passed down mysterious knowledge, dubbed ‘The Way’. It starts off in a household full of cats with an absent owner, possibly sick, possibly dead. Varjak Paw is the runt of the family, a cat who itches to discover what's on the other side of the wall. I enjoy rereading this book because of how well written the storyline is. The different pieces fit together perfectly in a puzzle.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan W.
Awards:
The Kingdom of Back
Lu, Marie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Kingdom of Back is a historical fantasy novel about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, Maria Anna Mozart. Told from the perspective of Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl), this novel gives readers the untold story of her musical success and childhood fame. As a girl in the eighteenth century, Nannerl knows it will never be socially acceptable for her to compose like her brother, so she makes a wish--which leads her to a mysterious land of faeries and moonlight and castles, and a magical boy who promises to fulfill her wish if she helps him in return.

As the plot unfolds, readers are given a look into the life of the Mozarts and their grand tour around Europe to play for the most esteemed audiences. Both Nannerl and Wolfgang (Woferl) are incredibly impressive child prodigies; though Wolfgang is who comes to mind when we think of the name Mozart, his sister was also a musical genius. This book highlights Nannerl's perspective very well, diving into her insecurities and fears as well as her dreams. The fantasy aspect added an interesting element to Nannerl's story; I enjoyed Lu's vivid descriptions of the Kingdom, and the fantastical side of the plot permeated the historical one in a clever, well-thought-out way. The novel ends with a creative twist, leaving readers to think back over the whole story in a different way.

My only issues with this book were the repetitiveness of descriptions and thoughts, and the fact that the fantasy plot seemed very predictable until I reached the twist. But overall, I loved how well the fantasy and historical fiction elements blended together, and that Lu shed so much light on the power of music. This novel is perfect for anyone who enjoys fantasy, music, and history. Nannerl Mozart's story is one you won't forget.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa
Brave New World
Huxley, Aldous
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Brave New World is a classic dystopian novel, written in the early 1930s by Aldous Huxley. Set in a society in which humans are manufactured and programmed depending on their assigned social class, it addresses individualism, conformity, and the dangers of complete government control. Citizens in this dystopia frequently take a drug to subdue their emotions, living in a state of ignorance and 'bliss' as they go through the motions unquestioningly. In order to keep the system of manufacturing people running smoothly, certain things are considered taboo--such as literature, religion, and family--while what we typically consider unorthodox is commonplace in this society.

The story follow several central characters who don't completely fit in or believe there could be more to life than what they experience every day. Huxley takes readers to a 'Savage Camp' where John, the protagonist (whose ideals are completely different from everyone else's), is introduced, and the other characters experience an extreme contrast to their advanced and ordered society. Readers experience John's intense internal conflict as he attempts to find his place in the new world into which he is thrust; they also learn more about the ideology of the dystopia, and what goes on behind its 'perfect' facade.

I enjoyed most aspects of Brave New World, and would recommend it to dystopian readers who appreciate a deeper meaning. However, there were some parts of this novel that I found disturbing, as what's considered taboo is the opposite of how we view things in our world. Sometimes I had trouble connecting with the story emotionally, and I would've liked more specifics about how the dystopia came to be. But looking past the negatives, the themes Huxley brings up are very important, and even pertinent to society today. His characters have depth, the underlying themes make readers think, and overall it is an interesting concept of a future world with complete dictatorship. Brave New World is a classic that I believe everyone should read.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa
A Bend in the Stars
Barenbaum, Rachel
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Bend in the Stars is a fiction story about a Jewish family surviving the 1914 Holocaust. It rotates around Miri, a female surgeon in a world of Men. When the Holocaust starts, her whole life is turned upside down as the rush to America begins. I love this book for the honesty of elements like the interaction between Vanya and Kir, the two intelligent scientists, and the relationship between Sasha and Miri. I recommend this book to anyone who's looking for an interesting read.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan
The Night Circus
Morgenstern, Erin
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, is a beautiful, exquisitely written, spellbinding novel of magic, love, and a special circus only open at night.

Celia and Marco are two young magicians, students of respective magical instructors, one of whom is Celia's father. These magicians, fierce rivals for decades, propose a challenge-- an ambiguous feat where the two magicians compete against each other in an expansive setting. At the same time, a theatrical producer, Chandresh Christophe Lefevre, creates his newest masterpiece-- The Night Circus, an expansive theatrical production, where the theatrics are not confined to the stage. Celia and Marco become involved in this circus through the will of their instructors. Celia becomes the illusionist, disguising her magic powers as stage illusions. Marco becomes an assistant to Chandresh, running the circus from the inside, and helping with the coordinated particulars instead of traveling with the circus like Celia.

