Check out the latest reviews from our teen volunteers!
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, 1997
Reviewed by Sriya
Starting off I’m going to be honest, I watched the movie Ella Enchanted before reading the actual book. *GASP* I know, I know, I’m ashamed of myself too. But as always, the book was much better than the movie and is 100% deserving of the Newbery Honor Medal. Ella Enchanted is the story of an extraordinary girl who was blessed by a fool of a fairy to be obedient. However, throughout her life she realizes that this so-called blessing was more of a curse. Follow this daring, clumsy, and small-footed heroine through her journey to find the fairy that “blessed” her and break this unfortunate curse.
As you might have guessed, the main character’s name is Ella. In my opinion, Ella is the perfect main character and easily my favorite character in the book. She’s witty, adventurous, and ironically disobedient. Ella’s cook Mandy is the perfect motherly figure for this enchanted child, according to Ella she is the most wonderful cook in the world and is a magical woman. Another character is Prince Charming himself or in this case, Prince Char. Prince Char is the Prince of Frell and is close friends with Ella due to their similar sense of humor. In a world this perfect, there needs to be some evil to balance it out right? That’s where Dame Olga and her evil minion- oops I mean children- come in. Dame Olga and her two daughters are Ella’s worst nightmare. They unexpectedly come into her life and abuse her curse by ordering her around like well, Cinderella.
Ella Enchanted takes place in Frell, a magical town with a medley of humans, centaurs, elves, gnomes, and ogres. Surrounding Frell are more mystical towns inhabited by even more mystic creatures. The plot of Ella Enchanted revolves around Ella traveling through these towns to find the fairy that cursed her. Through her journey, Ella faces all kinds of obstacles and makes a multitude of friends of different species. Levine’s descriptions of these settings and characters were so vivid and detailed that I could perfectly paint Ella’s point of view in my head.
I would definitely recommend this book to people of all ages, Ella Enchanted is a timeless entertainer. I absolutely loved everything about this book, the characters, the plot, and especially the broad vocabulary usage and vivid details. Ella Enchanted successfully combines fairy tale, coming of age, and rom-com tropes into one perfectly written book. Along with reading this wondrous work of literature, I also recommend you watch the movie too. But unlike me, make sure you watch it after reading the book. If you love a book that can make you laugh, swoon, and cry, Ella Enchanted is the perfect book for you.
The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer, 2008
Reviewed by Abhiram
One of my favorite books, The Dead and the Gone, is a sci-fi novel written by Susan Beth Pfeffer in 2008. It is a sequel to Life As We Knew It in the series known as The Last Survivors.
The story’s protagonist, Alex Morales, has to keep himself and his sisters alive after natural disasters take place. He has a hard time thinking about how to look after and protect his two younger sisters, Briana and Julie, because their parents vanished after the tidal waves, and his brother is away serving in the US Army.
The story begins after an asteroid collides with Earth and causes disasters such as tidal waves, eruptions, and earthquakes which transform their home in New York City from a vibrant neighborhood to a jeopardizing wasteland. After witnessing the loss of many lives and a lockdown, maintaining their faith and family harmony are necessary for Alex, Briana, and Julie to survive in the aftermath of these disasters. Alex has to work hard to help himself and his sisters come together as a family.
In the story, Alex’s sister Julie’s hatred towards him bothered me. Alex tries to maintain control over his sisters’ actions to keep them safe, which frustrates Julie and prompts her to tell Alex she hates him several times in the story. However, as the story progresses she starts to appreciate all he has done to keep them safe. In the end, the siblings both realize how much they need each other.
The overall plot was interesting, but initially I didn’t feel like everyone’s actions made sense in response to the asteroid; the main characters were afraid that everyone would die, but everyone else in the story seemed to believe that nobody was going to die. It was interesting to see how everything played out in the face of such an emergency! There’s an excerpt from the beginning of the former story, and part of the sequel at the end, so it does work well as a standalone. I would highly recommend this book.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, 1961
Reviewed by Saimah
To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel written by Harper Lee. The story is set in Maycomb County Alabama in 1933, where the community is very racially divided and prejudiced. Jem and Scout are two kids who live with their father, Atticus. This novel is shown through the perspective of Scout, a young girl who grows from six to nine years old and learns many valuable life lessons along the way. There are rumors about a mysterious person known as Boo Radley, and townspeople say he is a monster and does terrible things. Jem and Scout, along with their friend Dill, try to discover more about Boo Radley as they find him interesting.
When a black man, Tom Robinson, gets accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman, the whole community believes Tom Robinson is guilty. When Atticus is given the job of trying to defend Tom in court, he tries his level best even though there is very little hope of winning the case – he hopes he can at start making change in Maycomb County.
I felt like the characters were very believable throughout this novel. Scout is very young and it shows throughout the book as she describes events that she does not really understand in the way that an older reader will. Atticus, the widowed father of Jem and Scout, tries to teach valuable lessons to his kids and stand up for what is right throughout the novel. Calpurnia is another important character, and her perspective as a black woman raising two white children in a prejudiced community is realistic. The mystery around Boo Radley is also very realistic, and throws more light on the depth of prejudice within Maycomb.
The setting of the story was very realistic, and gives the reader a good snapshot of how things would have been done in a time and place like this. The pacing of the story worked well – the beginning is slow and confusing as there are many characters in the story to keep track of. After the first chapter it starts getting more interesting and the pace picks up, with larger reveals and plot twists.