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.
This is a fun, optimistic graphic novel for young readers about putting your creativity into action, advocating for yourself and your values and following your dreams.
There's nothing particularly complex about it but the characters are realistic and the situation one that many students can relate to - trying to find a place where they can express themselves and achieve, in an area apart from what their parents or school seems to value. I appreciate the diversity in the book, with both students and teachers of many different colors and backgrounds.
Review by Michael, age 15
Every Time You Go Away is perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson in its somber beginning and traumatic happenings. However, through the novel, Ethan and Rebecca find each other through their grief, in spite of it. Childhood best friends, Ethan and Rebecca haven't seen each other in years. Rebecca's dad died in a car crash the past year and Ethan's mom is in rehab for drug use. These two teenagers have encountered more grief and loss in their lives than most people have in their lives, but have also felt more love. This book is an important reminder that even through the toughest times, love will find a way.
-Review by Krin
This graphic novel revolves around two sisters, Lucy, who is entering sixth-grade, and Gigi, who is a popular eighth-grader at the school Lucy is just starting.Fencing is special to both girls, who used to practice fencing with their father before he died a couple of years ago. They responded really differently, though. Gigi continued fencing and is now going for fencing captain on the school team, while Lucy hasn't fenced publicly since. Also, since their dad died, the sisters' formerly close relationship has been prickly as they deal with the loss in different ways. This comes to a head when Gigi embarrasses Lucy on her first day at school and Lucy picks up the fencing foil (like a sword but safer and used for sport) and threatens her sister with it. That lands both girls in trouble, and the only way they can get out of it is to pretend to be trying out for the team while secretly practicing for a duel. Pretty soon, the whole school was taking sides.The characters are fully fleshed out and believable and a lot of people will relate to the story, even if their sibling rivalry hasn't taken such a public form.-Review by Michael, age 15
Emmett is a powerful exploration of self-discovery and a wonderful take on the classic novel 'Emma' by Jane Austen. In this novel, Emmett, a high school senior who is charming and handsome, and knows it, realizes that he knows less of love than he once thought. When he agrees to find a perfect boyfriend for a classmate, he realizes that maybe love is more complicated than he once thought. Through a series of awkward moments and many conversations, Emmett learns how complex love really is. L.C. Rosen has crafted a story that will make you laugh and cry at the same moment, as well as question everything you once thought about how love works.
-Review by Krin
I normally have no interest in World War II books, or realistic fiction as a whole, but something about this story intrigued me from the start. As I read, it got better and better, fast-paced and compelling.The characters are complex and believable and even though their story is unlikely, there are thousands of real stories like this one - out of all of the horrors of World War II, we cherish these stories of hope, daring and ingenuity which allowed people to survive and even save others in the midst of much inhuman destruction.The main character in this book is a young woman, Isa, who is taking care of her eccentric and unwell father while trying to keep them both alive and hang onto the family's art gallery/studio in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Meanwhile, Isa's friend, Truus is part of the Dutch resistance, rescuing Jewish babies in a city fraught with danger.To raise the rent money, Isa starts selling forged masterpieces to the Nazis, but a knowledgeable Nazi translator catches her in the act. Rather than turning her in, however, he asks her to help him escape the German military to freedom.As each character guards their own close-held truths, Isa wonders whether her unlikely Nazi ally is double-crossing his own side, or triple-crossing her in an elaborate scheme to ferret out members of the resistance.As the story progresses, Isa is pulled into more and more dangerous acts, serving as an artist's model in attempt to learn that artist's forging secrets; stealing valuable art and forgeries, taking on different identities, hiding refugees from the resistance and even a Jewish baby.The author really brings the characters to life and makes them memorable individuals. I especially love how Isa's emotions keep bubbling up in synesthetic color as she expresses her inner feelings of angry red, sickly yellow, poison green and disgusted brown.,I would recommend this book to a general readership of teens and adults, even if they don't usually read realistic fiction. It is really well done.-Review by Rowan Wilson, age 18
Charming Young Man follows a young, gay pianist trying to find his place in high society France. Leon, the protagonist meets characters along this journey that change the course of his life for good. He meets mentors, forages friendships, and explores his identity, all while realizing that he may still be in love with his childhood best friend. I cannot think of a novel that I have read recently that captures the words 'coming-of-age' more perfectly that Leon's story. Eliot Schaefer has created a world full of life and loss, but most importantly, unapologetic happiness.
