The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands (2015)
Reviewed by Braneeth
The Blackthorn Key is a novel that takes place in medieval England and is about young Christoper Rowe, an apothecary’s apprentice. Under his master, Benedict Blackthorn, he learns not only to prepare medicines and herbal remedies, but also to form dangerous substances such as poisons and gunpowder. However, when apothecaries across London are found murdered in their shops, Christopher and his master are suddenly put in a precarious situation. Eventually Master Benedict is murdered, leaving it up to Christopher to solve the mystery of his master’s assassins, and save London while he’s at it. The plot is filled with murder, mystery, and an all-powerful weapon sent by God himself.
The Blackthorn Key is the perfect mystery – it consists of tragedy, suspense, and an engaging protagonist. Christopher is inexperienced but intelligent at the same time, leading to a roller coaster of a ride. Furthermore, the setting of the book in medieval times contributes to the overall intrigue and suspense of the novel. The book also introduces heavenly powers, specifically the Archangel’s Fire, a substance that can be produced by apothecaries that is unstoppable. The combination of humans and angelic weapons gives the antagonists a dangerous edge, which makes a great contrast to the perfect protagonist.
Overall this book is a great mystery that has no major flaws. It’s definitely best for young teens interested in mystery and murder novels.
The Giver by Lois Lowry (1994)
Reviewed by Sanya
The book I’m reviewing is called The Giver and it was written by Lois Lowry. This story is about a boy named Jonas who lives in a “perfect” community with his “perfect” family. At the age of 12, kids get assigned jobs and Jonas got selected for the best job out there. During his training he learns the horrible truths about his community and plans an escape.
This book was extremely interesting with all of its plot twists. While you read this book you can never imagine what could happen next. The author describes everything in the book really well so you wouldn’t think anything bad could happen when plot twists occur. My favorite part of this book would have to be when Jonas starts to realize how his perfect community was actually terrible. My favorite character is the Giver. It doesn’t tell you his real name in the book but that’s what everyone calls him. The Giver was the one to teach Jonas about the horrible truths and helped Jonas plan an escape.
This book is amazing at showing the reader that too much perfection can be a bad thing, and in this case it was. I give this book a 10/10. I loved it and I hope you will consider reading it too!
Shades of Simon Gray by Joyce McDonald (2001)
Reviewed by Vaanya
The book Shades of Simon Gray, written by Joyce McDonald was published in 2001. You experience a sad journey while reading this book. The author has an amazing imagination and her descriptions of the setting and characters are impeccable. She takes time to inform the reader about the characters’ personal lives, and describes each character’s life in 1-2 chapters. The story will take you on a journey that you would never want to experience.
Simon is a computer geek. He knows everything and loves learning even more about computers. In his town there is an ancient legend about a man named Jesse being hung from one of the branches of the old center tree. Everyone sees Simon as a perfect and innocent child, but when three kids from his high school ask Simon to help them cheat on all of their high school exams so that they can get their dream colleges, Simon helps them by printing out the test answers using his computer skills. He only does it so that he can spend more time with one of those three people. Every day he feels like they are going to be exposed and caught, and he lives like a sleepless zombie. One night he goes out to catch some fresh air by the lake. He later wishes he had never done this because the events that unfold makes Simon’s life a living nightmare for him and his friends.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner (2009)
Reviewed by Claire
The Maze Runner by James Dashner is a fantastic YA dystopian novel. The story begins with a boy named Thomas waking up in a metal box. He can’t remember anything, except for his name. He’s brought up to a bunch of boys, who show him their home, which becomes his. They live in the Glade, a place surrounded on all sides by a giant maze. No one has ever escaped, even though they send Runners (the ones who map the maze) every day. Thomas is told that they don’t go into the maze alone, and that no one goes in at night. Every month, a new boy comes in the box with supplies, and that’s how it’s always been. Then, soon after Thomas arrives, the box comes up with a girl, and a note. There are no supplies with her, and the note tells them that no one else will ever join them in the maze. Many of the Gladers blame Thomas, though he can’t remember this girl, or what she could mean to him. The kids in the Glade have to escape the maze, and fast, before they get killed. They also have to figure out how, and why, they are in the maze.
I think that the characters are believable, and I definitely had favorites. I really liked Minho, the head of the Runners. He’s funny, and he’s not rude or whiny. My absolute favorite, though, is Newt. Newt is Thomas’s friend, and my favorite by a mile. He has a sarcastic streak, and isn’t rude to every single person, even though he’s in a horrible situation. Thomas is the main character in the story, so the book mostly follows him trying to lead the Gladers out of the maze. Another main character is Teresa, the girl who came up with the note. I’m not the biggest fan of either of them, and they both just seem to rub me the wrong way. However, the characters are well-developed, and every characters’ actions made sense. The Glade is a great place for the story, since it’s beautiful and horrible at the same time. It’s both a prison and a home for the kids, and you can see that in the way that it’s described.
I would definitely recommend this book, since it’s exciting, fun, and had me interested through the entire story. I would recommend reading the rest of the series, but I haven’t read any other books by this author. However, the entire series is fantastic, and I suggest that you read all of the books.
“On a cold winter’s day, Rabbit leaves his burrow in search of food, but all he can find is a single red apple hanging far out of reach. Rabbit tries and tries to get his animal friends to help him reach it, but none of them can manage it. When they accidentally wake Bear from her hibernation, they all work together to figure out a way to get what they want.”
Read the story one page at a time as you walk along a simple trail. This is a fun family literacy activity that is great for all ages. Be sure to sign the guest book, and stop by the Children’s Desk to tell us all about your StoryWalk experience!
