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Romance

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

February 10, 2021

“You start being kind to yourself, making decisions that are best for you, not best for everyone else. You look around at the people in your life, one by one, choosing to hold on to the ones who make you stronger and better, and letting go of the ones who don’t.” 

Samantha McAllister might seem like a normal highschool girl, but something people don’t know is that she has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which fills her with anxiety and rapid thoughts, when all she wants to do is focus on fitting in with the popular group. But one day, she meets a girl named Caroline who introduces her to a place called Poet’s Corner: a secret and hidden room in the back of their school, where a group of students go every week to write poetry and encourage one another to embrace ways of expressing themselves through writing. By surrounding herself with a new community, Samantha finds herself curious about a boy named AJ who seems very familiar. Could she finally overcome her fears from just a small bit of change, or will Poet’s Corner become a bigger deal in her life than she expects?  

Every Last Word was a touching and beautiful story because of how easily Tamara Ireland Stone grasped the concept of finding oneself within the daily challenges of being a teenager, while at the same time taking a realistic approach to the struggles someone deals with when having a mental disorder. I loved how Stone could write a book about literature as an art form, and how it can help people survive tough moments in their lives without realizing it.

In the very beginning of the book, Stone includes a flashback of Samantha handling an OCD attack when she was young. I found this effective because I was able to understand who the lead character was and the struggles she was facing in advance of when the plot line started. Whenever the setting changed, Stone always knew how to use the right words to captivate her audience into different moments. The word choices throughout the book always had a purpose, and the depth of the story was complex but easily understandable. I found it interesting how I could learn important life lessons—not just through the protagonist’s experiences, but from how Stone incorporated them metaphorically for the readers, too.

I find it best when a realistic fiction book is written in first person  because it makes personal moments more relatable for me. Stone provided this perspective for her readers, which gave me a better glimpse of Samantha’s thoughts and how they were triggering her to act around other characters.

The pace of this novel was perfect. It moved along steadily without jumping to conclusions too quickly. Each chapter was unpredictable. Stone knew how to bring excitement to her audience by making the tone appear non-suspenseful. This seemed to catch me more off guard when the plot would turn. I definitely recommend reading until the end, because the conclusion left me stunned. 

Overall, this story was inspirational and gifted me with a whole new perspective on the world around me. I have realized how much other people’s lives affect our own because of how we silently learn from one another each day. Samantha taught me that we don’t just build each other up with our voices and actions, but with the experiences we have as a society, too. I rate this book a ten out of ten and at some point, I hope everyone is able to read this novel about a girl’s life, which will change yours for the better.  

Sophia

Hyperion, 383 pages


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

That’s where I found Blue’s post. It just kind of spoke to me. And I don’t even think it was just the gay thing. I don’t know. It was seriously like five lines, but it was grammatically correct and strangely poetic, and just completely different from anything I’d ever read before.”

Simon Spier is gay, but he hasn’t come out yet. The only person he can talk to about it is Blue, the pen-name of another sixteen-year-old boy who goes to Creekwood High. Simon and Blue have been emailing back and forth ever since the August before junior year, when Simon found Blue via a social media post and felt he just had to know him. Through their emails, they tell each other the big, important things about their lives, but they’ve chosen to stay anonymous, at least for now—with secret email accounts, pen-names, no clues about who their friends are, or anything overly specific about school. 

But when Martin Addison logs onto a school computer after Simon, finds his secret email account, and is cruel enough to take a screenshot, he threatens to reveal Simon’s sexual identity to the entire school. All Simon has to do to prevent this is help him land a date with Abby Suso, who happens to be one of Simon’s closest friends. For Martin Addison, this seems like no big deal. But to Simon, everything—and everyone―he cares about most is at risk. His junior year just got a lot more complicated.

In Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli writes from Simon’s incredibly well-crafted perspective. Readers will feel as if they are in the head of a real teenage boy. Nothing about the tone is ever robotic, forced, or stiff. The audience will love the honest, humorous, socially- and emotionally-aware voice of Simon. He is observant, with a clear and strong perspective on his world. The chapters alternate between Simon’s first-person narrative and his emails with Blue. This is a strategy that I haven’t seen in many books, but in this case it’s extremely effective, as the reader learns more about both boys through their intimate, heart-warming, and often hilarious email chain. There is playful teasing, countless jokes, ingenius typos, and effective all-caps usage between Blue and Simon that keep the emails fresh, funny, and interesting. Because readers don’t know Blue’s real identity, these chapters give readers a chance to learn about the way he feels: Simon and Blue are always truly honest with each other.

And they aren’t the only strong characters in this book. Martin, although readers will be upset with the way he acts, is developed well; he has a distinct personality, and visibly grows throughout the narrative. Nick, Leah, and Abby are some of the best friends a reader will find in a contemporary realistic fiction novel. Nick is caring, funny, and a complete constant in Simon’s life. Leah and Simon’s relationship is perfect because they fully get each other. There is nothing forced about their friendship. I loved the bond between Abby and Simon because they only met at the beginning of the school year, and they are already super close. Abby is gentle, kind, easy to talk to, and always knows how to cheer Simon up when he’s upset.

Simon’s parents are also crafted well. In some young adult books, these characters are just there because the protagonist has parents, but in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, they have their own well-crafted character development. Something that Simon struggles with is that he feels like his parents have a set idea of who he is, and if anything about him changes it’s always this super huge deal. Simon’s sisters, Alice and Nora, are also exceptional characters. Nora is quiet, but shows huge love for her siblings, and Alice is an incredible big sister who Simon and Nora both adore. It’s refreshing to read about siblings who have such strong relationships. 

Readers will never feel bored or wish to skip ahead while reading. This is because the problem is introduced on page one, the chapters aren’t too long, and as time goes on, Simon and Blue continue to grow closer—and both Simon and the reader will be aching to find out Blue’s true identity. Readers will find themselves constantly guessing at who he might be, which will result in a completely satisfying conclusion, executed just right.

Albertalli has an amazing eye for detail, clear from reading a few sentences of her novel. Every new setting is described in a fresh, original way, and I found myself often thinking, Huh. People do that all the time, because not only does Albertalli have great sensory diction, she is also aware of the way people act, and that shows. This is reflected in the dialogue as well, which is realistic, funny, and mirrors every character’s individual personality.

Albertalli has written a variety of other titles, including Leah on the Off Beat, which is the phenomenal sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, starring Simon’s best friend, Leah, and Love, Creekwood, a third book in this series. She’s also authored What if It’s Us, co-written with Adam Silvera, and Yes No Maybe So co-written with Aisha Saeed. I would recommend anything by Albertalli, even the titles I haven’t yet read, because she is just so good. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was also made into a movie that came out in 2018, called Love, Simon. It stars Nick Robinson and has gotten many good reviews. I am eager to watch it soon.

This story deals with many themes, including romance, sexual identity, friendship, and the importance of doing the right thing. Personally I believe that all of these themes are important to learn about, and it’s exciting to read more books with LGBTQ+ protagonists written by an author who is skilled at giving them a voice. I have learned a lot from entering into the head of Simon Spier, and I think anyone who picks up this novel will, too.

I would rate Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda a ten out of ten and recommend it to anyone twelve or older—it does have a fair amount of swearing—who enjoys books with romance, a bit of mystery, an abundance of humor, and a protagonist you can’t help but love.

Isabelle

HarperCollins Publishers, 303 pages


The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

February 4, 2021

Natasha and her family are immigrants from Jamaica, who moved to New York City when she was eight years old. She only has one day left before she and her family are deported to Jamaica, leaving the world she has created behind. Natasha decides to walk the depths of Times Square to distract her from this reality, when her life almost flashes before her eyes: a car comes speeding towards her. Luckily Daniel, a boy who is living under his parents’ expectations to become a doctor and with his not-so-nice brother Charlie, is in the right moment at the right time and saves Natasha from getting hit. Daniel doesn’t leave Natasha’s side after the incident, as he gets a different feeling that he has never felt with anyone else he’s ever met before. Daniel is convinced that he can make Natasha fall in love in just one day. Although he has a lot of hope for his unheard-of plan, Natasha is not one to believe in “love at first sight.” She prefers sticking to the facts and research. Natasha may not believe in love, but Daniel is on a mission to convince her otherwise with the only day they’ve got left together.

I had a great experience reading The Sun Is Also a Star. Although it fell under the genre of contemporary realistic fiction, it wasn’t like any other book I’ve read before. One of the key elements I loved reading throughout the book was how Nicola Yoon structured the character development between Natasha and Daniel. The two have awkward and tense energy between them initially, but as they start talking more, readers can see them warming up to each other, making it feel as though they’ve known each other for the longest time. The development of them individually is fascinating, too. Natasha starts out skeptical and always seems to be on edge. But when she meets Daniel, he helps her loosen up a little bit, making her feel more comfortable and at ease as she gets to know him better. Yoon has Daniel lack a lot of confidence to start out. His parents want him to be a doctor even though that’s not the path he wants to go down. He’s also used to Charlie always being rude to him, but he would never stand up for himself. I found it satisfying when Daniel slowly starts gaining confidence as he sticks up for himself against his brother and tells his parents he doesn’t want to do what they want him to do—all because he met Natasha. If Natasha and Daniel hadn’t met, they would still have these insecurities to struggle with.

I liked how Yoon structured the narrative because one essential feature for any book is having multiple perspectives to create a balance with different characters, instead of having it told through one character. This creates more depth and can be easier to understand. I found the way Yoon crafted the different chapters interesting. Most of the chapters alternate between Natasha and Daniel’s perspective, but some chapters include side characters that the two meet throughout the story, and some chapters are written as meanings or definitions that have to do with the situation Natasha and Daniel are in. This intrigued me because I’d never read a book like that, but I really enjoyed it. It created more clarification that was essential for the book. I also found it different how Yoon chose to have varying chapter lengths, from two words to six full pages, which was unexpected to me but added suspense and wonder about what the next chapter will say, which I thought was smart for Yoon to do.

The pace of the book was neither fast nor slow. It was a pace that was perfect for me because I never felt bored, but I also didn’t feel rushed or caught off guard while reading. It’s rare to find a book with a pace that is perfectly fitted for the reader such as myself. With this in mind, reading did not feel like a chore or homework because Yoon kept the situation alive and exciting throughout the entire story, making it difficult for me to put the book down whenever I came to a new chapter, which I admired greatly. I rate The Sun Is Also a Star a very strong ten out of ten because it was everything I could’ve wanted in a book: an intriguing title, two main characters in their teens finding their own way in life, a complex setting like New York City, an effective main problem spread evenly throughout the entire story, suspenseful action that kept me on the edge of my seat, and a satisfying ending that fit perfectly. 

I recommend The Sun Is Also a Star to fans of Yoon’s other book Everything, Everything, contemporary realistic fiction lovers, and ultimately anyone who’s looking for a detailed story to get hooked on. The Sun Is Also a Star is also “The #1 New York Times Bestseller,” was one of the National Book award Finalists, and is now a major motion picture. Readers will not regret reading this masterpiece of a story.

Emma

Ember, 344 pages


Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

February 3, 2021

Creekwood is a wealthy town, and for most people it’s the perfect place for their perfect family—not for Leah. Her mother is struggling with work, and Leah’s not sure about her mom’s new boyfriend, Wells. Plus, it’s senior year, and things are changing: everyone is looking at colleges that are way out of Leah’s price range, and her feelings for her long-time classmate Abby are becoming something more than friendship. As the school year goes on, more starts to happen. Abby breaks up with her boyfriend (which makes Leah surprisingly happy), and Leah gets a boyfriend, Garrett (who she decides to ignore). She can’t help feeling that her world is changing. Leah has to survive the ups and downs of senior year. Will she make it?

 In Leah on the Offbeat, Becky Albertalli develops Leah and her supporting characters to be lifelike. Most of the situations Leah is put in happen to many kids, and it is cool to see a book that has so many connections to the real world. Readers will want to dive right into Creekwood High School’s drama and gossip, and they will immediately fall in love with Leah’s quirky personality. They will also enjoy Albertalli’s way of making the characters’ dialogue super realistic. I felt like I was inside of the book listening to the characters talk to one another.  

The novel is written in first person, which gives readers a sense of what Leah is thinking all the time. It is crucial that Albertalli did this because, without Leah’s thoughts and feelings, the book would be bland, and readers would find themselves wondering what is going on in Leah’s head. 

I found that the pace of Leah on the Offbeat was fast, but it had some parts that were slow on purpose, so the moments they described were more special. At some points in the end there were a couple of suspenseful moments where readers will not be able to put the book down.

One choice of Albertalli’s that was effective was how she made the antagonist Leah herself. Leah is self-conscious about her body and is nervous about telling people that she is bisexua, even her best friends, and I think that readers will gain knowledge about how some kids are not comfortable coming out to their families. Leah on the Offbeat clearly shows how hard it can be for kids to tell the people that they love one of the most important things to them. Leah’s rose as the antagonist of her own story will show readers that it is hard to tell people how you feel. 

Leah on the Offbeat was definitely a ten out of ten read for me. With all these effective features, how could it not be? Albertalli has written other amazing books that readers will enjoy: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the first book in this series. It focuses on Leah’s friend, Simon, and it’s a great book. Albertalli also wrote What if it’s Us, a wonderful book about a summer romance. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary realistic fiction and to someone who is looking for a heartwarming romance novel that will make readers fall in love with Leah’s story. 

Kestrel

Balzer + Bray, 339 pages


Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Sixteen-year-old Lina has always lived with her mother. But after her mom dies of cancer, Lina fulfills her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father by spending the summer in Italy, where he lives. Howard, her mom’s friend, gives Lina a journal that her mother wrote while she was in Italy as a young adult. As she reads her mother’s journal entries, Lina discovers a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. With the help of Ren, a boy she meets in Italy, she uncovers a secret that will change everything that she knew about her mother, her father, and even herself.

Love and Gelato is a very fast-paced book because Evans Welch makes the plot unpredictable at times.The conflict is suspenseful because Lina wants to find her father, and Evans Welch made me wonder if she ever would find him. Evans Welch included excerpts from Lina’s mom’s journal, where her mom called her dad “X,” in order to keep his real identity secret. Readers will enjoy the suspenseful and unpredictable parts of this book

This book is written in first person, from Lina’s point of view, so it feels as if Lina is talking directly to the audience. The reader will get to know who Lina is, and maybe even relate to how she feels about being in a foreign country and not knowing who her father is. Evans Welch uses first-person narrative effectively because the audience only knows what Lina knows. When Lina arrives, she thinks that her dad is Howard, but after reading some of her mom’s journal entries in the journal she reconsiders her original theory. I loved how Evans Welch made both the reader and Lina wonder about her father’s real identity because it adds a lot to the tension of the plot.

Evans Welch uses simple, everyday language so that the reader can understand what’s happening to Lina and the other characters. Evans Welch also includes excerpts from Lina’s mom’s journal. Including excerpts from the journal is effective because the readers can read what Lina’s reading, and they can create their own theory along with Lina about who her father is.

The genre of Love and Gelato is realistic fiction, but it’s different from most novels I’ve read in that genre: this book has a tiny bit of mystery in the otherwise simple, uncomplicated plot. I loved how Evans Welch blended mystery into a realistic fiction book because it made Lina’s adventure in Italy and her quest to find her dad more intriguing. Readers will love this book and refuse to put it down because of the interesting plot and the mix of realism and mystery. 

Lina is a strong main character because she’s a very positive person, but sometimes she can’t face reality because she’s upset or scared. Evans Welch created amazing supporting characters, like Lina’s best friend, Addie, who is supportive and sympathetic; Lorenzo (Ren) who is nice and who Lina develops a crush on; Mimi, Ren’s jealous girlfriend who seems very mean, but softens up in the end; Howard, Lina’s mom’s friend, who is very nice and tries to get to know Lina; and finally, Sonya, Howard’s assistant at the cemetery where he works. These characters play a significant role in the book because they make the reader realize that friendship is important.  All of the characters have their own unique personalities, and I enjoyed getting to know each of them.

The themes of this book are friendship, romance, and having faith in yourself. When we first meet Lina, she’s not very confident but she learns more about herself and those around her over the course of the novel. Friendship plays a crucial role in this book because Ren and Addie really help Lina. 

I rated this book a nine out of ten because it was so suspenseful and mysterious. Fans of the movie Double Dad will enjoy this book because this story and the movie have the same premise of a girl not knowing who her dad is and wanting to find him. If you’re a fan of realistic fiction with a bit of mystery then you wouldn’t want to miss this book.

YuJi 

Simon Pulse, 389 pages.


To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

March 3, 2020

Lara Jean needs a plan. But it is currently hard to make one, as she is mastering driving, watching her older sister leave for college in Scotland, waiting for her single father to come home from late shifts at the hospital and taking care of her younger sister, Kitty. One fact about Lara Jean: when she has a crush, she crushes hard. She thinks about what he’s doing, or if he likes Cherry Coke, or if maybe he’ll ask her to the Valentine’s dance. So she starts writing secret letters to the boys she’s liked. When she writes, she writes like he’ll never read it. There’s no filter between Lara Jean’s brain and her pen. This means that when her precious letters get sent out, it feels like the end of the world. 

There are five letters, five boys: Kenny from camp; Lucas Krapft, who is gay; blue-eyed John Ambrose McClaren; Josh, her next door neighbor (who is also her older sister’s boyfriend); and finally cocky, shamless Peter Kavinsky, who’s dating Lara Jean’s  popular ex-friend, Genevieve. 

Jenny Han writes with a seamless, distinctive flair. The diction is on point, and the little unique details she incorporates help paint pictures in the reader’s mind. Han took into consideration how to round out each character and give him or her depth by the end. The book’s genre is mostly contemporary realistic fiction, but with a slight “who dunnit?” vibe as Lara Jean’s readers puzzle over how the letters were sent.

One aspect I took away from this book was the flawless transition from Lara Jean’s reflections to the present. The structure of this book is broken up between the present or Lara Jean’s perspective, and there are a couple chapters where Lara Jean explains important information and helps set the stage for the reader. The reflection was the main character speaking to the reader, informing them of past events, and the present was Lara Jean’s present. Strategies like these are effective and help the plot to move along.

Lara Jean will surprise her audience every step of the way. When readers first experience this main character, they might find her timid or spineless, but throughout the book, Lara Jean grows as a character and gains confidence. I enjoyed how Han developed her character and thought about how she could grow and blossom.

I also appreciated the character of Peter Kavinsky, the overconfident, popular jock. When the story starts, audiences may find him very smug and self obsessed, but as he spends time with Lara Jean, they both help each other—Peter brings out Lara Jean’s confidence, and Lara Jean draws out Peter’s emotional past, and helps him through it.

This novel is a must read. I rated it an eleven out of ten, and I would recommend it to anyone above twelve who likes romantic comedies, contemporary realistic fiction, or a bit of love and a touch of adventure. I especially loved the ending in this book: the suspense and romance all in one create an edgy, exciting novel filled with choice.  

Readers  will adore Han’s beautifully crafted book and crave more. There are two follow ups—a second and third book—and the whole series follows Lara Jean through her adventure-filled high school experience. Be sure to pick up this novel, as it will leave you speechless.

Freida

Simon & Schuster, 368 pages


Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

“So if your name is Margaret Campbell, I’ve got one spare ticket for a train journey from New York to San Francisco…”

When Hugo orders tickets for a train ride across the country for him and his girlfriend, Margaret Campbell, he believes this trip will be a great way to take a break from his regular life as a sextuplet who does everything with his three brothers and two sisters. They are even applying to the same college! But disaster strikes when Margaret dumps Hugo right before the trip. Since the tickets are non-refundable, and Hugo needs an escape from reality, he has to find another Margret Campbell to go on this trip with him.

This is when Mae, a movie and filmmaker walks into Hugo’s life. Mae tried applying for her dream school of film but unfortunately gets rejected. When she discovers the e-mail Hugo sent out in search for his travel partner, she decides it would be a great opportunity not just to get away from her stressed out life, but to make a new film interviewing strangers on the train, asking what love means to them,- hence the title of the book.

A lot happens to Hugo and Mae in only one week on a train, Even chemistry sparks between them, leaving unexpected plot twists, shocking news, and an intrigued reader wanting to read more.

I enjoyed Smith’s writing very much. She never failed to leave me on the edge of my seat. The way she wrote and the very new and unfamiliar topic she wrote about never bored me. I always wanted to find out what happened next.

Field Notes on Love persuaded me that anything is possible and that anything can happen when, where, and how you least expect it. For example, the connection Mae and Hugo have in only one week on a train is unreal. At the end of the week, they exclaimed how it felt like they’ve known each other for years, making the reader feel that way as well, which is what I love about a good book. It can make the reader feel like they’re right there in that moment with the characters, which I admire greatly.

Right now I am reading another one of Smith’s books called This is What Happy Looks Like, which is part of a series, so I am looking forward to reading more of her books, and other readers will too.

I would rate this book a ten out of ten due to the fact that whenever I picked up this book, it felt like I wasn’t in my house or I wasn’t at school anymore. Instead I felt like I was right there with Hugo and Mae experiencing the world with them, which is really amazing with just a book. If you’re looking for an exciting and heartfelt book with shocking plot twists and the ability to never put it down, this book is for you. Enjoy reading about this amazing adventure!

Emma

Delacorte Press. , 271 pages


Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Willowdean Dickson is a regular, Dolly Parton-loving girl living in the small town of Clover City, Texas. People around her comment on her size-even her mom, who Willowdean does not get along with. Willowdean works at Harpy’s with Bo, who likes her as more than a friend, though after they kiss she starts to doubt herself. But when the Miss Teen Bluebonnet Pageant comes along, Willowdean enters to prove that you don’t have to be perfect to be in a pageant. Along the way she will discover more about herself and the meaning of friendship.

In Dumplin Julie Murphy not only developed a strong main character, she crafted amazing side characters like Millie Millachuck, a girl who wanted to enter the pageant since she was a  little girl. She has a big personality and is always happy. All of Murphy’s characters have unique stories about their lives, which makes the book even more enjoyable.

The themes of Dumplin are the importance of friendship, romance, and being yourself. Being yourself is very important throughout the book because most of the characters are figuring out who they are… Murphy made the book perfect for readers who are learning to be themselves and to never doubt yourself.

One theme that I took away from this book is that friends are important, and they always have your back. Friendship is something that everyone should have, and Willowdean’s friends are the perfect friends: funny, kind and quirky. Murphy made the relationships and friendships seem totally real, so readers can relate to this book, which I think is a key factor that all books should have.

Murphy also wrote a second book called Puddin, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It was pretty slow moving for me, and even though Millie was one of the characters, the other girl, Callie Reyas, was not a strong character. Her personality was the original “girly girl,” which made me frustrated because in Dumplin Murphy did a really good job. I was not impressed with Puddin.

If you are a reader who enjoys books that are relatable, fun, and just plain amazing you have to read this book. The pace of the book is fast. Murphy ends some of the chapters abruptly, so you will say “just one more chapter.” The audience for this book is maybe twelve to … well, any age. It’s good for adults, too. I would rate this incredible book a ten out of ten. I did not mention this before but this book has been made into a pretty good movie that surprisingly is kind of like the book but a little less detailed. I recommend reading the book first because why not?

If you are a romance fan this book would be great for you, it has the perfect amount of romance throughout the book. I hope you read the wonderful Dumplin by Julie Murphy and love it as much as I do.

Kestrel

Balzer + Bray, 369 pages


The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

February 29, 2020

The year is 1817, and seventeen year old dressmaker Celine Rousseau is fleeing from Paris. This is how she finds herself in the french Quarter of New Orleans, under the care (and watchful eye) of the Ursuline convent. Celine plans to restart her life in the lively carnival city, but soon, her wit and curiosity lead Celine to rebel against society’s constrictions, and right into the Court De Lions. This dangerous, underground elite society holds more power over the city than anyone would ever imagine— and there’s more to it than meets the eye. With grotesque killings and a mysterious murder haunting the city, Celine dives into this world brimming with magic, decit, feuds, and Sébastien—the alluring, quick-witted gentleman who leads it all. Celine is determined to find the killer, unearth this city’s secrets, and avoid falling in love— all while carving out a new future for herself.

In this book, Renée Ahdeih proves how versatile she is in her writing—from retellings, to feudal Japan, and now 18th century New Orleans. In her latest book, Ahdeih immerses her characters in a vibrant and alluring recreation of the French Quarter. Even readers without prior knowledge about the setting will still feel like they know the bustling streets and dark alleys personally, as they read her work.

Ahdeih uses multiple perspectives— some of them named, and a few mysterious. Although the majority was through Celine’s perspective, Ahdeih also included chapters from the past, and many from the killer. As a reader, it was eerie to watch the killer plotting, and picking their next target— than for Celine to discover them dead the next day. By using the multiple perspectives, she was also able to maintain many story lines at once, like clues that the reader had to piece together.

By giving the killer a voice, Ahdeih created a deeper character, instead of just another classic antagonist. It made me question whether the Court of Lions and Celine were truly innocent, or if maybe the killer had justification. Ahdeih doesn’t just give the reader a plot to watch from afar, but launches them into the story, and forces readers to question all of the characters, while attempting to solve the mystery.

Although I have never looked for mysteries when choosing books, This read has convinced me to do otherwise. I loved piecing together the clues with Celine. Ahdeih was able to create a remarkable mystery, without sacrificing the character development, or the relationships in the book. Ahdeih misleads both Celine and the reader, with obscure leads and hidden signs that will stun in the end.

The use of french dialogue by many of the characters added to their personalities, and made the setting come to life. Much of it, a reader could guess what they were saying, and some dialogue would have explanations as Celine thought about what was being said in her mind. However— there were a few times when it was difficult to understand, and felt like I was missing something intriguing or comedic.

The separate plots transverse multiple decades. Ahdieh is unique in the way she keeps her plots entirely separate, until the final chapters. This adds to the suspense, and helps build depth in characters—you can see different aspects of their personality. For example, watching the killer when they are younger and the protagonist of their own story, and present time— when they have changed dramatically, and are now the antagonist. The stories twisted together in the final chapters creating an action-packed, revelation-full, and stunning finale.

For readers looking for romance, this book will certainly provide. Celine and Sebastian’s relationship evolves beautifully throughout the story, yet never overpowers the plot. Celine is not helpless nor obsessive, which is a refreshing take on the classic enemies-yet-love-interest scenario Ahdieh implements. Because Celine is such a strong protagonist, and Sebastian goes so much deeper as a character than just their relationship, their romance is never stereotypical or predictable. Instead, it forms a realistic window into society during the 18th century.

Finally, the aspect that pushes this book one more step ahead is Ahdeih’s writing. She creates paragraphs like a poet, and the emotion behind every phrase is evident. Readers will linger on sentences packed with stunning diction, and metaphors that are carefully crafted. Ahdeih writes as if her words are not only prose, but free-verse poetry— and the result is magic.

“The creature inside Celine writhed beneath her skin, stirring to life.

No. Celine Rousseau was not a weathervane. She would not be moved by the Ghost’s presence as everyone else was.”

Ahdeih has created yet another masterpiece, which will enthrall readers from the first page, all the way to the thrilling last chapters. Readers who enjoy dystopia, romance, or simply a strong female protagonist will love this book— and long to to live in the world of Celine Rousseau.

Aelia

Penguin Random House, 425


Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

“You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person and why.” 

Aza looks like just your average, high-school-attending, homework-worrying, friendship-building, teenage girl, but on the inside, her mind is at war: part of her wants to hide away from the world, its germs, and everyone in it. The other part of her wants to have a boyfriend, hang out with her friends, and have fun. Her OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) gets in the way of everything she wants. As John Green takes the reader along in Turtles All The Way Down, Aza and her best friend, Daisy, discover that there is a missing millionaire, with a sweet reward for whoever finds him, and he’s the father of Aza’s childhood crush: Davis. Aza and Daisy meet with Davis, immediately the friendship between Aza and Davis blossoms, and Aza’s interest is returned. The sweet touch of first love in this novel will warm the audience’s hearts and have readers aww-ing at each moment. As Aza and her friends discover more of Davis’s missing father, they realize something else may have happened entirely.

Aza’s enthralling journey is written in the first person, so it feels as though Aza is talking directly to the reader. This novel will speak strongly to audiences who deal with or know people who deal with mental disabilities. Green has OCD, and a reader will know that how he writes about Aza’s thoughts is accurate. He mentions the stress she endures, and how it feels like her thoughts are spiraling down, indefinitely tightening. But, along with helping the audience understand those with mental disabilities better, this book will also show anyone the struggles of popularity, friendship, relationships, family, and what the definition of ‘normal’ is. Green writes about the last issue with such clarity and sureness that it will change readers’ perspectives on the idea of that topic.

Throughout the novel, Aza describes how she thinks she isn’t in control of her life, and how someone is writing her story, which is ironic because someone is. It’s an amazing way to put the reader into Aza’s perspective, and therefore be more understanding of her conflicts.

Now more on Aza’s friends: Daisy—her name says it all. A flower, wild and sweet. Daisy helps Aza bloom out of her spiral of worries and thoughts and shows her ways to get around her OCD. The audience will find Daisy a relatable supporting character and be reminded of how strong friendship can be. Then there’s Davis: he’s kind and is always looking out for Aza and overcoming the obstacles that he faces with her OCD. His father is a missing millionaire with a ten thousand dollar bounty on his head, and his mother has been dead since he was a kid, so Davis is empathetic to anyone who has hardships in their life. Davis is an adorable character that readers will become connected to, and will cheer on throughout the title.

This novel is so robust and moving that any reader will feel the power of Green’s thoughts and work when they read it. He successfully shows the capacity of true friendship and first loves, while stirring in hints of mystery, and readers will fasten themselves to each character and be pulled along for the ride. Anyone would adore this engrossing novel. I rated this book an obvious ten out of ten, and I’m sure any reader would, too. So what are you waiting for? Go to your closest library or book shop, or even Amazon will do, and get Turtles All The Way Down. I promise you won’t regret it, and soon enough you will be carried off into the fascinating universe Green has constructed.


The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

February 14, 2019

Sage is a baker struggling with her mother’s death: alone in the world until she meets Josef, an elderly man in her grief group. They strike up an unlikely friendship, but everything changes when he asks her for an impossible favor and confesses who he really is—not the Little League coach and retired teacher as everyone assumes, but a former Nazi SS Guard. With her view of this man completely changed and her grandmother a Holocaust survivor, she must decide what to do about the favor he asked—one that may have legal consequences if she grants it but personal ones if she doesn’t—and whether to forgive him or give her grandmother the revenge she deserves.

This gripping novel by Jodi Picoult from told in five perspectives. It starts with just Sage, and the others come in when their characters are introduced and wind around her perspective. I thought this was effective because it allows Sage to be the main character and her story to be in the foreground, but it also gives the reader all the background information and additional stories to make the plot more interesting.

Another effective aspect of the distinct perspectives is that each is in a different font. This is helpful because, since the perspectives usually last around twenty pages, the fonts make it easy to know which one you are reading if you flip to a random page. I thought the length of these narratives was effective because the reader has time to really get into each one, but they aren’t so long that the audience forgets other pieces of the story. They are also all told in first person voice, which I think allows the audience to have a deep connection to each character. 

I thought that Picoult successfully withholds information, such as Josef’s real name and who the fifth perspective is. I found this effective because it keeps the reader wanting to read on to find the missing information. The perspectives also change at critical moments in the characters’ stories, which adds to the suspenseful tone.

Picoult meaningfully incorporates many genres, including historical fiction, realistic fiction, survival, and touches of fantasy and romance. This makes this book accessible for everyone, and although the historical and survival aspects were my favorite, the others added nice touches to the story, and I found myself enjoying them as well.

I would rate this book a ten out of ten for its well-developed characters and captivating plot line, and I would recommend it to everyone twelve and over. So what are you waiting for? Go grab a copy and prepare for a phenomenal read that you just can’t put down.

Maren

Simon and Schuster, Inc., 460 Pages.


What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

February 11, 2019

In New York City, you only see people once. At least, that’s what Ben—a New York native in summer school and recovering from a break-up—thought. Arthur believed it too, but he held his hopes out to see the boy of his dreams again in the city of his dreams. In What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, two sparklingly different voices take on a bumpy relationship while supported by comedic allies and challenged by crumbling friendships.

Arthur thinks of New York in terms of Broadway: a tourist, he fantasizes about a perfect romance full of singing and dancing.
Sometimes I feel like New Yorkers do New York wrong. Where are the people swinging from subway poles and dancing on fire escapes?

Meanwhile, Ben hardly notices the city at all.
Arthur catches me staring at him.
“Oh. I’m being an obvious New York noob.”
“You are. It’s cute. You still have the tourist glow. I can’t remember what it’s like to be wowed by Times Square. Or anything in New York.”

Since Arthur is in a rough patch with a friend back home in Georgia—that started the night he came out—his main support system lies in Namrata and Juliet, his fellow student interns at the law firm with him who advise him throughout the book. Ben has his lifelong friend Dylan at his side, and Dylan’s new girlfriend Samantha. They provide constant laughs to both Ben and the reader alike. With each boy armed with a back-up squad to assist in the mutual search for each other, the story is infinitely more genuine.

Albertalli and Silvera did a wonderful job at progressing the plot quickly so as to keep readers actively on their toes. Never was there a dull moment where I wanted to skip a scene. Every chapter is funny, refreshing, and affectionate, whether in a platonic, romantic, or parental way. There are cliffhangers and risky do-overs and emergencies and new experiences that surprise the reader every step along the way to the satisfying conclusion.

This book is by far the funniest novel I’ve ever read. There are one-liners delivered when you least expect it from characters you least expect and longer stories that had me in tears. Even when rereading sections, I continue to crack up.

Along with its comedic scenes, What If It’s Us is packed with tender moments spent together or apart that make this book even more special and give it a depth that humor can’t solely provide.

This rare gay teen romance holds a special place in my heart. You will fall in love with Ben and Arthur for their fun quirks, and root for them from page one.

Calla

HarperTeen, 433 pages


When It Happens by Susane Colasanti

February 9, 2019

Seventeen-year-old Sara Tyler is looking for something real, and her best friends Lila and Maggie are helping her search for the right guy. Sara has been waiting for Dave— a popular, handsome, and (sadly) cruel jock– to call her all summer, but he hasn’t, and it’s the last day of break. Sara can’t stop thinking about Dave and how he could be her ‘something real.’

Then there’s Tobey Beller, who has had an overwhelming crush on Sara for what seems like forever. He, too, is looking for a true connection and thinks Sara is the one he is looking for. Tobey has made a plan with his friends Mike and Josh, two members of the band he’s in, to get Sara. Tobey knows that Dave is not a good fit for Sara and plans to win her over before Dave does. On one of the first days of school, Sara and Tobey begin to talk, and the connection between them is instant. Soon Sara realizes that she might be falling for the wrong guy. As the plot moves onward, readers will get pulled into the blissfulness of budding high school romance that Susane Colasanti has created.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way that Colasanti crafted When It Happens because of the way she effectively flipped between perspectives. Each chapter alternates between Sara and Tobey’s points of view —and overlaps on what happened last. When readers read Sara’s perspective, they see how confusing her position is: stuck between two guys and putting herself under a lot of pressure in school. Tobey’s perspective is more chaotic and fun loving. He does not plan to go to college at first and does not put much effort into his school work. Tobey shows a lot of commitment towards getting Sara, and any —single— girl who reads this book will surely be jealous of Sara.

I was astounded at how amazingly Colasanti built the characters in her novel. Within the first chapter from Sara’s perspective, readers will understand her friendships with Maggie and Lila, and see how smart and opinionated Sara is.

Colasanti makes it clear what Sara is looking for (something real) and then proves that Tobey is just that. In the chapters with Tobey, the reader gets to see what he cares about and the special things about him. Colasanti made all of the secondary characters unique as well. Readers get to know more and more about everyone as the book goes on, along with the tiny details that make them who they are.

I rated this book a ten out of ten. Anyone who enjoys a romance novel would adore this enthralling tale. Some other books that readers of this book may like are Keeping The Moon by Sarah Dessen, The Last True Love Story by Brendan Keily, and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. They are all very intriguing stories like When It Happens. I think that this book would be a good fit for a lot of people, and I hope that many others will get pulled into the sweet world Colasanti built for readers of her work.

Emma

Speak, 336 pages


Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

February 5, 2019

The greatest risk is not taking one.”

Madeline is a seventeen-year-old girl who has a rare disease that makes her allergic to the world. Her only interactions with people are with her caring nurse, Carla, and her controlling mother. But when a boy moves in next door, Madeline is curious and eager to meet him. Will Madeline ever get a chance to meet the stranger next door? Will this change in her life turn into an experience she could never imagine? Will she discover something about herself that will change everything? These are the questions asked and the answers revealed in Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon.

The way Yoon structured the story was very interesting. The chapters were titled differently every time, and the chapters ranged anywhere from one sentence to six pages long. Some of the pages had little pencil sketches of health charts or text messages. This added a fun touch to the story.

Even with all its plot twists, the book is contemporary realistic fiction, meaning everything in it could actually happen in real life. This meant that the plot was more intense.

Yoon used a lot of sensory diction to make the story come alive, which gets the reader thinking: if you were in this position, what decision would you make? How would the consequences that follow affect your life?

Yoon told an amazing story of love, family, and disagreement. I would give this book a ten out of ten because Yoon did a great job crafting the novel. She made it so I didn’t want to put the book down. The pace was perfect so I never got bored.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a fast, fun, loving story.

Piper

Delocorte Press, 306 Pagess


The Princess Bride by William Goldman

March 16, 2018

When Buttercup’s true love, Westley, has his ship attacked by pirates on its way out of the country, Buttercup is distraught and determined that she will never love again. But she realizes she has bigger problems—she is promised to Prince Humperdinck as his next wife. Before she leaves for the castle, she is kidnapped by an odd group of criminals: Vizzini, the mastermind behind the whole scheme, who loves money more then anything; Inigo Montoya, a man out for revenge; and Fezzik, a caring, helpful, and flighty giant. As they travel, the man in black who saves Buttercup from the criminals, meets them.

Together the pair travels across the country of Guilder, on a mission to return to Florin, where Buttercup secretly continues her relationship with the man in black, while she delays the arranged marriage with Prince Humperdinck. But how long can she stall the wedding? What will happen if the Prince finds out? Will everyone make it out alive?

William Goldman writes as if he is abridging the work of a fictional author, S. Morgenstern. Goldman often breaks into the story by including first-person personal paragraphs that “explain” a section of S. Morgenstern’s tale because it was too boring, or it was just conveying useless information. Goldman writes with a light comedic tone, which makes it easy for readers to connect with not just the characters but Goldman himself. So when he breaks in, it seems as if he is a character in his own story, causing the entire book to flow smoothly.

I loved how Goldman developed every character in the novel, even if they weren’t present throughout the whole story. For example, Fezzik is part of the plot, but he is not as important as Buttercup, or Westley. However, Goldman develops him just as much as any other character, so that by the end of the story readers feel that they have been best friends with him for their entire lives.

Other than Goldman’s commentary, he writes the story in third person, switching between Westley and Buttercup. This feature is effective because it gives the book a quick pace and keeps readers interested throughout the story— he will often end chapters that followed either Westley or Buttercup on life-or-death cliffhangers, making a reader want to keep reading to find out what happens. This is one of the many aspects that led me to rate this book a solid ten out of ten.

The Princess Bride is a classic tale of friendship, love, and near-death experiences that captivate, and intrigue readers of any age. I hope that you will join Buttercup, Westley, and their unique accomplices on their journey—and their fight for love.

Katie

Harcourt, 512 pages


The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

February 2, 2018

Shahrzad is out for revenge. Or at least that’s what she thinks when she marries the murderous Khalid, Caliph of Khorasan, whose pervious brides have been found murdered by the break of dawn. But this time it will be different. To avenge her best friend before her, Shahrzad captivates the Caliph by telling an elaborate fairytale—one in which he must keep her alive to know what happens next. But as days turn into weeks, Shahrzad begins falling for the Caliph. As a result, the underlying secret Khalid and the whole palace have been keeping from the kingdom is revealed. Now they must destroy it, before it destroys them.

This powerful re-telling is based on the book A Thousand and One Nights, and not only has the element of romance, but is also a thrilling page-turner. The perspective switches between the two main characters, Shahrzad and Khalid, giving the reader their separate views on the situation. Ahdieh also employs character development extremely well, as the two personalities complement each other; both try to deny the fact that they love the other because of the positions they’re in.

Another well-crafted feature of this book was the development of secondary characters such as Sharzad’s handmaiden, Despina, whom she becomes close with as the book progresses. Characters like this are built up, and their stories unraveled, resulting in a captivating plotline with mulitiple elements. Ahdieh’s writing sweeps readers into a new land, where they experience the emotions of the characters right alongside them.

Something else particularly enjoyable about the tone of the book was that it wasn’t entirely a romance novel. Ahdieh incorporated this factor into the re-telling plotline, but there was a balance between the two genres. Although this made the novel slightly complicated, the author beautifully crafts the book in an understandable fashion. This allows the story to become complex without confusion.

The diction that Ahdieh uses puts the reader right into the scene, making it easy to picture this time and place through her amazing description and vivid details. The plot comes to life in readers’ minds, and holds their attention to the last page. Another aspect of the book that was interesting was how Ahdieh created Shahrzad as a character. She is nervous and scared, but too proud to show it, which makes for a surprising turn when she begins to fall in love with Khalid.

I definitely give this book a ten for its enticing and well-crafted plot. I recommend this book to students in middle school or above who enjoy fairytale-like stories with a romantic twist. Ahdieh also wrote a sequel to The Wrath and The Dawn titled The Rose and The Dagger, which is a continuation of the previous book and just as amazing. I hope you allow Ahdieh’s writing to transport you into the world of Sharzad and Khalid, and that you find it just as wonderful as I did.

Arden

Putnam, 404 pages


Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

January 27, 2018

Gwyneth is a normal teenager in a family where a select few females inherit a time travel gene. Her cousin, Charlotte, is believed to possess it, as she was born on the day Sir Isaac Newton predicted for her. She’s spent her whole life learning to fence, dance, gain proper manners, speak foreign languages, and generally, how to fit in in the past, while she misses out on sports, friends, and sleepovers. But that all goes to waste when, one day, Gwen gets dizzy, and travels into the past. She discovers she was born on the same day as Charlotte, but her mother lied about her birthday in an attempt to give Gwen a normal life. She soon finds herself transported via chronograph—a machine that sends people with the gene back to a specific year for a few hours—with Gideon (her counterpart male time traveler from the de Villiers family; the males in that family received the gene). The two of them try to collect the blood of other travelers to fill the Circle of the Twelve on the second chronograph, because the previous pair had stolen the first one.

Gideon interested me as a secondary character because, when we first meet him, he dates Charlotte, but soon after, he kisses Gwen. And not only that, but half the time he’s a complete jerk: he ignores Gwen and doesn’t help with the blindfold they make her wear on the way down to the chronograph room. But at other times he kisses her, hugs her, stands up for her and helps let her go home early. His unpredictability brought that element into the rest of the book, because readers never knew what mood he’d be in with Gwen.

A more fun secondary character was Lesley, Gwyneth’s best friend, because while Gwen wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about the gene in the family, she told what little she knew to Lesley. Every time Gwen went into the past to meet someone, she would recount every detail back to her friend, who would then spend most of the night on the Internet, to try to help answer some of the questions the men refused to answer.

I was impressed at how Gier managed to keep the time travel aspect of the novel clear and simple. I never once questioned how it worked, because I could tell she put effort into the explanation and kept the concept easy to understand. Part of what made that stick out were that there were a lot of secrets that the secret society of men kept from her, which confused me in the parts when Gwen was confused, but kept the others crystal clear.

When the novel begins, Gwen travels back uncontrolled, and doesn’t know which years she ends up in. She finds herself on a sidewalk, in her house (where its former occupants chase her around), and in a classroom where she witnesses something that confuses both her and the reader, and adds an element of mystery, which pushes the reader to keep reading, and makes the book very fast-paced.

This book is a quick masterpiece that will take you two days in which you’ll read nonstop—then you’ll wish the book were longer. This was a book I rated thirteen out of ten. Good luck putting it down.

Calla

Henry and Holt Co., 322 pages


The Selection by Kiera Cass

March 21, 2017

For thirty-four other girls, a chance to be drawn for the Selection is the dream of a lifetime: a chance to glide around in silken ballgowns, to be weighed down with glittering jewels, and most of all, a chance to win Prince Maxon’s heart—if only to be princess for a day. When thirty-four other girls are drawn for the Selection, it will be a dream come true… For thirty-four girls, but not for America Singer.

America and her family of artists and musicians are Fives in Illéa’s caste system, just three castes away from the lowest of the low. When a letter arrives offering an opportunity to enter the Selection, America’s mother couldn’t be more delighted. Despite the generous compensation and life-long fame that the Selection has to offer, America finds the competition ridiculous—after all, America is in love with Aspen Leger. But when Aspen convinces her to put her name in for the contest, America reluctantly complies. She is chosen—and thrown into a whirlpool of cameras, costumes, and royalty. Aspen is torn from America as she’s thrust into this new world, which sparks resentment and her determination to stay in the competition. As the Selection wears on and girls disappear each week, America becomes friends with the prince. America soon discovers that Maxon is much more than the stuffy royal she thought she knew.

In this book, Kiera Cass puts a thrilling spin on the present day Bachelor phenomenon. Cass’s The Selection is set in the strict dystopian country of Illéa. In this society, all citizens must conform to the rules and occupation that their caste requires. As the book continues, two rebel groups—the Northern and Southern rebels—attempt to infiltrate the deep-rooted system, which causes jaw-dropping twists that delve into themes of action, reaction, and breaking conformity. These surprises create a respite from the romance and drama of the rest of the story.

Each character in The Selection is expertly crafted with layers on layers of personality and flaws—this creates unique interactions and makes it challenging to anticipate what will happen next. Cass describes each character with an earnest reality, as if you could run into any of them on the street. America is written as a real teenager struggling to survive in a world built on status and mistrust, with the added complications of having to decide what her heart wants—a life that everyone can relate to at times. As readers enter this story, they will discover that every girl chosen for the Selection yearns to win and is involved in the process for a reason. Cass makes it easy to experience America’s discoveries of the competitors, the rebels, her family, and her country in countless unexpected ways.

There are two books in The Selection series, The Elite and The One, which also feature America’s journey in the Selection. The Heir and The Crown are the two most recent companion novels to the series. These titles focus on Princess Eadlyn Schreave, the first ever female heir to the throne, and the challenges she faces during her Selection. Cass crafts each book in the series with thought and power, making it almost impossible to favor any of the five above one another.

I recommend this book to anyone from the ages twelve and up. The Selection is a dystopian novel, packed with contemporary realistic fiction sub-plots and themes that make the book possible for any reader to enjoy. I adored this read, and the rest of the series, so much that my rating can’t possibly be contained in a simple ten. The Selection series by Kiera Cass certainly deserves the praise it has gotten from readers and critics alike—I strongly believe The Selection has earned its place on the shelf next to other instant YA classics like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and The Hunger Games.

Hope

Harper Teen, 327 pages


Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

January 25, 2017

Laurel is an average teenage girl—with a wealthy best friend. Tom Forelli is a celebrity who needs to shed his childhood “Baby Tom-Tom” image. The Cruise to Lose is the opportunity of a lifetime for both of them.

When the diet drug Solu is created, the company holds a luxury cruise for only the richest of the rich to get a sneak peek at their new, seemingly-magical, sweetener that not only tastes exactly like real sugar, it also helps the eater lose weight. At first, Laurel and Tom’s paths cross in a somewhat cliché way (literally running into one another), but their reason for staying in each others’ lives is unique: neither has taken Solu, which means neither has experienced the strange symptoms popping up in the rest of the passengers, such as extreme addiction to the point of murder. The passengers get crazier and literally bloodthirsty, including Laurel’s best friend, Vivika, and Tom’s to-the-public “girlfriend,” reality-star Sabbi Ribiero. As the only sober people on the ship, Tom and Laurel unite to put an end to the cruise and take down Solu before it is released to the public.

Laybourne switches perspectives between Tom Forelli and Laurel. Because these two characters are so alike in personality but come from contrasting backgrounds, I felt the plot had more dimensions to it. It creates the expectation of predictability in the readers’ minds, then goes in a surprising direction. There are twists and turns no reader could expect, giving the novel its breakneck speed.

An aspect I particularly loved was how Laybourne packed multiple themes into one book to appeal to multiple audiences. It contained bits of dystopian science-fiction, contemporary realistic fiction, disaster/survival, adventure, and magical realism. Even if you prefer only one of those five genres, Laybourne’s way of fusing them together is intriguing and unique: perfect for this novel.

Prepare yourself for a book filled-to-the-brim with shocking twists (including a conclusion no one could’ve foreseen) that you can finish it in a day. Sweet reveals human nature’s dark side when we want something badly, but also the beauty of two different personalities working together.

Zoe

Feiwel and Friends, 272 pages


If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

January 21, 2015

81aTBRY7dxLWhen Mia Haul and her family decide to take a drive on a day school is canceled because of a few inches of snow, they don’t notice a truck charging by a corner until it’s too late. After a disastrous crash, Mia notices that she is out of her own body and able to see herself in a coma. She needs to figure out how she can re-enter her body and decide if she wants to stay: to keep living without her parents, or to leave her boyfriend and other family members.

When I picked up the book, I already had questions circling my mind, because the front cover asks: “What would you do if you had to choose?” That question made me feel that Forman wanted readers to see if they would do the same as Mia or make a different choice. I felt like a ghost right by Mia’s side and wished I could to tell her what I thought she should do. I love that Forman made it a visual story, with touches that allow her readers to see the story. For example, when they crash, Forman made me see the glass shatter and feel the impact of the other vehicle as it pushed the car off the road.

I would rate this book a 9.5 because I love the genre—realistic fiction for teens that will suck readers in with conflict that connects to the big problem. If I Stay has a lot of flashbacks that can help explain the relationships between characters so readers can see who is a friend or an enemy. Forman makes it easy to tell what is or isn’t a flashback, so it’s never confusing.

I recommend this book to ages thirteen and up, because it has some harsh scenes that I don’t think will be the best for a younger audience— from romantic relationships to losing loved ones. Forman has written great books like the sequel to this one, Where She Went, which talks about what happened after the big crash from Mia’s boyfriend’s perspective. I also recommend this novel to people who love If I Stay. Forman has made this book as perfect as it can get, and I hope many people will be as pleased as I was with this amazing read.

Carissa

Penguin Group, 237 pages


Keeping the Moon, by Sarah Dessen

February 3, 2014

Keeping the MoonColie and her mom used to be fat, but now her mother is fitness queen Kiki Sparks—no longer laid-back, slightly chunky Katherine Sparks. Now that Kiki has to spend time to Europe, Colie’s summer has gone from okay to absolutely devastating. She must journey to her Aunt Mira’s town and spend two months doing God-knows-what. Then she meets Norman, but she doesn’t fall for the guy and her summer doesn’t turn amazing right away. Her time consists of, well, nothing really, until the local diner needs her help during the lunch rush, and she lands herself a job. In her past, Colie was always followed by fat jokes or by people calling her names. Finally she has friends who don’t know her reputation and who haven’t heard the rumors. She hopes that this will be enough to change her life.

I rated this book a whopping ten—not just because the plot was exciting, but also because it was unique. It wasn’t simply about an overweight girl who has been teased all her life; it was about a girl whose confidence had been shattered and how her new friends help her regain that important part of her personality.

The book wasn’t just plot-driven, nor was it only character-driven. It gave me enough of plot and character development so that it felt like I actually knew the people and could still follow an overall storyline. This book hooked me so tight that I read it in a matter of hours.  Not only was the plot of the novel addicting, the end was more than satisfying. I had just enough backstory to have it not be a jolt, but it was still a surprise—a nice one.

The theme wasn’t obvious until I went back and really thought about the last few chapters. What I drew out centered around the importance of self-respect and confidence.  Because Colie was overweight and fat jokes were thrown at her, her self-respect finally dwindled to almost nothing. It took building new relationships for her to rediscover the confidence she had lost.

If you want a story with characters that you learn to love—characters whose emotions echo your own—Keeping the Moon is the novel for you. This is the book that will make you cry out of both sadness and laughter.

Amelia

Viking Press, 228 pages


What Happened to Goodbye, by Sarah Dessen

What Happened After her mother divorces her father and she decides to live with her dad, seventeen-year-old Mclean hardly talks to or visits her mom. Mclean and her dad move from one town to another for his job. With every move Mclean takes on a different personality, friend group, and name at each new school she attends. Until Lakeview, that is, where she makes friends who like the real her. Mclean realizes that she isn’t sure who that is anymore, or if she is ready to find it out.

I rated this book a 9 out of 10 because Dessen was able to make the reader part of the story. Reading the book, I felt like I was part of Mclean’s life—like I was meant to be there and live in the story with her. Although the book started off a little slow and took about 40-60 pages for me to really get into the plot (to the point where I didn’t want to stop reading), overall it is worth your time and won’t disappoint.

The themes were pretty obvious to me. Throughout the book I became clear on what they were: family, discovering yourself, and friendship. If you read this novel, I think that the themes will become clear to you early on, as well.

Teenage girls will definitely relate to Mclean; I know that I did. Everyone, at some point in their lives, wants to change something about themselves: whether it’s to be just a little smarter, to be slightly more attractive, to be a tad funnier. Nevertheless, you cannot escape who you really are, and the journey that Mclean goes on to finally realize this is one that you will go on with her.

There are so many great moments in this book, and the end comes together perfectly. If you’re a fan of Sarah Dessen or realistic fiction, then this is the book for you.

Teagan

Viking Press, 402 pages


The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

January 29, 2014

John GreenWhen a tumor-shrinking miracle saves Hazel’s life, she meets a handsome young man named Augustus Waters at a cancer kid support group, and her story escalates from there.  Embarking on adventures she never thought she could enjoy as a cancer patient, she learns the meaning of love and forgiveness.  This soon-to-be classic will make you laugh, smile, and cry.

From the first chapter of this book I couldn’t put it down.  This is one of those books where once you start reading, you can’t stop.  Before you know it, you’ve been reading for three hours.  I rated this book an obvious ten.  Green is spectacular at developing his characters and plot.  For example, when Hazel is speaking to Augustus for the second time goofing around with him, they are talking to each other so easily that their personalities shine through.  As I was reading the story it felt like I was in the book with them.

The Fault in Our Stars is a lengthy book but can be finished easily in two nights once the fascinating plot sucks you in.  This book is full of amazing, unforgettable stories (from Hazel’s friend smashing trophies to visiting Anne Frank’s house) that make you want to read on.

The genre of this book is realistic teen issue with an unexpected twist of action-adventure that surprises you in the middle of the book.

I would recommend this book to anyone over the age of twelve.  I mostly read action-adventure and thrillers, but anyone that reads this captivating teen issue novel will fall in love with it just like I did.  There are no over-the-top or unrealistic moments.  Green has perfectly pieced this novel together in an inspiring way that makes you think about all you take for granted.

Maggie

Dutton Books, 318 pages

 

 


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