All posts by Marty Mason

Silly Story Contest!

Friends in grades K-12, we hope you will enter our first ever Silly Story Contest here at the Chelmsford Public Library! Pick up a cover sheet at the Children’s Desk, and drop your story in our Silly Story Box! Stories are due on April 1st, and winners will be announced at our Silly Story Celebration on Saturday, April 20th!

Rules and Guidelines for Submissions:

Please attach a cover sheet to your silly story – available at the Children’s Desk!

  • Stories may not exceed 2500 words (about 5 typed pages)
  • Stories submitted after April 1st will not be eligible to win or place in the contest
  • Authors must be in grades K-12
  • One entry per author
  • Stories must have a beginning, a middle, and an end Illustrations are permitted but not required
  • Stories should be silly and/or funny
  • Stories should be typed or neatly written
  • Adults can help with typing/neatness, but all other aspects of the story (plot, word choice, sentence structure) should be the work of the child entering the contest

Teen Volunteer Book Reviews – September 1, 2023

School is back in session – let’s celebrate with some book reviews! Our teens have been reading and writing up a storm, and I am so excited to end this long hiatus and share their reviews.

Read on, friends! Your next favorite read may be in this post 🙂

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002)

Reviewed by Lily I always enjoy interesting sci-fi books. Stories of Your Life and Others, a collection of short stories, was written by Ted Chiang and published in 2002.

Going into Stories, I was not quite sure what to expect. All I knew was that Chiang had won multiple awards for his work. Sometimes when I read multiple short stories by the same author, I feel disappointed because there is an imbalance of quality and tone between stories. With Stories, I was very compelled by each story and found all of them distinct yet connected. Each story is a fresh start to admire Chiang’s excellent character work and writing style. My favorite story was the titular “Story of Your Life”.

This collection has everything – aliens! A narrative reminiscent of Flowers for Algernon! Math!

Overall, a fun and thought-provoking experience.

The Similars by Rebecca Hanover (2019)

Reviewed by Claire

The Similars by Rebecca Hanover was originally published in 2019, and is a science
fiction YA novel that takes place in a world where clones exist. Emmaline Chance goes to the prestigious boarding school, Darkwood Academy. For this new school year, her junior year, six new students are starting with her. These six new students are clones of current Darkwood students, joining the school to learn with those they are modeled after. Mystery surrounds the origins of these new students, and the reason as to why they are copies of six current Darkwood students. Emmaline doesn’t care about these new clones, as she is too caught up in the recent death of her best friend, Oliver. However, her opinion suddenly changes when she finds out that one of these clones, Levi, is an identical copy of her now-dead best friend. Emmaline is pulled into a world of secrets and mysteries following the appearance of these clones, and must discover the truth behind their creation and the school itself.

This book is one of my favorites, despite the fact that I only just read it. Emmaline’s
character is written incredibly well, as well as the harsh realities of what she is dealing with. Her emotions when dealing with the death of her best friend feel so raw and real, as well as her conflicting feelings about Levi. Oliver’s death is fresh on Emmaline’s mind, which makes the appearance of Levi so much more heart-wrenching to her. She is still recovering from the loss of the person closest to her, so seeing his face on another person’s body feels so wrong to her. She must find a way to separate the two, since memories of Oliver are brought up every time she sees Levi’s face. In addition, the mysteries which unfold regarding the origins of the clones will have you on the edge of your seat, along with the mystery of their future. Darkwood Academy is an amazing setting for this story, since its rich and famous attendants supply the story with drama and corruption. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a book which will draw them in from the very first page, and still have you wondering on the last. The next book on my reading list is the sequel, which is, hopefully, just as good as the first.

Get Smart About Emotion: A Practical Guide to Emotional Intelligence by David Walton (2012)

Reviewed by Abigail

This self-help book centers around an aspect of intelligence that isn’t spoken about as frequently as linguistic or logical-mathematical intelligence, but remain essential to an individual in everyday interactions with others.

Starting with learning how to recognize and attend to one’s internal well-being, and reflecting on how we outwardly present ourselves to others, this book covers the importance of understanding others and creating positive relationships in the workplace, and with friends and family. This book also goes over how to increase one’s emotional intelligence through many interactive quizzes and introspective interim questions at the end of each section.

Overall, as an adolescent transitioning into a young adult, found this book to be very helpful. I would recommend this book to anyone trying to create better relationships with others, those in workplace relationships, or anyone who wants to know what to do when navigating a sensitive situation.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

Reviewed by Saimah

The Great Gatsby is a novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald which was published on April 10, 1925. The book revolves around the story of a man named Jay Gatbsy, who lives in a big mansion all alone, throwing huge parties all the time in hopes of reuniting with Daisy Buchanan. The story takes place in New York, where there is the East Egg, West Egg, and separating both, the Valley of Ashes. West Egg is the place for the newly rich people and is more fashionable which is where Nick, who is Daisy’s cousin, and Gatsby live. Daisy and her husband Tom live in East Egg, which is more exclusive and is where the old money is.