Our teen volunteers continue to amaze me with the wide range of books they read and their candid, well-written reviews. Check out the latest installment below!
The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (2014)
Reviewed by Braneeth
The Iron Trial is a fantasy novel written by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, and is the first out of five in the Magisterium series. The book tells the tale of young Callum Hunt, the son of two elemental ages that is about to undertake the Iron Trial to decide whether he will learn magic at the Magisterium. While almost everyone is excited at this prospect, Call has been warned by his father to fail, as he blames magic for the death of Call’s mother. The Iron Trial and the events that follow begin to reveal Callum’s origins and past, weaving a plot of mystery and danger.
The Iron Trial has all the elements of a great fantasy novel. It’s almost Harry Potter-esque
in the sense that it has a whole background of magic, as well as its very own school of Magic. The antagonist keeps readers hooked with his ominous persona, and the protagonist and supporting characters are interesting and humorous as well. One concern with the book is the age group it appeals to – the book uses simpler vocabulary and plot development, resulting in it being a book appealing to younger readers. Though the book’s simplicity may result in some readers staying away, it certainly does deserve a chance. Its setting is quite unique, but still does possess the elements of a good book. A unique setting, captivating plot, and interesting characters all make the book a worthy read. If you do enjoy The Iron Trial, make sure to keep reading through the rest of the Magisterium series.
City of Bones Book by Cassandra Clare (2007)
Reviewed by Claire
The City Of Bones, by Cassandra Clare, was originally published on March 27, 2007, and is about Clary Fray, a girl whose whole world got turned upside-down when she met the Shadowhunters. They are warriors who fight demons, and keep the world safe. Jace, Alec, and Isabelle are all Shadowhunters who Clary watch commit a murder. Clary is pulled into the world of demons, vampires, and werewolves, when she herself is attacked by a demon. Not only is she attacked, but her mother goes missing. The Shadowhunters are very interested in Clary, as she shouldn’t even be able to see them, and the demons shouldn’t be interested in her. Now Clary has to figure out how to find the man who kidnapped her mother, and survive the dangers of the shadow world.
I really loved reading this book, and loved the characters in it. I had a lot of favorite characters, since so many of them were really fantastic. The setting was described in such a way that I could picture walking with Clary and the Shadowhunters. The plot was fantastic, and the story moved at a good pace. I never felt like anything was being rushed, or lasted longer than it needed to. Each character’s actions in the story made sense for their personality traits. I would definitely recommend this title. It has fantastic characters, a great plot, and is all-around a great book. If you like this book, I would also recommend reading the other books in this series, as they are also incredibly fun to read.
The Fault in our Stars by John Green (2012)
Reviewed by Lily
The Fault in Our Stars, written by John Green, is a 2012 young adult novel. The plot follows the love story between cancer patients Hazel and Augustus. After seeing many praising reviews, I figured I would adore this book, and it would most definitely change my life.
Unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me. First of all, I felt nothing for these protagonists. I saw no difference between Hazel and Augustus, and it was like they were the same person (but not in a good way). Both characters seemed too perfect, and acted nothing like real people. The two were prone to suddenly bursting into long, philosophical, and poetic speeches. For example, Augustus comes up with this right on the spot “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
Apart from the characters, I think the book was pretty well written. The plot was interesting, and I enjoyed Hazel’s quest to contact Peter Van Houton. It didn’t stand out very much, but it wasn’t bad.
The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson (2011)
Reviewed by Joe
The Alloy of Law is the first book in the Wax and Wayne trilogy, set in the same world as the Mistborn Trilogy, three centuries later. Scadrial is on the verge of modernity, with industrial-age firearms, electricity, and skyscrapers in the enormous city of Elendel. While technology is advancing, magic still infuses the world, and Waxillium Ladrian is able to wield it. After Wax’s uncle dies and passes the entire Ladrian House to the former lawman. When Wax returns from the Roughs, he is caught up in the swirl of political intrigue and a plot to bring the capital city of Elendel to its knees.
The three main characters of The Alloy of Law are Wax, his sidekick Wayne, and Marasi, the daughter of Lord Harms, leader of a house with more money than reputation, who wishes to join the constabulary. All three characters had their strengths and flaws, and Wax was much more a flawed character than most protagonists are. He has had trouble readjusting to city life, and it is shown in Sanderson’s writing. Wayne, however, is my personal favorite, due to his nonchalant approach to almost every situation.
The world of Scadrial and the city of Elendel weren’t entirely well developed. There is a map of the country and a city map of Elendel, and I appreciate it when authors include maps in their books as it helps me visualize where locations are in relation to each other. The time period was amazing, and I enjoyed the industrial/steampunk setting more than most fantasy settings I’ve read.
The plot itself was masterfully written, with most of the story focusing on Wax and his sidekicks attempting to uncover devious plots by the criminal underground of the city, but with interludes every-so-often giving the reader small tidbits on what the crime gangs are doing. It eventually wraps up in an amazing resolution, and just when the reader assumes Wax has won, the epilogue reveals that the roots of the operation ran deeper than what Wax, Wayne, and Marasi dug up.
Overall, The Alloy of Law was one of the best books I’ve ever read. It incorporated everything I like about fantasy and mystery, and Sanderson’s style of writing is one of my favorites. Before you read The Alloy of Law, consider reading the Mistborn trilogy, as it provides background information about how Scadrial and Elendel came to be, as well as being works of art. I would rate The Alloy of Law a full 10/10. It has become one of my top five favorite books.
December is here, and the reviews keep rolling in! See what our teen volunteers have been reading & enjoying. You may find your next great read here!
