"Far From the Tree" by Robin Benway is a exploration of family, identity, and the bonds that tie people together. The book follows the interconnected lives of three siblings—Grace, Maya, and Joaquin—who are all separated and discover each other's existence and embark on a journey to understand the meaning of family. Benway skillfully intertwines the perspectives of these three characters, creating a narrative that unfolds with genuine emotion and authenticity. The story delves into themes of adoption, acceptance, and the profound impact of family connections on one's sense of self.
Awarding "Far From the Tree" a rating of 3/5 reflects my appreciation for the novel's engaging storyline and the author's adept portrayal of complex family dynamics. The characters are well-developed, and their individual struggles and growth are compelling. However, at times, the narrative can feel slightly formulaic, with certain plot points following predictable trajectories. Additionally, while the exploration of adoption is insightful, some aspects of the story may feel a bit too neatly resolved. Despite these minor critiques, Benway's ability to craft a touching narrative around the theme of found family makes "Far From the Tree" a solid and emotional read, deserving a 3 star rating.
John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" is a heartwarming and pleasant YA novel that explores a variety of themes like love, illness, and essence. This particular story follows the narrative of Hazel and Augustus, two teenagers who battle cancer and embark on a journey of love and self-discovery together.
I rate "The Fault in Our Stars" 3 out of 5 stars for its easy readability, enjoyable narrative, and the extremely important message it conveys about cancer awareness through Hazel's and Augustus' characters. It is an incredibly nice, short book to read, particularly for audiences who are young adults. However, compared to some of the other books I've read, it doesn't delve as deeply and lacks the complex storytelling that I often seek while reading. While it certainly has its lovely positives that I enjoyed, the book, in my opinion, falls a little short in terms of depth and construction, which is why I choose to give it a 3-star rating.
Looking for Alaska details the story of a kid who, in his pursuit of something new and, in the aim of sucking the marrow out of life, fails to recognize the plain truths of the people around him. He is entranced with the interesting world of Culver Creek, the mystical boarding school of his father's youth. He aids his roommate in pranks and grows closer with friends Lara, Takumi, and mysterious Alaska, all the while oblivious to her deep underlying hurt. At its heart, Looking for Alaska is about being blinded by one's own expectations to the point of pushing away important friends. The story itself, though somewhat meandering in its execution, is quite well-written, and John Green portrays a realistic, captivating, and unique cast of characters.
With this book series becoming a show, I was interested in reading the books, and I am glad that I did! These books follow a young girl named Belly who grows up with family friends at their beach house. The series tells the story as they all get older, and their bonds that break and grow back together. It is a comfort book that I would definitely recommend. I would recommend this book to young teenage readers, about 14+. I gave this book a rating of 4 stars because the characters were beautifully written, with you learning something new about the characters each time you turned the page. I personally enjoyed some of the flashbacks in time that detail when Belly was a kid at the beach. It has a sweet comforting feeling. I did not give this book 5 stars because it did take me a bit longer to read since there weren't many twists or turns that kept me super intrigued. At least not in the first book, but in the last two books the drama, and romance definitely keep you interested. If you are looking for a slow-burn comfort romance series for young readers, this is the book/series for you!
Through the eyes of a soul who hasn't left for an afterlife or complete darkness, Ellie Walker traces the days before her suicide, the day of her suicide, and the more indelible days that built her person and childhood. Chapters are written as epistolary entries, which the intended recipients—Momma, Father August, Life, and Dreams—will never get to read, as it was suppressed beneath the devastating end of a soul that didn't speak all truths while alive. She awoke with her mind, dazed and chipped of fundamental segments—abuse, friendship, love, the love of a mother, an advancing future, and more—that once conjoined her memories with coherence. The lament after death was her hand on the clock that struck a new hour as she accepted time's shadow that crept over her and swallowed, despite any interjections she could only attempt to make. Too late, Ellie Walker meandered through the gallery of her memories and realized all they meant to her and all she could become from them.
Anna, 10th Grade
Some Other Now is about a girl torn between two summers, two brothers, the mistake that will destroy them all, and what it's going to take for her to move forward.
This book is pretty solid, very emotional, has some good characters, and doesn't do much else. I did like reading it, but it was a very typical story. Some of the tropes seemed played out and overly dramatic, especially in the romantic scenarios. But the things it does well, it does very well. I really liked the contrast between the narrator in the first summer and the narrator in the second summer, and how it showed her guilt and grief. I liked the complexity of her family structure, both chosen and biological, and how it weighed on her. The main character overall is very well developed, with a lot of complexity and flaws and inherent kindness that makes her very easy to root for. I honestly didn't like either brother that much, but that's to be expected. The story does a great job of exploring depression and grief and guilt and mistakes that we can't take back, making it very relatable.