I think this was a well written book. I usually don’t like books written so long ago because they are harder to comprehend, however I did not feel this way with this novel. The characters were well thought out and were realistic. The setting was described with great detail with the different Eggs and the Valley separating them both. The novel moved at a good pace, not too fast to confuse the reader but also not too slow to bore the reader which I usually experience when reading older novels. I liked the plot of the book which had some surprises and kept me intrigued. Overall, I definitely recommend any teenager to read this novel if they enjoy an interesting story.

New Storywalk!

Summer is here and our next Story Walk book reflects the summer reading theme of “Find Your Voice.” The story Viva’s Voice by Raquel Donoso and illustrated by Carlos Velez is a story about courage and using your voice to help others. “Since the day she was born, Viva’s voice has always been the mightiest in the room. But when Papi’s bus driver union goes on strike, quiet Papi is the family member who must speak up. He feels nervous, but Viva’s strength gives Papi the courage he needs to find his own powerful voice.”

How can you use your voice to help others?

Read the story one page at a time as you walk along a simple trail. Wear your rainboots if it has recently rained! 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 at the library to tell us all about your Story Walk experience.

The Story Walk is located along a trail around the Community Garden located at Sunny Meadow Farm. It is near 158 Robin Hill Road in South Chelmsford.

Teen Volunteer Book Reviews– March 24, 2023

Sea of Lucidity by David Mackay (2017)

Reviewed by Joe

The Sea of Lucidity, by David Mackay, is the most novel concept I’ve read in a book, possibly ever. Rather than stick to one idea, it seems the author had so many ideas, he didn’t know what to do with them: so he shoved them all into one book. However, the book, while not making any sense, fits this mishmash of ideas into one cohesive story. 

The setting- or rather, settings- of The Sea of Lucidity are the most unique part of the book. Rather than work with one traditional setting- fantasy, steampunk, modern day, or the like- all of these settings and more are used together, traversed by the main character and his companions. From the shining metropolis of Craton to the standard fantasy setting of Entonnia, the settings, each with its own defining characteristics, are woven together to become as much a part of the story as the characters. 

There are three main protagonists; Taro Brook is the character we follow on a challenging adventure.  We also see him as several different characters, though Brook doesn’t always realize who he is. This strange phenomenon is explained to him by his mentor, Messenger Two Cups. This identity shifting (along with an arbitrary treatment of time) is used to create plot twists that even fans of George R. R. Martin would have trouble spotting, but is pulled off to perfection. 

The plot seems almost an afterthought, a backdrop for the the setting and the characters, supporting them more than they support it. While this may dissuade some readers, I enjoyed that the simple plot allows the reader to focus on the complex structure of  the setting, the characters’ multiple identities, and more. However, the plot is not entirely lacking. Hints throughout lead to what seems to be the end of the novel, and do, yet there are so many loose ends that I hope will be expanded upon as the Eldormaar series continues. 

Overall, The Sea of Lucidity is quite frankly a confusing book, and yet one of the most satisfying and gripping I’ve recently read. I would give the book an 8/10, striking a point for the writing itself seeming a tad simple; but I certainly look forward to the next books in the Eldormaar series.

For those who want to read this book, it is unfortunately not available in local libraries; check out these additional reviews.


Tattoo Atlas by Tim Floreen (2016)

Reviewed by Lily

Tattoo Atlas, by Tim Floreen, is a science fiction young adult novel published in 2016. The book’s main character is Jeremy “Rem” Braithwaite, a high schooler whose mother is a scientist researching Rem’s former classmate’s violent impulses, and a way to cure them. Rem’s best friends, known collectively as the Boreal Five, also play a large role in the story. This book had plenty of twists and turns. The quick pace made it a fun and thought-provoking read. The characters were also likeable; my favorite was Rem’s best friend Callie because of her sarcastic remarks. I liked that the morally gray research of Rem’s mom and the other scientists was discussed and had consequences. The science fiction elements of the story were done well and felt believable. All in all, I liked this novel a lot, so much so that I finished it in 2 days. I would recommend this book to those who like thrillers like A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson and One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus, and appreciate a sci-fi twist.


Jackaby by William Ritter (2014)

