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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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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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


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If I See You Again Tomorrow By Robbie Couch Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781534497498
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
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


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Sunshine: A Graphic Novel By Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Illustrator) Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9781338356311
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order 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


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Spin By Rebecca Caprara Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781665906197
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order 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


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Children of the Black Glass By Anthony Peckham Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781665913133
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order 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


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Colin Kaepernick: Change the Game (Graphic Novel Memoir) By Colin Kaepernick, Eve L. Ewing, Orlando Caicedo (Illustrator) Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9781338789652
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order 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: Backordered- Not Available Right Now
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 façade 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: Not On Our Shelves Now--Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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


Nothing Sung and Nothing Spoken By Nita Tyndall Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780063087446
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperTeen - October 18th, 2022

Nothing Sung and Nothing Spoken is a book about Charlotte Kraus, a fifteen year old girl who goes by Charlie, set in 1938, Germany. Charlie finds her best friend Geli irresistible, so when Geli leads her to a secret club that plays forbidden music, she cant pass up the idea of having a secret to share with her. As WW2 starts, these girls want to resist the Nazi party even more, but Charlie also needs to keep her family safe. I liked this book a lot. It had a good balance of romance and action, with great character development. I could really feel where almost every character in the story was coming from. I would recommend this novel for people who enjoy fantasy-realism.

 

-Review by Maddie 


The First to Die at the End By Adam Silvera Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9780063240803
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Quill Tree Books - October 4th, 2022

I loved the first book, "They Both Die at the End," and didn't think a prequel could possibly be better - but it was!

The original book started out with "Death-Cast" already in place (a new technology which can predict when people are going to die with 100 percent accuracy.)

The prequel explores how it came to be and how it changed society, through the eyes and experiences of lots of different people. All of the different threads come together at the end.

The main character in this book, Valentino, just moved to NewYork. He dreams of building a life in the big city and succeeding as a model. He doesn't believe Death-Cast even works. The other main character, Orion, has lived in New York all his life. Though he's young, he knows his life could end at any time due to a serious heart condition he has. He wants to sign up for Death-Cast as its opens its services to the public, just to have peace of mind.

Both characters (who are gay) come to the grand unveiling for Death-Cast and meet each-other. Orion convinces Valentino to sign up for Death-Cast even though he doesn't believe in it, just as kind of a lark. Then midnight strikes and Valentino - not Orion - gets the call. It's his last day on Earth. The two then try to make the most of the day by living a whole life's New York bucket list in one day.

The book also features several minor characters, such as one of the employees who is making the death calls and gets in trouble when he stays on the line with an upset client rather than hanging up and making the next call. It's a thick book but I ripped right through it because I could not wait to find out what happens next. It's a fascinating story and I think it has appeal for a broad readership, not just teens and LGBTQ folks.

 

-Review by Rowan, age 18


Freestyle: A Graphic Novel By Gale Galligan Cover Image
$12.99
ISBN: 9781338045802
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graphix - October 18th, 2022

This graphic novel was really original and fun to read, with believable, diverse, and well-fleshed out characters.

The main characters are Cory, who doesn't like school that much but who really enjoys the freestyle street dancing he does with a group of friends, and Sanna, his science partner-turned-tutor who at first seems kind of brainy and stuc-up and later becomes a very close friend. Cory and his friends from the dance group have done this informally for several years, but this year, the leader of the group has gotten really bossy. Focused on winning a dance competition, she wants to dictate every movement and take away Cory's ability to freestyle, which is the part he loved the most. Meanwhile, Cory's grades are suffering due to all the rehearsals so his mom grounds him from practice until he can get his grades up. The tutor his mom has chosen turns out to be Sanna, who Cory originally didn't like because as his lab partner she just did all the work. He resists her tutoring at first, until one day at recess he sees her hidden behind a wall practicing her cool yo-yo moves. He's inspired and begs her to teach him the yo-yo tricks, but she'll only do so if he also. The rest of the book balances the dynamic between Cory and his original group of friends dealing with their leader's ambitions and his growing interest in the competitive yo-yo world. Eventually those two worlds come together.

I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to upper elementary or middle schoolers who like the graphic novel format.

 

Review by Michael, age 14


Don't Let In the Cold By Keely Parrack Cover Image
$10.99
ISBN: 9781728256764
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Sourcebooks Fire - September 6th, 2022

This book is a teen thriller about two stepsisters named Lottie and Jade, who rent out a cabin for a night in Tahoe. Late at night, a solar flare causes their power to go out and a stranger named Alex appears, claiming to be lost, and seeking shelter from the horrible blizzard. At first, everything seems normal when he is there. They think it’s weird there’s someone lost this late at night, but they don’t mind. But then Lottie sees him talking outside with two other people who stopped at the cabin earlier, thinking it was a friend’s house.  The tension in the story builds nicely as the news says that the blizzard will last 3 days, and they will be stuck there longer than they had planned. And then the house gets set on fire, so they are forced outside and must survive to not freeze to death. I really like this book because it was suspenseful, and the settings added a creepy feeling. this book is a great read for teens who are into mystery and thriller.

 

-Review by Jack


Over My Dead Body By Sweeney Boo, Sweeney Boo (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Sweeney Boo, Sweeney Boo (Illustrator)
$17.99
ISBN: 9780063056305
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperAlley - August 30th, 2022

This spooky, witchy graphic novel is set at a magic school. The main character, Abby's best friend Noreen goes missing one night. The school determines she got lost in the woods but assures students "not to worry." Of course, in supernatural fiction, that's a definite sign you should worry. Also worrisome is the apparent connection between this modern disappearance and the disappearance of one of Noreen's family members generations ago. Abby and her friends get together at midnight and use a spell to try to locate Noreen, but get in trouble. Again, the school asserts, "Leave it to us. It'll all be totally fine." Undeterred, they join with a very odd, eccentric new teacher who doesn't seem to agree with the school's stance., They end up going into the woods to try to find Noreen. I liked the art for this story.

-Review by Michael, age 14


Slip By Marika McCoola, Aatmaja Pandya (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Marika McCoola, Aatmaja Pandya (Illustrator)
$17.95
ISBN: 9781616207892
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Algonquin Young Readers - June 7th, 2022

Art is a good way to work out difficult emotions, and that's just what the main character of this book, Jade winds up doing as she heads to art camp without her best friend. They were going to go to camp together, but instead the friend, Phoebe, is in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt. Jade feels really bad and wonders if there was something she could have done. 

At camp, she struggles to find her place and her inspiration. At first, she makes these cute animals, but then finds herself making these fierce, almost scary animals as the pain inside comes out. One of these sculptures appears to life and she has to "set it free" I don't like the idea of ruining art, but it does help her come to terms with how upset she is. It's kind of a metaphor about how we have to acknowledge our bad feelings before we can move past them.

Through this story, told in graphic novel format, Jade is able to recognize what she was feeling, so she can give herself permission to enjoy the good things about life again.

-Review by Michael, age 14