Friday, August 8, 2014

Teen Review: Paranormal/Dystopic

Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1)
By Tahereh Mafi
Pages: 338
Part of a series? Yes.
Reading Level: Middle School-High School
Reviewed by Elen S., grade 10

This story begins with our main character, Juliette, who has been locked up in an asylum because she has the power to kill people with a single touch. As the plot continues and the story takes shape, Juliette realizes that there is more for her in the world than the four walls by which she has been surrounded, when she is given an opportunity she cannot refuse. She finds love and forms new friendships, channeling her anger towards those who hurt her, rather than at herself. With the world slowly dying under the hands of the Reestablishment, a group trying to “fix” things, she takes a stand for what’s right and breaks free of her insecurities, making one sacrifice after another.

I loved the overall plot, the writing style, and the thrill that came with each new page. What I didn’t like very much was the fact that it takes so long for Juliette to understand who she is and what kind of power she holds within her, and the story moves incredibly slowly. There are two different versions of the cover for this book, though I must say I love them both. I would definitely rate it 5/5 stars because it’s incredibly hard to fall in love with the characters of a book, and Mafi has made that possible for me. I would definitely recommend the rest of this series because there are so many twists and turns that it’s hard to put these books down. The message they send is the same one they inspire: Learn to accept your flaws, and they will show to be your weapons.

Editor's note: Burbank Public Library has this as both a hardcover and an e-book, and we have the sequel as a hardcover, as well as a companion novel (in e-book format only).

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What we're reading: Brutal Youth

Reference librarian Daryl, who has reviewed teen books for us here before, gave me an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of Brutal Youth, by Anthony Breznican, to read. He praised it, so I had high expectations. They were met, but...with some reservations.

I would actually give the book five stars for both the writing (literary) and the storytelling (mesmerizing), but…the story and characters are so disturbing that I had trouble giving it that kind of praise, from sheer discomfort!

This book is Lord of the Flies (but with girls as well as boys), set in a Catholic private school in Pennsylvania. If you are a YA reader, think of it as a more adult version (for the amped-up meanness and violence) of The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney. The students run rampant; the teachers either turn a blind eye, pick the wrong side because they're not paying attention, or are as mean and cruel as the students; and the so-called "coming of age" factor is at a considerable price for everyone involved.

I didn't so much enjoy reading it as remain fascinated and unable to put it down. It's definitely powerful, and in some ways brilliant, but also stark and frightening. Brutal youth, indeed. Recommended only for certain mature high school students!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Teen Review: Realistic Fiction

Reviewed by Amy Sepulveda, 10th grade

Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson, is a 278-page young adult fiction novel written for a middle– high school reading level. 

Throughout Wintergirls, we as readers follow an 18-year-old girl named Lia, in her senior year of high school. She discovers that her best friend, with whom she had had a falling out months prior to the introduction, has just been found dead. Lia is then haunted by the ghost of her now-dead best friend, Cassie, with whom she battled anorexia and bulimia. Lia feels weak rather than strong, even after multiple trips to the hospital, and countless sessions with her psychologist, where she should have learned to break her unhealthy habits and start anew.

While this is meant to be a motivational story for teens who battle the same diseases and think the way Lia does, in my opinion it would make them feel worse about themselves. There are parts of the story in which Lia says or thinks things with which many readers who relate to her would agree, and their disease would worsen. I, personally, loved Anderson’s other novels and how her characters have dark lives, but Wintergirls is not like her others. It just doesn’t seem as if it was written by her. Lia is a character who struggles with very real and dangerous problems, and is her most relatable character, but Anderson uses such a morose tone that it makes the reader feel as if Lia does not want to get better. I really don’t feel this is a book worth reading, despite Anderson's wonderful writing skills.

Wintergirls earns a 2/5 from me. The cover shows a girl behind frozen ice that may be a pond, and I do not think it makes any sense, because it did not have anything to do with the story. After a long time analyzing the entire story, cover to cover, I still do not understand the significance of both the title and the cover art.