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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.
Reviewed by Caden
"Afterworlds" by Scott Westerfeld is a masterpiece. The minute I opened up this book, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to put it down. Follow the amazing story of Darcy Patel, who is an aspiring eighteen-year-old novelist, as she makes leaps in the direction of her dreams of being a writer and finding love. Then when you believe you cannot get enough of your favorite new fictional author, you get to read the mysterious and adventurous novel that she has written. When I realized that I would be able to read Darcy’s book, along with reading about her process of writing and publishing that book, I was so excited. Westerfeld’s character development is amazing! I related to all of the characters from both storylines and was invested in watching them grow. The writing in this novel is beautiful. There were scenes where the characters were talking about writing and you could feel Scott Westerfeld’s love for writing through the words on the page. This book inspired me so much! While I was reading "Afterworlds", I couldn’t stop tabbing my favorite spots. My copy of the book has tons of little colored sticky notes popping out. I believe this book will be an inspiration to young writers and readers everywhere!
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy
D. M. Paige
Reviewed by Serafina
16 year old Amy Gumm has enough problems back in Kansas, so being swept away on a crazy tornado to Oz really was just the icing on the cake. This Oz, however, is different from the one we all grew up with. It's falling to ruin, nothing is right, and Dorothy is to blame. In a matter of days Amy has gone from being Salvation Army from Flat Hill Kansas to the deadly assassin trained by The Order of The Wicked to kill the seemingly sweet and beautiful Dorothy. She has to infiltrate the palace in the Emerald City, get close to Dorothy, and make one fateful move to free Oz from the sickening ruler they have now. You'd think simply being a undercover assassin would be hard enough, but in this Oz trust anybody and it could very well be the last thing you do. I really enjoyed this book. It was completely riveting and the plot was fabulous. Danielle Paige manages to take the wondrous Oz from the stories and completely morph it into something new while still keeping that beauty and charm we know lies just below the surface. The only misgiving I would have for anyone under the age of sixteen is that towards the beginning of the book there are a few curse words and throughout the book there is a lot of graphic violence. I really loved this book though and I can't wait to continue reading the series!
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Reviewed by Cara
Ah, Shakespeare - the terror of high school students and the obsession of Literature majors. This particular work of his, Hamlet, contains a plot many people may recognize if they have watched the Disney movie The Lion King. After the death of his beloved father, who was once the king of Denmark, Prince Hamlet seems to be the only one mourning. As his uncle suddenly becomes his new father and the ghost of the late king appears to him, Hamlet seems to descend further and further into madness until not even Ophelia, the one who knows him best, can tell if he truly has any sanity left. (Really, no one knows for sure just how insane he is by the end of the story. People have been debating over it for a very long time.) Although such an old piece of literature can be intimidating and will require some extra digging through a dictionary, I found it very exciting and worth the extra effort. If you have the time to read it, I am sure you will enjoy this play.
Genre: Drama, Play
Reviewed by Kelli
What can a girl do when they could hear the thoughts of others and lost their parents? In Elizabeth George’s novel The Edge of Nowhere, Becca King is a high school girl who has an ability to hear “whispers,” or the thoughts of others. This gift or curse has caused her to learn that her stepfather, being a criminal, put her and her mother on the run. Becca is separated from her mother and taken in by a kindly older woman named Debbie, who owns a motel on Whidbey Island. There she meets a high school dropout and musician named Seth and a Ugandan boy named Derric, who defends her from the school bullies. When Derric is put into a coma, Becca wonders about his life and secrets? Who is this popular boy beneath the surface? And will she ever return to her mother again? This novel was okay, but not my favorite for a few reasons. First, the plot line was a bit hard to follow. Sometimes I had a hard time following events in it. Second, the ending left me hanging and had a few loose ends. Not all of my questions were answered. This book had some bullying, and cursing, in it and is not geared for a younger audience. I would recommend it though to any reader who wants a compelling science fiction novel that doubles as a romance.
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Contemporary
Reviewed by Raj
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, is one of the strangest, yet sophisticated books I have ever read. The story unwinds in an indescribably satisfying way, as Adams reveals the secrets of the universe piece by piece, answering the questions we never thought to ask in a literally out of this world adventure. The book simply left me speechless in awe, and, to be honest, it would take me several readings to truly write a worthy review. I will, however, make an earnest attempt. When I first began this book, I was taken aback at what seemed like a ludicrous (yet mind-bogglingly hilarious) turn of events that followed no storyline and simply occurred, with no rhyme or reason. I couldn’t fathom why the Earth had to be destroyed, or why a Vogon’s poetry was so repulsive, but I could comprehend the sidesplitting humor. From the pokes at the subtle ironies of society to the witticism scattered throughout the book, I was hooked on, even with the indiscernible plot. As the book progressed, however, all the loose ends began to connect, and every detail took a new meaning as the plot finally formed. At this point, I realized that I was reading one of the most meaningful books I have ever encountered. Thus, as I am still recovering from the awestruck state this book has left me in, I can only say that everyone should read this book at least once in their lifetime.
