Teen Advisory Board Reviews
These are reviews written by members of the Teen Advisory Board.
This book reminds me of They Called Us Enemy, George Takei' s graphic memoir of his young childhood in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Like Takei's autobiographical work, this story is based on the author's own family's experience, but she adds an element of fantasy, making the main character a young version of herself as if she had time-traveled through history to follow her grandmother's internment in the American West. Books like this are especially needed at times when minorities' rights are being threatened. Despite the obvious fantasy element, the book as a whole rings true. The story opens in 2016 when the fictionalized version of Kiku begins inadvertently and seemingly randomly traveling back in time to her grandmother's era, where she's interned along with other Americans of 1/16 or more Japanese descent. Then she finds she cannot return and has to live out her life along with other Japanese-Americans, behind barbed wire. Though she knew the internment camps were part of America's history, it's a whole different matter to experience the displacement, imprisonment, deprivation, and curtailing of civil rights that the camps represented. Kiku gets a firsthand feel for what her family and others like them went through. The book is well-written and timely, with lovely illustrations. I would recommend it to anyone interested in history and conversely, those who don't know much abut this era of American history, but should.
-Review by Colleen, (Rowan) age 15
This adventure/fairy tale set in a fantastic Africa is really original and intriguing, drawing from a lot of different sources. It was a little hard to get into at first because it involved a culture I am completely not familiar with. It was especially hard to relate to the traditional African storytelling which was sprinkled throughout the book. They seem to have a whole different take on story structure and the moral or point you take out of a story than what I'm used to. But the adventure itself drew me in, and while unfamiliar, it was as fantastic and compelling as the Western fantasy I have read all my life. The main character, Tarisai can read people's memories by touching them. She can do this with items as well, drawing out memories that go back generations. She has been raised by a distant mother to kill the Crown Prince, Dayo, but the only way she'll be able to do that is to become one of the members of his magical Council of Eleven. Once in training for the council, she finds herself part of an unexpected community - something she's never had before. She finds the prince to be very kind and sweet, and she comes to regard him like a brother. Meanwhile, she's developing an interest of a different kind in another of the prince's chosen councli members-to-be, Sanjeet, a big powerful young man nicknamed "The Prince's Bear." He too shows her a different way people can be. Then Tarisai is in a difficult spot. She wants to be on the council to retain this closeness with the prince, Sanjeet, and the other friends she has made, but once she's on the council she will be forced by her mother's magic to kill the prince.
-Review by Colleen, age 15
Society likes to break things down into a binary system. Girls versus guys. Us versus them. So it is in the imagined world of Lobizona, where the main character Manuela, already an undocumented "illegal" immigrant with oddly discolored eyes, discovers she is actually part of a hidden magic world. Parallel binary systems exist in her newfound world, too, though: Guys versus girls. Wolves (all males) versus witches (all females). Gay people versus straight people (all magic folk are required to be "breeders"). Regular humans versus magic folk. Except Manuela doesn't fit the mold. She's the first ever female werewolf and struggles for acceptance. And she's hiding an ever bigger secret - her mother was human. Relationships between magic users and humans are taboo, and the offspring face a death sentence. Manuela faces all of this while trying to navigate a new life, explore a secret magic realm, learn to use her newly revealed magic, and develop her first-ever friendships and love relationship. This book is written in the Hispanic tradition of "magical realism," a style I'm not that fond of, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I could, but the story is very thought-provoking, at once very fantastical and very relevant to the real world. I would recommend it to fans of magical realism who would like to explore these ideas.
Review by Rowan, age 15.