Reviewed by Claire

Jackaby, by William Ritter, is a supernatural YA novel about a woman named Abigail Rook, who arrives in New Fiddleham, New England in 1892. Upon arriving, she meets a strange man who goes by the name of R.F. Jackaby. In need of work, she goes to see him about a job; he’s a detective in need of an assistant. Abigail soon finds out that he’s not simply a
detective who solves ordinary crimes, but a detective for the paranormal. He possesses
the extraordinary ability to see what others can’t, things Abigail could never dream of.
At first he doesn’t believe she’ll be right for the job, but he soon finds that she may be far
more useful than he first thought. A serial killer is on the loose in New Fiddleham, and
Jackaby believes the killer is of supernatural origin. Abigail must help Jackaby crack the
case, and discover who, or what, is committing the murders. The two have to do so
quickly, or else they will be arrested by the police, since they’re the number one
suspects. Can Abigail and Jackaby find the true killer before time runs out?
I really enjoyed reading Jackaby, so much so that I finished it in one sitting. I
loved the characters of Abigail and Jackaby, and the relationship between them. Abigail
sees ordinary yet important details, which Jackaby often ignores. But Jackaby sees the
extraordinary and the unseeable. As a result of their complementary skills,
they make the perfect team. They each contribute a different piece of the puzzle, and then work together to see the whole picture. Another thing I liked about this book was that it took place in 1892. The setting made it much more interesting to read, and added to the mood of the story. I was super excited to read this book, since it’s a paranormal mystery, and it did not disappoint. I would definitely recommend reading this book, and the rest of the Jackaby series.

Teen Volunteer Book Reviews – February 18, 2023

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (2013)

Reviewed by Vaanya

The book Enchanted (The Woodcutter Sisters Book 1) written by Alethea Kontis, was published in 2013. It is a wonderful and adventurous book that takes you into a blissful fantasy. It has all of the typical fairytale stories but with a uniqueness added by the author. The author bounces around and focuses attention on different characters in the story, not just the main character but her family and all of her sisters and their unique lives. Each sister is named after each day of the week and has special qualities that they were blessed with. The family has lost one of their sons who wasn’t named after the days of the week to the royal family. Their hearts have been cold to the royals ever since. One of the daughters befriends a frog in the forest, and as the fairytale goes, they talk and fall in love with one another – but, remember reader, there are always tangles in fairytales when it comes to falling in love.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)

Reviewed by Diya

The novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger was published in July of 1951. The book is
told from the perspective of Holden Caulfield who is a teenager that has recently been kicked out of prep school. The book is set in the 1950s and discusses themes such as angst and loneliness. Holden must find his way through society as an outcast who seems to dislike virtually everything. Holden struggles with his love life and he must figure out how to navigate through the several changes in his life. Holden also struggles with loss as he had lost his brother, Allie. The novel is centered around Holden’s thoughts and experiences.

I personally felt like this novel often contained a lot of complaining which I sometimes found irrelevant and annoying. However, the way the story was told through Holden’s eyes was entertaining because he is very blunt and honest with the reader. The topics that were discussed were also relatable to young adults as Holden discusses love, loss, and friendship. All in all, I would recommend this novel to young adults who enjoy a comedic read.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

Reviewed by Abigail

Their Eyes were watching God centers around Janie Crawford, as she progresses  through three marriages seeking a sense of agency in this 20th-century classic. Hurston’s novel deals mainly in concept of marital roles and self-empowerment in women.

As the story progresses, Janie’s mindset shifts from viewing love as an obligation and marriage as the extent of her life goals, to taking a long personal journey to come into her own sense of self-worth. In each of the three relationships, she learns something new about herself and learns the difference between domineering, transactional relationships and long-lasting love.

This novel is one of the most famous books to be written by an African-American author and is considered a Harlem Renaissance classic. Overall, the book carries a good message about the African American experience and the universal human journey for self-acceptance.  I found this book to be very eloquently written and a must-read for more mature audiences.

Scythe by Neil Shusterman (2016)

Reviewed by Lily 

Scythe, the first of a series, is a dystopian novel written by Neal Shusterman. Before digging into the book, I was excited, as Shusterman is one of my favorite authors. The plot follows Citra and Rowan, two adolescents taken as apprentice scythes. In this futuristic society, all illness and death has been eradicated and people who suffer mortal injuries can be easily revived. Thus, scythes are necessary to “glean” people, killing them to manage the population.

This concept is very interesting and compelling. Throughout the book, I felt that the author did a great job of writing character relationships between the protagonists and their mentors. My favorite character was Scythe Curie, Citra’s mentor. One thing I didn’t particularly like was as the book went along, it seemed more rules for scythes were being added. I would’ve preferred all the scythes’ rules to be established at the beginning.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to middle school and high school students who like dystopian novels such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, Uglies, and more.

Teen Volunteer Book Reviews – January 20, 2023

It’s a new year, and if you’re anything like me you are on the hunt for new books to read! Check out these reviews to see what our teen volunteers are reading, and maybe check one out today! 🙂

Jackaby by William Ritter (2014)

Reviewed by Claire

Jackaby, by William Ritter, is a supernatural YA novel about a woman named Abigail Rook, who arrives in New Fiddleham, New England. Upon arriving, she meets a strange man who goes by the name R.F. Jackaby. In need of work, she goes to see him about a job. He’s in need of an assistant, as he is a detective. Abigail soon finds out that he’s not simply a detective who works for the police, but a detective for the paranormal. He possesses the extraordinary ability to see what others can’t, things Abigail could never dream of. He doesn’t believe she’s good for the job at first, but he soon finds that she may be far more useful than he thought. A serial killer is on the loose in New Fiddleham, and Jackaby believes the killer is of supernatural origin. Abigail must help Jackaby crack the case, and discover who, or what, is committing the murders. The two have to do so quickly, or else they will be arrested by the police, since they’re the number one suspects. Can Abigail and Jackaby crack the case before the clock runs out?

