Teen Advisory Board Reviews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ADVISORY BOARD MEETINGS ARE BACK IN STORE! EMAIL CHLOE AT CHLOEPBKSCO@GMAIL.COM IF YOU ARE INTERESTED. 

These are reviews written by members of the Teen Advisory Board.

 

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Duel By Jessixa Bagley, Aaron Bagley (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Jessixa Bagley, Aaron Bagley (Illustrator)
$14.99
ISBN: 9781534496545
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - November 7th, 2023

This graphic novel revolves around two sisters, Lucy, who is entering sixth-grade, and Gigi, who is a popular eighth-grader at the school Lucy is just starting.
Fencing is special to both girls, who used to practice fencing with their father before he died a couple of years ago. They responded really differently, though. Gigi continued fencing and is now going for fencing captain on the school team, while Lucy hasn't fenced publicly since. Also, since their dad died, the sisters' formerly close relationship has been prickly as they deal with the loss in different ways. This comes to a head when Gigi embarrasses Lucy on her first day at school and Lucy picks up the fencing foil (like a sword but safer and used for sport) and threatens her sister with it. That lands both girls in trouble, and the only way they can get out of it is to pretend to be trying out for the team while secretly practicing for a duel. Pretty soon, the whole school was taking sides.
The characters are fully fleshed out and believable and a lot of people will relate to the story, even if their sibling rivalry hasn't taken such a public form.
 
-Review by Michael, age 15


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More Tall Tales: A Graphic Novel (BONE Companion) By Jeff Smith, Tom Sniegoski Cover Image
$12.99
ISBN: 9781338726381
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Graphix - September 5th, 2023

I loved the Bone series when I read it several years ago and it was fun to return to this world. Although this book was quite up to the standard of the original stories, it did keep the same feel. It was a series of short stories, framed as campfire tales told by the Bone characters. There's one story in the bunch that's entirely by Jeff Smith and fits within the canon of the original stories, and that was my favorite. It had everything readers have come to expect from this funny and thought-provoking series.

I would recommend this to fans of Bone, of all ages.

-Review by Michael, age 15


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Stars in Their Eyes: A Graphic Novel By Jessica Walton (Created by), Aska (Created by) Cover Image
By Jessica Walton (Created by), Aska (Created by)
$15.99
ISBN: 9781338818796
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Graphix - August 1st, 2023

This is a really sweet middle reader romance that celebrates LGBTQ identity, people with disabilities, and the world of fandom. The main character, Maisie, has a prosthetic leg and deals with chronic pain issues. Her hero is also an amputee, an action star on a TV show, and Maisie is really excited about meeting her idol at a comic-con. She travels to the con, her first one, with her nontraditional single mom. There, Maisie meets Ollie, a nonbinary teen who is volunteering at the event, and (mild) sparks fly. Ollie's dad is also attending and is also a single parent and a really unique individual. The story explores how entering these worlds of fantasy allows people to be more authentically themselves and to celebrate their differences and their potential. The whole thing was ridiculously optimistic but still kind of fun. The worst thing that happens is that the teens are slightly embarrassed by their parents. The best thing it does is to treat these individuals as completely regular humans, not some kind of weirdo or miracle.

-Review by Rowan, age 18


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Bonesmith (House of the Dead Duology) By Nicki Pau Preto Cover Image
$21.99
ISBN: 9781665910590
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books - July 25th, 2023

This novel was original and captured my attention. The main character, Wren, a bonesmith, is readying for a challenge to become a valkyr, for which she has trained all her life. A valkyr is a ghost fighter, a very important role in their land, which is beset by the unquiet dead.

Wren is confident of her skills and has excelled throughout her training. However, her assistant and the other major contender set her up during the challenge, dropping her into a pit full of ghosts. She manages to fight her way out and climb the muddy walls of the pit using her bone swords, but she comes in dead last in the challenge. So instead of becoming a valkyr, she's sent to the Border Wall, a far outpost up against the Breach, which is full of the walking dead, spurred by the vanished Ghostsmiths long ago.

Wren has a chance to make a mark when a prince comes by the outpost on a visit. When he is kidnapped, she speeds out to try to rescue him and thus restore her name. She winds up taming up with an enemy Ironsmith named Julian, and they're thrust into a complex ctangle of allegiances, secrets and arcane knowledge.

There will be a second book, of course. Though I'm dying to find out what happens next, I'm probably going to have to wait a few years.

I would recommend Bonesmith to fans of adventure and dark fantasy.

 

Review by Rowan, age 18

 


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Frontera By Julio Anta, Jacoby Salcedo (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Julio Anta, Jacoby Salcedo (Illustrator)
$18.99
ISBN: 9780063054943
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: HarperAlley - July 18th, 2023

This was a heartwarming graphic novel with an original perspective.

The whole story starts in the desert, where the main character, a teen who grew up in the U.S. and only belatedly learned he was "illegal," has been deported and is now trying to sneak back into the U.S. and pretty much the only life he has known.

He has to find the "coyote," (guide who takes money to help undocumented people trying to come into the U.S.) but gets tired of waiting and just takes off on his own. He's almost caught by the Border Patrol and suffers a serious fall. He's left in the desert on his own without food and water and with a potential concussion. He's helped by a ghost who was once in the similar position. At first, the boy thinks the ghost is a hallucination and tries to ignore it, but real or not, it helps him find water and shade and overcome his own rash impulses. The journey is one of discovery for both boy and ghost. Other than the ghost element, the story is realistic and should be an eye-opener for readers who have not spent much time thinking about undocumented immigrants and their plight.

 

-Review by Michael, age 14


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Frontera By Julio Anta, Jacoby Salcedo (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Julio Anta, Jacoby Salcedo (Illustrator)
$18.99
ISBN: 9780063054943
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: HarperAlley - July 18th, 2023

It took me a long time to get to this book, but it was worth the wait. This accessible and thoughtful graphic novel tells the story of a teen, Mateo, who has been raised in the United States but whose family has been deported due to his parents' immigration status. He wants to return to the United States to finish out his senior year in high school and his parents have hired a guide to help him cross the border. However, Mateo is too impatient and slips off to make the crossing on his own. Within 15 minutes, he's being chased by Border Patrol agents, and soon he's lost in the desert with next to no food or water.

Fortunately for him, a ghost comes along and redirects him to the correct path. The ghost, Guillermo, died trying to cross the same desert 70 years ago trying to get to his gay lover. At first, Mateo fights Guillermo's advice, not wanting to believe the ghost is real. The ghost himself also has some lingering issues. He has half a mind to leave the living to their own devices, having been disappointed many times in the past. He also doesn't want to talk about his past because it's so painful. Over the course of the book, ghost and modern teen learn to trust each-other. Not only does Guillermo keep Mateo safe, Mateo helps Guillmo pass on into the next place. Overall, it was a really nice story and made me cry.

-Review by Rowan, age 18


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The Faint of Heart By Kerilynn Wilson, Kerilynn Wilson (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Kerilynn Wilson, Kerilynn Wilson (Illustrator)
$18.99
ISBN: 9780063116221
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Greenwillow Books - June 13th, 2023

This was an incredibly artistic and creative graphic novel, with a great use of light and shadow and distance to emphasize the emotions of the piece. The main character, a girl named June, lives in a world where you can get your heart removed and stop all of those painful emotions. It stops the good emotions and halts your creativity too, but those who have had the procedure don't care anymore. It has gotten to the point where pretty much everyone has had this done except June, who still loves art and who really misses the companionship of her friends and her sister who have grown distant and bland. At the same time, some unknown thief is stealing removed hearts from the Tabularium where they have been stored in numbing solution. I would recommend this book for anyone. It is really interesting. well-done, and thought provoking.

- Review by Michael, age 14


If I See You Again Tomorrow By Robbie Couch Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781534497498
Availability: Not On Our Shelves Now--Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - April 18th, 2023

This story is a modern take on "Groundhog Day" with a gay teen protagonist. Refreshingly, it does not start until iteration 310 of the same Monday, which the main character, Clark, has been reliving ad nauseum.

After months of hearing the same people say the same things in the same places with only minor variations caused by his own actions, Clark is shocked to find someone new in his classroom.

Beau shakes up the class and shakes up Clark's monotonous time loop, and Clark winds up running off with Beau for a very satisfying day of discovery and burgeoning love.

But then the next day dawns and  Beau is not there. He is indeed stuck living the same time loop, but even when Clark tracks him down, Beau is reluctant to pursue what had seemed like a promising relationship. The story follows Clark as he influences others and changes himself in his attempt to get to tomorrow, and to carry Beau into the same future.

Review by Rowan, age 18


Sunshine: A Graphic Novel By Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Illustrator) Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9781338356311
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graphix - April 18th, 2023

This turned out to be a really good book. It made me think differently.

Some people may be familiar with the author, who wrote the well-known graphic novel "Hey Kiddo."  The story is based on part of the author's life, when he was a senior in high school and had the opportunity to volunteer at a camp for kids with life-threatening diseases - mostly cancer but there were some other ones too. This was in the 1990s. The main character expects to be assigned to work with a little kid and is a little disappointed to learn he's been paired with an unsmiling teen who doesn't talk much and who is just a couple of years younger than he is. Over time, though, they form a real bond, and the author's younger self winds up learning a lot from this kid and the others at the camp. It was a really heartwarming, amazing story that really happened - real and really eye-opening. Now I think I have to go back and read "Hey Kiddo" and figure out what the big deal was about that book.

 

Review by Michael, age 14


Global: One fragile world. An epic fight for survival. By Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, Giovanni Rigano (Illustrator) Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9781728262192
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Sourcebooks Young Readers - April 11th, 2023

This book was amazing! The art was magnificent and the intertwined stories really fast-paced and relatable.

In a very accessible graphic novel format, this book tells the stories of two young people from very distant parts of the world whose lives intersect, even though they never meet, due to the devastating effects that climate change is having on their communities.

Yuki lives in the arctic, in a tiny Inuit town whose population is diminishing because their traditional livelihood is vanishing. Yuki is an amateur photographer and wants to take a picture of a grolar (polar bear grizzly mix that's becoming more common as the ice vanishes and the animals seek new territory)  in attempt to raise awareness and help save this individual and its species. She leaves home with only her dog as company and runs into trouble when she floats off on a piece of ice that has broken off.

On the other side of the world, in the Bay of Bengal (off the Indian Ocean), Sami lives with his grandfather, his parents having vanished in a storm. Their fishing village is threatened by ever-rising waters. The fish are also vanishing, so they have to go farther and farther out to catch enough. He wants to retrieve a family heirloom from their old, submerged, home to bring back the family's luck, but a huge storm is coming.

Running through the whole book, obviously, is a common thread, about the impact climate change is having on diverse peoples all over the world. It's not done in a preachy way, though. The stories tell themselves and you find yourself really putting yourself in the shoes of the two young people.

I would recommend this book for all ages.

 

-Review by Michael, age 15


Spin By Rebecca Caprara Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781665906197
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - March 28th, 2023

This book was really great. It's written in poetry, but this was not an obstacle as it was a very smooth read.

Having just studied the Greek myth of Arachne in school, I was eager to read an alternate version because I found the original repellent. The traditional myth uses Arachne, a skilled weaver, as a cautionary tale about daring to be better than the gods, and even more than that, daring to point out the gods' evil actions and hypocrisy. The gods in question come off as flawed, petty and vain and they cannot take legitimate criticism, yet it's the entirely self-taught weaver who is punished by being turned into a spider. Modern readers, however, can find much to celebrate in Arachne, who has no magic or superpowers but rises to the top of her field through hard work, determination and creativity. I maintain, as the book does, that art that dares to criticize the powerful (gods or not) is vital, and obviously so, since it still spurs fear among the mighty today. Witness the recent spate of book bans, which are attempting to squelch certain ideas and groups of people, and even historical facts some don't like. 
 

Review by Rowan, age 18


Children of the Black Glass By Anthony Peckham Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781665913133
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books - March 7th, 2023

This middle grade novel is really quite good and could be enjoyed by people of any age. It had a lot of satisfying fantasy elements while remaining utterly original.

Set in an early civilization with magic, siblings Tell and Wren live in an isolated mining settlement on a mountain where conditions are harsh and so is the patriarchal rule. Their family - the two kids (around 12 or 13) and their father - and the rest of the village make their living by mining obsidian from the side of the mountain. It's highly valued but very dangerous. Harvesting a particularly valuable piece, their father is blinded and severely injured. He will be killed if he does not regain his sight in a month, as a man unable to work is a drain on the village.

Despite being forbidden to do so, the children make the difficult journey down the mountain to a major city in attempt to sell the valuable glass and obtain some medicine that could help their father survive.

The city is split into districts, each one run by sorcerers. Unbeknownst to the children, an unknown faction is murdering the sorcerers to gain control of the whole city. They team up with the just-orphaned daughter of a rich merchant and eventually with a sorcerer's apprentice to achieve their goal and wind up in the middle of a magical war. In the meantime, they learn some unsettling truths about the city - and their own village as well.

 

Review by Rowan, age 18


Colin Kaepernick: Change the Game (Graphic Novel Memoir) By Colin Kaepernick, Eve L. Ewing, Orlando Caicedo (Illustrator) Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9781338789652
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graphix - March 7th, 2023

I love how the name of this graphic novel can be read on three different levels. First, the main character in this autobiographical tale switches from one sport to another; second, he "changes the game" in his own life by refusing to live according to others' expectations and instead striking out on his own; and third, as pretty much everyone knows, this famous athlete went on to change the game of football itself and the culture surrounding it through his quiet "take a knee" protest.

I am not that interested in sports, so I didn't expect to like this as much as I did. This is a really good book!

This graphic novel explores Colin's life as he finishes high school. Recruited by many colleges to join their baseball program, Colin is holding out for a football offer. He's also smart and wants more out of college than just athletics.

The crux of the story lies not in his sports endeavors, though, but in Colin's growing disconnect with his well-meaning and supportive adoptive parents, who come from a very white community and don't understand his desire to connect with the culture of his birth. They urge him to date a girl from a "good family," not the Black girl he's drawn to, try to discourage his interest in more Black-centered music and fashion, and turn a blind eye to people who say racist things or wear hats with the Confederate flag. Colin's parents don't know why it bothers him so much because it wasn't "personal."

Colin, however, is increasingly aware of being treated differently and the casual racism that surrounds him, and he ultimately takes up the cause of social justice, becoming not just a player but a true leader.

 

-Review by Michael, age 14


Rebel of Fire and Flight By Aneesa Marufu Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781338802313
Availability: Not On Our Shelves Now--Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Chicken House - January 3rd, 2023

You know those fantasy novels where pure good fights pure evil? The shining white knight vs. the Lord of Darkness? The Chosen One vs. Voldemort or Sauron? This is not one of them.

The setting for this novel, Ghadhea, is a two-tier society, where the light-skinned people who tried to invade generations ago have been made into slaves of the darker-skinned natives.

And while native women are considered to be higher-class, they're held in a gilded cage of their own, not allowed outside lest their reputation be soiled. Their only role is to marry advantageously and have children.