The author chose a good name for this book - in fact, peculiar doesn't even begin to cover it.The story is part brilliant, part batty, a rich and mystifying mix of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Alice in Wonderland, with shades of Good Omens and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy thrown in. The plot is extremely mercurial, in turns fascinating and confusing, profound, hilarious and just plain "peculiar." The story opens with an orphaned teen leaving his boarding school for the crumbling and junk-filled mansion owned by his grandfather, whom he barely remembers. The teen, Jonathan, has inherited the estate - on the condition that he catalog the hoarder's paradise and everything in it. Helping him in his quest are his close friends Rack and Danny, members of the shabby gentry, whose family has fallen on hard times.But as so often happens in fictional mansions, the winding corridors open up not just onto strange rooms, but also onto strange realms. Jonathan belatedly learns that his grandfather was a member of a secret society dedicated to maintaining order and keeping the other realms a secret. Soon, the intrepid trio is off to Aurora, an alternate Earth with talking animals, where Aleister Crowley, well-known British occultist, is still alive and plotting the takeover of Aurora and beyond. Crowley is assisted by Napoleon's head, which he has preserved in a jar. Things get much weirder from there. I still don't really know what to think of this book, but it did keep me riveted through some 700 pages, and I'm eager to know what happens next when Book II is ultimately released.Review by Rowan, age 15
When I picked this up, I thought, "This looks good, but I don't know if it's going to be my kind of book." It totally was. Swift paced and suspenseful, it brought you right into the action, and it also had a really great message in a lot of ways. It's set in fictionalized version of France. The premise is that Cinderella died 200 years ago, and everyone is required to learn the official version of that story, which their whole society is based on. All of the young women are required to go to an annual ball held by the king, where all of the eligible dudes essentially "go shopping" for their brides. The women (really girls, because they're 16 to 18 years old) have no say in who will become their future husband. And if you're not chosen, you are either assigned to menial labor or you go to the dungeons and are never seen again. There are a ton of restrictive laws against adult women too, who can't own property or run businesses and are totally under their husbands' thumbs, often literally if their husbands are abusive. Sophia, the main character, is a lesbian and would not be interested even if she were chosen by the nicest guy there, but she has to go to the ball. Her parents and their hired "dressers" force her into an elaborate outfit and do her hair, all in a way she would never choose for herself. Then at the ball, she is physically assaulted by a really repellent dude. She is able to run away, hiding out in Cinderella's tomb. From there, she finds out her entire country is built on a lie. I thought the book was really original, even though there are lots of books that take off on this same well-worn fairy tale. Reading through it requires the reader to figuratively "peel the onion" of layer after layer of falsehood before they can discover the truth.
-Review by Rowan, age 15
This was a really interesting book and it definitely showed a different side of what sci-fi can be. The story was so realistic the reader feels like it could happen. The premise is that these four kids who don't know each other at all receive an anonymous message to meet in the music room of their school. When they get there, there is no one there but a black cube - some type of really advanced Artificial Intelligence - in the center of the room. Then the cube starts making rules. Do not tell anyone about the device. Do not leave the device unattended. Stop turning your phone off. And if the rules are broken, bad things start to happen. The device can hear them through their phones, TVs, watches, Alexa.... and it can even pull up deleted material. The story gets more intriguing the farther you get into the story, as the characters determine they have to work together to destroy the device - but they never really figure out what it is.I feel the author is setting the scene for a possible sequel. I would be really interested to delve deeper into this world. And while telling a riveting story, the book also has some things to say about social media and how much of themselves people put out on the Internet, sometimes unwittingly.Review by Rowan, age 15
This story is really good, although the end really messes with the reader, throwing everything that has gone before into a different perspective and making the reader wonder whether the main character was doing the right thing after all? The book is an empowering fantasy full of complex politics and interactions. The main character, Sirscha, is training to be a "shadow," a kind of stealth fighter and spy for the queen. Then a group of "shamans" attack her and kill Sirscha's best friend. She accidentally brings her friend back to life, thus discovering that she is a shaman as well, and an extraordinarily powerful one at that, a kind that has only been seen once before. As a "soul-guide," Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King, a forest is full of zombie trees which are now acting of their own accord, out of his control. The king needs Sirscha to release the souls trapped in the trees and to help restore peace to their world. It looks like there will be a sequel, and the end of the book sets the reader up to eagerly anticipate the new book's release.
-Review by Rowan, age 15
This book was a swift read, extremely funny and relatable. I got really invested in the story. The main character, Phoebe, who's almost 16, is preparing for the high-stakes exams they have in England. Her mom is crazy about volunteering and is hardly ever there for her - instead she's always off in some foreign country through Doctors without Borders. Meanwhile, Phoebe's best friend has abandoned her because all of a sudden the friend's whole life revolves around her new boyfriend. Phoebe doesn't like this guy. In fact, she's mystified by the boy-crazy behavior of everyone around her. She thinks she's never going to be in a relationship, equating the crushes everyone seems to be having to brain damage. Phoebe surprises herself when she ends up falling in love after all ... with a girl, Emma. At first she doesn't realize it as she starts engaging in all of these "dumb" behaviors she's seen the people around her exhibit. The rest of the book centers around how Phoebe balances her responsibilities and everyday stresses with all of these new emotions she never signed on for.
