Thursday, August 20, 2015

Teen reviews: Some faves from the summer

Please enjoy these book reviews by our summer reading participants!

Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
Reviewed by Isabella C., grade 10

I SIMPLY COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN! Deep, dark, and fascinating, like a walk with the monster should be. Ellen Hopkins tells the tale of 16-year-old Kristina taking a spin on the dark side, going by the name Bree and becoming best friends with the Monster. Call it what you will: crank, speed, meth, monster. Whatever you call it, you're going to get messed up. Bree knows, and she'll take you on a fantastic and terrible journey.

This book was truly amazing and I loved every minute of it. I absolutely adore Hopkins's writing style with poems and hidden messages; its a beautiful and mesmerizing way to tell a story.

The Wager, by Donna Jo Napoli
Reviewed by Katrina D., grade 8

The Wager is a story of a young, rich man named Don Giovanni who has a thing for women and parties, and is constantly showing off his wealth. Life is good for the Don until a large tidal wave washes away his home and all of his riches, leaving him a penniless beggar. Reduced from riches to ruin, he tries to start a new life as a beggar, but is found by the Devil himself. However, the Devil is there to make him a deal: If Giovanni can last three years, three months, and three days without bathing, changing his clothes, or washing his face and clothes, then he will earn all of his wealth back; but if not, he loses his soul! But how long can the cleanly Giovanni survive like this? A story that teaches you to never deal with the Devil, and that wealth really isn't everything. I recommend it to anybody who isn't germaphobic and who is fine with reading about the dirty dealings of the Devil.

Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan
Reviewed by Samantha C., grade 9

Homeless Bird is a tale of hope about a young girl named Koly who is married off to a young boy in India. The story tells us her struggles with reading due to improper schooling, as well as about her marriage, her family, and womanhood. This book really opened my eyes to what life is like for a girl with no power, and made me feel lucky that I am in a good situation. Life told through her eyes is heartbreaking but you can see the bravery and courage she manages to keep despite all these issues. It can really teach us a lesson in life to be thankful for what we have, and when we feel like giving up to remember what makes us stronger. It teaches you to do your best, and fight for what you believe in. Most importantly the book shows us that even in the most bleak of times we can find happiness in the form of truth and others. I would recommend this to anyone who would like to try something new or restore their faith in hope.

The Selection, by Kiera Cass
Reviewed by Amy B., grade 9

The Selection is about 35 girls who are chosen to go to a castle and compete for a prince's hand in marriage. So basically, it's The Bachelor, but with a dystopian setting. However, not much is revealed about the dystopian setting, the most important fact being that society is split into castes. The higher one's caste, the better one lives. For example, Ones consist of the royal family and Eights consist of homeless citizens who are the lowest of the low.

I personally liked the idea for this book, but the author did not focus on what makes a good dystopian novel, which is the actual setting and how everything came to be. (There was, at one point, a confusing history lesson, though.) Hardly any world-building existed; instead, the author spent many chapters focusing on an unrealistic love triangle between the prince, Maxon, the main character, America, and her former boyfriend, Aspen. While it lacked a clear plot, this book was still entertaining to read, and I would recommend it to those looking for a light, fluffy read.

Sugar, by Deirdre Riordan Hall
Reviewed by Patrick C., grade 11

Sugar was such a raw and beautiful book that brings to light the topics of weight, image, and love. Hall wrote an amazing book that would captivate any reader with Sugar Garcia's journey of finding herself and falling in love.

It was such a short and simple book, but had great characters and writing that made it a stand-out. Sugar begins with heavy girl Sugar Garcia, who turns to junk food for comfort and strength. She lives with her mom and her younger brother, Skunk, both of whom treat her badly and at times criticizes her for her weight and worthlessness. But once Sugar meets Even, her life changes. Sugar's journey to self-confidence and romance was a big part of the book. Even and Sugar's relationship was genuine and sweet, and it felt great as Sugar began to open up to Even. Hall crafted such great characters, readers could easily relate to them--I know I did.

One element I really liked was the unexpected twist towards the end. But be prepared for some waterworks when it comes! I think the twist in the novel helped Sugar to move on with her life and embrace the person she became. Hall was able to shift the book to the realities of life, and make it feel more real and honest. I do wish the book focused more on the Sugar's family dynamic with her dad and mom, possibly with flashbacks into the past?

Overall, Sugar, was a great, heartfelt book.

Editor's note: BPL offers all of these books except Sugar, which I will buy, based on Patrick's review!

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