Saturday, August 10, 2013

Teen Review: The second book

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't read the first book, don't read this review!

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Number of Pages: 391
Science Fiction / Dystopic
Series Affiliation: The Hunger Games Trilogy (have read; recommend the others)
Reading Level:
Middle School and up
Rating: 5
Reviewed by:
Xavier C., 11th grade

Cover: The cover is great; it feels like a blazing inferno is being let loose.

Catching Fire is the second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy. After winning the Hunger Games, Katniss's life with Peeta should be worry-free, easy, and simple. But, since she has President Snow out to get her, her life becomes more difficult than ever imaginable. She must do everything exactly the way she is told; otherwise she, her family, Peeta, and Gale may suffer fates far worse than death. But everything Katniss does seems only to encourage the rebellion of the other 11 districts. When the Third Quarter Quell comes and it is announced that Katniss and Peeta must once again enter the treacherous deathtrap of the Hunger Games, Katniss this time has only one goal in mind: Keep. Peeta. Alive.

I really enjoyed Catching Fire. I enjoyed the writing style, it gives the reader a view into Katniss's mind, and how she deals with the unbearable stress and terror she seems to never be able to escape. Read Catching Fire if you enjoy reading about dystopian or utopian futures, or if you like reading about people going through intense conflicts and how they deal with them. Katniss is a very relatable character to teens who think their lives are terrible, or to anyone who cares strongly for their family and friends. I recommend reading The Hunger Games and Mockingjay as well. (Read them in order!)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Teen Review: Jewish Heritage

The Chosen
by Chaim Potok
Number of pages: 291
Genre: Realistic fiction
Series affiliation: None
Reading level: High School
Rating: 5
Reviewed by: Xavier C., 11th grade

Cover: The cover is simple, but accurately reflects the main character’s personality.

S U M M A R Y :
The Chosen, by Chaim Potok, gives the reader a view into Jewish communities in Brooklyn during World War II. It introduces the reader to young, baseball-loving Reuven Malter, a boy who is learning to become a man through the teachings in the Talmud and the teachings of his father. Reuven meets Danny at a baseball game, and Danny makes the promise that he will kill Reuven after knowing him for about two innings. After a series of life-threatening events, this leads to them becoming lifelong friends. Danny and Reuven confide in each other their worst fears and greatest accomplishments, and learn together that silence truly can teach what words can’t.

R E V I E W :
The Chosen is a great read; I chose it because I was interested in both Judaism and how different beliefs in a single religion can really have a great impact on communities. The writing is challenging, but after the first chapter the style becomes comfortable and enjoyable. Readers can identify with the characters, as they face real problems, and although religion does play a part in the book, it is not the main focus, and won't offend anyone. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a great friend, or wants to, because it teaches lessons that can stick with a person for a lifetime.

Editor's note: Burbank PL also has this available as an audio book.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Teen Review: Classic Mystery

A review by M.G. Lewis, 9th grade

If you’re looking to read a classic tale full of mystery, intellect, and adventure, then you might want to embark upon a fictitious mystery novel entitled The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is one of Conan Doyle’s several Sherlock Holmes stories, but one of his few Sherlock Holmes novels.Seeing as it was written in the nineteenth century, one does not have to worry about coming across rude language; however, the book can be a difficult read for someone used to modern fiction, due to the formal style in which it is written. As a ninth grader, I would put The Hound of the Baskervilles at a 10-12 grade reading level. (However, this does not mean that I don’t encourage younger readers to attempt it, as I did. The result may be positive.) This 128-page novel is technically part of the Sherlock Holmes series; however, one does not have to have read previous Sherlock Holmes short stories or novels to understand or enjoy the plot line in The Hound of the Baskervilles. One will find little, if any, continuity in Conan Doyle books.

In this story, Dr. Mortimer approaches famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his right-hand man, Dr. John H. Watson (from whose first-person perspective the story is told) about an old wives' tale concerning the Baskerville family, and a cursed demon-hound that supposedly haunts the Baskerville Manor. This is because his friend, Sir Henry Baskerville, has just inherited the mansion, and Mortimer is concerned for his friend’s safety upon moving in. Holmes sends Watson to investigate the situation at the manor, and the doctor and detective are confronted with several dramas, mysteries, and characters that will shock, haunt, amuse, and surprise the reader. The story is full of plot twists that will keep the reader in his/her seat until the very end.

As I mentioned before, this book was written in the nineteenth century, and therefore is told quite formally; but I found that despite this, I was able to relate to Watson on an awkward, humorous level. I also found this formal style of writing to dissolve as the story grew more intense. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story, or just likes adventure. It is definitely a 5/5 classic read.

Editor's note: We have several editions of this book at the library, although we do not have the first edition, but that cover art (top) is my favorite of all of them. This story has also been made into a movie several times, both for theatrical release and for television; here is a beautiful hand-lettered design of the opening credit for Darryl F. Zanuck's version. (They used to hand letter the titles on glass, using a paintbrush and paint, and then put the scenes behind the glass and shoot through.)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Teen Review: Twins and Mystery

What if one day you woke up in a bathtub in Las Vegas to the sight of your twin looking at herself in the mirror, while you were nowhere to be found in the reflection because you were actually dead? Too much? Let me try again: What if one day you woke up only to realize you never would again? Well, that’s what happened to Sutton Mercer in Sara Shepard’s The Lying Game.

This 307-page mystery begins when Sutton Mercer wakes up in an unfamiliar place and sees a girl walk into the bathroom. Sutton repeatedly tries to get her attention, but goes unnoticed. Finally the girl looks up at herself in the mirror and Sutton sees that the girl looks exactly like her. And I mean exactly. Then Sutton realizes what’s going on: She’s dead. Sutton doesn’t remember much of what happened when she was alive, and all she really knows now is that she is unwillingly attached to this girl who looks like her. Sutton goes wherever the girl goes and thinks whatever the girl thinks. Eventually, Sutton discovers that this girl's name is Emma Paxton and Emma is Sutton's long-lost twin sister. Emma knows that she has a twin sister because she thinks that Sutton has reached out to her and asked her to come out to Phoenix to meet her. Emma goes, only to find that her sister is dead, and then she has to take on the role of Sutton Mercer while attempting to solve Suttons murder!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it adds a new twist on the “what if you had a long-lost twin” idea. I mean, personally, if I found out that I had a twin who disappeared and I had to take her place, I would freak out. I would have to pretty much become a new person by learning her habits, behaviors, attitude, and so much more, just to avoid having someone raise an eyebrow.

I also enjoyed how, in a way, the reader was Sutton. The reader and Sutton both have no power, influence, or control over what the protagonist is going to do next, they just have to sit back and see how everything turns out. They had control over their own thoughts and assumptions, of course, but they couldn't share any of that with Emma.

I’m in 9th grade and I think this book's reading level is 7th-12th because of the language, discussion of the foster system, and murder. I would recommend this to anyone who typically likes murder mysteries, along with a bit of drama and romance. I would give this book a 4.5/5 because I believe that the story had great writing and a great plot.

Reviewed by Anonymous, 9th grade

Editor's note: We also have several sequels to this book.