I really enjoyed reading Jackaby, so much that I read it all in one sitting. I loved the characters of Abigail and Jackaby, and the relationship they have. Abigail sees the obvious and the ordinary, which Jackaby often ignores. Jackaby sees the extraordinary, the things no one else could even dream of noticing. Because of this, they make the perfect team. They can each put together a different part of the puzzle, then step back and see the picture as a whole. When they work together, the mystery starts to come together. Another part of this book that I liked was that it took place in 1892. This made it a lot more interesting to read, and really added to the mood of the story. I was super excited to read this book, since it’s a paranormal mystery, and it did not disappoint. I would definitely recommend reading this book, and the rest of the Jackaby series.

The Odyssey  by Homer (translated by Stanley Lombardo)

Reviewed by Braneeth

The Odyssey is a poem of Greek literature and mythology that is renowned and read to this day. The story begins following the end of the Trojan War, and tells the story of the warrior Odysseus as he attempts to return home to his wife and son. He must return home despite
adversity posed by Poseidon, a powerful god. Meanwhile back home in Ithaca his wife must avoid the dangerous suitors who wish to win her hand in marriage. Odysseus’s journey entails both his arduous return home as well as his dealing with the suitors.

My Opinions
As a kid who loved Percy Jackson and Greek Mythology, The Odyssey serves as a reflection of the stories I loved to read as a kid. Filled with both gods and monsters the epic poem is action-packed. There is a reason the ancient poem is widely read even in the present day. Not only is the plot of the Odyssey interesting, but the story and its characters have morals applicable to almost everyone, temptation, and parental relationships are present throughout the novel. Combined with the exciting and interesting plot, the poem makes a great read with good takeaways.

While I would recommend, I would also warn that the Odyssey can be a hard read as it
was written in Greek and is now translated into English. It is important to have a basic
understanding of the plot, as well as to choose a clear modern interpretation of the poem to fully understand it. For this reason, I would recommend the translation by Stanley Lombardo.

Cinder by Marisa Meyer (2012)

Reviewed by Afifa

In New Beijing, a deadly disease, Letumosis, is taking away thousands of people, cyborgs, and humans who populate the New Commonwealth. Their enemies, the Lunar people, and their Queen plan their strike on the New Commonwealth. Cinder, a common cyborg living in this world has a huge part to play but she is unaware of this. She does not remember her past, and her evil stepmother treats her horribly and blames her for her stepsister Peony’s illness on the Letumosis. The charming Prince Kai invites her to his palace to fix his dear broken android and they develop a relationship that will eventually affect their whole world.

My View
– Character: The characters in this book were very believable because the author put a lot of detail into each character. My favorite character was Cinder because she had the most mysterious character development throughout

– Setting: The setting was described in lots of detail how this was the future of humankind. I liked how this science fiction was realistically futuristic. I could definitely see myself in this world because it is very intriguing.

– Plot: The plot made sense because all the events fell into place and the suspense worked out from past clues. Cinder’s actions made sense because she was a self-conscious Cyborg and Kai’s actions made sense because he was losing his father to the disease andwas living in fear of his world. Also, this book was a modern dystopian version of Cinderella and the events really fit into place from the traditional fairy tale.

– I would highly recommend this science fiction book. I really enjoyed this book, it had mystery, suspense, and many plot twists. I would definitely recommend reading the rest of the books in this series after you finish this one.

Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (2010)

Reviewed by Joe

Way of Kings is the first book in the Stormlight Archive, a series in progress in Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere. Taking place about six years into a war between the humans of Roshar and their enemies, known as the Parshendi, the book follows a surgeon turned soldier then slave, a scholar and a thief, and an aging general, among others. As always, Brandon Sanderson has made a masterpiece.

The main character focused on in this book is a slave named Kaladin. The development of Kaladin throughout the book is excellent. One of the largest mistakes authors can make in character development is perfecting their protagonist. Kaladin’s biggest strength as a character are his flaws. They are expertly written, expanded upon, and evolving throughout the story. Among the other characters in Way of Kings, the most interesting to me is Dalinar. Bearing the burden of a kingdom on his shoulders while upholding a pristine life, Dalinar is faced with what originally seems to be effects of his old age. However, they are so much more.

Including not only Dalinar’s plights, but the Parshendi, the significance of Sylphrena (another side character, a kind of spirit called a spren), and the obligatory map at the beginning of the book, Roshar is an amazingly detailed world. Not only the interesting geography, but the magic system and the cultures break so many tropes fantasy books fall into, and call attention to the flaws of those that it does. Although expanded upon in the rest of the series, the medieval-European style of Alethi society is put in stark contrast with the Unkalaki, Herdazian, Shin, and especially Parshendi cultures displayed in the first book in the Stormlight Archive.