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken (2012)
Reviewed by Claire
The Darkest Minds, by Alexandra Bracken, was originally published December 18th, 2012, and is about Ruby, a girl with incredible powers. Years ago, a disease began to spread, one that only affects children. Kids began to die, and there was no cure. However, the government claimed to find one, and asked parents to report if their kids showed any symptoms of the disease. The government would then take the kids and put them in camps. The government wasn’t really worried about the kids who died. Instead they were, and still are, more worried about the kids who live. Those who survive the disease gain extraordinary powers. There are five different powers, with Green being the least dangerous, to Orange being the most. Ruby is an Orange, which means she has mind powers. She has been at a camp for years, hiding the truth about her abilities. After an organization breaks her out, she runs from them, and meets a group of kids. Chubs, a Green with extreme intelligence. Zu, a Yellow with powers over electricity, and Liam, a Blue with telekinetic powers. Together, they attempt to find a safe place for kids like them.
I really loved the characters in this story, as they all seem to be very different, and realistic. Some of the characters aren’t my favorite, but I really like Zu. She’s quiet, and seems really nice. It seems like she and the other kids have been through some tough times. The setting changed a lot, since the characters traveled. However, they were usually in the same van. When they were out of the van, I really loved the world that was created, and how interesting it seemed. The world is kind of post-apocalyptic, with lots of abandoned cars, and deserted roads. I loved the plot of this story, and thought it flowed really well. The pacing was good and the story didn’t move too fast. I would definitely recommend this title, since I was invested from the beginning to the end. However, some of the story focused on romance. Those parts weren’t my favorite, but they didn’t take up too much of the story. I would definitely recommend reading the sequels if you like this book!
Stolen Time by Danielle Rollins (2019)
Reviewed by Cynthia
Stolen Time, which was written by Danielle Rollins in 2019, is the first book in the science fiction time travel trilogy, Dark Stars. It follows Dorothy, a sixteen-year-old con artist living in Seattle during the year 1913, and Ash, a former WWII pilot living in a future Seattle in 2077 that has been devastated by earthquakes and is submerged in water. Due to her current con, Dorothy is about to be forced into a marriage with a wealthy man, but she escapes from her wedding into the forest and finds a strange aircraft that crash-landed, stowing away on it. However, the aircraft is actually a time machine piloted by Ash and invented by a missing professor that he was searching for in order to find a way to help their city and prevent Ash’s approaching, foreseen death. When Dorothy is brought to the future where she finds a clue to where the professor could be, she, Ash, and a small group of other time travelers embark on a dangerous journey back in time to find the professor, but because a gang that terrorizes people called the Black Cirkus is also searching for him, they must find him soon.
Normally, I don’t read time travel books because I don’t like how confusing they can be, but this book was really engaging. The concept was smart and interesting, and there was a clever plot twist that left me shocked yet helped me understand the situation more. The book is filled with comprehensible explanations, well-constructed settings, and flawed yet lovable, dynamic characters, including the villains who don’t seem to be completely evil due to their heroic ideals. I love how the cunning, curious, and determined Dorothy, who always fended for herself and had difficulty trusting others due to how she was raised, grew to value others. Also, I love how Ash, who tried to stay away from love due to his visions of being killed by a white-haired girl that he fell in love with, ended up developing feelings for Dorothy because she wasn’t supposed to be in their time and didn’t fit the description of the girl he would fall in love with. The amazing relationships between characters and interesting questions of the limits of time travel really drove me through the story. Teens who enjoy time travel or just enjoy grand stories with lots of adventure and cool character development in general should read this book, but be prepared to get the next books because the story leaves you craving more.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
Reviewed by Sriya
The book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is much more than it seems. This 342 page book is filled with the story of Scout and Jem Finch growing up, facing the realities of the world, and ultimately losing their so-called innocence. The characters in To Kill a Mockingbird are: Scout and Jem Finch, young and curious siblings and the children of Atticus Finch, a strict but reasonable lawyer; Dill (not the pickle), a curious and clever boy who moves to town and befriends the Finches; and Boo Radley, a man that lives on their street. To Kill a Mockingbird is essentially a coming of age story. It also covers topics such as racism, death, and rape; which may be uncomfortable for some readers.
As was unfortunately normalized in the 1960’s, the Finch family was very racist and prejudiced mainly towards black people. Throughout the book, Scout and Jem come to realize that these microaggressions and racism are extremely harmful. At the beginning of the book, Scout, Jem, and Dill believe that The Radley House (in which Boo Radley lives) is haunted, and Boo is some type of evil man. The events in the book and Boo’s kindness ultimately leads them to think differently. Atticus tries to tell the children to not judge a book by its cover, which once again, they realize at the end of the book.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, the mockingbird is really a metaphor for innocence. The events that occur in these children’s lives help them see the world in a grown up way and clear any misunderstandings or prejudices they have. To Kill a Mockingbird is a renowned classic that I believe everyone should read, especially for those transitioning from middle school to high to school. To Kill a Mockingbird will help you see the world differently, it is a book that people from ages 12 and above would enjoy.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (2005)
Reviewed by Sriya
This October I got to thinking – October means it’s Halloween time, Halloween time means vampires, and vampires mean that the book Twilight will be making a well marked return. As you probably know, or can infer from the previous sentence, the book Twilight is a story about vampires. But it’s not any old vampire horror story, it’s a masochistic love story between 100 year old vampire Edward Cullen and 17 year old Bella Swan. I’m going to be honest, I read this book all. the. time. As boring and cliche as it might be, you have to appreciate Meyers’ respect for detail and her deep descriptions of the setting and characters. Although Twilight’s plot line is about as creative as dressing up as a cat for Halloween, the immense amount of detail put into the book makes it one of the most iconic Young Adult Novels.