-Review by Rowan, age 15
This nonfiction book is a great historical resource for young readers up through high school, with comprehensive and detailed information about immigration over America's history, including some short biographies of different immigrants who made an impact on America over the years. It made a lot of really good points. The book was easy to read, fast-paced, interesting, up-to-date and very timely. It's important information all young people should know. The book is suggested for readers in third-grade-on-up, but I would recommend it more to middle- and high-schoolers who will have more of the reading stamina and motivation to take it all in.
- Review by Colleen, age 15
This graphic novel is an amazing addition to the DC universe, at least on par with all of the innovative new DC offerings. I powered through the whole thing in about an hour. The story is great, the characters realistic and the art tremendous. The main character is the son of Black Manta, Aquaman's antagonist. He lives in the middle of the desert in New Mexico and has always been close with his best friend Maria, but he doesn't get that she has a gigantic crush on him. This is a problem because Jake is gay and has a crush on the one "out" gay guy in school, who's on the swim team - yet he doesn't want to lose Maria's friendship. He's also looking forward to going to college in Miami, but his application is rejected. Meanwhile, Jake's mom is really protective. She won't let him near water and never taught him how to swim, saying that his dad drowned. Now he finds out this isn't true. He was actually created as an experiment and has powers that allow him to control water. All of a sudden, Jake is discovering all of these new things about himself that he doesn't know what to do with. I'd recommend the book to every teen.
-Review by Colleen (Rowan), age 15
Elizabeth (Liz) Lighty is far from the social butterflies who normally run for prom queen in the prom obsessed town of Campbell, Indiana. But after the scholarship to her dream school falls through, Liz realizes that the scholarship awarded to prom queen may be her only chance. With the help of her friends, Liz attempts to become the first black prom queen Campbell has ever had, but what will happen when she falls for a fellow competitor? I absolute LOVED this book with my whole heart. Liz is the perfect example of representation that is needed in YA literature. Not only is she bisexual, but she also has anxiety and copes with it through the whole of the book. While this book deals with some hard topics like racism, homophobia, and mental health, the book was very uplifting and I loved seeing Liz’s relationship with her fellow competitor, Amanda grow throughout the book. I personally can’t wait to read what Leah Johnson writes next.
-Review by Elyssa, 16
This little guidebook was part of a group of four on different topics of interest to teens. I found this one especially good and empowering. As a non-binary person, I found the information in this book to be accurate, representative and clear. It's a good resource for people who are non-binary, and I'd also like to see other people read it as well so they can better understand what being non-binary is all about.
-Review by Rowan, age 15
This new graphic novel reboot of Wonder Woman takes on a ton of relevant issues, including racism, immigration, and human trafficking. This story opens up with Wonder Woman (Diana) living on the enchanted island with the Amazons. Then refugees start coming to shore. The Amazons say they can't help - they have to protect the island's secrecy. Wonder Woman does not think this is fair. She has a slightly different perspective than the Amazons, since she is the only one on the island who has experienced growing, periods, and all of the other annoyances of development. She thinks she's incredibly inferior, but she doesn't realize she has amazing powers compared to regular humans. Determined to help the refugees, Diana gets past the magical barrier that prevents people from finding the Amazon island and ends up in the normal world. Eventually, she winds up in a refugee camp, where she's able to help a young girl because she speaks the girl's obscure African language. She comes to people's attention when it's determined she can speak every language in the world. But Diana doesn't want to be anyone's tool. She wants to use her abilities, rare though they are, to address the ills she sees in the world: poverty, human trafficking, a whole bunch of things she didn't know existed. I love these new DC reboots. They are so much more relevant and diverse. Rather than focusing on physical acts only a superhero could manage, they focus on the idea of using one's strengths, whatever they are, to make a difference in the world. The book really made me feel good. It should be read by everyone in every minority and those who don't understand minorities. In short, everyone.
- Review by Rowan, age 15
This little guidebook was part of a group of four on different topics of interest to teens. This one focused on activism and how LGBTQ people have a responsibility to speak up and to advocate for equality and fair treatment for all. The author is also Jewish, so he had a valuable perspective as a double minority.
