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.