Review Crew - book reviews by teens, for teens

Hamlet
Shakespeare, William
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Hamlet by William Shakespeare is a play that was wrote in the 1600’s. The play starts off with the death of Hamlet’s father, King Hamlet, and the mystery of how he died. Hamlet feels that he should avenge his father, but never acts on the way he feels. He continues this habit in his relationships causing them to be full of mistrust and in the end, betrayal. This play contains many themes that teach a big lesson that individuals can apply to their lives today. I recommend this book to anybody that wants a murder mystery with multiple plots twists.

Reviewer's Name: Jaala
When You Reach Me
Stead, Rebecca
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When You Reach Me is one of my favorite books of all time. It is such a compelling mystery from the perspective of a sixth-grader who is wise for her age. Miranda contemplates theories of time travel and the effect of the past on the future in a light-hearted manner that makes this story impossible to put down. I love every character and reading their dialogue always gets me to think about the importance of kindness and our relationships as humans during such a short time on Earth. If you love a philosophical mystery or are just looking to get out of a reading slump, give this book a try!

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Jewish Transport to Auschwitz
Macadam, Heather Dune
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I wavered between a 4 and 5 star review here, but my reviews are based on storytelling ability, not necessarily how little I enjoyed hearing about the details of Auschwitz. This author did a fantastic job of telling the stories of nearly 1,000 women while letting some of their personal accounts lead the pace and tone. Though the characters were hard to keep track of at some points, there was constant clarification of individuals to develop empathy for the girls in the Holocaust. There was also some groundbreaking information on the sexist disparities between records of the female experience in Auschwitz- as soon as you think life couldn't have been worse for these prisoners, it is revealed that women were treated the absolute worst. Definitely worth the read if you can stomach the tragedy.

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
There's Someone Inside Your House
Perkins, Stephanie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As an avid Stephanie Perkins reader, this book is not her best work but still worth your time to read. There was ample suspense as Makani Young navigated the unfolding of an active serial killer's crimes in a small town, with a fast pace to not bore readers. Similar to thrillers like One of Us is Lying, I was constantly changing my mind as to who the killer could be. Do we pay attention to Ollie, the typical loner, or even one of Makani's own friends? Unfortunately, the movie adaptation did not do this story justice. Do not waver from trying it out if you stumbled across the movie first! It's not the darkest thriller I've read, but still disturbing enough to introduce a passion for the genre and keep you up at night.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Ex Talk
Solomon, Rachel Lynn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a delightful book with great diversity and a unique topic of life on the radio. I loved how Shay and Dominic's personalities complimented each other throughout the story, especially as Shay experienced misogyny and the two worked to combat it. The romance was light-hearted and side conflicts like grief were refreshing to hear about. One thing I disliked, though, was Shay's reaction to an age gap of five years between her and Dominic. She constantly threw in "old jokes" and generational-gap comments despite them both pretty much being millennials. It made the age gap more of an issue than it would have been without such dialogue and even contradicted the author's message against unfair gender norms. Would an age gap like this have been discussed if Dominic was the older one? Other than that, this book got me back into NPR and podcasts so I recommend this any day!
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Odd 1s Out: The First Sequel
Rallison, James
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If you have read my first review, then you now that this sequel was a wish come true. I say this because I was so excited to have more stories from James Rallison in the first place, which I did not see coming. I am choosing one story to talk about in this review and that story is the missing mattress. He starts talking about how he isn't the "let me speak to your manager," type. This sets up the story pretty well because it gives that little bit of foreshadowing that makes you want to keep reading. The next thing that happens is that the movers don't bring his mattress from his old apartment to his new house, and they apparently have no idea where it is. He checked his account were all of the pictures of his stuff that needed to be moved had been posted, and lo and behold, his mattress wasn't there. He decided to call customer service and see if his mattress was on his friend's account and the other person on the phone asked him to describe it to confirm it was his. Normally he is an expert at mattress description, but today he was drawing a blank, so he just asked whether or not there were two mattresses in his roommate's account. Sadly he/she, couldn't, "disclose that information." Because of this, he attempted to fairly describe it and they said that they had a mattress that fit the description he gave. They said that they would move it to his account if it was his, but just to be safe, he called his roommate to look at his account and he said it only had one mattress in it, so he assumed they moved his mattress back to his account. He checked his account the next day and, NO MATTRESS. He filled out a missing item form on the website and still 2 days later, no mattress. He was going to have a guest room in his house, so he decided to just buy his guest bed and mattress now. The company finally found his mattress a week later, and he returned with a passport, a suntan, and passable Spanish.