-Review by Rowan, age 15
This was the first romance I've ever read. It was sweet and interesting but I don't have a lot to compare it to. It's a sci-fi graphic novel, set in a future world where people regularly gets "mods" or body modifications, that can make them smarter, faster, prettier or can even make them focus better. The main character, Sunati, notices this other young woman, Austen, because she has a natural appearance without any mods. She stands out. Actually, Austen has "Egan's Syndrome" which causes her body to reject mods, like an allergy. I thought the characters were believable and the art was good, with really nice colors. Eventually, they wind up getting into a relationship, which also seemed realistic, although I don't have any personal experience in that area. It has ups and downs and is not just idealized. I think people who like manga will like this because it has a similar look.
-Review by Michael, age 12.
The sequel to All Out, a collection of historical fiction featuring LGBTQ characters, this volume featured a variety of modern stories, some of them realistic, some futuristic, supernatural, sci-fi and post-apocalyptic. The good thing about this collection is that everyone should be able to find at least one story that's absolutely perfect for them. Personally, I found several of these stories to be amazing and just what I needed to read at the time. The majority were really good. There was only one that I didn't stick with to the end, as it was just not my kind of story. I particularly appreciate the inclusion of sci-fi/fantasy offerings, because it's still hard to find anything in these genres featuring LGBTQ characters, and a lot of them really touched my heart. I would recommend this book to a general audience of teen readers, particularly queer folks.Review by Rowan, age 15
This book was so good, it made me cry. You have to stick with it, though. At first it appears to be one kind of story, and then you think, oh - no, it's going to be a different kind of story. And then it turns out to be different than that. It's an Asian-influenced fantasy in a diverse world that reflects some eras of the past, and yet the story has a very modern sensibility. The story starts as an Imperial girl is being sold off by her family as a wife to some man she has never met. She boards a ship to take her to the remote location where her husband-to-be lives. However, it turns out the ship is actually a slaver ship. The pirate types in charge intend to take all of the passengers, well-born or no, and sell them to make a profit. Meanwhile, there's this cabin boy who has signed on to the slaver as a matter of staying alive, and has adopted a male persona to fit in. It's actually more complex than that. In modern terms, this character would probably be decribed as a bigender - someone who's equally at home with their male and female identities. The Imperial girl and the cabin boy/girl wind up escaping together, but not before rescuing a mermaid who is dying in the hold of the ship, who was captured for the magical properties of her blood. The story is extremely complex and layered and can be confusing - but it's also very thought provoking and worth sticking with through the end. I especially appreciate the author's inclusive view of people of different genders, races, and backgrounds.
-Review by Rowan, age 15
In the vein of The Smoke Thieves, this was an incredibly great book, one of the best I've read in some time. Swift-paced and readable while at the same time morally complex and thought-provoking, the story features a diverse cast of fully rendered characters who seem utterly believable. I do not often read all day, but I could not put the book down, as the author kept me guessing and the story headed in unanticipated directions. It's set in a fantasy world of dragonriders, where the empire is not hereditary - when the old emperor dies, the new emperor is chosen from the five ruling houses by way of a multi-part competition. One representative from each of the houses competes. Traditionally, the oldest child has always been chosen to represent each house. This time, everything seems to go off the rails as the "wrong people" are chosen to enter the competition. There's Emilia, a scholar and hermit who must hide her dangerous powers; Lucian, a former soldier who has sworn off the sword and vowed to be a monk; Vespir, a lowborn servant and dragon trainer; and Ajax, a bastard son who survives through thievery and trickery. The last competitor to be chosen, a sweet second daughter, is murdered by her ambitious and zealous older sister Hyperia, who then takes her dead sister's spot in order to preserve what she sees as a sacred tradition. All of the characters are more complex than they first appear. Nor is the competition quite as straightforward as they initially guess. As the story moves forward, each character gets to answer the question "What does it mean to be monstrous? What does it mean to be divine?" Of course, this is the first book of a series, so I am dying to read the next one IMMEDIATELY.Review by Colleen, age 15
Forged in Fire and Stars is a new fantasy from the bestselling author of the Nightshade series. The book follows a girl destined to become the next Loresmith, a blacksmith that can forge astonishing weapons for the king. Ara knows that it is her fate, but she doesn’t know if she can meet the high expectations of being a Loresmith. She is forced away from her quiet life in the mountains by the Prince and Princess on the run, only to discover new truths about her family and the gods, with a mysterious thief at their side. This action-packed book is full of rich writing and nail-biting suspense. If you are a fan of dark fantasies, this book should be the next on your to-read list. Enter a world of steel and adventure with the book Forged in Fire and Stars.
-Review by Ava, age 14
This book was really amazing, so much better and so much more diverse than I could have imagined. It really resonated with me. Centering around art, the story is a piece of art in itself as the main character takes bits of identity and puts them together to make a whole that's entirely original. The characters seemed really realistic, and I could tell the author wrote a lot of it from personal experience. The main character is black, queer and transgender, a minority within a minority within a minority. With all of that going against him, he's afraid he will never find love. He's also seeking revenge on an anonymous transphobic bully. I found the story incredibly compelling, and it was just the perfect story for me. It could really affect a lot of people, validating their experience. It was especially so for me as I had been having a lot of the same questions about my identity and ended up identifying in the same way as Felix and it made me feel very good about being who I am because I had never seen it represented before.
-Review by Rowan, age 15
The sequel to Aurora Rising, this science fiction novel was just as compelling and well-written as the first book in the Aurora Cycle, but I also want to punch the author for leaving me on such a cliffhanger. As this book opens, the squad of unintentional rebels is on the run, fugitives from the intergalactic government. They are trying to stop an evil plant culture - which has just subsumed one of their friends and made her part of the hive-mind - from taking over the whole galaxy. Their only hope is to find a weapon that will answer to Aurora's strange powers. The story is full of high action and plot twists, though I could see some of them coming about 50 pages ahead, using "fiction logic." As in the first book, the action is riveting and the characters are strong, individual, diverse and believable. I would recommend this to fans of the first book and people who enjoyed Skyward.
-Review by Colleen, age 15
When a mouse stops to think about life things get interesting. This book talks a lot about the meaning of life, and I think that this book was in teen advisory because of the complicated thinking that you have to have to understand this book. I would recommend this book to ages 13+.
-Review by River
I really liked this book for its good storyline and funny characters, but I think it could have had a little more story added to the first book. Either way, I am excited about the next book and I would rate this a ten out of ten.
Review by River, age 13
Breakfast. Workout. Government address. Read. Exercise. Lunch. Silence. Dinner. Torture. Rain. Sleep. Repeat.
This is the life of Luka Kane, a sixteen-year-old boy wrongfully incarcerated within the juvenile prison known as the Loop. Inside, the convicted face each day exactly like the one before, a repeating process that has driven many of them mad. On Luka's 736th day as a captive, inmates start acting antithetical to themselves, the government-issued rain stops falling, and rumors begin to spread of war, causing him to believe that something unnatural must be occurring outside the Loop. Luka is pushed over the edge once he receives a note telling him he has to escape the Loop if he wishes to survive. He must decide whether risking to escape the deadly prison is worth surviving afterward, as the outside world is nothing like he left it. A compelling and easy read that can be completed in a sitting, The Loop will not leave you disappointed. The characters were each unique with distinct personalities that engage the reader throughout the storyline. Additionally, this is honestly the most action-packed novels I've read in a long time, so if you're someone who enjoys constant energy and events this is the book for you! I found the plot to be very unique and it wasn't a stereotypical futuristic book. The usage of uncommon elements and personalities shone through the text to make it very intriguing. (Also side note: content-wise this book could be suitable for an advanced reader around the age of 12 or 13, but it did include some harsh language so for that reason the publisher recommends it for ages 14+).