-Review by Krin
This graphic novel was an interesting presentation of the story of Siddartha, a young prince, who eventually becomes the Buddha and founds a new religion. At the start of the story, the prince is kept within the palace walls by his overprotective father. He has every luxury but no freedom. He envies the bird he set free so it could live life to the fullest and wishes he could do that himself. His dad, the ruler, provides him a wife, but he still is not allowed to leave the palace. Eventually he escapes - of course, or there would be no story - and wanders the countryside, embarking on a journey of discovery. I already knew the philosophy behind Buddhism but it was interesting to fill in some of the details of how this belief system got started.
I would recommend the book to people who are interested in history and was to know more about this region and religion.
-Review by Michael, age 15
This original fantasy had the same energy, immediacy and drive as "Carry On" by Rainbow Rowell, except without the romance.
The main character, nonbinary Rat, comes from a powerful magic family but is studiously not studying magic after an experience last year that left them shaken and tore apart a close friendship.
Rat sees doors - portals, as you will - that no one else sees, and can go through them to other parts of their world, or even, apparently, to other worlds. These realms were fun to explore until a powerful and dangerous entity followed them through the portal last year and almost resulted in disaster.
As a protective measure, Rat has enrolled in Bellamy Arts, a magic school which is extraordinarily well warded against hostile magics. Rat is supposed to be a "non-casting" student but obviously it's not going to end up that way.
First, Rat discovers that their old friend and now adversary Harker will be attending the same school. Then Rat starts seeing invisible doors in the magic school, which turns out to be the biggest warren of hidden passageways and portals ever, housing secrets both recent and ancient.
This book ends on a cliffhanger and I am eager to read the sequel. Hopefully, that won't take too many years to be released.
-Review by Rowan, age 18
I loved the Bone series when I read it several years ago and it was fun to return to this world. Although this book was quite up to the standard of the original stories, it did keep the same feel. It was a series of short stories, framed as campfire tales told by the Bone characters. There's one story in the bunch that's entirely by Jeff Smith and fits within the canon of the original stories, and that was my favorite. It had everything readers have come to expect from this funny and thought-provoking series.
I would recommend this to fans of Bone, of all ages.
-Review by Michael, age 15
I picked this up because of the obviously queer characters and the suspenseful, slightly supernatural plot. The book was good, and appropriate for younger readers as well as high schoolers, even though the characters are (age) 18-19. The story, which I kind of expected to be a mystery, does veer into horror, but it won't trip too many triggers, being more creepy than scary.There are two main characters, Kat, a freshman in college who runs a podcast searching for evidence of the supernatural in the U.S., and Mari, a Hispanic high school senior who is heading to her mom's hometown, Estrella Roja, for an extended visit after her grandma's death. All of Mari's relatives in that town are weird and kind of off-putting. They actively discourage Mari from heading out on her own or investigating the weird red "devil lights" that have appeared above the town for decades but which cannot seem to be captured on film.
Heading to Estrella Roja to investigate the "devil lights," Kat encounters the same unwelcoming attitude from locals, but she connects with Mari and they begin to investigate in earnest.The more they learn, the creepier the phenomenon is.Of course the plot of this graphic novel is made up, but it parallels the ways that queer people, especially people of differing gender identities, are treated in real-life society. The bond between the two queer main characters and the reluctant acceptance of their families will strike a chord for many LGBTQ readers.Review by Rowan, age 18I picked this up because of the obviously queer characters and the suspenseful, slightly supernatural plot. The book was good, and appropriate for younger readers as well as high schoolers, even though the characters are (age) 18-19. The story, which I kind of expected to be a mystery, does veer into horror, but it won't trip too many triggers, being more creepy than scary.There are two main characters, Kat, a freshman in college who runs a podcast searching for evidence of the supernatural in the U.S., and Mari, a Hispanic high school senior who is heading to her mom's hometown, Estrella Roja, for an extended visit after her grandma's death. All of Mari's relatives in that town are weird and kind of off-putting. They actively discourage Mari from heading out on her own or investigating the weird red "devil lights" that have appeared above the town for decades but which cannot seem to be captured on film.
