Teen Advisory Board Reviews
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These are reviews written by members of the Teen Advisory Board.
This book was the ideal carefree, heartwarming pandemic read.
It's got everything I could want in a book: princes, pirates, mermen, magic. It plays off all of the fun, relaxing tropes in fantasy and romance. The story was full of high action, suspense, with fun, believable characters that the author doesn't torture too much. I also loved the cover design. The main character, Tal, is a prince, but not the heir, as he's the fourth child in his family. He has been hidden away for most of his life ever since his fire magic emerged - the same magic his great-grandpa used to kill and dominate. Finally, Tal is allowed to emerge from his seclusion to go on the obligatory coming-of-age sea voyage. He ends up running into a pirate ship that has been totally abandoned except for a prisoner chained in the told. Tal sets the prisoner free with his magic. Though thankful for his release, the prisoner, Athlen, remains mum about his history and the circumstances that led to his being imprisoned. Tal, who feels an immediate bond with the prisoner, gives in to Athlen's pleas to "Just let me see the sky," only to watch the mysterious youth jump overboard. Tal is torn up over his part in Athlen's apparent sucide - but on his next shore leave, he discovers Athlen, safe and well. The story only gets better from there. I would recommend this to fans of A Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue. It's in the same vein,but a little more rose-tinted, with significantly fewer gritty relationship problems.
-Review by Rowan, age 16
This science fiction novel answers the question that has plagued readers for decades: why are sci-fi aliens always humanoid? The background to this story is that an ancient race, the Shapers, traveled the galaxy and beyond assisting all of the life forms that looked like them, providing advice and technology boosts, while putting obstacles, like acid volcanoes, in the way of races with different appearances. Centuries and millennia later, it's still hard for those races to get ahead. The main character in this book, Tina, is a fairly ordinary teen who learns that she's actually a clone of an alien space captain and her true appearance has been hidden to allow her to grow up. Now that she's mature, she inherits the former space captain's skills, if not her actual memories, and she's expected to step into the captain's shoes to step into an ongoing intergalactic war. She and her best friend assemble a diverse crew of young people with different backgrounds and skills as they try to figure out what's going on. This book was really great, with a fast-moving, compelling plot and featuring a diverse cast of characters that didn't just exist to fit a certain type but were full individuals in their own right. Their race/gender/sexuality was not their only character trait, but just a portion of what defined them. I'd recommend this book for sci fi and speculative fiction fans and queer readers of all kinds.
- Review by Rowan, age 16
Piper. Kat. Two characters that are so different, yet so alike. This funny and heartwarming story about two girls who are set up to be friends by a grandmother (Does that ever work), somehow are perfect for each other. Jaye Robin Brown will keep you on your toes until the plot turns a corner, and then you will be bouncing up and down with apprehension. This story is one that will remind you that sometimes you just have to be patient.
-Review by Krin
This story draws its inspiration from the familiar tale "Phantom of the Opera," but turns the story around in a refreshing way to give it more resonance in the modern era. Whereas the familiar tale tells of a young and beautiful (female) opera singer who falls under the sway of the disfigured (male) "phantom" who lives in the depths of the opera house, in this version the opera star is a (male) janitor with a beautiful voice - a young man with amazing natural skills but no training - and the "phantom" is a young woman whose face is disfigured in the way that reveals her fearsome magical talents. As a "gravoir," Isda is able to manipulate people's emotions, and even their memories. It is so refreshing to read a story in which the "monster" is the woman, rather than having her always be the beautiful victim/damsel in distress. This way, the love story is empowering rather than hackneyed - as Isda is seen as deserving of love for herself, not her appearance or even her voice. In the world Isda is born into, graviors are supposed to be killed at birth. This almost happened to Isda, but opera house owner, Cyril, rescued her. She has since grown up in secret, rich in material comforts but hidden from other people. As the story opens, Isda serves as Cyril's willing slave, manipulating the audience to maximize her foster father/owner's business. Then she hears a stunning voice and is drawn out of hiding, meeting the young janitor Emeric and offering to tutor him so he can gain a lead role - but she still has to hide her identity. Over the course of the book, the "phantom" discovers the full range of her talents and learns the disturbing truths behind her comfortable but limited existence, while blossoming in the light of her janitor love's unjudgemental regard. It's a story of imprisonment, sacrifice, love and regret. The end surprised me and yet seemed utterly organic. It was well done and I would read another book by this author.