I liked how the author made a sequel because it gave me even more hilarious stories to enjoy before I fell asleep at night. I didn't dislike anything about this book per say, but as I said before, I do wish there were even more stories. When you finish it, it is almost like a disappointment, and you just decide to read it again. I chose this because I had already read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the first one. It wasn't predictable because you can't really predict a book that is full of different stories with each of them having their own little plot. I would recommend this book to anyone who possesses the ability to read and enjoys a good laugh.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Cooper
Wrecking Ball
Kinney, Jeff
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The book, "Wrecking Ball," the main plot doesn't start immediately. First there are a couple of stories including a garage sale and a segment talking about how rich he would be when he grows up. When you finally get pass this entrance into the book, we can get to the beginning of the main plot. Greg Heffley and his family are initially devastated to find out that their Great Aunt Reba had died, but then they found out that she had left them a decent amount of money. This of course started to make them argue over what to do with it. Each suggested their own idea, but the mom's idea of expanding the kitchen won out despite unpopular response because she, quote on quote, was the only one who ever wrote Great Aunt Reba any Thank You cards. Nothing seemed like it could go wrong, the expansion began, and the family began to actually get excited about a bigger kitchen. But as you probably already know in these books, something goes wrong, but this time, everything goes wrong. Trash and concrete moving into the neighbors yard, toxins in the walls, and wasps getting into the house. The neighbors by this point were obviously not the agreeable type so when they found out that part of the extension was on one of the neighbors property, they had to take the extension down. The family hit down by this failure, decides that instead of improving the house, they're going to move to a new one in a new school district. Will this work out? Will Greg and Rowley stay friends? I guess you will just have to read.

I liked this book because it was a new story that didn't have any similarities to the previous books like some of the other stories have. I didn't dislike this book, but it was a fairly mediocre read for me and it didn't amaze me. I chose this book because I have been reading the series since I was young, and I enjoy getting the new book in the series when a new one comes out. I would recommend this book to anyone really who likes a good easy story to read before you fall asleep at night.

Reviewer's Name: Cooper
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

(Warning do not proceed unless you have read the previous 4 books. SPOILERS AHEAD.)
The wizarding world is exploding with news of Voldemort's return. Muggle news is filled with mysterious murders and strange disappearances. Or, at least, that is what 15-year-old Harry Potter thinks should be happening. Ever since he saw Voldemort return at the end of the Triwizard Tournament he had to hide under flower bushes just to listen to the muggle news to get any hint of what might be happening and, of course, avoiding his Wizard hating Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. While doing this very thing, he hears a big crack that sounded like someone apparating or disapparating he jumps up because it was some sign of the world he knew...and he hits his head on the windowsill. His bumbling uncle pulls him in with his thick purple fingers and with a quick quarrel, Harry shows some cheek and leaves the house heading towards the park. He sighs bitterly thinking about how abandoned he felt. The stupid Daily Prophet failed to acknowledge the fact that the most dangerous wizard of all time had returned, he hadn't even heard anything from Dumbledore, and his friends sent practically useless letters, but from what was in them, he could tell they were at the same place. It angered him to think of Ron and Hermoine having fun at the Burrow without him. The only way to deal with his angers was to take them out on his piggy cousin Dudley who was every bit as foul as the parents who brought him up. Harry is "threatening" Dudley with his wand while they walk back to the house together trading insults, when the sky goes dark, and the air becomes a bone chilling cold. Dementors, Harry knew. He was forced to use magic, which caused, when he brought a pale, sweating Dudley home, to receive a letter announcing his expulsion from Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry while listening to a furiously purple Uncle Vernon. He gets another letter telling him that his is not expelled yet but will have a hearing that will decide the issue at the Ministry of Magic. Because of this fiasco, he is transported by a guard to not the Burrow, but to the Headquarters of the Order of the Pheonix.