Heading to Estrella Roja to investigate the "devil lights," Kat encounters the same unwelcoming attitude from locals, but she connects with Mari and they begin to investigate in earnest.The more they learn, the creepier the phenomenon is.Of course the plot of this graphic novel is made up, but it parallels the ways that queer people, especially people of differing gender identities, are treated in real-life society. The bond between the two queer main characters and the reluctant acceptance of their families will strike a chord for many LGBTQ readers.-Review by Rowan, age 18
This is a really sweet middle reader romance that celebrates LGBTQ identity, people with disabilities, and the world of fandom. The main character, Maisie, has a prosthetic leg and deals with chronic pain issues. Her hero is also an amputee, an action star on a TV show, and Maisie is really excited about meeting her idol at a comic-con. She travels to the con, her first one, with her nontraditional single mom. There, Maisie meets Ollie, a nonbinary teen who is volunteering at the event, and (mild) sparks fly. Ollie's dad is also attending and is also a single parent and a really unique individual. The story explores how entering these worlds of fantasy allows people to be more authentically themselves and to celebrate their differences and their potential. The whole thing was ridiculously optimistic but still kind of fun. The worst thing that happens is that the teens are slightly embarrassed by their parents. The best thing it does is to treat these individuals as completely regular humans, not some kind of weirdo or miracle.
-Review by Rowan, age 18
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
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
As a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder (though not to a crippling degree) this rings true. The main character, Issac, experiences OCD that kind of controls his life. He feels like "bees" of unwanted thoughts are buzzing around his head at all times causing him to worry about small or unlikely things and making him feel like he needs to do ritual things like pulling at his ear to make them go away.
He is a great artist, though, and one day when he's drawing a dragon some students invite him to take part in their new Swamps and Sorcery game (obviously a reference to Dungeons and Dragons.)
His sister doesn't think he should go because some doctor in the past said games could exacerbate his OCD, but he notes that's just computer games and begs to take part in this live, dice-throwing, plot driven, role-playing game. Eventually he gets to go and he really connects with this diverse group of friends, and the bees in his brain lessen.
Then he gets a bad grade on a test and his mom forbids him to see the group, thinking this was the cause of his bad grade. What will he do?
I found the characters in this book to be believable and complex, and the plotting to be compelling.
I would recommend it to teens and middle readers with OCD or who want to understand it better.
-Review by Michael, age 15
It took me a long time to get to this book, but it was worth the wait. This accessible and thoughtful graphic novel tells the story of a teen, Mateo, who has been raised in the United States but whose family has been deported due to his parents' immigration status. He wants to return to the United States to finish out his senior year in high school and his parents have hired a guide to help him cross the border. However, Mateo is too impatient and slips off to make the crossing on his own. Within 15 minutes, he's being chased by Border Patrol agents, and soon he's lost in the desert with next to no food or water.
Fortunately for him, a ghost comes along and redirects him to the correct path. The ghost, Guillermo, died trying to cross the same desert 70 years ago trying to get to his gay lover. At first, Mateo fights Guillermo's advice, not wanting to believe the ghost is real. The ghost himself also has some lingering issues. He has half a mind to leave the living to their own devices, having been disappointed many times in the past. He also doesn't want to talk about his past because it's so painful. Over the course of the book, ghost and modern teen learn to trust each-other. Not only does Guillermo keep Mateo safe, Mateo helps Guillmo pass on into the next place. Overall, it was a really nice story and made me cry.
-Review by Rowan, age 18
Love and Resistance is a fast-paced, witty novel about what it means to be in high school; with a twist. Through the book, a closed off teen that has moved a couple too many times in the past few years to feel truly at home anywhere, stumbles upon a secret society by accident. This society has a plan to take down the most prominent 'mean girl' in the school. Olivia, the main character, finds her way into this plan after defending herself to Mitzi, the mean girl after being the target of a racist comment in class. As soon as I read the first page of this book, I was hooked into this alternate reality, inspired to find a way to bring this power and determination into my own life. For anyone looking for an inspiring rom-com, this is the perfect book for you.
-Review by Krin
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
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