Teen Book Reviews – June 15th, 2021

The reviews are in! Our teen volunteers never disappoint, and here we have a wide variety of reviews to share. Check them out below! 🙂

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

Reviewed by Joe

Six of Crows is a fantasy novel about a group of outcasts and criminals, led by the notorious Kaz Brekker, who must attempt a heist on the world’s most secure stronghold: The Fjerdan Ice Court. Set in the same setting as the Shadow and Bone trilogy, a new power has come to light: a drug called jurda parem that can amplify the power of magic wielders thousand-fold. The scientist who discovered the drug, however, has been kidnapped and taken to the Ice Court, where the Fjerdans plan on replicating the drug for their own nefarious purposes. Kaz and his team have been asked to acquire the scientist for the Merchant Council of Kerch, in exchange for an enormous sum of money. The challenges they face along the way come not only from their adversaries, but from within as well, as past quarrels resurface.

The six main characters of the heist were quite believable. There are Jesper, the sharpshooter, Matthias, a Fjerdan ex-soldier split between his country and his loyalty to the team, Nina, a magic wielder known as a Grisha who put Matthias in jail to save him, Wylan, a demolitions expert who ran from his family, Inej, quite possibly the best spy and assassin in the world, and finally Kaz, a criminal mastermind with the most fearsome reputation in all of Kerch. Each of the characters had something that held them down. Kaz had a broken leg that never healed, and he couldn’t stand the touch of human skin after a traumatic experience in his past. Jesper can never stay away from the gambling tables, and Wylan doesn’t know how to read. However, despite their problems, both with each other and with the world, they manage to make one of the best teams the crime world has to offer. The history of each and every character is hinted at and given to the reader bit by bit, which makes me want to keep on reading to figure out more.

The setting of Six of Crows is the same setting as the Shadow and Bone trilogy, known as the Grishaverse. The world was made small, which made it much easier to keep track of. Leigh Bardugo did not spend paragraphs describing each different place as some authors I’ve read have, but if there was something that needed description, you would know what you needed to know about it. She managed to fit lots of information into two or three sentences, which really helped keep the book going while making it as in-depth as possible.

The plot of the novel was quite well written for my taste. Playing on the secretive nature of Kaz, the author kept details from even the reader until the big reveal. I loved this, but some readers might not. It did not affect the story much though, and the ball kept rolling through a maze of different paths the story could take, sometimes literally.

Overall, I would give Six of Crows a full 10/10. I read the book in less than 2 days, and much of the time, I take about a month to finish a book, reading off and on. Everything about the novel is amazing, and the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, is amazing as well. I suggest you read both, and if you’d like a more in-depth review of the second book in the duology, I might review that in the future as well.

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Reviewed by Shivam

One book that I had a chance to read over the course of the past month was Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan. Published in 2015, this fantasy novel, the first in a trilogy, did not disappoint.

The story revolves around Magnus Chase (for those familiar with the Percy Jackson series, he is the cousin of Annabeth, a main protagonist of that series), a 16 year-old teen left homeless on the streets of Boston after the death of his mother. Magnus has two friends, Blitz and Hearth, who look out for him. Life is pretty humdrum for Magnus until his 16th birthday, where he runs into his uncle, Randolph. A historian, Randolph tells Magnus something that changes his life forever: that Magnus is the son of a Norse god. Randolph has Magnus summon the Sword of Summer, an ancient artifact that belongs to his godly parent. Randolph tells Magnus that he will need it. At the moment that Magnus manages to summon the sword, disaster strikes. A fire giant lands in Boston, and Magnus tries single-handedly to stop it. He fails, and dies, losing the sword. After his death, Magnus’ soul is saved by a girl named Sam, and he ends up in Hotel Valhalla, a place for those who died bravely in combat as Magnus did. From here, Magnus faces many dangers, such as battles to the death, a quest to retake the sword, and even the biggest bad guy in Norse mythology himself: Loki.

Overall, I had a really good time reading this book. Everything about it was well-crafted, such as the characters and the setting. The characters were all believable and well-written. Magnus, for example, uses dry humor throughout the book, making it easy to see that even though he is the son of a god, he still has the personality of a teenager. Blitz, Hearth, and Sam are also great characters, and I couldn’t help but root for them all as the story progressed. Another thing that impressed me was the setting. It connects elements of the ancient Norse mythology to a very modern setting, evidenced by the story taking place in Boston at many different stages. I could definitely see myself in this world, whether it be as a protagonist or just a side character. Riordan manages to pull off something that seems impossible in hindsight with the setting, bonding the new and the old. Most impressive of all, however, was the plot. The plot is never slow, and there is always something new and interesting on every page. I was never bored, and it allowed me to understand and enjoy the book to its fullest extent. Nothing seemed out of place, and any actions taken over the course of the story all came together perfectly.

I 100% recommend this book to anyone and everyone, be it interesting mythology or funny comic relief. Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer is a must-read.  Even reluctant readers will be swept up in the plot, reading with great interest. For those who are interested in/enjoyed this book, I recommend many other books by Rick Riordan. He writes about many different types of mythology, and if the Norse mythology world is something people enjoy, it is also worth checking out the series Percy Jackson and The Heroes of Olympus, which include Greek and Roman mythology. If Egyptian mythology interests you as well, I recommend The Kane Chronicles series. All in all, Rick Riordan has many great works, and Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer is definitely one of them.

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Reviewed by Claire

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli was published on April 7, 2015, and tells the story of Simon Spier. Simon is a sixteen year old high school junior, and he is everything that he is expected to be. Except for one, small thing; Simon is gay, and he hasn’t told anyone, except for Blue.

Simon met Blue online, and even though they’ve never met in person, Simon has found a friend in him. In fact, he kind of loves the guy. Blue is the best friend he’s never met, the boyfriend he’s always wanted, hidden behind a computer screen. Simon talks to Blue as much as he can, which is how he’s ended up being blackmailed by Martin Addison. Martin has never really been a problem for him, the guy has always been the class clown, no trouble at all. Until Martin takes it upon himself to blackmail Simon, forcing him to help Martin talk to his dream girl, Abby. Abby is one of Simon’s best friends, and definitely not into Martin. Simon doesn’t want to help, but if he doesn’t, Martin will tell everyone his secret. Not only will Simon be outed, but Blue will be as well. This wouldn’t be so bad, if Blue lived somewhere far away, like California. Except Blue goes to Creekwood High School in Georgia, with Simon, where bullying the gay guys isn’t a rare occurrence. What choice does Simon have?

I loved this book, and found it to have realistic characters, since all of them have flaws, and aren’t made out to be inhumanly perfect. I like almost all of the characters, though my favorites have to be Leah and Bram. I really love Leah’s sarcastic streak, and the fact that she’s not afraid to be different. What I like about Bram is that he’s the quiet kid, the shy one that always exists in fiction, who sits in the back of the room. The story was described in great detail, and I could see myself sitting in the auditorium, watching the drama class put on a show. The pacing of the story works well, and shows how the relationship between Simon and Blue progresses over time. This story highlights how hard it is to be different, especially when people hate you for those differences, and expect you to be someone you’re not. Though it’s not good that we still have these issues in society, I love the fact that this author didn’t make the entire thing out to be a game. This book talks about important issues, emphasizes how it feels to not fit in, and discusses having a different sexuality in a heteronormative society.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a different kind of love story, one that is often underrepresented in the media, though I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone under 13. The characters are well developed, and this book is different from most romance novels. I haven’t read any other books by this author, though there are a few sequels to this book.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Reviewed by Ryan

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a novel told from the perspective of a black teenage girl named Starr who witnesses one of her close friends, Khalil, being killed by a police officer in a routine traffic stop. The story takes place in the fictional town of Garden Heights where Starr grew up. Starr tells the reader about her experience following the incident involving Khalil, where she is left to deal with the publicity that surrounds Khalil’s murder, the trauma that she develops, and navigating a predominantly white private high school.

This novel did a great job of telling a compelling story with believable and realistic characters and events. Angie Thomas built a world in this book that is as close to reality as it possibly could be. The setting is described with great detail and imagery that made me question whether or not it was in fact an actual town. Each character was given an intensely detailed description that gives the reader the ability to connect and relate to all of the major characters. I would definitely recommend this book.