The plots of The Way of Kings are just as convoluted and masterful as all Sanderson’s Cosmere books, if not more. Starting off with two entirely separate stories, it seems as if you’re reading two books at once. While this style of writing can be off-putting, I personally enjoyed it, attempting to piece together different parts of the stories. Weaving in the scholarly life of Shallan in Jah Keved, the hard and deadly work of Kaladin on the warfront, and Dalinar’s much more refined experience on the same front lines as he enjoys (and still rejects) the life of nobility in the war camps, the entire story culminates in a twisting of emotions that sets up the greater war that is to descend on Roshar. 

My one complaint with the plot is the lack of Shallan’s involvement with the main plot. Although it gets incorporated later in the series, it seems a bit out of place, and used to help fill in information, rather than plot lines. Due to this and a few more points, I would rate The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson an 8/10. Overall it is an amazing (although very long) novel, but a few small hiccups detract from the book overall.

Teen Volunteer Book Reviews – December 16, 2022

As the temperatures drop and the sky darkens early, take advantage of blankets, warm drinks, and good books! Our teen volunteers have written some great reviews to share – maybe one of these will be your next cozy winter read!

Everless by Sara Holland (2018)

Reviewed by Vaanya

The book Everless, is by Sara Holland, and is followed by the book Evermore. It is a beautiful fantasy novel with twists like spiral stairs.

A girl named Jules lives in the land of Sempera where everything depends on time, which people pay in the form of blood-iron. Jules’s father is low on time and Jules needs to find a way to help him. She is desperate enough to return to Everless, the manor where she and her father were exiled by the wrath of the Gerling family. She must face her fear and her once childhood friend to save her father before time runs out.

At Everless, Jules starts to learn more and more about abandoned villages, and about the tale of the Sorceress and the Alchemist. The Alchemist stole the Sorceress’s heart and he reincarnates himself to keep the Sorceress at bay, each reincarnation, a different life filled with power. Every step of the way, heart-wrenching secrets about Jules’s life begin to unfold. Everless isn’t safe for her anymore, and she has to pay with the life of those she has left behind.

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (2015)

Reviewed by Saimah

In the book The Thing About Jellyfish, Suzy’s best friend, Franny, dies unexpectedly in a tragedy. Suzy believes that it’s not an accident and she thinks that she died from a rare jellyfish sting. Now she wants to prove to the world that Franny didn’t die from an accident.

The characters in the book were really interesting and fun to read. I think my favorite character was Suzy’s brother, because he was really entertaining and comical. The setting of the book was in Massachusetts so it was easy to imagine the story because I live in Massachusetts as well. I enjoyed the pace of the book, it wasn’t too fast or slow, and the actions made sense for the characters in the story.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Thing About Jellyfish and would highly recommend it to teens and tweens.

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (1998)
Reviewed by Claire
Among The Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix was originally published March 1, 1998, and is a dystopian YA novel that takes place in a future where the government has taken
drastic measures to prevent overpopulation. Parents are only allowed to have two children, and having more than that is illegal. Luke is a third child. He’s been in hiding his entire life and now can’t even go outside. New houses are being built where his woods used to be, so he can no longer go outside without risking being seen. Luke has never met another kid before, besides his brothers, especially not another third child. Then, he sees a girl next door, in a house where two boys live. Her name is Jen, and she’s a third child, just like Luke. Jen wants third children to have rights and is not afraid to stand up to fight for them. Jen has a plan that she’s sure will give rights to third children everywhere. However, her idea is dangerous, and Luke doesn’t know whether or not he is willing to put his life on the line. Now, Luke has to decide whether or not to come out of the shadows or stay hidden.
I loved reading this book, and I enjoyed every page. I loved the characters in this story and how they all thought and acted differently. Jen and Luke were two completely different people, and it was interesting to see the two of them together. Jen was fearless and willing to do anything to stand up for the rights of third children. She never really liked following the rules and often broke them. Luke, however, was more timid and hesitant to stop hiding. He followed the rules and listened to his mother. The setting is described well since Luke spent a lot of time observing his surroundings. With him no longer being allowed to go outside, he watched the other houses on the block and talked about the other families that lived there. The setting was developed through his observations and description of the outdoors, something he often did as he had little else to do.
I would recommend this book and all of its sequels. This is the first book in the Shadow Children sequence and is worth reading.

Teen Volunteer Book Reviews – November 19, 2022

November is here and, as always, we are feeling thankful for books! Check out the reviews below to see what our teen volunteers are reading and enjoying. Maybe you’ll find your next great read!

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (2019)

Reviewed by Lily

Released in 2019, With the Fire on High is an outstanding book written by Elizabeth Acevedo. Emoni Santiago, a high school senior, has a busy life raising  her young daughter while also juggling school work. She also has a passion for cooking and wants to attend a school trip to Spain as part of a new culinary arts class.

