Teen Book Reviews – September 1, 2021

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.