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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.

Withering Tights

Louise Rennison

Ages 12+

Reviewed by Annaluz

Tallulah Casey, the fourteen-year-old protagonist in Withering Tights, is attending a performing arts college during the summer during which she gets into some trouble with her new friends but also manages to have a lot of fun. What initially drew me to this book was the title. A nice play on words, I expected the book to have some allusions to Wuthering Heights. However, I was disappointed. Yes, there were mentions of characters such as Heathcliff, but they felt forced and unnatural. The book also incorporated direct mentions of characters from other books such as Jane Eyre. They seemed silly and misplaced to me but not as silly as the writing. Tallulah is high-school aged, however the way she speaks and the way the book is written made me think of middle school. Aside from this, the author uses an incredible amount of British slang. I don’t claim to be an expert on British culture but it seemed to me that the author used them excessively, especially after looking some up and finding their use antiquated. Although they are not difficult to understand because of context, I was happy when I came across a glossary at the end of the book. And then disappointed to find it written in Tallulah’s point of view. The plot itself was incredibly light, with nothing serious happening. I honestly could not wait to be done with the book. If you are looking for something light and slightly humorous as well as mentions of squirrels and knees on every other page, then this is the book for you. I however, do not recommend it.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Cinder

Marissa Meyer

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Alina

Cinder is a cyborg living in New Beijing 126 years after World War IV. She is a skilled mechanic with a mysterious past who is scorned by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sickness. When she encounters the heir to the planet, Prince Kai, she becomes involved in an intergalactic, political, and romantic dilemma. Between her own duties and her freedom, Cinder must discover her past to help the future of both the prince and her world. The first book in Marissa Meyer’s series, Cinder is a fresh retelling of the traditional fairy tale of Cinderella. The book was fast-paced, and so enthralling I could not put it down. Marissa Meyer’s characters are unique with their own quirks and distinct personalities. However, the plot was very predictable and unsurprising. Despite this, I enjoyed reading Cinder and as soon as I finished it, I read the following books which were equally exciting. I would recommend this book and the subsequent books in the series to anyone who enjoys adventurous galactic stories and fairy tale retellings.

Genre: Science Fiction

Four: a divergent collection

Veronica Roth

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Victoria

In this all-new, exciting, and very Dauntless read, author Veronica Roth reveals the famous story, Divergent, from Four's point of view. In the original story, Four was the narrator, Tris', initiate trainer. As initiation went on, Four and Tris eventually started dating. Four showed Tris his dark past, and readers got to learn more about him through Tris. However, in Four: A Divergent Collection, readers should prepare to learn what happened during Four's own Choosing Day, initiation, and life in Dauntless before he met Tris. Roth did a great job in making sure nothing from this Divergent collection conflicted with any events from the original trilogy. I would recommend this read to fans of the Divergent series, but not to people who've never read Divergent. This book contains many spoilers to Divergent, so for people who are interested in the series, I encourage you to read the trilogy first. Overall, I would give this book a 9/10!

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

If I Stay

Gayle Forman

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Jacy

Gayle Forman weaves a beautiful piece about love in If I Stay. This book is all about loving yourself, your family, your friends, and most importantly, your life. At 17, Mia is a talented cello player, poised to attend Julliard in the fall. But she finds herself in the hospital one day after a fateful car trip with her family. She discovers that her whole family is dead and her own life is dangling on a thread. Forman adds mystical aspects to this story with Mia still awake while her body is in a coma. Mia must choose if it is worth it to stay in this world without a family to love and care for her. Most of the story follows Mia’s choice and every other chapter is a look back into her life and moments with her family, her music, her boyfriend, Adam, and her best friend, Kim. Forman asks the question of when it is okay to stop fighting and if sometimes, it may just be easier to die and avoid having to deal with loss in life. Also a movie currently in theatres starring Chloe Grace Moretz, make sure to pick up and read If I Stay first then head to the theatre with tissues.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Red Badge of Courage

Stephen Crane

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Jason

The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, is the story of young Union soldier Henry Fleming. Impressed by the Homeric greatness of the Civil War, he impulsively registers for the 304th Infantry Regiment, and goes off to fight in the US Army. However, he harbors a secret fear of his reaction to the bloodshed. The Red Badge of Courage follows Henry Fleming as he struggles to resist his urges of self-preservation and avoid desertion, as well as see him shed his own blood for his fellow comrades, and gain the Red Badge of Courage. I would recommend this book to the older teen audience, as the language used in this novel may be difficult to follow. This book, in a lot of ways, is comparable to Mark Twain, as Stephen Crane took many great pains to perfectly replicate the dialect of the time, often time using popular expressions of the 1800's. Stephen Crane is able to perfectly describe the human condition as a young boy experiencing brutal war for the first time, and each emotional stumble is wrought with fear and emotion. Overall, this short classic is a good summer book to read in between the longer books read during the school year.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Dare You To

Katie McGarry

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Annaluz

Beth has a hard life. Hard because her mother is a drug addict, should be in jail, and hasn’t really been there for Beth. However, Beth still loves her mother and the last thing she wants is to be ripped from her by her baseball-star-uncle and aunt—who don’t really want her. Beth is forced to go to a new school where she is unhappy. However things take a turn with Ryan, a boy she meets at Taco Bell. Ryan asks Beth for her number on a dare. Although Beth refuses, this is the start of their relationship and the “dares.” Ryan doesn’t have a choice life; his is just as troubled in different ways. Together they make a seemingly perfect couple as they support each other and come to rely on each other. However with Beth’s trust issues, things get complicated. Dare You To can be a difficult book to get through because of Beth’s attitude. Readers may become extremely frustrated with her because of her inability to trust. However the plot, two points of view, and emotional themes make it a captivating read. Dare You To is the second book in the Pushing the Limits series.