This book had great pacing and kept me captivated the entire time. Acevedo included very vivid images, especially when describing the meals that Emoni cooks. I also liked the recipes included, which tied in nicely with the story’s themes. The author also made  Emoni’s relationships with friends and family seem authentic. Her dialogue with her grandmother ‘Buela, best friend Angelica, father Julio, and friend/love interest Malachi all felt natural. Emoni was a very strong character.

Overall, I would absolutely recommend this to anyone interested in realistic fiction. The reading level is probably best suited for middle and high school aged teens.

Reverie by Ryan La Sala (2019)

Reviewed by Cynthia

Reverie, which was written by Ryan La Sala in 2019, is a fantasy novel that follows the gay teenager Kane Montgomery after he woke up half-dead in a river next to a burning house with his car slammed into it. Along with having lost fragments of his memory, Kane is chased by a ghastly creature and magical strangers who claim to be his friends, and he encounters strange dreamlike worlds that he is supposed to “unravel”. However, as he tries to navigate through all of this, he discovers how everything that occurred is connected, and he must realize who he should be fighting and stop them before reality becomes a lucid dream controlled by that person.

This dreamy fantasy story is packed with so many unique aspects that work together really well. I’d consider all of the characters to be favorites. Kane, the protagonist, may be rude and make stupid mistakes, but that’s what makes him so relatable, and he’s also quite caring and perseverant. Additionally, the quirky villain is so well imagined. I had to stop and admire the descriptive writing that painted the fantasy world and action so clearly in my mind. It was cool how the crazy ideas made so much sense when explaining them using the logic of dreams. Also, I loved the mysteries and how seemingly trivial details become significant later in the story. Fantasy lovers seeking an interesting and imaginative world will enjoy this fantastic book.

Five total strangers by Natalie D. Richards (2020)

Reviewed by Claire

Five Total Strangers was published on October 6th, 2020, and is a YA thriller by Natalie D. Richards that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end. It’s crucial that Mira gets home for the holidays, but her connecting flight is canceled because of a massive blizzard. This leaves Mira stranded at the Philadelphia airport until further notice. Then, Harper, a girl who Mira just met on her plane, offers to take her home in a car she and three friends are renting. However, Mira discovers that these people aren’t friends, but are strangers. And each one seems to have a secret. Their trip soon becomes far more dangerous than anticipated. The roads are disastrous, so slippery that they’ve caused multiple massive pile-ups, and everyone’s stuff keeps going missing. Someone is lying, and maybe even trying to sabotage them. If Mira wants to make it home alive, she needs to learn what each person is hiding before the end of the drive.

I honestly loved this book, and thought Mira was a great character. She had a lot happening around her, and was forced to deal with an incredibly dangerous and high-stress situation. Reading about her trying to figure out what was going on during the drive was interesting. Everyone’s belongings were disappearing, and everything seemed to be going wrong. Plus, she was stuck in a car with four people that she didn’t know.  She couldn’t leave, since she was stuck in the middle of nowhere and was essentially forced to stay in a car with people who may or may not have been trying to sabotage her. Staying in the car could be just as dangerous as getting out, and just trying to figure out who people really were was difficult. Plus, driving the car was almost impossible as they were in an enormous blizzard – the weather was hazardous, and people were constantly sliding off the road. Just driving down the road was dangerous enough, not to mention the things going on inside the car. I could really picture the actions and setting, and I thought it was incredible. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good mystery/thriller – it will have them hooked from the first page.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)

Reviewed by Saimah

Lord of the flies is a novel by William Golding. A group of boys travel in an airplane that crashes on a tropical island, and they are left to fend for themselves without any adults. Leaders are chosen, divisions start forming, and violence occurs. The book shows how civilization plays a huge role in our lives, how brutal humans can actually become and how young boys could behave if left alone in extreme circumstance. 

I feel like this book was really well written and very close to reality. Golding was a headmaster in an all-boys school who also had served in World War II and saw the many horrors human beings could do. That’s why he decided to write this book in which he shows his perspective of humanity. This book can be read through many lenses, an adventure story lens, a religious lens, and a psychological lens – it is filled with symbolism. The plot was interesting and I would definitely recommend teenagers 13+ to read this book, as it showcases a unique view of humanity.

Teen Volunteer Book Reviews – October 15, 2022

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003)

Reviewed by Braneeth

The Namesake follows Gogol Ganguli, the son of two Indian immigrants living in Massachusetts. Gogol’s name is unique, it is neither Bengali nor American, and it leaves Gogol confused about who he truly is. The book follows Gogol’s journey as he searches for his own identity whilst traveling through multiple loves and experiencing tragic losses.

My Opinions
The Namesake is definitely a book that sparks two very different opinions. Those who dislike the book find it hard to read and understand, and view it as a boring novel. After
all, a book about someone’s entire life is bound to be dull at certain points. However, from a holistic view this book has some very important themes such as one’s search for identity, change and adaptation, and the feeling of being an outsider. The book brings light to the struggles of children in the United States and not being able to fit in. It also discusses important concepts such as the difficulty of finding true and lasting love.

Though I cannot guarantee The Namesake will appeal to every reader, I would recommend everyone at least give it a try. Its combination of powerful messages and relatable characters make it a captivating novel. It is a book capable of producing powerful emotions from its readers, and though it might be long and meticulous to get through, its underlying messages are truly powerful.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles (1959)

Reviewed by Diya

In the novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Gene and Finny attend an all boys school named Devon. The two must explore their relationship during their coming of age years. Gene and Finny are supposedly best friends, but it seems as though Gene feels resentment towards Finny. This feeling manifests itself within their relationship, and Gene’s actions cause pain to Finny. The boys struggle as secrets are withheld and revealed. The two must sort out their relationship while struggling with the possibility of enlistment, as this book takes place during World War II.

I really liked this novel because I felt that it was very relatable for teenagers today because the boys are in their coming of age years and are trying to navigate themselves through troubling times. I do think that the book was sometimes repetitive, but nevertheless, it was a good read. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a story about friendship.

Divergent by Veronica Roth (2011)

Reviewed by Claire

Divergent by Veronica Roth was published April 26, 2011, and is an incredible YA dystopian novel. Society has been divided into factions, groups of people who all believe a certain trait to be most important. There’s Abnegation for selflessness, Erudite for intelligence,
Dauntless for the brave, Candor for the honest, and Amity for the peaceful. Tris has been in
Abnegation her whole life, but it’s coming time for her to join a faction. However, when she gets tested to see what would be her best fit, she gets a dangerous result. Tris is Divergent, a secret that she must keep to survive. Tris chooses to join the Dauntless, and is thrown into a world far more dangerous than she expected. In her new faction, Tris faces dangers she never believed, and does things she never thought she would to survive.

I really loved reading this book, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes
dystopian books. My favorite character in this book would have to be Four, since he seemed to be one of the only people in the book who was willing to listen to Tris. He was one of the nicer characters in the book, and he was definitely the best by far. My least favorite would have to be Tris, since I thought she could be a bit whiney or annoying at times. I didn’t like her very much, but I liked the rest of the characters. I really loved the headquarters of the Dauntless, and it really felt like I was there when Tris described it. It definitely fits the Dauntless. The plot of the story was really good, and even if some things could be predictable I still loved reading it. I would definitely recommend this story to anyone looking for an exciting book, and all the rest of the series along with it.

1984 by George Orwell (1949)

Reviewed by Lily

1984 by George Orwell is a dark and compelling novel about a society ruled by Big Brother, a totalitarian government force. This book took me a while to read, but it was extremely worth it. It wouldn’t be right to say I enjoyed this book, but I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Published in 1949, this book tells the tale of Winston Smith, a common man living in Oceania. In every person’s home, they have a television device that monitors everything they say and do. The government controls everything, and people will disappear for thinking “thought crimes”. Winston falls in love with Julia, but their relationship is forbidden.

The whole story had me captivated. There were a few parts in the story that were a little hard to understand, and I had to reread a section or two. But overall, the novel was a great experience. It offers commentary on politics and government, and serves as a cautionary tale. I would recommend this to fans of other science fiction books and authors like Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, etc. If you chose to read 1984, keep in mind that it has a lot of mature themes.

Tell Me by Joan Bauer (2014)

Reviewed by Akhila

The book Tell Me by Joan Bauer is a fictional book that follows 12-year-old Anna McConnel’s vacation. The book takes place in Rosemont where Anna goes to stay with her grandmother to get away from her parents’ marriage troubles. She keeps herself busy by helping her grandmother prepare for the town’s flower festival. One day, while helping out at the library, Anna sees a girl who seems to be held against her will. Anna is determined to find out the truth about the girl she saw. When she sees the frightened eyes of the child involved, she is convinced that she is responsible for uncovering the truth behind the situation and tracking down the child. She never once doubts herself and works with her friends and uses other resources to approach the situation. The story follows Anna as she tries to find out more about the girl she saw.
This book does an excellent job of using a fictional story to inform young readers about human trafficking. It is a really good introduction to it in terms of explaining what it is without scarring young readers. It mixes the concept and seriousness of human trafficking with Anna’s life problems and friendships and doesn’t overdo it on either side. I would recommend this book, and many others by Bauer, for middle school readers. Tell Me is a great quick read. I love Anna’s character development in the story; she goes from being anxious and worrisome to mature, determined, talented, outspoken, and sure of herself.

Teen Volunteer Book Reviews – September 23, 2022

The Fear by Natasha Preston (2022)

Reviewed by Claire

The Fear by Natasha Preston was published in 2022 and is a YA thriller that’s a New York Times bestseller. A terrifying meme that originated from Izzy’s town is going viral. The meme asks people to repost the way they’re most afraid to die. Izzy herself doesn’t repost, finding it to be creepy and suspicious. Everyone believes her to be paranoid, until her classmates start showing up dead in the ways they fear. The murders keep finding Izzy, and she decides to try and stop the killer herself. She suspects another kid in her class, a boy named Axel with a grudge against the popular crowd. Or it could be his cousin, Tristan. Izzy soon ends up on the path that will lead her to the murderer, and something far worse than she could ever imagine.