Facing marriage to a person she doesn't know and doesn't like, main character Khadija impulsively steals a hot air balloon and takes off to parts unknown. She's joined by Jacob, one of the low-caste, pale Hari, and on their journey begins to see him as a human rather than just the enemy. Meanwhile, two groups of people are acting against this very rigid, discriminatory and class-bound society: the Wazeem, a mixed-race group trying to change things through protests and legal advocacy, and the Hareef, an all-Hari group which wants to see society upended, with the dark-skinned people on top and the pale people as slaves.

Because it's fantasy, there's magic, including jinn, amulets, and mystic blades. The crux of this story, however, is about the people, different but all human, and the realizations they come to about moving forward in a diverse world.

 

Review by Rowan, 18


Notes from a Sickbed By Tessa Brunton, Tessa Brunton (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Tessa Brunton, Tessa Brunton (Illustrator)
$14.99
ISBN: 9781728462936
Availability: Not On Our Shelves Now--Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Graphic Universe (Tm) - November 1st, 2022

As a person with long COVID and chronic Lyme Disease, I found this graphic memoir excruciatingly relatable. Those who suffer from chronic illness will feel "seen" when they read this book, and those who don't may gain a better understanding of what it's like.

The author has had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since 2009. A comic book artist, she constantly struggles with all of these great ideas she has for projects she fears she's never going to be able to execute in her entire life because illness keeps getting in the way.

This isn't the story she wanted to tell, but it's an important one to share, and she does so with humor and originality.

I cheered on the author's little victories and empathized with the challenges she faces over the smallest thing. She agonizes over the balancing act she has to maintain between being cautious and experiencing life: Can I wear the fun outfit, or will I be so tired and in so much pain I won't be able to enjoy myself? Can I plan for this fun event? It will take a lot of energy and I might have a horrible time. And when I get back, will I have enough energy to do what I have to do, let alone what I want to do?

It's worth a read even if you don't have a specific interest in chronic illness, because the author represents a large group of people with an essentially "invisible" disability.

-Review by Rowan, age 18


The Art of Insanity By Christine Webb Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781682634578
Availability: Not On Our Shelves Now--Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Peachtree Teen - November 1st, 2022

The Art of Insanity is a book about a high school senior, Natalie, with bipolar disorder. After she purposefully drove her car into a tree, she wants nothing but to hide the truth from everyone she knows, putting on a giant fa├žade of who she is, and who her family is. But when she meets a new boy at her art class, she starts to make a plan to get "better" and be free from her mental illness. Just as everything seems to be finally working out in her favor, the show she's been putting on for everyone starts to crumble. 

I enjoyed this book because of the author's use of events for character development kept you engaged all the way through, and you can relate to the emotions some of these characters feel. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy books that explore personal growth in teenage life, and learning that acknowledging and facing  your problems have better results than hiding from them.

 

-Review by Maddie


smART: Use Your Eyes to Boost Your Brain (Adapted from the New York Times bestseller Visual Intelligence) By Amy E. Herman, Heather Maclean (With) Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781665901215
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - October 25th, 2022

This book is a sneaky way to get kids to look at art and really analyze it. Using examples of modern and classical art, the book encourages kids to look for tricks and illusions while also trying to get at what the artist is trying to portray. Some are clear illusions, like the still art portrayal of a bunch of vegetables, which when turned upside down turn into a strange face. Others are subtler, like the oddly plain lady in fancy period clothing whose hand is reflected in a shiny table, and in the reflection the wedding ring is missing. What is the artist trying to say there? The book doesn't give specific answers, but encourages kids to think. Looking at the art was an interesting exercise. Interspersed with the art and analysis were stories of real people, from the kid who invented popsicles by mistake to the real-life professor Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based his character Sherlock Holmes on, who could guess a person's occupation by the type of dirt under their fingernails or other tiny details. Some of those stories were interesting, but some of the "smarts" they depicted were really just luck and happenstance.

This book might be of interest to people who like art and who like figuring things out from visual details.

Review by Michael, age 14