-Review by Rowan, age 16
This novel is a follow-up to Havenfall, which I loved. Havenfall (legendary inn-at-the-center-of-the-worlds) connects to numerous otherwise inaccessible realms, although all but a few have been blocked off. The folks from the different realms can meet safely at Haven, but cannot survive far from the inn, thus keeping every realm separate and safe, though trade between the realms thrives. Each realm has its own magic, except Earth, which is the Earth we readers know. In the last book, main character Maddie is forced into the role as Keeper of the inn when her uncle is gravely injured. The only beings who can survive in all worlds are the Solarians, whose world has been closed off. Over the course of the first book, Maddie discovers that there are still Solarians on Earth, and in fact there's a thriving slave trade in Solarians, whose souls can actually be split to make magical artifacts. She also learns her brother (whom her mother allegedly murdered and who has vanished) is not only a Solarian but is still alive and was captured as a slave and possibly had his soul split. Now in the second book, Maddie learns that there's another way to travel the worlds, with a protective suit made of "phoenix flame." Using a portion of this suit she found in her mother's closed-off room, Maddie travels to another realm and finds her brother, but he seems to be unwilling to leave the service of the powerful Silver Prince, who possesses the rest of the suit. Back at home, Maddie visits with her mother in prison, where she's serving time for the murder which she didn't commit and which never actually happened. Then her mom "escapes" from prison in an explosion - actually taken prisoner by the Silver Prince and held for ransom. How can Maddie save her mother, her brother, the worlds, and abolish the slave trade, all while negotiating teenagehood and two possible love interests, the elite soldier Brekken (her apparent boyfriend) and a mysterious Solarian girl who she's irresistably drawn to?
-Review by Rowan, age 16
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 book is a child of 2020. Futuristic, apocalyptic, disturbing and hopeful, it was clearly written during this pandemic year and strongly influenced by the feeling most people have had to one degree or another - that the world is falling apart. Except multiply our current experiences a hundred-fold. The main characters, among them 18-year-old Nico and 12-year-old Kit, are all young people who grew up in this apocalyptic world. The deadly "flies" (actually genetically manipulated bees) are still swarming the world, consuming people where they find them. Even those who survive can still be affected by the related "Fly Flu" which can lie latent in a person for years, only to kill them later. Thus the older generations, those who knew a pre-apocalyptic world of shopping, governments and electricity, are dying off, leaving children to fend for themselves in a wild, dangerous and depopulated world. There's no real science left, just personal experience, storytelling, an imperfect understanding of what went before ... and for some, a mysticism that seems to guide them. The question is whether the magic they feel is real or imagined. The characters - and the author, I feel - are trying to find meaning in a world turned upside down and full of devastation. Yet the tone is not desperate. Despite the obvious and ongoing horrors, it's even kind of peaceful. The book is funny, sad, complex, profound, confusing and ridiculous, and very, very weird. I don't know how to feel about this ... but it definitely makes the reader think.
-Review by Rowan, age 16
Mr. Terupt. The teacher who brought seven kids together, made them family, and even started his own family. The seven kids; Jeffrey, Anna, Luke, Danielle, Alexia, Peter, and Jessica, have had the experience that is so rare. Being the fourth book in this series, these six kids have not only been impacted by Mr. Terupt, but these seven kids have also changed Mr. Terupt's life. They have accompanied him through very rough patches of his life, and the joyful ones too. The Mr. Terupt series in no doubt has made a difference in my life. Rob Buyea keeps that bar raised high throughout each and every one of his books, whether in this series or his other series, and has captured the greatness of a great community, and most of all, a wonderful teacher.
-Review by Krin
The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre is an astounding romance novel about never judging someone the way based on stereotypes and superstition. Melody and Odile may break some of the High School beliefs, but that does not compare to the happiness that buds from their relationship. Funny, transforming, and heartwarming, this book will absolutely blow your mind away. Robin Talley crafted this story to a unique perfection that will transport you to the land of Melody McIntyre. It is a book that you will never forget and will stay with you for longer then you can imagine. Robin Talley adds details and emotion with every character and describes them with a passion that is is so deep, you feel like you are part of the story. Melody and the crew of this story are a never-ending bundle of fun.
-Review by Krin
A quest for Atlantis. A daughter abandoned by her father. A week in Santorini. An annoyingly good-looking and quick witted boy. A magical, homey bookstore. Secrets from the past buried so deep, it hurts to look at them. A list of all the things Liv Varanakis didn't know she'd be getting herself into by agreeing to spend a week in Santorini with her father who disappeared over ten years ago to chase after his wild dream of finding Atlantis. When she receives a postcard from her father asking her to visit him in Greece, his birthplace and most recent home, to help him with a documentary about Atlantis sponsored by National Geographic, she hesitantly says yes to seeing her father for the first time since she was eight. But when she reunites with her father, so many questions rise to the surface along with emotions so potent that Liv feels like she's drowning in them. If her father really loved her so much, why would he leave her behind to chase after a myth? As Liv, her father's assistant (Theo), and her dad explore all Santorini has to offer, she begins to learn that perhaps Atlantis meant something different than she ever could have imagined, bringing newfound truths to the surface. I can't say enough wonderful things about this book--supposedly this is the third novel in a "series" but each can be read as a standalone (now I'm dying to get my hands on the others). The pacing was spot-on and I devoured the entire thing in two days, loving the complex family relationships and the setting of beautiful, lush, Santorini. I loved how the Greek culture really shone through the pages and each of the characters had distinct personalities and quirks that made them extremely connectable. I've also always loved hearing stories of Atlantis and I loved how Jenna Evans Welch connected that so seamlessly into the storyline. Overall, I'd highly recommend it to ages 13+... I really feel like people who enjoy any genre will enjoy this as long as the synopsis seems intriguing to you!
-Review by Hailey, age 15
Felipe. The astounding character of this amazing book. He is the perfect character for telling this awe-inspiring story. Here The Whole Time covers so many things that kids in the real world deal with. Felipe learns to be confident in himself and learns to accept himself for who he is. Vitor Martins weaves in so many emotions and real-world occurrences into this book that you do not want to leave the world of Felipe and Caio.
Lord of the Flies meets high-society Titanic in Anna Godsberson's new novel, Beautiful Wild.
Vida Hazzard, having learned the in's and out's of the elite class from her privileged childhood, mastered the art of getting what she wants. Her desires have never failed her, so when she sets her sights high on becoming engaged to the wealthy Fitzhugh Farrar while they claim the first passage on the "Millionaire's Ship of the West," it seems easy enough, right? With Vida's charm, beauty, and wit, she's expecting a diamond ring on her finger in a mere seven days. Wait... If we've learned anything from novels with seacraft, especially one's as decked out as this one, there's always a lingering trepidation... they sink. Now stranded on an island, Vida's etiquette and petticoats won't do anything to aid her in survival. With the possibility of death lurking in the waters nearby, Vida must build self-reliance to save herself--and the future she's always dreamed of. Though as she removes the layers of stain, silk, and chivalry society's wrapped her in, Vida learns that what you wish for isn't always what you truly want. I initially picked up this book feeling excited, as it was advertised as a love-triangle sea voyage adventure perfect for fans of Kiera Cass. However, I found the story itself to be predictable except for a few parts at the ending, but the main plot thread being quite apparent from the beginning of the book. I also initially found it difficult to connect to Vida's character because she was quite helpless and entitled for the majority of the novel, which thankfully changed towards the end, but thus created a challenge for me to care about her storyline. Nevertheless, I still think this is a fun, summery light read if you're looking for something perhaps not the most unique or detailed. The pacing was excellent for a lighter read and because it could be a satisfying poolside-read, I'd recommend it to ages 12+.