I really enjoyed this book because, well, the story is great, and because it is my favorite one in the series. I liked every single chapter in the book and there wasn't a single part that I didn't enjoy. I had picked this book because my mom, who had got me interested in the series in the first place had read me the first 4 books which gave way to me reading the 5th book on my own. I assure you that I have read it many, many times and if you appreciate truly good fiction, so will you. The Order of the Pheonix is not only one of the best books that I have read this year, but probably one of my favorite books ever.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Cooper
Genres:
The Odd 1s
Rallison, James
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Diving straight in, this book isn't a single story. It is actually a collection of stories from James' childhood that are about, of course, "How to be cool and other things that I definitely learned growing up." As to not give too many spoilers, I will only give the premise of one of my favorite stories in the book, Harry the Moth. Harry is a White Lined Sphinx Moth that was hanging out on their porchlight when the door opened, and he was drawn into their house. James and his twin sister Faith find him hanging out on the windowsill, put him in a jar, and they decide to keep him as a pet. Back when James thought his mom had good ideas, he listened to her suggestion that he should take Harry to his kindergarten class so he could be the class pet there. The teacher realized that having a class pet with a lifespan shorter than a year would be a bad idea, so she decided to release him a recess so they all could learn about nature. This was also back when he thought his teacher had good ideas, so they released the moth, and he had a great life left. 10 seconds. Those moths were probably supposed to only come out at night, so it flying around in an open space during the day gave the birds a free excuse to eat it. I guess this story is to show how James learned not to think that his mom and teacher had good ideas and never to release moths during the day. All the stories have little bits of funny wit and irony that make it a good read.

I liked this book because it gave me even more comics and stories from the Youtuber and Cartoonist, James Rallison. The only thing that I didn't like about this book was that it wasn't longer! Every single story in there is so good that when you finish, you just want more. I chose this book because, as I said before, I had seen James' YouTube videos and I wanted to read more of his stories from his childhood. This book wasn't predictable as it didn't have one story to follow so it meant that it took lots of twists and turns that were interesting to read. Based on all of this, I think this is one of the best books that I have read this year and would recommend it to anyone.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Cooper
Big Nate Strikes Again
Peirce, Lincoln
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Nate Wright is back at it again when the unexpected strikes. Mrs. Godfrey gives a difficult assignment to research a great American. Not only this, but Nate is forcefully paired up with his archenemy and helpless teacher suck-up, Gina. She isn't exactly thrilled about it either as she is afraid that being partnered up with Nate will ruin her perfect GPA. They get assigned the topic of Ben Franklin, but Nate is more concerned with who became the captains for the Fleeceball teams. Fleeceball is a version of indoor baseball that their school plays for a season every year. Luck and disaster strike when Nate finds out he was made one of the captains, but unfortunately, so has Randy Betancourt the school bully. Nate gets in trouble, as usual, and inadvertently misses the captains meeting. Nate panics and rushes to tell the coach, but all seems good when Nate looks at his team. The coach picked all good players for him, except one, the absolute worst when it comes to athleticism, Gina. Will Nate be able to meet Gina's high expectations on their project, win the Fleeceball tournament, and deal with Randy all at the same time? I guess we will just have to see if Big Nate can, "Strike Again."

The reason I enjoyed this book so much was because Nate finally found an interest in something academic even if it is just one person from history. I guess this shows that he is not completely hopeless. I honestly didn't dislike any part of this book which I immensely enjoyed while reading it. The story stayed fresh and relevant, and it moved in a way that kept me reading. I picked this book just because I was at my cousin's house and needed something to read to fall asleep at night when I was younger, so I chose to read this, and I was hooked to the series ever since. This isn't one of the best books that I have read this year, but it does come fairly close.