-Review by Hailey age 15
This story was set in a kind of mystic Iceland. The main character, Runa, is prone to illnesses and seizures. She has weak eyes which water all of the time and she sometimes gets lost in a fog, even seeing things that aren't there. She hates her uncontrollable white-blond hair and small stature and wishes she were more like her strong, dark-haired sister Syr, who has taken care of her since the sister was a child, when their mother died. Their father is away at sea for years at a time.The moonstone Syr uses to heal people and help the village is losing power, though, and must be renewed at a competition. Syr is determined to keep it in the clan so they can thrive with the repowered stone. Then the village is invaded and burned and Syr kidnapped by a power-hungry witch. Runa's grandmother survives, but only momentarily, and the rest of the village is enchanted by the witch into a kind of interminable stasis. Now it's up to Runa to rescue her sister, enter the moonstone competition, and find a way to protect her village. But she has a lot of growing to do first. Along the way, she picks up two traveling companions, Einar, an elf who has been under the witch's spell but says he'll work with Runa against the witch, and Oski, formerly an immortal Valkyrie, who gave up the majority of their powers for the love of a human woman, who is now imprisoned in stone. The story was easy to read and compelling, but I wasn't sure I liked the direction it took at the end, I think to set up a sequel.Review by Rowan, age 15
This graphic novel is fiction but heavily informed by the author's own experience with depression.
It's realistic, and relatable, with very original artwork that does a good job of symbolizing what depression feels like. I'm looking forward to seeing it come out in full color when the actual book is released. It combines Mona's own story and then adds a self-help section at the end of the book with good suggestions on how to deal with depression in your own life. The hints tally well with the best of the current research on the subject. I would recommend this book to anyone who is dealing with depression or any type of mental disorder, those who feel misunderstood, and people who want to help others. It's appropriate for middle schoolers and high schoolers.
-Review by Colleen,age 15
This was a really good book, extremely original, and it must have taken a lot of research, as the writer was not Catholic. The main character, Alexis/Aleks is bigender, which is not very well-known even within the LGBTQ community. That means sometimes they feel like a boy, sometimes like a girl. After a traumatic event, this character decided to go into hiding. They move in with their Uncle Brian, a Catholic priest. It's not going that great. One thing is interesting, though - Alexis/Aleks' room is so close to the confessional that they can hear people's confessions. While the priest gives people "Hail Marys" or other religious penance for their supposed sins, the main character realizes he isn't doing anything to provide concrete help for these people. For an example, a lady is stealing food for her children because she doesn't have enough money to buy it. The main character determines that they will try to help anonymously. Meanwhile, Alexis/Aleks is coming to terms with the traumatic secret that she them into hiding, which is eventually revealed to the reader. It's a very dark book, but a swift read and very compelling.
- Review by Colleen, age 15
I'm not one to usually read a book classified as a thriller, and while the synopsis had me a little on edge due to it's seemingly basic plot, I was pleasantly surprised. This book follows the story of twin sisters Ivy and Iris after they move back in with each other after their divorced mother's unexpected death. But something is different about Iris, seemingly sweet on the outside, but Ivy suspects something sour lies within. After all, her twin acts unnaturally whenever their mother's death is brought to surface and is suspiciously private. Her father assures Ivy that grief can desecrate one's demeanor and personality, but is Iris willing to go so far she'd sacrifice Ivy's life and prosperity for her own? This is an absolutely captivating read that's perfectly paced with suspense and a desire to know the true motives behind each sister. And trust me, the ending is one that no one will see coming. It's not the most original or hands down most innovative and captivating book I've ever read, but it's the perfect read for a rainy day inside curled up on the couch (cue the candles, steaming cup of tea, and fuzzy blankets!). I'd recommend this for ages 13+ and I think this book suits a wide audience, however, may not be the most thoroughly enjoyed by those who love hard core "psychological thrillers". It was certainly suspenseful but not in this sense.
Dayna, 17, has a hyper-religious father, an obsessed ex-boyfriend, and a psychotic mother who has just come home after years of institutionalization. Dayna has also recently become a pariah in her church town when a friend outed her as a bisexual. She struggles with bare controlled OCD herself, and ... oh yeah, she's a witch, part of her best friend's family coven.Suddenly a former coven member, the powerful but failing King Witch, comes to town with her two young charges - Meiner, who has an anger management problem and also likes girls - and Cora, Meiner's power-hungry ex,who still really wants to be involved with Meiner. Meanwhile, someone is ritually killing witches. It's a race for the local coven, law enforcement (which has no idea there's anything supernatural involved) self-appointed teen investigator Sam, and the visiting witches to find out who's behind the killings and stop them before something even worse happens. The book is sometimes confusing, but still pretty compelling, often heading in unexpected directions. Fans of The Raven Boys might like this.-Review by Colleen, age 15.
Bone Criers are women who have the responsibility of ferrying the dead to the underworld. If this does not happen, corporeal ghosts invade the world and terrorize the living. But this sacred honor - their religion teaches - requires a terrible sacrifice. Each Bone Crier has the ability to lure her one true "amour" to her, but she then has to kill that man - either right away during a ritual dance, or within the next year - otherwise they both will die. She can also choose to have a child by him during this year. There are two gods, a moon goddess and an underworld god - who seem to oversee this ritual, but it's unclear how much of what the Bone Criers' religion teaches is really true or necessary. The underworld god can communicate directly with Bone Criers in words, but he seems to have ulterior motives beyond bringing the world into balance. The moon goddess seems to communicate through a silver owl, who appears at critical moments as if to direct the characters, but the owl cannot speak. This story centers around two young Bone Criers as they approach full adult status. Sabine is gentle and hesitates to kill animals to gain their "graces" like superhuman speed and sight. Ailesse, her best friend, is fearless and daring, headed on the path to be a leader among her people. Meanwhile, Bastien, who's about their age, has been plotting for almost all his life to kill a Bone Crier to avenge his father, who was killed ritually by one of the women right in front of him. Bastien stalks and kidnaps Ailesse, but they develop such an instant pull, he begins to wonder if he's fated to be her "amour" after all. Sabine, the nonviolent one, then has to seize her own fierceness, making up for lost time as she attempts to rescue her closest friend. It seems no one knows the full story. And they won't ... at least until the next book comes out.
-Review by Colleen (Rowan), age 15
This book is the follow-up to We Set the Dark on Fire, and it finishes out the story. It had been awhile since I read the first book so it was a little confusing at first, especially as it switched points-of-view to the other main character. As I got into it, though, it was really riveting. The tale is really empowering and LGBTQ-inclusive. As laid out in the first book, the characters live on an island with a very stratified society. The outer island residents live in poverty, while the inner island is reserved for the rich. Making things even worse for females, rich guys get to have two wives, a primera, who's supposed to be the intelligent one and whose job it is to run the household and a segunda, the "hot" one, who is supposed to have the kids. There's a school to turn young women into professional wives, and it's considered a great honor. The two main characters wind up being the wives of this terrible guy, who is seen as a great catch since he's the son of the president. Instead the wives fall in love and begin working against this unfair system. This book follows the segunda, Carmen, who returns to her rebel group only to find they've turned against her. She has to work with Dani, the primera, who fight for the cause independently.
-Review by Colleen, age 15
To put it right out there, the main character Cassandra Cain is NOT Batgirl. She's an assassin trained by her Mafia dad. She has been trained her whole life to be a killing machine, and was never even taught language other than commands she absolutely needed to know. One day she comes to a realization this is maybe not the best way of living. It happens when she's completing another job to kill a man, and he cries out for his daughter. She's unexpectedly touched. Somehow, the word rings a bell with her and instead of returning to her job, she runs away. She winds up taking refuge in the library, where she learns to talk by hanging out at the edges of the children's story hour and tries to learn to read. Gradually she lets a few people into her life and with their support tries to come up with her own identity. The story is really well done, with an original plot, and the book has good art. I'd recommend it to fans of the other recently released DC graphic novel revivals.
-Review by Colleen, age 15
This story takes a somewhat familiar path but diverges near the end and becomes more complex. The main characters are Shadow, member of a secret Guild preserving secret magic, and Caledon, the "Queen's Assassin," who is bound by a vow to find the missing Deian Scrolls, which contain lost magical history and knowledge.The two eventually team up
A follow up to the groundbreaking Civil War zombie apocalypse novel Dread Nation, this sequel was just as good as the first book and I already can't wait for the next installment, Set in the Civil War era, in this alternate history all of the slaves are "freed" into a different sort of servitude, training to protect rich white folks from the invading zombie armies. In the previous book, the two main characters, Jane and Katherine, were attending a "finishing school" to prepare them to be attendants (a very polite term for bodyguards) for white folks. Eventually the town where they go to school is overrun, and they're trying to make it on their own. Jane and Katherine escape to a different community which is supposed to be really well fortified against the dead. There, they meet someone they knew from the previous community, Gideon Carr, who was kind of responsible for the zombies invading where they went to school. He had been trying to create a vaccine against zombies. It was a good idea but really poorly executed. He had given Jane the vaccine without knowing if it works or not, and he's now trying to convince his new community to all get the vaccine. I really like the book's inclusive tone and diverse cast.