As aforementioned, the basic plot of Twilight is that a gorgeous vampire who hasn’t felt love in his 107 years of being falls in love at first sight with the new girl in town, Bella Swan. Why was he so attracted to her, you ask? Well to put it frankly, it was because he wanted to eat her. Yeah I don’t even have to go into the details to explain how wrong and creepy that is. Quite frankly, Twilight is more of an obsessive vampire and his human girlfriend than a love story. Twilight is the Romeo and Juliet of teenage romance, forbidden, unrealistic, and completely crazy. Perhaps it’s these characteristics of the novels that makes them so appealing to readers. But, no matter how much I diss it, Twilight is a must read. The combination of vampires, humans, romance, and adventure makes a truly unique piece of literature that cannot be replaced in Young Adult Fiction.
Late autumn is the perfect season to curl up with a pile of good books and a cup of hot tea or apple cider 🙂 . If you’re looking for something new to read, check out one of the titles our teen volunteers have reviewed below!
The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899)
Reviewed by Braneeth
The Awakening is a novel written by Kate Chopin, taking place in late 19th century New Orleans. It tells the story of Edna Pontellier, who struggles to fit in with the general view on motherhood and being a female of the time. She falls in love with Robert, a man that is not her husband, who eventually leaves her. She is thrust into a process of awakening where she realizes who she is and embraces her interests over society’s expectations. Never forgetting about that man, she ignores her roles as a parent to pursue her passion as an artist and painter. In the end, she fully realizes even if Robert had loved her back, she would have moved on and lost interest. As she lets the sea take her, her “awakening” and self-realization is completed.
The Awakening is not a book that usually appeals to teen and young readers. I myself was not a big fan and thought it was a boring and hard read. However, adults I’ve spoken to tell me that the book is vastly different when you’re older, and that does make sense, as it touches on many older themes. However, it does cover the expectations of genders back then, which are still echoed today through stereotyping, and conveys a strong message of ignoring societal norms. If you look past the relatively dull plot, the theme that Edna and her self-awakening carry are both intriguing and important. Though it might be a book without much action, I would recommend at least giving it a read for the deeper meanings.
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm (2014)
Reviewed by Lily
The Fourteenth Goldfish is a middle-grade novel by Jennifer L. Holm. The plot centers around 11 year old Ellie, who lives with her eccentric mother. Starting middle school has left her confused, and she and her best friend are drifting apart. One day, her mom brings home a teenage stranger, who is actually Ellie’s scientist grandfather. After discovering a way to reverse the aging process, he enlists Ellie in helping him retrieve his work.
This story has a lot of information about famous scientists, but not in an overwhelming manner. I learned a lot about Marie Curie, Robert Oppenheimer, Jonas Salk, and others. There was a collection of short biographies of some of these influential people in the back of the book, which was a helpful addition.
As far as characters go, I was impressed. Usually, I feel that when adults write middle school characters, they seem exaggerated. However, Ellie felt very real and relatable. I especially liked reading about Ellie’s parents, and they didn’t push her to enjoy the same things as themselves. It was amusing to read about Ellie’s grandfather Melvin, and how he acted as an old person in the body of a teenager. Another character I enjoyed was Ellie’s friend Raj, and I think the personality contrast between the two worked nicely.
Overall, I loved this book. I’ve had it for several years, and I come back to it whenever I need a light read. It feels warm and inviting, and the cover is really cute. I would recommend this book to upper elementary students and middle schoolers, but I feel that it would be too juvenile for many high schoolers to enjoy. It serves as a great introduction for any young person interested in science. I would suggest checking out the sequel, The Third Mushroom, or other books like Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, and The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty.
A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (1999)
Reviewed by Akhila
The story of A Walk to Remember is based on Nicholas Sparks’ sister’s life. She was diagnosed with cancer and her boyfriend proposed to her because they wanted to get married before she died. For me, this makes the book much more meaningful. This book made me build an emotional connection with the characters. I really loved seeing Landon’s character development throughout the story. Watching Jamie change Landon as a person was really sweet. Jamie has a sweet personality, and takes whatever lemons life throws at her and tries to make the best of things. She is really inspiring, and I felt I learned a lot from her character. She is always looking out for others and is the nicest person ever. Even when Landon lashes out at her near the beginning of the story, Jamie still thanks him and manages to stay positive and kind. I loved Jamie’s mentality and approach to life.
A Boy at War by Harry Mazer (2001)
Reviewed by Vaanya
The book A Boy at War, by Harry Mazer, was published in 2001. The setting of the story is in Honolulu in 1941. Adam experiences the horrors of the Attack on Pearl Harbor. Adam’s dad is a Navy Lieutenant, and when he is around Adam tries his best at everything. Adam’s father likes to think of everything at home like everything from the Navy, and sets very high expectations for his son. One day, Adam’s father gets called to go to Pearl Harbor for duty. The events of this day make Adam a completely different person.
Earlier in the story, Adam is riding his bike on the weekend and falls into company with three boys, one Japanese and two Hawaiian. From that day on, Adam goes out with them on the weekends, until one day his father asks him about the Japanese kid he is best friends with. Adam wants to tell his father that his friend was nothing like the Japanese they are at war with, but he worries that his father will think he is disobedient. The morning that his father is called for duty at Pearl Harbor, Adam goes on a fishing trip with his Japanese friend, Davi. After being on the water for a while they see the Japanese planes come down on Pearl Harbor. Adam sees his father’s ship sink, and immediately runs over. When he gets there, the sailors give him a gun and a uniform and tell him to help them. Adam sees the injured soldiers and bodies in the ocean – he can only hope his father is okay.
