Teen Reviews

Something that everyone should read -- UNINVITED by Sophie Jordan

August 30, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover uninvited by sophie JordanUninvited by Sophie Jordan

reviewed by Michelle

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to identify every killer, every monster? Even before they come out of the darkness? Even before they hurt and kill? Wouldn't it be nice?

It's not possible in our world. But it is for the world in Sophie's Jordan's amazing book, Uninvited. An amazing book in which there is a gene, the killer's gene. Everyone gets tested for it, at some point in their lives. As was Davy Hamilton, popular, beautiful, smart talented, musical prodigy, with a loving boyfriend.

Someone who couldn't possibly be a carrier of the gene.
Someone who couldn't possibly ever be a killer.
But her results came back positive.

And that changes everything. But you'll need to read the book to find out what happens next. The writing is amazing, as is the voice. The story is told from Davy's perspective, however there are a few things in the story that are not. Such as radio broadcasts, conversations between other carriers, conversations between the people who used to be a part of a her life. But they don't distract or disrupt the story.

They add to it, they provide us with other perspectives, other facts. Not many authors can handle that well but Sophie Jordan does. Not only that, but the characters are real and fleshed out. The world is real and it could be possible. In our future, there may very well be something that could clearly identify killers.

And yes, on the surface, it'd be nice.
For the ones who aren't killers, it'd be nice.

But this book doesn't just talk about the surface, it goes deeper. It is not only well written, well paced, but it makes the reader think. It made me think.

It is something that everyone should read.

"Unlike anything else I've ever read" -- ALMOST PERFECT reviewed

August 28, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover almost perfect by brian katcherAlmost Perfect by Brian Katcher

Reviewed by Michelle

This book was unlike anything else I've ever read.

In fact, even though I already read it, I would like a copy of my own. Just so I could hug it and look at its gorgeous cover and read it multiple times. It was a flawless book with realistic characters like:

Logan, a boy who was still wounded after discovering his girlfriend -- now, ex -- had cheated on him. And Sage, a new student and a new friend who seemed perfect. Husky voice. Beautiful curls. Beautiful face. Tall. Interesting. But she had secrets. Like why she had been homeschooled for several years and why her parents wouldn't let her date anyone. Why her parents treated her differently from her sister. Why she wouldn't tell Logan all of these whys. 

But that didn't stop Logan from being in love with her and...kissing her one day. And she finally tells him her biggest secret of all. She's a boy. 

Hooked yet? I was. I was captivated from beginning to end. There were times when I didn't like Logan, when I wished he acted differently, acted better and was a better person. But his reactions made sense. He acted like an actual human being, dealing with something he didn't know how to. And it made me wonder how I would have acted in his situation. Or in Sage's. This book, this story, wasn't just a brilliant one but an eye opener. Something that made me think and long after I read the book. 

The characters weren't just characters. They were real. They were people. And not only were Logan and Sage fleshed out but also their relationships with their families and others: Logan's mother and sister, Sage's sister and parents. It was a story set in a small town but it was anything but small. 

There are books that you just have to read. That will make you think. That will make you better after reading. And I believe that Almost Perfect is one of them. 

Read it for the awesome life quotes -- THE SECRETS OF LILY GRAVES reviewed

August 27, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover the secrets of lily graves by sarah strohmeyerThe Secrets Of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer

 

Reviewed by Anupya, age 15

 

“More often than not, it was the little things that brought you down.” – Lily Graves

 

The Secrets of Lily Graves is a crime novel by Sarah Strohmeyer about the death of seemingly perfect Erin Donohue, frenemy of Lily Graves. After an exciting catfight between Lily and Erin, leaving Lily wounded and bruised, Erin is found dead the next morning. Fingers are pointed at an alarming rate as main suspects are rounded up and interrogated. Like in every good crime novel, everyone’s got a secret, the theme of betrayal stands triumphant and the killer is hidden in plain sight. The book is like the high school version of Broadchurch. It portrays death in a realistic way with the repercussions in the community. Lily and Sara are adamant to not be normal (they refer to Erin’s gang as “Tragically Normals” while they are “Happily Twisted”). The reader can’t blame Lily and Sara because the TNs unfairly judge Lily for her family business. The first half of the book is perfect and a juicily entertaining read.

That’s where the excellence of The Secrets of Lily Graves stops.

The female supporting characters serve no purpose in the story except to bully Lily. The men in the book however, are a huge part of the plot. Each one is important. Someone close to Lily is accused of being a psychopath and a murderer yet she pays no heed and can’t wait to see him. It is stupid. At one point, she decides to meet up with the same person in a remote area, loudly voicing, “I don’t care about safe.” Although it does turn out to be harmless, it stands as a terrible response to general creepiness. The romance in the story ruins the suspense and action since it changes the focus of the story. The last line of the book does not reflect on the death of Erin but more on Lily’s love life. It feels anticlimactic. It’s not the best crime-fiction I’ve read, but read it for plot and awesome life quotes.

Like a projector in my head! DYING TO GO VIRAL reviewed

August 26, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (7) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover dying to go viral by sylvia mcnicollDying to go Viral by Sylvia McNicoll! 

Reviewed by Nicole

Would you believe me if I told you you had the chance to relive one week of your life after you've died?

Probably not. But Jade, a 14-year-old girl, does. After passing away from a bad skateboarding accident, she's left the world without saying goodbye to her dad, brother (Devon), and her best friend (Stephen Craig Alan Thomas Chalms a.k.a. "Scratch").

In Heaven, she meets her mother who grants Jade another week to relive her life. But Jade has a few goals she wants to achieve by the end of the week. Seven goals to be exact. But those are for you to find out within the book! 

The first sentence of the book is: "It was a perfect day to die." Not like a lot of books that might start with something else a little less pessimistic. Throughout the whole book, my interest was carried through and that made the book even more interesting to read. Cliffhangers were left here and there, leaving you to read more (obviously). I found out that I was really into this book after I read six chapters within a day. The POV of the book is Jade's -- first person. I liked how the author did that, rather than being third person omniscient. You get to learn a lot about Jade because she is the one talking throughout the whole book. 

By the first chapter, you're hooked into the book. You can't put it down because it feels like you've reached the climax, but you don't realize that there's more. There are humorous parts, some sad parts, along with some romantic parts, which makes the book 10x more awesome. I felt like the book was really...realistic...as if you could relate to it in a way. The author didn't make something up for the people to say; it felt quite real. What Jade said in the book was something a 14-year-old girl would say in real life. I really loved how the author took the time to describe what was going on in the scene. There was like a projector in my head that was projecting everything I read on the book, somewhat into a movie. This is how well the author described the scenes. 

What really interested me to read the book was if Jade got to get her last week perfect. I wondered if she achieved the goals she wanted to finish before she had to go back to her mom. That was what caught my eye. It was also eye catching to see how the author would explain each goal and how Jade could reach it. 

So the real question is: Did Jade reach any of her goals within the week she had? Or did she fall short on time? 

Get the book and read it to find out! 

Friendship, loyalty, world-building and explosions -- IDOLS reviewed

August 25, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover idols by margaret stohlIdols, by Margaret Stohl

Reviewed by Anupya, age 15

“How do we fit together? These men who call us children yet insist we are not?”

-Doloria

A sequel to Icons, Idols is an action-packed, fast-paced novel written by Margaret Stohl about Doloria Maria De La Cruz, her position as an Icon Child and the responsibilities that come with it, including saving the world from destruction by the ‘Lords’. The Icon Children are humans fallen from the sky, who are immune to Icons stopping their hearts. However, one Icon Child is missing and it is their mission to find him/her. The theme of hero’s journey is highly evident as the story progresses -- there is a mentor, friends, a major death and a major transformation that Dol undergoes.

I suggest you read the first book first, since not doing so makes it very hard to keep up with the pacing of the story. Mythology plays a great part, explained with great symbolism and metaphors elevating the reading experience. One criticism I can give is that it might have been a relief for the reader if the author switched points of view. Dol’s head contains way too much doom, gloom, confusion regarding her romantic choices (yes, there is a love triangle) and angst –- it gets tiring to read her conflict, emulated multiple times in different fashions. Exploring a different character’s thoughts might have enhance the reader's enjoyment of the book. Besides, the two guys, Ro and Lucas, bicker over Dol like elementary kids. It’s annoying. Dol is better off breaking up with both of them and being alone.

The book has a major plot twist in the end, confirming your subconscious suspicions. Additional warning: major death. If you are someone who loves excitement, friendship, loyalty, world-building and explosions in every chapter, Idols is for you.

You can't stop reading once you start! SMELLS LIKE DOG reviewed

August 22, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover smells like dog by suzanne selforsSmells like Dog by Suzanne Selfors

Reviewed by Ashanth, age 13

This book is about Homer Pudding who's an ordinary farm boy but he's got some big dreams and he wants to become like his Uncle Drake who is a famous treasure hunter but when he goes missing and is pronounced dead because he was eaten by a man eating tortoise, Homer then gets Uncle Drake's possessions from the lawyer who is a droopy-eyed, clumsy dog with no sense of smell with a gold coin on his collar spelling the letters L.O.S.T  and a letter saying it is his most prized possession. But later on Homer decides to go to the city which is dangerous according to his dad to search for an important map and finds out the dog has a hidden talent.

This book is full of adventure and you can't stop reading once you start. It will also keep you interested because a new question opens up when another one closes.And this book is very thrilling and has won many awards and if you want to find out what is the hidden talent then you're going to have to read the book.

Dueling Reviews: The Comic Book War by Jacqueline Guest

August 21, 2014 | Cameron | Comments (8) Facebook Twitter More...

9781550505825_p0_v1_s260x420

Teachers review:

    The Comic Book War is a youth fiction book written by Jacqueline Guest. This book deals with some very interesting topics, it just deals with too many of them for its own good. The story takes place in Calgary Alberta in 1943, and focuses on Robert Tourond, a grade ten student who is dealing with the fact that his three older brothers, George, James, and Patrick, are fighting in World War II. After finding a meteorite one night, Robert believes that three of the comic books he reads each directly relate to one of his brothers fighting overseas. Whatever might befall one of the heroes in the comic somehow parodies what is happening in the life of one of his brothers (whichever comic book hero that brother is associated with).

      Robert has an overwhelming urge to purchase these comics. He does this to feel closer to his brothers. It's as if by purchasing the comics and reading them, he is somehow helping support his brothers. If he is not able to do this, he will somehow let his brothers down, and danger will soon find them. Robert goes through many trials to earn money to purchase these comics, and through this we are introduced to the cast of characters in the book, and the many things that happen to them.

       I enjoyed the book, but it did not always succeed. Like I said above, this book deals with a lot of issues, it deals with: growing up, the belief in the unknown, family, feminism, war, and the violence of war, suicide, death, and first nations heritage, poverty, alcoholism, and maybe even a few more. As you can see that is a lot of ideas to pack in to a book that is 187 pages long. I feel that this book would have been more successful if it took out a few of those issues which would mean it would have more time to focus on the ones that remained.

         The characters were relatable, and there were some touching moments in the book. I also found parts of the book to be very cinematic, and I could see the book coming alive in my head. Near the end of the book there were times when Robert felt like he was being drawn into the comics and I could see this happening in my own mind. As well, earlier in the book Robert has to deal with his mother and there are pieces written as if they were blurbs coming right from a comic book. When I read these sections I could hear a voice in my head reading them in a 1940's news reel voice. I found it interesting how some of the relationships developed in the book between Robert and his parents, and Robert and one of his friends.

        Overall I really enjoyed parts of the book, but I found that the ending came a bit too fast, with lots of issues being wrapped up a bit too quickly for their own good. In the end, I found that the way the book ended it left this reader a bit unsatisfied.

 KIRKUS REVIEW

A teenager with three brothers fighting overseas in World War II concocts an elaborate coping mechanism that works to keep his anxieties down and his spirits up—until it doesn’t.

A small meteorite takes on talismanic properties for Robert when he suddenly begins to spot mysterious parallels between the exploits of his three favorite comic-book heroes and incidents reported in the letters he receives from his big brothers, who are off in Europe with the Canadian armed forces. Determined efforts to raise enough money to buy each new issue of each comic put him head to head with hard-bitten classmate Charlene. Their bitter rivalry slowly transforms into friendship and then something closer as they come to understand what is in many of the messages they are delivering to the people in town. Then one such telegram comes to Robert’s parents, and his certainties of the links between fiction and fact are shattered. Guest gives her tale a distinctly Canadian flavor with references to locally produced comics (the better known ones from the U.S. were not imported during the war) and by casting Robert and his family as Métis, a persecuted minority. But her young characters’ emotional challenges are not confined to a particular country or war.

Built around a timely (ever timely, unfortunately) theme, this wartime tale featuring young characters with complementary strengths and vulnerabilities shines in a sharply rendered setting. (historical notes) (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Dueling reviews: Cinnamon Toast and the end of the World by Janet E. Cameron

August 14, 2014 | Cameron | Comments (8) Facebook Twitter More...

Index

Angel food for thought:

This stunning debut by Janet E. Cameron is a beautiful coming of age story told from the perspective of a young man who is coming out in the 1987 in very rural Nova Scotia. Stephen has fallen in love with his best friend and it is the end of the world. Not the literal world, but that part of the world that Stephen had come to know so well and a world that he wanted to keep forever.

Stephen is trying to navigate his last few months of being a high school student, leaving his friends, his over dependent mother, and going off to higher education and becoming himself. Yet in the traditional way of the world nothing happens the way he envisions it. Stephen is trying to learn to spread his wings and fly, but he wants nothing more than to hide in bed and escape from the world. Will Mark ever understand how he feels about him? Will his Mom ever let go of him and let him go out into the world? Will Stephen be able to accept himself?  

This is a well written and well conceived coming of age story. Stephen is an exceptionally dimensional character and all the supporting cast are also well rounded and real. The only issue that I would have with this book is that the story is so good is was a little hard to read at times.

Youth Review:

 

Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World basically sums up the life of Stephen Shulevitz in eight simple words. Born to a Russian-Ukranian mother and a hippie Jewish father, Stephen once entered the world as Stepan Vladimir Shulevitz in the year of 1969, in a little town named Riverside in Nova Scotia, Canada. He's a hard worker, always getting the best marks in class and getting tormented for it, and he shies away from confrontation - luckily his best friend Mark takes care of that for him. As Stephen matures through his elementary school years into adolescence and the story humorously unfolds, the title begins to make sense: Stephen's mother makes cinnamon toast because it is a less ethnic choice for breakfast food (she doesn't want to feel "foreign", instead she wants to fit in), and Stephen is a little more dramatic than your average teen so many situations in his life seems like the end of the world for him.

          Cinnamon Toast is written by Janet E. Cameron, who was born in Nova Scotia herself. Although the setting may reflect the author's roots, the main character is very unique. Janet thanks in her acknowledgments her "patient husband" Aodhan, but Stephen Shulevitz is gay. What's truly amazing about the book is that while reading it, up til the very last sentence, I could not tell if the author was speaking from personal experience or not. Obviously not, but it was written so well that I would have believed it. Stephen faces so many challenges, verbal and physical harassment alike, ones that bruise, ones that fade, and one that breaks his arm, for being gay, and for being different. The situations ring with truth and pain. Especially in a small-town mindset that Riverside has, the people are a lot less friendly towards people of various sexual orientations.; you were either straight, or you were shunned. I hurt for Stephen, but I also cheer him on, as he learns to grow out of what people say and avoid aggravation by choosing what he decides to hear. This novel follows Stephen as he unwillingly falls in love with his best friend Mark McAllister, the big kid nobody messed with. Mark is strongly (and openly) against homosexuals, and especially desperate to disbelieve that his best friend could be one - and in love with him - and this puts an incredible strain on their friendship.

          Janet E. Cameron does not make this your typical teen romance. She makes it something more, something funnier in tone and grimmer in content. She includes the bloody fights, the uncensored vulgarity, the inexperienced sex, the destructive abandonment, and the desolation of a young gay ethnic man living in the 80s. You should definitely read Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World, if you know what's good for you.

Can this book change our life? -- CATCH-22 reviewed

August 12, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover catch-22 by joseph hellerCatch-22 by Joseph Heller

Reviewed by Isis

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22..."

To be completely clear, there is seldom a time at which a war novel would appeal to me. Ever. They all seem to perpetuate the stereotypes of heroes and villains - he who fights is the one who saves the day, he who dies always dies with honor, so on and so forth for several hundred pages of BORING.

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, is the exception. The book follows Yossarian, an American soldier stationed in Pianosa during the Second World War. And unlike the war heroes portrayed in a majority of similar novels, Yossarian is determined, above all else... well, not to die. And to be sent home, all he needs to do is to be denounced as insane, which one can do simply by asking. However, there is one issue -- Catch-22. The catch states that if one were insane, one could ask to be grounded; however, in asking, one proves one's sanity, and thus, has to carry out more missions. The catch is paradoxical, and, essentially, impossible to satisfy. So, instead, Yossarian must stay at the army base and complete the ever-increasing number of military missions, analyzing each step of his journey with a critical eye that, it seems, no one else can -- while every other person sees a fight for their country, Yossarian simply sees people trying to kill him. As the book progresses, and the number of men remaining in the compound, not having been shot, caught pneumonia, crashed an airplane into a mountain, or been "disappeared" by the government, dwindles, Yossarian begins to question not only human nature, but what we accept from bureaucracy, what we accept as insanity, and the true state of the world we live in.

It is said that hindsight is 20/20. This novel is written in such a beautiful manner that truly displays all that is learned through war, which, really, is nothing; what comes about from fighting, other than death, destruction, and a complete loss of morality?

This book  is so incredibly insightful (a twinge pessimistic), and can completely alter your perspective about the things we often believe to be definitive: good and evil; sane and crazy; life and death.

Is it an easy, straightforward read? No. The plot is all over the place, which makes the order of events impossible to interpret. Does the book make sense? Sometimes. But will you laugh aloud? Cry a couple tears? Be challenged to comprehend the deeper messages presented? Possibly get so frustrated at times you throw the book to the ground, but be so intrigued that you need to pick it right back up? (Admittedly, I am guilty of such) 

Can this book change your life?

Absolutely, 100% yes.

Aaaahh, this was FANTASTIC!! HYPERBOLE AND A HALF reviewed

August 11, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (7) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover hyperbole and a half by allie broshHyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Reviewed by Fatma, age 16

Here is a list of adjectives describing this book: 
1) Hilarious: I don't know how anyone can read this book and not laugh at least once. I found it to be so entertaining and such a breath of fresh air. (Refer to 2) Sarcastic )
2) Sarcastic: Which made it all the more hilarious for me. 
3) Serious: This book is not all fun and games and laughter. It's also serious at times, delving into some of Brosh's personal turmoil (which I personally related to). For me, that balance between serious and funny took the book from being a compilation of random amusing stories to something much more meaningful and complex. 
4) Authentic/Genuine: Brosh's writing style is the perfect combination of self-deprecating and sincere (as strange as that sounds). Naturally, this book should read as genuine and grounded because it's non-fiction right? However, to me, I appreciated the fact that it was a lot more because I find that, especially in memoirs, it's hard to make your readers relate to your story rather than just feel pity or sympathy. And, in addition to leaving me with a sense of enjoyment, Hyperbole and a Half definitely left me with something to reflect on.

My favorite stories were by far Dinosaur (a goose story), The God of Cake and The Party. If you've read this book, don't hesitate to share your favorites in the comment section down below. If you haven't, then I would definitely recommend you go pick this up from your nearest library branch and give it a go! 

PS: Allie Brosh actually started posting her stories on her blog, before she published this book. So, if you want, you can go check out her stories there too and see what her writing and drawing styles are like. :)