-Review by Colleen, age 15
This graphic novel was autobiographical, the story of the author's experience as a girl. She immigrated from Korea when she was 14. Her mom said they were coming to visit and then she ended up marrying someone. When she learned they were going to stay in America, Robin was upset. "But all my stuff in Korea!" was her reaction. "And I don't know English!" She was angry at her mom for a long time. This story is about her finding her way in America and eventually coming to the realization that she wants to live here after all - a realization that's accentuated by a visit to her home country at the age of 18. The book is very well done and has great art. I personally got a kick out of the references to anime and manga. I'd recommend it to fans of autobiographical fiction, graphic novels and the immigrant experience.
-Review by Colleen, age 15
In a world with superhuman beings called Celestials, twin brothers Emil and Brighton are born powerless, or so they think. After being attacked by a Spector, someone who got their power by drinking the blood of a magical creature, Emil defends his brother with a power he didn't know he had. Suddenly thrust into a war between the Celestial group the Spell Walkers and a group of Spectors called the Blood Casters, Emil is expected to use his newfound powers to help. But with the sudden reveal of family secrets will Emil be able to keep both himself safe and his family in tact? As a huge fan of Adam Silvera books, Infinity Son did not disappoint. Every aspect of it was amazing from the inclusion of many diverse main characters to the world building. Overall if you are a fan of fantasy and action books I would highly recommend reading this book.
- Review by Elyssa, age 16
This is the quintessential weekend or rainy day read- it can be easily read in one sitting, with a compelling storyline that will refuse to let you go...From the first page, the reader enters an enchanting world of seafaring and intrigue as well as gaining an insight into the life of a young adult named Amaya (who works relentlessly upon a ship with other child laborers known as "bugs"). The callous captain forces each child aboard to comply with his biddings, as a form of payment to remove a family member's debt. As soon as Amaya spent her seven years at sea, she finds herself swept into a plot that allows herself to take revenge on the captain after his unjust treatment to the children. However, she also finds herself obliged to kill another persona, known as Cayo Mercado, as part of the ordeal to murder the captain. As the plan progresses, she finds herself in the seaside kingdom of Moray, disguised as a countess known by the name of Yamaa and waits for the plan to unfurl. But as she begins to spend time with Cayo and her plans to assassinate the captain diversify, she realizes that one's false identities allow for deception by a greater foe. Scavenge the Stars is a newly released novel not to be overlooked, filled to the brim with action, trickery, and a splash of romance that is guaranteed to delight its readers.
-Reviewed by Hailey, age 14
This was another really good graphic novel. I thought it would be more like the movie, and while it starts out kind of the same, it goes in different directions. It's a lot more modern and diverse than the traditional story most people know. I'd say this provides a much needed update for this superhero. The book is well-written and has really amazing art.
-Review by Colleen, age 15
This book was really good, well-written and deep. This book is especially great for fans of the author's, like me, because a couple of stories continue the tales of characters from his other books. However, most stand on their own. Each of the selections were very different, including the formats - poetry, prose, even song lyrics. They were all written differently and featured very diverse characters. I think there's something almost every teen will relate to. Not all of the stories are about romantic love, either - some center on devotion to a cause.
-Review by Colleen, age 15
Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen is not your typical romance book. Ever Wong loves to dance but her parents have had their hearts set on sending her to medical school since she was a child. Whenever Ever brings up dancing to her parents they dismiss it as nothing but a hobby and a waste of time. After finding out about Ever’s acception to a dance program her parents send her away on a summer getaway to Taipei with other Chinese American teens to learn about her culture. However, this program isn’t at all what her parents thought it was. With very little supervision the kids sent on this trip do things like clubbing, drinking, and hooking up. Ever, along with her outgoing roommate Sophie, decide to break all the rules her parents have made for her. Along the way she meets Rick Woo, otherwise known as Boy Wonder, the kid Ever’s parents always wanted her to be, and a mysterious admirer who keeps slipping her drawings. Overall, while this book does focus heavily on a spectacular love triangle, I feel the real takeaway from this book is the culture and family aspect. Ever is finally able to come out of her shell and do what she loves most but also battles upsetting her family. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a fresh and different romance novel.
- Review by Elyssa, age 16