This book triggers nostalgic feelings and the descriptions make you feel like you are seeing everything as it happens during this historic event. Adam feels that he becomes a man when he is given a gun and uniform, and this is a turning point for him; he has to take the job, and doesn’t have an option to go back to the way things were before. There is also some examination in this book of the racist treatment of Japanese people by white Americans during World War Two. It is a moving and powerful story of how life can throw things at you in tough situations, with an overall message that you have to keep moving on and learn along the way.
Looking for a way to get out and enjoy the beautiful fall weather?
Head over to Sunny Meadow Community Garden and check out our StoryWalk! A new story was just installed, Sue Williams’ I Went Walking
Read each page as you walk along a simple path with your family. Be sure to sign the guest book, and visit us in the Children’s Room to tell us all about your StoryWalk experience!
We love the diverse selection of books our teen volunteers are reading! Check out the reviews below – maybe you’ll want to give one of these titles a try!
Dangerous Skies by Suzanne Fisher Staples (1996)
Reviewed by Vaanya
The book Dangerous Skies is a realistic fiction book that is full of character and heartfelt emotions such as sadness and anger. The main characters are two kids who are best friends, a white boy named Buck and an African American girl named Tunes. They go on the best adventures together and even though people discriminate against Tunes, Buck is always there to help her. But not everything can be fixed so easily. Sometimes you try your best and you can’t succeed – after that point, you can only hope.
Buck and Tunes are fishing on their boat as usual and they avoid passing into Jumbo’s territory. Jumbo is a rich white man who shoots dogs on his property and almost shot Buck and Tunes once when they drifted into his lake. Most people love him for the donations he makes to the town church, but Buck and Tunes know the truth of his character. While fishing, they find the body of Jorge, a man who treated them kindly, as if they were his own children. At the first sight of Jorge’s body, Tunes runs off into the creek. Buck goes to the sheriff to tell him about the body and feels sure that Jumbo is responsible for Jorge’s death. The sheriff asks Buck to bring Tunes along for interrogation, and things are never the same for the kids again.
This book is about racism and injustice towards African Americans. There are some characters in this book who are prejudiced against African Americans and this effects Tunes’ life experience in ways Buck has never fully understood. As the story unfolds, the author makes you realize that sometimes there are people who are evil in the world and they will do everything in their power to make sure your voice cannot be heard among the innocents. Tunes and Buck have to fight against these obstacles to clear their names, but all too often racism and hate get in the way of happy endings.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967)
Reviewed by Rachel
The Outsiders takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid-1960s. It is written from the first-person point of view, with Ponyboy as protagonist and narrator. Ponyboy Curtis is a 14-year-old Greaser boy, and the book is about two weeks in his life that make him lose his innocence and change his life. In this novel, “Socs” and “Greasers” are the two loosely organized teen gangs that are enemies because of money. Greasers are a gang that is very united, they never beat other people up on purpose, but they’re poor. Socs are the western side rich kids that have nothing to worry about and are always trying to find things to do – one of their amusements is to beat up poorer gangs. The two weeks start with Socs’ first attack on Ponyboy, followed by the death of one of the Socs, and then Pony and his friend run away.
The first time I heard of the book was last summer – it was on our school’s reading list. At first my parents didn’t really want me to read the book because of the story’s setting, background, and general ideas. But after reading the book, I think it is actually a great story. Selecting Oklahoma’s gangs as the setting is a great example of comparing the differences between people. It taught me that everyone has their own troubles, no matter if they are rich or poor, and life can be taken away in a second, so it is important to cherish it and try not to say or do things that you will regret.
When I started reading the book, I was so curious to see what would unfold after such terrible things happened around Pony. I tried to predict some endings, but none of them were the same as the one in the book. I later realized that the characters are all very interesting; they all have different personalities and they change throughout the story as they lose friends and realize more about their lives.
The Outsiders definitely held my interest. It was not difficult to read. I would definitely recommend this book to my friends, no matter what genres they like. This book has action, emotion, and interesting character development. I think anyone would enjoy reading this book, and more importantly learn from this book, The Outsiders.
Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Wings of Fire: the Dragonet Prophecy by Tui Sutherland (2012)
Reviewed by Freya
I thought that this book was great. Its genre was fantasy, and I truly love fantasy books along with realistic fiction. I recommend this book because it has a great storyline and lots of details that I couldn’t include in the review because then it would be too long. The main events are important, but the details make the book more fun to read. For example, something I thought was a little funny was that the dragons in this book were huge compared to humans because they had humans in this book but the name for them in the book was “Scavengers.”
Prologue: This book starts with a prologue, which states that there was a prophecy about five dragons that were destined to save the world from an ongoing war. The ‘Talons of Peace’ are the dragons who want to fulfill the prophecy about ending a big war going on between dragons. When the Talons of Peace are looking for the eggs of the five destined dragons, one of the dragons is attacked and one of the eggs falls and breaks, and the dragon dies. Later the Talons of Peace have to replace the egg with a different type of egg.