Reviewer's Name: Cooper
Big Nate: In a Class by Himself book jacket
Peirce, Lincoln
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Big Nate, or Nate Wright, is a boy who has to deal with an arrogant teacher suck-up Gina, his perfect sister Ellen, who, Nate says, adults are too short-sighted to see how annoying she is, and a number of teachers including the worst one of all, Mrs. Godfrey. She apparently fails to recognize that despite his lack of knowing anything about history, or really anything else academic, that he is destined for greatness in the future. Nate feels though that at the current stage in his life, 6th grade, he can't do much about people not realizing his greatness, especially when surrounded by misguided teachers, his clueless father, or his joking best friends Francis and Teddy. Luck strikes when Nate didn't eat breakfast and one of his best friends Teddy offers him a fortune cookie. Most of the time Nate wouldn't get anything worth thinking about, but this time is different because, "Today you will surpass all others." As soon as he gets this, He realizes that the only place that he will surpass all the others is at school because at home the only people he could surpass is his clueless dad and his annoying sister. Because of this, he tries every class out of the day to make it happen, causing him to land seven detentions throughout the day. Will Nate Wright be able to surpass all of the others, or will he be in detention, "In a class by himself."

I liked this book because Nate seems to not understand very much about what he should do in the world, so this means that he will inevitably make his own funny decisions. The only reason that I didn't like this book as much was because it was the first in the series and I just didn't feel like it was the best one out of them. I picked this book because I had already read some of the other books in the series, (I read them out of order,) and I decided that I probably should read the first one to see how the story began. This book surprised me because I had no idea what the "origin story" could possibly be for this kind of a character, but if I would have guessed, the story would have exceeded my expectations. I have read many books like this, this year so sadly I can't say that it is one of the best ones that I have read this year.

Reviewer's Name: Cooper
1984 book jacket
Orwell, George
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

1984 is kind of a dystopian novel written in the 1940's about the 1980s. It's not the "Hunger Games" type of novel (which I also don't really like), where a bunch of teenagers overthrow the corrupt government. It's about a middle aged man living in a society where a Stalin-like figure rules. It is kind of a depressing book, and for the most part is kind of slow and uneventful. Overall, while this book makes some interesting points, I don't know if I would recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: Emani
Songbirds
Lefteri, Christy
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Songbirds is about the disappearance of domestic workers in Cyprus--women who had no choice but to leave their families in Sri Lanka or Vietnam or the Philippines and find work as maids in the homes of Cyprus's wealthy class. Nisha, whom the story centers on, is a Sri Lankan woman who has faced much loss. She comes to Cyprus, leaving her daughter behind, and becomes a mother figure for Aliki, the daughter of a somber, grieving widow named Petra. Though Nisha has such an impact on the people around her, especially Petra and Aliki, she is merely seen as a maid, overlooked, taken for granted. In a parallel plot line, Yiannis is a poacher who hunts songbirds for a living. He and Nisha have a secret relationship, which would jeopardize everything if discovered by Petra, and when he finally tells Nisha about the poaching, she is deeply disappointed in him, though Yiannis doesn't stop his senseless killing of songbirds. One night, Nisha goes missing. What ensues is a long, agonizing search in which the police refuse to do anything and Petra begins to realize that she relied on Nisha for nearly everything and didn't appreciate her while she was there. Petra and Yiannis team up, determined to find out what happened.
In my opinion, this story could've been told so much better. The metaphor of the songbirds was far too loud and became redundant and irritating. Lefteri could've more effectively woven together the plot lines of Petra and Yiannis without being so blunt with her metaphor. However, I did find it very interesting--and saddening--to learn about the missing domestic workers of Cyprus. Just as in The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Lefteri brings to light real issues that go beyond news coverage and should be talked about but somehow aren't. These maids are just as human as anyone, having sacrificed lives in their home countries for the benefit of their families. I would have enjoyed this novel more if the pacing had been faster and the plot hadn't been so repetitive; the characters also weren't the most likable.
I wouldn't necessary recommend this book, but the premise is worth knowing.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Hugo, Victor
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an early 1800s novel following the trials and tribulations of several characters living in 15th century Paris. Quasimodo, the famous hunchback, struggles with his unrequited feelings for the mesmerizing dancer Esmeralda, and competes with other characters to win her love. This story is likely best for ages 14+, since it has some difficult words and is written in an old-fashioned style. I believe the heartfelt and memorable ending is the best part of this book, and recommend it to anyone looking for an exceptional classic!
Reviews Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Audrey
One of Us Is Next
McManus, Karen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is the sequal to One of us is lying. In this book, there is a person who would like to continue Simon's legacy. A boy who framed 4 teenagers in detention on his death. But, it's a game of Truth or Dare. You do a crazy dare, like kiss someone or get one of your deepest secrets exposed. It turns out, this is just based on a revenge plan from 2 people, looking to ruin someone's life based off of past incidents.
This book is AMAZING. It was just a good as the first book, if not better. It has a great story line and plot and truly does keep you intrigued the whole time. I loved this book and would rate it a 10/10.

Reviewer's Name: Mackenzie
Someday, Someday, Maybe
Graham, Lauren
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Lauren Graham, the charismatic actress, writes an endearing and entertaining story about the struggles of show business in her novel Someday, Someday, Maybe. Franny Banks is a frazzled young woman with big dreams of making it in New York City, but she finds herself stuck in an unfortunate cycle of disappointment, only booking the occasional commercial acting job. When she finally gets an agent, Franny thinks things are looking up, but instead she becomes consumed by a toxic acting culture and loses sight of herself. Graham tells Franny's story with wit and relatability, conveying hard truths through sarcastic, sometimes hyperbolic observations, complete with Franny's amusing inner commentary and scribbly, sketch-filled planner pages. This novel could be a rude awakening to those who wish to pursue the acting industry or show business, but the truths it tells about life are important. Sometimes we forget what's best for ourselves when trying to please others. Sometimes failure can lead to the unexpected. And sometimes things don't work out like we hoped they would.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa
The Giver
Lowry, Lois
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Giver is an eloquent novel that contains a meaning that eludes to a greater concept. It contains several twists that are revealed at the end making the book an interesting and exciting read. At the beginning of the novel, you are shown a world of gray and conformity, yet as the story progresses, you are introduced into a world of color and prominence. The characters are what make the book the great piece it is, and the way they are written allows you to relate to each of the characters. Overall an excellent book that I would absolutely read again.

Reviewer's Name: Veronica
The Lost Hero
Riordan, Rick
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Rick Riordan has done it again. After the stunning Percy Jackson series, Percy&co are back, but their not the only demigods in the country! Percy has gone missing, and has been "replaced" by Jason. He has no idea what's going on, after being attacked by a tornado and dropped in an unfamiliar camp, he is soon sent on a mission with his friends from school to capture the storm spirits that attacked them. You never know what Leo will come up with next, and he comes up with some, let's say... interesting, ideas. Do not try to lure a brass dragon with hot sauce and motor oil unless you like being burned. To a crisp. Instantly.

Reviewer's Name: Kai
One of Us is Lying
McManus, Karen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is about 4 highschool students who are in the classroom when another student dies. Since they are the only ones in the room, they are the ones who have to fight to prove that they are innocent and try to get their normal lives back. Throughout the book, each person gets framed at least once, with new evidence. You get a point of view of each person and others on who did it, and why.
This book was AMAZING! It kept me engaged the whole entire time and had me gasping at every plot twist. I know that alot of people have been posting about this book, but it is definitely worth the read. There is also a sequal, called One of us is next. I would rate this book a 10/10.

Reviewer's Name: Mackenzie
The Magicians
Grossman, Lev
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Magicians is the first book of the "Magicians Trilogy" and is also the source material for a SYFY television show.
The story follows Quentin Coldwater, a young man fascinated by the stories of Fillory and Further, as he progresses through a secret school for the magically inclined known as Brakebills. As he goes through his years at the mystical school, leaving his old life behind, he learns to do magic and blooms new connections with fellow attendees at the school: Eliot, Penny, Alice, Janet, and Josh. After all of them graduate, things turn more magical and dangerous than he could have imagined as a new world is opened before his eyes.
The premise of the book is different than I would have expected for a fantasy book about a magic school (this is not the same as Harry Potter!), and it adds much more than simply school life. While a good chunk of the book is within the walls of Brakebills (and somewhat slow for my tastes), it does a good job of building the world of magic. Quentin himself seems decently relatable to me, though his character did annoy me at times. Watching him interact with the other characters is nice to see as their different dynamics interact with each other. The overarching conflict, from what I observed, is kind of lacking. The threat for the characters appears in one chapter and then disappears without much significance for the remainder of the story and the way it was handled seemed anti-climatic to me. However, I look forward to seeing how everything follows in the next book, especially after the last chapter!
Reviewer's Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Antwaan
Genres: