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Teen Book Reviews
These a-MAZ-ing reviews were written by the teens on our Teen Book Review Board. New reviews are posted monthly.
Erich Maria Remarque
Reviewed by Cara
All Quiet on the Western Front is an intense detailing of one soldier's experience in the First World War. Encouraged by his school teacher, Paul Bäumer and his classmates enlist in the German army. However, the war does not live up to the romantic ideals of his teacher's descriptions, as it rarely does. As he and his comrades battle the enemies of their country and their own inner demons, they bond in a way that is far more intimate than most school mates. Even though the author, Erich Maria Remarque, uses romantic tropes to describe war, like describing soldiers as knights or the sound of bombs falling as violins, he does not romanticize war at all. It is portrayed as something state officials bring about and as something through which the common man must simply live and suffer. Though this book is not outspokenly against war, it is a very realistic representation of it from the perspective of one person on the front lines. I would recommend this book to anyone willing to tackle a story that is not completely lighthearted.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Gene Luen Yang
Reviewed by Gabrielle
The Boxer Rebellion is something most people are unfamiliar with. Before reading this book I only had a vague knowledge of its origin in China. The Boxer Rebellion took place from the late 1800s into the early 1900s. Many of the Chinese were disgruntled by the new foreign influences invading their country and decided to do something about it. This was the start of the rebellion. Boxers by Gene Luen Yang is a striking story told through illustrations of a boy named Bao, recounting his impression of the "foreign devils" and his ultimate role in the rebellion. This book was the first American graphic novel I have completely finished because before I was always deterred by the artwork and storyline of others which I felt were lacking compared to that of Japanese manga. But this book did not disappoint in the least! I loved it and have already begun the companion book, Saints, that recounts the rebellion from a different perspective. The book is read from left to right like we normally read in English unlike Japanese manga. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading, I found it to be a refreshing break from my normal reading of American novels and Japanese manga. Enjoy!
Reviewed by Kelli
Can Sydelle weave the pieces of her life together and find truth? In this first time novel by Alexandra Bracken, Sydelle Mirabil is a sixteen year old girl who lives in a village when the rain has finally fallen after a decade long drought. Along with the rain comes a young wizard named Wayland North who requests that the girl travel with him as a reward for ending the dry spell. Together, they travel to a distant land to attempt to stop a war which would destroy Sydelle’s home. Along the way, she wonders why North chose her out of all people to accompany him on his journey. She also discovers a power inside of her that is either a gift or curse, one that causes North’s enemy to be fascinated by her. Can Sydelle and North defeat the enemy and stop the war? This book blended together action, fantasy, and romance without going overkill on any of the themes, and I fell under its spell. The rich and vivid imagery also painted a picture for me and put me inside of the world there. However, there are some parts that a younger reader may not appreciate. Though it is not too graphic, there is fighting, and a squeamish reader would not enjoy one of the scenes. Also, a main character gets drunk at one point. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a magical tale of adventure or a compelling romance.
Genre: Romance, Adventure, Fantasy
Reviewed by Raj
Earlier this month, I picked up a novel of a different kind. The first of an epic series, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare is unique and fresh in its approach. Yes, there was romance, yes, there was action, and yes, there were exotic and fantastical thrills! The story of this book did not follow the typical outline, it drew me in loops and played with my emotions, leaving me always uncertain of what to expect. The story begins when young Clary discovers the Shadowhunters, a group of demon slayers of legend, who are invisible to the human eye, and who bring with them a strange truth: All myths are real. Not only can Clary see these beings, she learns of the true world of demons, vampires, and warlocks that humans don’t believe in—and how it is inextricably linked with her past, present and future. This is truly one of the most unique books I have read; the characters each had such deep and intricate personalities, and the story was weaved out so carefully, not just drawn out like most other books. The humorous dialogues and special moments of the book honestly left me craving more. Clare’s style is simply appealing, as the words don’t blur together, but stand out in your mind. It’s no surprise to me that this book was made into a major motion picture; it has the depth and beauty that would leave readers and viewers alike pleased and contented.
Reviewed by Michell
Imagine what it would be like to be a test subject for an experiment that has often gone awry. Semirah, Miranda, and Arnie are among the fifty British Young Conservationists on a trip to the rain forests of Ecuador. After their plane crashes in the middle of the ocean, the three are the only remainders of the accident and are forced to cooperate in hopes of surviving on a “deserted” island. Little do they know, however, that the private island is owned by Dr. Franklin, a mad scientist, and his assistant, Dr. Skinner. Eager that new subjects have stumbled into his lab, Dr. Franklin tests his genetic mutations on the teens, transforming them into animals. The story of Dr. Franklin’s Island is written in the perspective of the shy Semirah as she tells of each day they are stranded. Her account of the situation was very honest and reasonable to me, making it feel as though you were going through the process with her. I enjoyed the thrill of following along with the disturbing ordeals presented to the characters because this is one of those books where you want the best for the characters and hope that everything goes well for them. I would definitely recommend this read for people who enjoy a good horror, sci-fi thriller once in a while.
Genre: Science Fiction
Reviewed by Jeffrey
Going Bovine by Libba Bray is one of the most odd, yet interesting books I have ever read. At the start of the novel we are introduced to the sixteen year old protagonist, Cameron. Cameron doesn't seem to be doing much in his life. He does not care about school; he gets fired from his job, and has no real connection with his family. The only hobby that really intrigues Cameron is to listen to music he hates and make a joke out of it. When I was reading the novel, it was pretty hard to not hate Cameron because of his senseless actions. Just when you’re about to put the book down because of the Cameron's behavior, you find out that he's diagnosed with a mad cow disease. This diagnosis is the jump start of the plummeting of Cameron's life. And just as you thought it would turn to its worst, he is introduce to an eerie character by the name of Dulcie. Dulcie informs Cameron that there is still hope for him, but he most go in search for the cure himself. With the help of a dwarf and a yard gnome, Cameron goes on an adventure to try to find out who he truly is. The author, Libba Bray frequently uses imagery as a way to capture the humor and romance in the characters. Overall the plot and the character's development made me enjoy the novel.
Genre: Dark Comedy, Adventure
J. K. Rowling
Reviewed by Serafina
Harry Potter was never exactly normal. He grew up as an orphan in the cupboard under the stairs of his hateful Aunt and Uncle, he wore only the hand-me-down clothes clothes of his grotesquely rotund cousin, and he could do things that others couldn't. Shortly before his eleventh birthday Harry received a letter that would change his life; too bad he almost never got to read it. Only moments after Harry turned eleven years old he was plunged into an amazing world he never knew existed. A world where magic was not only possible, but as normal as the sky being blue! A world that thrived just underneath our own, and a world where Harry Potter was the famous Boy Who Lived. Follow Harry and his two new best friends as he makes his was through his first year at Hogwarts, the best school for Witches and Wizards, and discovers a terrifying plot to bring back the man who killed Harry's parents. And in the wizarding world things aren't always what they seem.
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Reviewed by Olivia
An emotional roller coaster of a read, “I Was Here” by Gayle Forman is a breathtaking novel written in the sarcastic voice of a young adult girl named Cody. Cody’s best friend in the entirety of their small town in Washington, Meg committed suicide and Meg’s parents want Cody to go to Meg’s college dorm to retrieve Meg’s stuff. What Cody doesn’t expect is when she gets to Seattle and meets Meg’s roommates, friends, and “once significant other”, she realizes that she is completely clueless. On top of all of that, she finds an encrypted computer file on Meg’s computer that throws everything she knew about her best friend’s death into question. I really enjoyed reading this novel because Cody, the main character, wasn’t completely a lovable person. I enjoy reading stories with “heroes”/main characters who aren’t perfect. The writing style of this novel echoed that of a believable young adult who is trying to cope with tragedy all the while trying to not fall under the umbrella of “pitiful people” who knew Meg. I also enjoyed that Cody had a love interest that acted as kind of a foil character to herself in many ways because he reacted differently than her in the novel. In many stories I read, the love interest is basically the same person, just the opposite gender. I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys riveting stories of secrets and lies.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reviewed by Caden
If you are a fan of dystopian novels, you will love Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard! This book follows the main character Mare who is a Red. She and other Reds are looked down upon in their society by the Silvers -- higher beings with mysterious powers. Mare will do anything to keep her loved ones and herself from getting drafted into the army and fighting a war that has been going on for hundreds of years. She will even leave her family and work as a royal servant. But just when she thinks her life could not get any more complicated, she discovers that she is the first Red to ever have abilities. To keep her hidden the King and Queen will disguise her as a lost royal Silver who was raised by Reds. Mare will now have to survive with the people she has been raised to hate all her life. But not all of the Silvers are all bad. Mare will have allies including the two princes Cal, and Maren. This book is fast paced and has amazing character depth! I was pulled in on the very first page and could not put it down! This novel has one of my favorite plot twists of all time! You will not see it coming at all. I really loved how the author made Mare’s character really strong, and relatable. I give this book a five out of five stars! It was amazing!
Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy
Laurie Halse Anderson
Reviewed by Sarah
“I swear to be the skinniest girl in school, skinnier than you.” Wintergirls is a an unforgettable and slightly creepy novel full of the insecurities of teenagers all over the world. Lia is in her senior year of high school, but now, her former best friend Cassie is dead. Seven years ago, the two of them swore to be the skinniest girls in school, which has led to health and mental problems for both girls. After two stays at a mental hospital, Lia is sent to live with her father. She and her mother, Dr. Marrigan, have never gotten along very well. Now, with Dr. Marrigan controlling every aspect of her life. A few months before, the two girls had a falling out; Lia and Cassie have not spoken since. Elijah was the unlucky person to discover the body. He has a message for Lia from Cassie. The only question is, will she listen?
Genre: Realistic Fiction