Genre: Science Fiction, Humor
Reviewed by Olivia
A captivating, engaging, and insightful novel are the only words I can use to describe “The Last Time We Say Goodbye” by Cynthia Hand. Cynthia wrote a book that is romantic, poetic, and melancholic, but truly beautiful. Alexis, a senior in high school, is learning to cope with the sadness her brother Tyler’s suicide has brought on. Alexis was happy with her life before; she had a loving boyfriend and friends, but now she’s just her dead brother’s sister. A few visits to her therapist leads her to start keeping a journal about her experiences with, and after, Ty. Reminiscent of her old self, this novel is filled with chapters about Alexis and her experiences in present time as well as a few journal entries. I thought this book was eloquently written because it wasn’t all “teary and dreary” like some suicide novels tend to be (THERE WAS HOPE!). It had the perfect mix of emotions within Alexis. I felt like I could relate to Alexis because she wasn’t perfect like a lot of protagonists tend to be. The book presents itself as easy to read: the chapters are short and right to the point. The words flowed together. Overall, this book is a definite “A” and I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a tearjerker as well as anyone who likes realistic fiction.
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
Reviewed by Michell
Sophie Sophia is not like the rest. She has an obsession with 80’s music and wears crazy outfits, sometimes even sewing pockets on them to correspond to a theme. But above all, she sees things that no one else can; she has “episodes,” just like her physicist, crazy-in-the-head father. After he left her and her mother four years ago, Sophie is determined to find him and uncover the truth behind the visions that have troubled her life. Guided by Walt, a shaman panda, and Finny, her physics-geek friend, she and Finny bound for New York, where her father’s story began and where the answers lie. The Theory of Everything is written in the perspective of Sophie, which is an aspect I really enjoyed because it allowed me to experience the things she was going through, making it feel very real and genuine. However, I found it confusing when Sophie would go into her hallucinations, without warning, and transition back to reality because it hard to distinguish which world she was in. Other than that, I enjoyed this read a lot. It had just the right amount of suspense to keep me wondering and wanting to keep up with Sophie’s journey. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an imaginative read supported by determined, fun characters with a cause.
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Reviewed by Jeffrey
This month I decided to review "The Zodiac Killer: terror and mystery" because I have a strong interest in the horror genre. This book is indeed, a work of non-fiction and the series of events that are included are based on actual reports. The author, Brenda Haugen, informs the reader of the series of murders that the self-named Zodiac Killer enacted in California in the 1960's and 70's. Throughout the book, Haugen makes sure to include quotes rumored to be made by the Zodiac Killer which can allude that the author shared a very strong interest in the murders. Not only is this book scary but it is also mysterious because it is unknown who is committing the crimes. I was intrigued how the killer was able to send coded messages to local newspapers admitting he/she was responsible for the murders. It is also said that there were police investigators who were determined to discover who was behind the horrid crimes, so they began to attempt to decode the Zodiac's messages. Although this book was quite short, I firmly enjoyed the read because it kept me biting my nails wanting to know more about the issue. If you are a reader that is interested in a good nonfiction mystery, then this book is certainly the right choice for you.
Genre: Non-fiction, Mystery
Reviewed by Gabrielle
You would think that if you had some sort of supernatural power, you would put it to good use by saving people or accomplishing some other heroic deed of the sort. Well, Maddie Flynn does sort of have a super power and she does also use it for good. Her super power being the ability to see a person's deathdate printed on their forehead (she can see the dates in pictures and through television as well), and putting it to good use meaning supporting herself and her alcoholic mother by charging people in exchange for having their deathdates read. One day Maddie has to do a reading for a mother whose daughter has cancer. The mother shows her a picture of her children, asking specifically about her daughter. When Maddie sees the picture what strikes her is not the date of the woman's daughter but of her son. His death was scheduled for the very next week. When he dies, Maddie becomes the number one suspect and must clear her name before anyone else gets hurt. This book was great! I really enjoyed Maddie's character; she was very relatable and I felt drawn straight into the story. I loved how the book had many plot twists that kept me guessing the entire time. I was not disappointed and I know that you won't be either!
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