Check out the latest book reviews from our teen virtual volunteers!
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (2020)
reviewed by Abigail
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong was published on November 17, 2020 and is a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai. Julliete Cai is the daughter of the leader of the Scarlet Gang, while her star-crossed lover Roma Montagov is the son of the leader of the White Flowers, the opposing gang in Shanghai. When gang members on both sides of the rivalry begin to die under mysterious circumstances, the two must put their differences aside to figure out what’s killing their people — before they’re next.
I had high expectations going into These Violent Delights as a lover of the star-crossed lovers trope, and I have to say, my expectations were definitely met and maybe even exceeded. Chloe Gong’s spin on Shakespeare’s Juliet is refreshing and perfectly fit for a modern audience. Julliete Cai is not one to be trifled with and always aims to shatter the expectations people place on her. Even the friends that surround the two main characters have very interesting backstories and excellently crafted character development, something that’s often left out of side characters.
Despite having never been to Shanghai in the 1920s, I feel like I have after reading Gong’s novel. With imagery of bustling streets and sultry nightclubs, the setting of the story is well described and provides gorgeous mental pictures.
One of my biggest pet peeves is books that overstay their welcome. Authors that drag the story on and on despite the actual plot only needing 200 pages or so. I can say confidently that These Violent Delights does no such thing. The book is paced so that the slow burn between Julliette and Roma doesn’t feel rushed but action is constantly taking place, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat and waiting to see what will happen next.
All in all, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good forbidden romance with a bit of an action twist. But if romance isn’t your thing, These Violent Delights is still worth checking out because the love story is only a single aspect of this multifaceted novel with twists and turns all over the place.
One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus (2017)
reviewed by Claire
One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus was published May 29, 2017, and is one of the best books I have ever read. In this story, Bronwyn Rojas, Nate Macauley, Adelaide Prentiss, and Cooper Clay are accused of murdering their fellow student, Simon Kelleher. All five students walked into detention one Monday in September, but only four left Bayview High alive. Simon ran a popular gossip app, an app that always accurately exposed the secrets of those in Bayview, and he was planning to disclose the secrets of these four students next. Except, he never got the chance. We see the world from the eyes of these four characters, which causes us to learn that each of
them has a completely different perspective on the investigation. Bronwyn is worried that
everything she’s ever worked for will be thrown down the drain, ruining any future she may have had, whereas Nate is just annoyed that he’ll be blamed for the whole thing. Addy is afraid that her one mistake will cause her to lose what she truly loves, while Cooper is afraid that one carefully covered up secret may just lose him everyone he knows, and everything he has.
This is one of my favorite books, and creates a world filled with secrets, deception, lies,
and discoveries. I feel that the characters are wonderfully crafted, and the ways that they feel and act are very reasonable. I like the main characters, though Cooper is my favorite character in the story, and reading about how Simon’s death affected how he acted and lived was incredible. I love how I can actually see myself in this world, looking at things the way the characters did, and feeling what they felt. The story moves pretty quickly, showing how the investigation progresses over the course of two months. The actions of these characters are believable, and the ways that they all respond to each event are very different. This story was a bit predictable, so I was more intrigued by the character development, which is the main reason I never considered putting the book down. I recommend this title to anyone above the age of 14, since there is much use of adult language, and a few things are described that younger kids probably wouldn’t be comfortable reading. I haven’t read any other books by this author, though I have heard that they’re incredible stories.
The Sword of Shannara, by Terry Brooks (1977)
reviewed by Joe
The Sword of Shannara is a book about a Half-Elf named Shea Ohmsford. Shea has lived his life peacefully, until he finds out he is the only one who can stop the advance of the Warlock Lord and his massive Northland Army from enslaving all of the world. First he and his companions, who have come from many different kingdoms to protect the world against this deadly threat, must retrieve the Sword of Shannara, a sword forged with magic when the Warlock Lord first rose to power to defeat him. Once they retrieve the Sword, they must march north through the Knife’s Edge and to Skull Mountain to slay the evil, immortal sorcerer.
While reading this book, I noticed that the characters were very realistic. They all had their flaws, and many times, they showed it. Whether it was self-doubt, brashness, or secrecy, all of the main characters, including the seemingly most virtuous of the company, showed themselves to be real people, not idealistic ideas. They showed motivation, and their complex backstories shone through as well. Overall, the characters of The Sword of Shannara are quite detailed and realistic. Their different personalities and skills put together in a group made them synergize quite well, which is another thing that I liked.
The setting of The Sword of Shannara is small, but well detailed. A map was included at the start of the book, which I always like, as it helps me visualize the journeys taken and the geography. It is a fantasy book, with Trolls, Gnomes, Elves, Dwarfs, and Men as the main races. Another very interesting tidbit on what this world was, thousands of years ago, before the First Great War ravaged the land, really helped me imagine myself in this world. If you’d like to find out what happened, you’ll just have to read the book!
The plot of the novel is somewhat simple; the main characters go on a quest to find an ancient artifact that will help them defeat the antagonist of the story. However, the plot is still a good one, and I haven’t found any inconsistencies in it, which is another plus. There are many smaller side plots, and they grow more numerous towards the end of the story. Most of these intertwine with each other and the main story, and only a few of them seemed a bit out of place.
Overall, I would recommend this book. It has an interesting and exciting plot, realistic and relatable characters, and an immersive setting. There is one thing that I have noticed, and that is that there are many similarities to Lord of the Rings. Some characters take similar positions in the company, some storylines are similar, and it is a similar overall plot, that an ancient artifact can be used to help defeat the magical and tyrannous force descending on the world. However, the book is still amazing, and I strongly recommend reading it.