The competition within the circus begins, Celia and Marco creating new tents in an attempt to outdo each other until one is declared a victor. And slowly, as they begin to realize that the other is their opponent, Celia and Marco fall in love, which sets off a chain of devastating events for the circus and all of the people in it.

Erin Morgenstern is a fantastic writer. Her sumptuous prose is gorgeous, and her level of detail in describing the circus makes it feel as if she had actually visited this place herself instead of creating it in her head. Even the smallest atmospherical details of the circus are mentioned, and such a rich and vivid setting envelopes the reader into the book. The story within the gorgeous setting, that of Celia and Marco, is exquisite. The book takes pace over a vast expanse of years, allowing them to grow and change and mature within their characters as the challenge progresses and they begin to fall in love with each other. Watching Celia and Marco grow throughout the novel from children to finally finding each other was a very satisfying process in the story.

The story does jump, from the main story of Celia and Marco to the story of Bailey, a young boy on a farm in Concord, Massachusetts, who visits the circus and becomes enamored with it, until the time of both stories intersect and Bailey's life crosses with Celia and Marco's.

I cannot say enough good things about The Night Circus. The story, the setting, the writing, and the characters are all wonderful. This book is such a gem, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy, romance, or just a good story. The Night Circus, with it's gorgeous setting and wonderful prose, is the kind of book every reader longs to read-- the kind of book that envelopes the reader into the world created in the story, one that readers will not want to leave long after the last page finished.

Reviewer's Name: Allie
Ready Player Two
Cline, Ernest
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Ernest Cline has written another masterpiece. While Ready Player One could have remained a stand-alone novel, Ernest Cline has given us a better look into his dystopian universe with this sequel. After James Halliday posthumously releases another quest, The High Five must once again unite to solve all of the riddles. However, this time the stakes are higher as the lives of the majority of OASIS users are on the line. With adventures that include John Hughes movies, Prince, The Lord of the Rings, and many more pop-culture references, Ready Player Two is a thrilling action-packed adventure. I highly recommend this novel for any middle school or high school aged reader, or any lover of pop-culture from the later part of the previous century.

Reviewer's Name: John
Things Fall Apart
Achebe, Chinua
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is an amazing description of pre-colonial African culture as well as a detailed description of the initial consequences and longer-term impacts of colonization. It follows Okonkwo, a man who was the most powerful member of his village up until the arrival of the colonists. Okonkwo is the manliest of men and believes he must show no weakness. Okonkwo is a representation of the African culture as the colonists arrive. His personal feelings and reactions are very similar to those of all Africans during this strange period. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about African culture, but I think everyone should try it because it is an important piece of history, telling the story of a people trying to survive against the colonial onslaught through the story of a man trying to find his way in the world.

Reviewer's Name: Harrison
Of Mice and Men
Steinbeck, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a tale of grief and hope in the midst of the great depression. It begins with two men, George and Lennie, who are searching for work on a farm. George is witty and small while Lennie is mentally handicapped but enormous and physically strong. Both George and Lennie, as well as the other workers they meet, begin to represent the nation as a whole during the depression. Showing the struggles of every person in those horrible times. I think the novel is a sad story but it is a good representation of the personal and societal impacts of the depression and I think everybody should read it at least once.

Reviewer's Name: Harrison
Awards:
The Eyes of the Dragon
King, Stephen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

5 stars(Gets a little dark, but that's to be expected from Stephen King)
The Eyes of the Dragon is about a royal family with its kingdom being torn down by a powerful Court Magician. The opening description is awesome and the characters are well sculpted. Stephen King describes the jealousy between the princes Thomas and Peter darkly and realistically. This realism made it a compelling read. I enjoyed this book so much that I finished it in one night. It is a great story with many twists and turns. I highly recommend this book to whomever wants to get into Stephen King’s works.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan
The Naturals
Barnes, Jennifer Lynn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Naturals is an amazing book that was so fun to read. The whole book was very exciting and kept me interested the whole time. The ending was so shocking so I was extremely happy to find out that it is a series. All the details of the book are very well thought out and the author did a great job of developing each character to be special. The book is very similar to the tv show Criminal Minds which I thought was awesome.

Reviewer's Name: Jana
Awards:
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Honeyman, Gail
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was a very interesting book that made me feel different every page. The book takes quite a long time to get interesting and once it does it still has weird boring spots. While the book wasn't always very interesting I was hooked because I had to know what the hints at the beginning of the book would lead to. I really liked the end of the book and how the character grows throughout the story though. I would recommend this book to a more mature reader because of some of the topics covered in the book.

Reviewer's Name: Jana

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