All in all, it's a very typical story, but done very well, and I don't have much to say about it. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a sad story, some drama, and good characters!
Reviewer Grade: 12
This was so cute and comforting. I could relate to the main character Belly in many ways which made this book really enjoyable to read. The summer I turned pretty made me laugh, cry, and even made me frustrated at times. I usually don’t like reading books with love triangles but this one was an exception. I love the way Jenny Han wrote it. She keeps you guessing. At some points in the book I thought it would be Conrad and others I thought it was Jeremiah. This book was really sad at some points with Susanna having cancer and belly not knowing. It just added to the emotion of the story. Overall I really enjoyed reading this book and I’m really excited to find out what happens next in book!
This graphic novel has lovely art and an even better storyline. Astrid is a middle-schooler who has a tough time doing roller derby without knowing anyone on the team. She has to learn how to hold her own and find her place doing a sport she loves. I liked how the author depicted Astrid's friendship with Nicole and they were able to learn from each other despite not being on the same path anymore. It was also cool to see Astrid's character development as she gained confidence and found her identity. The dedication it took to do that is a great lesson for anyone!
If I had to convince you to read this book in one sentence it would be this. Multiple times I had to stop reading, set down my book, and contemplate if Alice Oseman was in my head. If there is one thing Alice Oseman can do it is write relatable characters. This book follows Frances, a straight-A student whose heart is set on getting into Cambridge, and Aled, a quiet boy who is secretly the creator of a hit fantasy podcast. Brought together through art/media, Frances and Aled become close friends and tackle life changes, emotionally abusive people, mental health, censorship, and just being teenagers. This book perfectly describes the life of a teen going through high school and showed pure friendships based on a mutual love for something. This was extremely captivating and it helped me get out of a reading slump instantly. If you are looking for a book with characters you can relate to, diversity, true depictions of mental health, or just something exciting to read, I would recommend this over and over.
Reviewer grade: 11
It is a deal breaker for me when a book's main character is unlikeable. This book was not like that. Evelyn is a talented and determined character who was able to break away from her traumatic experiences and pave the way for female actresses that don't match Hollywood's cookie cutter movie stars. She isn't always polite and malleable, which was cool to see when other books set in the same time period only focus on men's perspectives. I was invested in Evelyn's life throughout the progression of her seven marriages and how they ended. Monique is a scatter-brained but relatable character as well. I enjoyed how she and Evelyn interacted and the twist of how their stories intertwined. Try this book if you like historical fiction and being uplifted by female empowerment.
I liked this book a ton! This book is an easy read considering it’s a graphic novel. The story in this book is very inspiring for “shooting for the stars” or doing what you love. In other words, commitment. I can relate with the main character, Astrid, by getting through something tough with something you love. For Astrid, the love is all about roller derby.
I picked this book because I love graphic novels. The storyline to this book was extremely interesting, I could barely put the book down! I was honestly surprised by how good the book was. This book is by far my favorite graphic novel. I have read this book many times since my first.
Astrid was a teenager in junior high. The only thing getting her through the rough days of school was roller derby. Astrid loved roller derby and was committed to putting in her best work. Astrid’s character develops over time in the novel, and it’s interesting to read about her change.
Bailey is a dog with a purpose. His owner, Ethan, is a loving caretaker and even better friend to this pup.
I picked out this book at a book fair, I saw the front cover and thought the little puppy was so adorable. I love animals and would definitely recommend this book for others who love animals too. I enjoyed the storyline of this book. I felt that it worked really well with Bailey and Ethan’s characters as the story goes on.
Bailey and Ethan have a great bond that gets better over time. This is a real benefit for the story and allows the reader to have different emotions while reading. This isn’t the genre I would normally go for, but it really surprised me how much I enjoyed the book.
Reviewer Grade: 8
This book is very heavy and grim, but Hanya Yanagihara gives a detailed insight into living with disabilities, mental illness, and addiction. I became attached to the characters from the start. Four young men- Jude, Willem, JB, and Malcom, have been best friends since being college roommates in New York, but their individual lives and struggles make it complicated to work through their mid-life crises. Despite the grief and somber moments in A Little Life, I appreciated the resilient mentors that the four, especially Jude, had. It had a loving message of always having a support system somewhere even if it doesn't feel like it, and that your past doesn't define you- your present choices do. However, the ending was open ended and left a lot for me to ponder over later. I'd recommend this if you like more somber, down to earth books (and if you're a fast reader, because this book took forever to read!)