-Review by Hailey, age 15
This free verse novel was a really fast read, well-written, with very poetic imagery. Sometimes prose novels get bogged down in the details, while this form allows the reader to cut right to the heart of things. The main character lives in a house in a junkyard with his father. His mom is dead. It isn't a great life, and he's bullied. He doesn't know where he's going in life. He becomes friends with this girl, Rachel, when he walks in on her mom yelling at her for having a girlfriend. Rachel is really volatile and is facing a lot of problems of her own. Somehow, trying to help her - even though it's not going that well - helps the main character discover more of what he wants from life. I would recommend this book to fans of free verse novels. In fact this book reminds me of another free verse novel, "Long Way Down,"by Jason Reynolds, but a little less intense.
Review by Rowan, age 16
In the land of Montane, language is literal magic, where writing and reading is forbidden to all but the Bards (an elite group that controls the world through "justice") and words hold limitless power. Meanwhile, Shae, a seventeen-year old, is struggling. After her younger brother died due to a contagious, ruthless disease called the "Blot", she and her mother were cast out of the farthest ends of town, making survival more difficult. But when Shae's mother is murdered, she can no longer keep quiet in a world that demands otherwise. Now all alone, she embarks on a journey seeking truth and to find her mother's killer, then discovering an untamed power inside of her, a closed-off boy with secrets of his own, and a new enemy set on ensuring that people like Shae never succeed in speaking the truth. Out of all the books I've read this year, Hush is in my top 10. The language especially the imagery through description was beautiful yet not too lengthy to the point where it becomes extravagant, and I've never read a fantasy piece with a magic system like this (which was so refreshing). Though the biggest takeaway from me were the lessons and themes that were expressed throughout this book, like questioning what's real and seeking truth no matter the consequence, and it felt extremely necessary and relatable especially now in the world. The ending for me didn't pack as strong of a punch as the beginning, but after I found out that there will at least be a second book, I can understand how the author was setting the scene for that next installment. I'd HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone ages 14+ who's looking for a fantasy piece that has relatable messages and a powerful female protagonist that won't stop until she finds truth, no matter how ugly that may be, and shares it with the world.
-Review by Hailey, age 15
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.
This book centers around two twins, Audrey, who is autistic, and Clare, who has discovered she is gender-fluid and no longer fits in the girl-versus boy binary (though she still goes by "she." The story has much to recommend it - it's sweet, entertaining and diverse and should appeal to a wide audience. However, it does suffer from some generational problems, as the author clearly isn't familiar with the generation they are purporting to write about. The book is allegedly set in the modern era, with references to cell phones, Google and very-up-to-date gender terminology. However, it would be more believable if it were set in an earlier era, like the 1990s. Teens just don't ask for each other's phone numbers anymore and they don't call each other's land lines. The slang was annoyingly outdated too. The story itself is valid, though. The twins are going through a rough patch after their older brother died in an accident when he was on the way to pick up Audrey. Clare kind of blames Audrey for their brother's dead and that creates a distance between the twins that was't there before. Clare strikes back by hanging out with the popular kids who make fun of Audrey's autism. But at the same time Clare is discovering her sexuality and gender-fluid nature It is interesting to see the story from two very different perspectives, through the autism spectrum as opposed to the more socially adept sibling who is starting to rebel and find her own identity. Apart from the outdated aspects, the story should be of interest to a wide range of readers, adults as well as teens.
-Review by Rowan
10 Things I Hate About Pinky is a coming-of-age story that any teen can relate to. The perspective switches add another level of depth to the chapters, and it helps narrate from two ends. Pinky, an Indian highschooler, loves to volunteer for random causes, but her perfectionist of a mother wants her to have a better goal in life. Samir has the opposite outlook on life, and he has always had a specific path that he worked hard to get through. But when Samir’s law internship gets cancelled, and Pinky needs a way to convince her mom she’s not a complete disaster, the two make a deal that changes everything. Written by New York Times Bestselling Author Sandhya Menon, this novel is a companion book to When Dimple Met Rishi, but any reader can enjoy it, no matter whether they have read the first book or not. I loved this book, and it gave a fresh perspective on growing up as a South Asian in America.
- Nidhi, age 12