**Spoilers to follow!** At the beginning of the book, there are five dragons in an underground cave with three other dragons that live with some of the members from the Talons of Peace. The dragons weren’t treated well there and a few years later the dragons had had enough and wanted to escape. The main character Clay escaped first and was going to lead his friends out but then he was caught by a queen from another side of the war. Luckily, the type of dragon Clay was allied with that queen’s side in the war, but Clay accidentally angered her, and he is put in a prison with his friends. The Queen has the dragons set up to fight in an arena to practically die, but eventually the dragons escape with a little help from Clay’s friend. They also manage to kill the queen who trapped them. After the dragons escape, the dragons want to look for their parents before going to end the war. They made their way to Clay’s home (The ‘Mudwing kingdom’). Clay reunited with his mom but his mom didn’t seem to want him at all, which was really heartbreaking for Clay, and then they start making their way to another of the five dragons’ homes that was located in the ‘SeaWing kingdom’. The book ends there because that the Seawing kingdom is going to be in the next book. In conclusion, this book was actually exciting to read, and I hope that by reading this review you will want to read this book too.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (1990)
Reviewed by Sriya
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton is the story of a senile old man who fulfills his pipe dream of bringing back dinosaurs from the Jurassic Period. Like most books that were made into movies, the detail and descriptions in the book version of Jurassic Park are very humbled by the movie.
The characters in this book are: Ian Malcolm, a mathematician from Texas who strongly believes in Chaos Theory; Alan Grant, a paleontologist; Ellie Sattler, a botanical paleontologist; Donald Gennaro, a lawyer representing a biotechnical company; Henry Wu, the scientific genius behind Jurassic Park; John Arnold, chief engineer of Jurassic Park; Robert Muldoon, the game warden of Jurassic Park; Ed Regis, tour guide of Jurassic Park; Dennis Nedry, the man in charge of the computers and security; John Hammond, the one and only crazy creator of Jurassic Park; and siblings Tim and Lex Murphy, the grandkids of John Hammond. Malcolm, Grant, and Dr. Sattler were invited to Isla Nublar, an island off the coast of Costa Rica on which Jurassic Park was created, to come check it out. None of these geniuses would have even imagined that dinosaurs would be awaiting them.
The dinosaurs of Jurassic Park were created through genetic cloning, a type of cloning that requires an animal’s DNA. Hammond got Dinosaur DNA by finding Jurassic Era Amber with mosquitos trapped inside. He then extracted the blood that the mosquito had sucked from a dinosaur and had his scientific team repair the DNA. To repair the DNA, they had to use frog DNA to fill in the sequences. To ensure that there would only be a certain number of dinosaurs, the scientific team also created only female dinosaurs and took out their reproductive organs. What they didn’t know is that frogs could change gender, so, using frog DNA enabled some of the dinosaurs to change gender, and they were therefore able to reproduce. There were reports of “small lizards” attacking young children in Costa Rica. Based on this information, Grant hypothesized that some dinosaurs could be reproducing and getting off the island.
**Spoilers to follow!** After the characters get to the island, the scientists and the kids start to take a tour of the dinosaurs. All goes well until Nedry turns the security systems off so he can steal dinosaur embryos. By doing this he also turns off the power to the dinosaurs’ electric fences. And this is when all horrors break loose. Some of the most deadly dinosaurs such as Procompsognathus, Dilophosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, and the agile pack hunter, Velociraptor are on this island; a recipe for disaster. To put it shortly and without all the gore in the book, Nedry dies from a Dilophosaurus attack, Regis gets eaten by a Tyrannosaur, Malcolm becomes crippled, comatose, and then dies from a Tyrannosaur attack, Wu perishes from a Velociraptor attack and Hammond himself is killed by a pack of Procompsognathus’.
This book has taught me quite a few things, the first thing is mess with nature and nature messes with you back. Next is that some things are just meant to be. Overall, just don’t try to bring back extinct creatures and expect everything to be normal.
It’s that time of year, friends, and the Children’s Librarians cannot wait to read your Spooky Stories!
- Our annual spooky story contest is open to everyone in grades K-8!
- One story per author
- Stories must be typed or neatly written
- Stories must have a beginning, middle, and end
- Stories do not need illustrations
- Stories should be spooky and/or scary
Winners will be announced and their stories read aloud at the Spooky Story Celebration on Friday, October 29 at 4:00 on Zoom.
Feel free to stop by the Children’s desk with questions, or to drop off your spooky story! We can’t wait to read them! 🙂
Check out the wide range of books our teen volunteers are reading and reviewing this fall! Do you see any of your favorites? 🙂
The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (2014)
Reviewed by Braneeth
The Screaming Staircase is a thriller novel set in Victorian England. An event known as
“the Problem” has caused deadly ghosts to appear all over London. Only children possess the ability to see and hear these supernatural forces. Agencies employing these young ones are committed to eradicating England of “the Problem.” Lockwood & Co, one such agency, find themselves in a financial crisis after a mission gone wrong. However, when a famous industrialist shows up with a well-paying job, they are forced to accept to save their company. They must brave the mysteries and dangers of Combe Carey Hall, the most haunted house in London. Furthermore, there seems to be something more sinister at play regarding their mysterious client and his true intentions.
The Screaming Staircase is a great book, and one that I would recommend. The idea that
only children can see the ghosts is a very unique twist on common ghost stories. Despite being a ghost story, the feelings and emotions of the main character Lucy are very relatable as she navigates fear, love, and danger. The book has many plot twists leaving you in suspense and never knowing what will happen next.
My only critique would be that there is not much danger or suspense for the first half of
the book as the agency is introduced and the introduction is set. However, once they enter the haunted house the plot picks up dramatically and tensions rise. It’s well worth the wait and the ending is both unexpected but also appropriately rounds off the book.
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (2013)
Reviewed by Vaanya
The exquisite book, The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani, is the first of six in the series. It takes you on adventures you could only dream of and it contains the splendor that you could only imagine. Once you have read the first book your thirst for more will make you run out to get the second!
There are two schools, one for Good, and one for Evil. Try to escape and you will always fail, the only way out is through a fairytale. Away from all of this is the village of Gavaldon, in the center of the endless Woods. Every four years two “readers” are chosen, one to go to the School for Evil, and one for the School for Good. The villagers all think they know who will be chosen and which schools they will go to, but they find out they are very wrong.