I read this book because my mom wouldn't stop talking about how she LOVED this book when she grew up. It was pretty funny. It is a book about.a kid in the fourth grade that has a little brother. And the little brother was just SO cute that everyone, not just his parents gave all of the attention to the brother. That part I can kinda understand. I have a little sister and for real babies usually get all of everyone's attention. It made him feel like a nothing. I liked the book because I could definitely relate to it, and it was pretty easy to read. I think it would probably be better for like middle school kids or younger to read. But it was good.
My mom told me about this book because she said me and my friends reminded her of this book. I really liked this book because of how close they all were. And because of all of the adventures they all take but they are still best friends. I thought the idea of this book was epic because even though they were not the same size, they pants somehow looked perfect on all of them. And they used the pants to stay close. And tell each other about their adventures. It was very easy to read and imagine like I was right there with them.
“Looking for Alaska” is a book about Miles Halter, who is searching for the “Great Perhaps” in his life. So, to find the “Great Perhaps” he enrolls in the Culver Creek boarding school. While at school he makes new friends and grows out of his shell into the real world. One of the friends that he makes is Alaska Young, who is a hurricane unto herself and she pulls Pudge (Miles) into the real world and eventually makes him face the truth about how bitter the world can be. But she also captures his heart, making everything feel worse once tragedy strikes. But once tragedy strikes, nothing is the same anymore.
I could not put this book down. The format of the book is so fun and it cuts out useless parts of the book. Also, the way it separates the ‘before’ and the ‘after’, was a very smart way to organize the book. The writing was pretty good and felt honest about how teenagers live their lives. Sometimes something would happen very suddenly in the book but the book would keep going, so I would have to reread parts to fully understand what just happened. You get to see into Pudge’s mind and even though he is a jerk sometimes, you do get attached to him and the people that he cares about. Personally, Pudge was a very relatable character and then Alaska was the person that I want to be. Dr. Hyde was one of my favorite characters and I think that he was a good teacher. The plot and the pranks were very well thought out and I did not see the event coming ( the one that separates the ‘before’ and ‘after’). I think that the event was also very well thought out because of how common it is but also how you never think that it will happen to you, showing a life lesson, technically. Overall, this is a great novel, with uncensored teens, a few life lessons and great characters.
How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad is the name of the first chapter in this book and this was enough to catch my attention and make me want to read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. This book is a story about a boy named Greg and his friend Earl who are both seniors in high school and enjoy a hobby of making not- so- great movies with his dad's old camera. Greg has a philosophy that if you don't make friends in high school then you can't make any enemies either, so he pretty much flies under the radar and only hangs out with Earl. That is, until one day, his mom forces him to become friends with his elementary school ex- girlfriend Rachel who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.
When I picked up this book, I had really high expectations because the first sentence of the synopsis on the back was "this is the funniest book you'll ever read about death" which set my standards very high, but when I got into the story, I found the humor to be subpar. Greg is an overall shallow character and I found myself waiting for him to reveal some deeper level of character that did not include jokes about alien barf and the attractive girls in his grade and I was disappointed when he didn't. I did however, find the way that the book was written intriguing because Greg was writing the book himself and would address the reader directly which I think helps you to become more involved in the story. However, the way that he wrote himself made Greg very unlikable in my opinion, which could have been the point, I am not sure. Overall I was a bit underwhelmed by the lack of empathy Greg had towards his friend and how bad his jokes could be at times. I think if you really wanted to make the argument that this book is about embracing yourself and not being ashamed of your interests, you could but it would be a bit of a stretch. If you are looking for a quick, lighthearted read with lots of jokes about random things and an insight on a teen boy's mind, you may want to give this a shot, and depending on your type of humor it could be a very enjoyable book.
Reviewer Grade: 11
I enjoyed this book a lot.
Aven has done many things that could be hard for most people, like keeping a tarantula, learning guitar, and horseback riding. But perhaps the most impressive part of Aven's accomplishments is the fact that she did it all in the absence of arms, which she had been born without. This book is the sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, which is just as good, following the adventures of Aven as well. In her first months of high school, she experiences bullies, fake friends, real friends, lies, truths, and many difficult choices. And she lives to tell the tale of many Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus.
I liked Aven's perseverance and her refusal to let anyone destroy her happiness. She is very caring, and she likes to help out, but she also has a great sense of humor. I also liked the way the author described how the characters were feeling without an outright statement.
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
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.