I had a hard time putting this book down, I got so wrapped up in it. I thought Izzy was an interesting main character for this book. She often jumped to conclusions about who the killer was, seemingly convinced one person was the killer until someone else did something fishy and she turned to them. She was very involved in the murders, due to the fact that the killer was interested in her and she was often in the wrong place at the wrong time. A unique plot element was that rather than being someone the killer was after, she was someone they specifically weren’t killing because she didn’t repost the meme.

I loved the setting of this story, and how every place was described in detail. I found the plot very gripping, with a mystery you couldn’t wait to figure out and a multitude of characters with their own quirks and faults. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good mystery that will have them on the edge of their seats until the very end.


The Wim Hof Method by Wim Hof (2020)

Reviewed by Braneeth


The Wim Hof Method is a one-of-a-kind self-help book written by a man nicknamed “The Iceman.” The book describes a process that anyone can use to boost their strength, happiness, and vitality. This process is a combination of meditation/breathing as well as cold exposure. It also entails a description of building the right mindset: discipline, willpower, and awareness. Some of the author’s credentials include ridiculous feats such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in only shorts and running a half-mile in the Arctic wearing only shorts.

My Opinions

From personal experience, I can attest that this book is unique in its approach to self-help. Most books focus solely on breathing and mindset, but the idea of cold exposure is a complete game-changer. For many people, cold exposure for more than a couple of seconds in their daily showers seems far-fetched. However, the book guides you through a slow and incremental approach to help increase your tolerance over time.

One downfall of the book is that there is some background information that does take a while to develop to the methods of the book itself. This background can be distracting and even sort of unnecessary to the overall idea of the book. However, once the book picks up on breathing techniques, cold shower exposure, and positive mindsets, the effects that they can have are instantly apparent. Many readers have found that following the techniques of the Wim Hof method can help both your mental and physical state. Peace, joy, and awareness are some of the elements this book aims to help boost. Meanwhile in terms of athletics and health, following the methods preached in this book could definitely increase endurance and recovery time.

I would definitely recommend giving this book a try to readers of all ages who are trying to build discipline and health within their life. The book’s methods are incremental, meaning you’ll never face a step that you aren’t ready for, and I found the effects of following these methods very beneficial.


Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2007)

Reviewed by Diya

The novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher explores the concept of depression and suicide. The very heartfelt novel was a pleasure to read and I felt very connected with the main protagonists, Clay and Hannah. Hannah Baker is struggling with the rumors swirling around her name, and she finds herself in situations where lives are ruined or even destroyed. After concluding that nobody cares about her, Hannah makes up her mind to commit suicide. Hannah decides to record a series of tapes explaining her decisions, and after her passing, she issues the tapes to be passed around to the people that were involved in her decision to take her life.

This book was a very heavy book that contains many intense topics. However, I personally felt very moved by the characters and Hannah’s view on life. It opened up my eyes to the idea that people do not know what others are going through and the importance of kindness. Being in high school, I could relate to Hannah’s struggles and thoughts which made the book very relatable. I would recommend this book to high school students because it does deal with heavy topics, but it is written in a beautiful and compelling way.


Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Reviewed by Saimah

Brave new world is a dystopian novel written written by Aldous Huxley. It features a world that forces us to make comparisons with our own world, and realize the scary similarities and how we are edging towards that world. Some examples of this include the fact that people rely on drugs to forget their pain, the growing divide between social classes, and rapidly advancing technology. However there are many things that seem very wrong to us that they do in the book, like conditioning or brainwashing people, making babies in factories and much more. In the novel, we can see Bernard, the protagonist, is confused about what to do – he sees the imperfections in this “brave new world.”

Overall I did not enjoy the book that much and would not recommend it because the language is hard to read and the concepts and thoughts are disturbing.


Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt (2015)

Reviewed by Cynthia

Orbiting Jupiter is a young adult fiction novel narrated by Jack Hurd, a twelve-year-old boy living in a farm in rural Maine whose family begins to foster a fourteen-year-old boy named Joseph. Joseph has a problematic record and even has a daughter who he has never met before, causing others to treat him poorly. However, as Jack gets Joseph to open up to him and learns about his past, he realizes that Joseph is actually a caring person, and all he wants is to see his daughter named Jupiter.

I am glad that I read this bittersweet novel. The characters, especially Joseph, feel realistic, and I felt a wide range of emotions from reading this. Joseph’s closed off and violent personality contrasts with his caring nature, and I found myself wishing for his happiness. His unfortunate character shows that you can’t judge people based on limited details about their past. The pacing in this novel is done well, and I especially like the way the author shows how Joseph changes. If you wish to read a sad yet touching and hopeful story, you should read this novel.