Sophie and Agatha are two completely opposite girls, but are still very close friends. Sophie has always dreamed of getting away from Gavaldon and into the School for Good. She wants a bigger and better life. Ever since her mother died heartbroken, she told herself she would find a prince. She is the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, and she thinks if she does enough Good Deeds the School Master will choose her. The villagers feel sure that she will end up going to the School for Good. Her friendship with Agatha started out as a good deed. Agatha, on the other hand, keeps to herself and she wants to continue to live on the grave hill with her mother, the complete opposite of Sophie. The villagers believe that she will go to the School for Evil.
One night both Sophie and Agatha get abducted by the School Master. When both of the girls reach the schools, they are awestruck at first, but then the School Master drops Agatha at the School for Good, and Sophie is not happy about it. Sophie has always wanted the life of a princess who lives with a prince. After ending up in a school that only seems to portray her nightmares, Sophie is desperate to go to Agatha’s place. After many tries, she gives up and tries to win the heart of a prince instead – Prince Tedros of Camelot. He thinks there has been a mistake in the placement of the students. In his mind Agatha is the witch and Sophie is his princess.
Meanwhile, Agatha is miserable in her new school, and she wants to find a way back to Sophie and her home in Gavaldon. Most of all, she wants to get away from Prince Tedros, who she keeps encountering. This school promises her a beautiful and wonderful life, but she knows what would happen if she fails it. Worst of all, every single hallway has a mirror and young girls from fairytale dynasties. They all remind her of who she can’t be, a beautiful princess with a perfect life and someone she loves who loves her back. Agatha needs to escape from this school, but she doesn’t see the opportunities that lay just in front of her.
The School for Good and Evil is an enchanting book filled with mystical fantasies and twists that have a little bit of foreshadowing so that it doesn’t come as a complete surprise to the reader. The first book tangles the reader into a web of magic and drama. The details are exquisite, from what the characters eat to how they interact with others. The book is not your typical fairy tale. There is adventure beyond measure, and mysteries that will lead you to read the next book. Each book does end on somewhat of a cliffhanger, but it has a bittersweet ending along with it.
“In the forest of primeval, a school for Good and Evil, twin towers like two heads, one for the pure and one for the wicked, try to escape you’ll always fail, the only way out is through a fairytale.”
El Deafo by Cece Bell (2014)
Reviewed by Sanya
The book El Deafo was written by Cece Bell and it’s a story about her own childhood! Cece gets sick and soon finds out she’s losing her hearing. Since she has to wear a big hearing device she always feels like the odd one out. Towards the end of the story she shares her “superpower” with the rest of the class and doesn’t feel ashamed anymore.
I loved reading this book! El Deafo is a graphic novel so I could really see what was happening and what everything looked like. Even if this book hadn’t included pictures, Cece describes everything really well so it’s easy to follow along. My favourite character was Cece since she’s the main character, but I also liked Martha. Martha was one of Cece’s only friends that wasn’t mean and didn’t make a big deal about her hearing aids.
Throughout the book Cece was ashamed of her hearing aids, so if you have ever felt like the odd one out you can understand how Cece felt. If you’re looking for an entertaining graphic novel to read you should definitely check this book out! I enjoyed reading El Deafo and I think it’s a great book for kids in elementary and middle school.
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway (2017)
Reviewed by Adharsha
This is a beautiful book which portrays the importance of family amidst the act of finding yourself. Three different teenagers, living not far away from each other, end up figuring out that they are half-siblings. As their paths converge, they learn more about each other and support each other through their struggles and times of difficulty.
Each of the characters is beautifully described and each of their stories touched me in a way no book has before. I loved every moment of this novel, and I loved Robin Benway’s unique and beautiful writing. This book made me cry, laugh, and wonder, through the amazing details and plot twists that would keep any reader invested.
I really, really, loved this book, and I know that anyone who picks up Far From the Tree will find it to be a heartwarming and truly stunning novel. Kudos to Robin Benway for taking me on such an emotional yet fantastic adventure. 🙂
Our teen volunteers have been reading up a storm this summer! Check out these reviews – maybe you’ll find a few fun back to school reads! 🙂
North of Nowhere by Liz Kessler (2013)
Reviewed by Vaanya
An amazing mystery, North of Nowhere will really make the gears inside your head turn. Though it is a little hard to understand the book, it is a fun read for someone who loves plot twists and keeping up with whatever the characters discover. I must admit that the book is a little fast-paced but you love the feeling of the mystery solved in the end.
It’s a normal day in Mia’s life as she gets ready to go shopping with her friends. All of a sudden her mother gets a phone call regarding the disappearance of her Grandfather. As much as she doesn’t want to miss her plans, Mia has to go. Her mom drags her down to the sleepy village of Porthaven where they meet Mia’s grandmother who is stressed out by this situation. Her grandmother is busy running the family pub by herself and needs help from Mia and her mom. Mia has never seen her grandmother like this, so stressed out and panicked .
While walking her dog, Mia chases him to a boat with a small locker in it. From the locker she finds a diary of a girl, her age, and decides to write a letter to this mysterious girl. Everyday the diary comes back with a response from the mystery girl to Mia. The girl’s name is Dee and she is from the island of Luffsands, which Mia has never heard of. They write to each other about meeting up in the farmers market, but Dee says that the weather is too harsh and there is too much rain. Mia sees nothing but sunny skies, but decides not to push Dee.
Mia also meets a boy named Peter who looks familiar to her, though she cannot figure out why. Mia tells Peter about her letters to Dee on the island of Luffsands, and Peter asks her why she doesn’t go meet Dee instead of waiting for Dee to come to her. Mia thinks it would be too dangerous, especially with her Grandpa missing, but Peter insists that they try. In the end, Mia doesn’t go with him and the next morning the village is buzzing with news of how Peter went missing. Peter’s sister comes to Mia for help, and they decide to take a boat out in search of the island of Luffsands. You will have to read the story to find out what happens next!
All in all, the book was a brilliant mystery, almost like a detective book where everything is explained in the end. The characters were unique and offered diverse perspectives, which made the book more enjoyable. The author did a great job describing every little detail of Porthaven and Luffsands, so that both the sleepy neighborhood and mysterious island with its jagged rocks came to life for the reader. The plot was hard to follow along with in the end, especially as the mystery is solved and untangled with multiple characters. The ending is very fast-paced, as if the author was trying to wrap things up a little quickly. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mystery and a little bit of confusion to get your mind going.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (2016)
Reviewed by Sriya
The Sun is Also a Star is a novel about perspective. Honestly, it’s a beautiful work of literature that can be analyzed in many ways. But before I get into the details, The Sun is Also a Star is the story of Natasha Kingsley and Daniel Bae and how their paths cross on one fateful day. Natasha Kingsley and her family are illegal immigrants from Jamaica. Natasha’s father, Samuel Kingsley, is a struggling actor who believes he is destined to be on stage but fails to land any roles. Mr. Kingsley brought his family to America with the hopes of becoming a great actor but ten years later, his family is being kicked out of the only home they’ve ever known. Daniel Bae is the second child of Korean immigrants and younger brother to the jerkish Charles Bae who got kicked out of Harvard. Alone, Natasha and Daniel’s lives seem very normal and the same as hundreds of other teens across the country. Together, however, they are magical .
Natasha and Daniel’s meeting was purely coincidental but once they meet, they can both feel that this was more than just a coincidence. The two conflicted teens opened up to each other about their family struggles, school struggles, and so many more inner conflicts that can barely be expressed through words. After reading this book, you can decide for yourself if Natasha and Daniel meeting was a coincidence or destiny. The setting of this book is in modern day New York, a very classic but somewhat cliche setting for teen romance. The book starts off by narrating Natasha and Daniel and their respective backgrounds. After the two young adults meet, we can see the story from their perspective and what they think about each other and the world around them. What I liked most about this book is that the book has different chapters from Natasha’s and Daniel’s points of view, and there are a few chapters from the background characters’ perspectives also.
Another book by Nicola Yoon that I would recommend is Everything, Everything. Everything, Everything is about Maddy, a teen with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a disease where most medicines and antibodies don’t work on her. Due to this, she has been quarantined in her house for all her life. However, the boy next door, Olly, believes that they still have a chance to be together.
We were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014)
Reviewed by Saimah
We Were Liars was written by E. Lockhart and published on May 13, 2014. Cadence spends every summer on a private island along with her family, the Sinclairs, and also Gat, who is the nephew of the man that one of the daughters is in a relationship with. Cadence, the 2 oldest cousins, and Gat are known as “the Liars”, and they spend summers having fun together away from the Sinclair family drama. Cadence and Gat fall in love but the following summer Cadence gets into an accident where she loses her memory of what had happened that summer and is not able to return to the island the next year. She writes letters and emails that are all unanswered by “the Liars”, and the next year when she returns to the island for summer, she tries to piece together what happened – the ending will shock you.
The characters were very believable, especially Cadence’s behavior after she lost her memory, the Sinclair family’s was treatment of her after she returned to the island, and also “the Liars” behavior. The setting of the island was described with great detail, as was Cadence’s home during the school year. The plot was a bit slow and also confusing in my opinion, and I think it was partly because of how the story was formatted. The story was really amazing, good for people who like a plot twist or a mystery. However, the formatting of the book did not really appeal to me – on the contrary, I found it frustrating.
The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas (2014)
Reviewed by Cynthia
The Assassin’s Blade includes five prequel novellas to the high fantasy series, Throne of Glass. Located in the corrupt kingdom of Adarlan, it follows the feared 16-year old female assassin Celaena Sardothien when she, accompanied by the assassin Sam Cortland who she despises, sails to the island city Skull’s Bay. She has been sent by the King of the Assassins, Arobynn Hamel, to confront the Pirate Lord for presumably murdering three of the assassins they worked with. However, she soon learns that for some reason, Arobynn has actually sent them there to conduct a slave trade. Disgusted that he would tell her to do this, she decides to ruin the slave trade, and the chain of events that follow bring new discoveries that change her immensely.
The book was very enjoyable, as the author made me quickly get attached to many of the unique characters that make up the story. It was filled with great word choice that made the heart warming and heart breaking moments resonate within me. The new, unexpected discoveries made throughout the story made me eagerly await how events would unfold. What’s more, the characters were very well developed. From the first few pages of the book, you can already tell that Celaena is a competent, disdainful, refined, and impulsive woman, yet she’s also kind and caring and is willing to go to far for the things she strongly believes in. This balance of traits makes her a very likable and realistic character who makes you laugh and cry with her. Additionally, the pacing was great. The author makes sure to sprinkle information throughout the story while repeating and specifying it in just the right amounts so you can understand and enjoy it. This is especially true for the large fantasy world it takes place in, as it is normally very difficult to describe settings like this without overwhelming a reader, but the author managed to incorporate it so it wasn’t boring. If you are a teen that enjoys high fantasy and romance stories and likes a strong female protagonist, I would recommend this book along with the rest of the Throne of Glass series.