Genre: Fiction, Romance

Her Dark Curiosity

Megan Shepherd

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Danielle

This is the second installment of The Madman’s Daughter trilogy; however, this is also a spoiler-free review. Megan Shepherd’s stories are simply amazing. I was glued to my bed and didn’t leave it for hours because I was so enthralled by this vivid and haunting story. I look back at my rating for The Madman's Daughter guiltily because, even though I did like it, I did not like Juliet and I did not like the love triangle. I found Edward to be rather dull in the first book; now I'm so confused as to who I love more -- Edward or Montgomery? And I understand why Juliet is so conflicted and constantly switching who she chooses. Her reasons and sentiments are valid. But there's a lot more to this masterpiece than the love triangle -- friendship, secrets, betrayals, giving and taking, science, coming to terms with who you are... and this is merely a PIECE of Her Dark Curiosity. The friendship between Lucy and Juliet is by far one of the best I've ever read. I adored it so much -- no judgments, no contradictions. I'm loving how Shepherd is wrapping this story up. I recommend getting your hands on these books and prepare for a rather fun haunting. Shepherd’s retellings of timeless classics are something new brought to the table of Young Adult literature.

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Gothic, Retellings

I Am Number Four

Pittacus Lore

Ages 12+

Reviewed by Victoria

On the planet Lorien, millions of miles away from Earth, the Loric lived peacefully among one another. Lorics look like humans, but they can do things that humans can only dream about. Some Loric, called the Garde, possess legacies, or powers, and their job was to protect Lorien. Lorics born without legacies were called Cêpan. Cêpan helped keep the planet in order and helped the Garde develop their legacies to their full potential. When Lorien gets taken over by the planet Mogadore, the Lorics quickly send nine Garde and nine Cêpan to Earth, in hopes that the nine would one day be able to win back Lorien soil. A spell was cast on the Garde, ensuring that the nine could not be killed out of order unless they found each other. Four is one of the Lorien Nine. All of his life on Earth has been spent running away from the Mogadorians, moving from city to city, switching from one identity to the next, in fear of being caught. One, Two, and Three are dead. Four now has to be more careful than ever... because he’s next. Pittacus Lore crafted a masterpiece filled with action, romance, and suspense. Readers can follow Four through the twists and turns of his journey to save his race and maybe even find love along the way. “I Am Number Four” is the first book of the Lorien Legacies. If you are looking for an exciting summer read, you may want to consider this book!

Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller, Adventure

Les Miserables

Victor Hugo

Ages 16-18

Reviewed by Jason

Les Miserable, by Victor Hugo, tells the dramatic, heart-wrenching tale of Jean Valjean, a peasant who was unjustly imprisoned for nearly two decades. After escaping on probation, he finds shelter in a monastery, and turns over a new leaf to begin life as an honest man. The novel follows Jean Valjean on his journeys, describing each emotional struggle he experiences as he fights to remain honest while preserving his freedom. As Jean Valjean’s story draws to a close, it is soon replaced with that of Cosette, a young girl adopted by Jean Valjean to save her from the cruelty from her original guardians. Les Miserable follows her as she blossoms from a malnourished, overworked child into a beautiful woman. I would recommend Les Miserable to the older teen audiences because of the complexity of the plot and the length of over 800 pages. It’s a fascinating read, as Victor Hugo takes on the role of an investigator and often times gives various accounts of the same story. Hugo’s writing style paired with a masterful storyline creates an inviting, colorful world. I highly recommend this book for everyone to read. If you’re unsure about reading this book, consider watching the movie Les Miserable, directed by Tom Hooper.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Second Chance Summer

Morgan Matson

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Alyssa

Taylor Edwards always ran away from her problems instead of facing them. So 5 summers ago when things got complicated she ran away and lost her best friend, Lucy, and boyfriend, Henry. Now that cancer has caught up to her dad, Taylor and her family are going back to their lake house in the Poconos to spend one last summer together as a family. But going back to that house meant memories of her past. Memories of Henry and Lucy. Taylor will finally get the chance to make up for everything and maybe has a shot to get a second chance at fixing things. A second chance of love, friendship, and family. Second Chance Summer is a great book that many teens can relate to. I really loved how some of the chapters were flashbacks of Taylor's past, so the readers would be able to fully understand and visualize what had actually happened. Morgan Matson wrote an incredible book that everyone should get their hands on. The story and the journey will change your perspective on friends, relationships, and family. Second Chance Summer illustrates how you should build up courage to face your obstacles and to not run away from them.

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary