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TeenTober 2019 – Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman

Why We Broke Up, written by Daniel Handler and illustrated by Maira Kalman

From author Daniel Handler (AKA Lemony Snicket) comes the story of Min Green and Ed Slaterton. Predictably, these two have broken up.

I found Why We Broke Up to be an enjoyable, if not particularly thought-provoking read. It relied heavily on archetypes (eg. “that one artsy girl”, “the playboy jock”, “loyal friend-zoned best friend”, etc.), which was a little disappointing, but effort was made to make sure that each character had their own quirks and motivations. It’s a book with lots of “we’re young and stupid and completely in love” vibes, if you like that sort of thing. (I do.)

One thing that I found the story did really well was the lack of “perfect” characters– the main character, Min, has a ton of shortcomings, along with the other characters, and they’re all addressed and handled fairly well. This is one of the areas in which Why We Broke Up really shines– the characters are pretentious, yes, but they feel real. Relatable, even. I mean, who isn’t a little pretentious over here? We’re a bunch of teenagers on a blog about reading books. C’mon. Personally, I enjoyed it most of the time.

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Teen SRC 2019 – Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

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TL;DR at the bottom because I’m apparently incapable of writing shorter reviews now.

Gabi is a book that tackles a multitude of subjects, including body positivity/self image, race, gender, rape, drug addiction, grief, religion, and sex without being too preachy, stretching itself too thin, or cramming anything down your throat, so I applaud it for that alone. (The aforementioned issues also serve as a trigger warning for the book, in case you are sensitive to any of them.)

Beyond these abstract issues, we get the story of Gabi, as told through her diary. A Mexican-American girl in her last year of high school, Gabi’s going through some shi—crap. Her best friend, Cindy, gets pregnant, her other best friend, Sebastian, is trying to come out to his homophobic parents, her father is a meth addict, and she’s constantly told by the people around her that she’s too fat, too white, and never going to be good enough. So yeah. There’s a lot on her plate. But Gabi discovers poetry as a means of self-expression, and she has plenty of humour, cheer, and love to lean on.

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Teen SRC 2019 – Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe

Circe by Madeline Miller

(This review is kind of long, so there’s a TL;DR at the end for those who don’t want to read the whole thing.)

Buckle up kiddos, because this book is a wild, wild, ride. Prepare to be hurt. Prepare to cry. Prepare to enjoy every second of the madness. When I say I would lay my life on the line for Circe, there is hardly any hyperbole. 

Background: I discovered Madeline Miller a year or two ago, when I read her Song of Achilles. It’s an intense, sweeping tale, but that’s a review for another day. The point being, I was super excited when I found out she was doing a new book, as she’s an amazing writer. More on that later. 

Anyway, Circe, as you probably expected, is a retelling of the life of the enchantress Circe. She is known in Greek mythology as a goddess of magic and transformation, most famously in Homer’s Odyssey. The book follows her through her father’s halls (her father is Helios the titan), various adventures, whirlpools and remote islands. As far as I can tell, most, though not all of the plot elements are taken from original texts about her. 

(At this point, I’ll say that I don’t think I’d recommend this book for younger audiences. There’s swearing and, y’know, other things going on that could be considered pretty unsavoury. No explicit sex scenes or anything, this isn’t Fifty Shades, but still. It can get to be a little much.)

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Teen SRC 2018 – Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa

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Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa

This book surprised me. I mean that in a really good way. At first, I picked the book because of the cute art style. I did not expect much from what looks like a typical middle school ghost-human romance. I expected clichés, soppy sentiments, and shallow characters. Instead, there was clever narration, subversion of popular tropes, and fun/intriguing lore! The characters were likeable and well developed for the most part, and they acted their age– too often, middle school protagonists are drawn and written as if they are young adults, but this is not the case! The plot wasn’t too confusing, although some elements could have been more detailed. The art style, as aforementioned, was quirky and cute. Overall, “Cast No Shadow” was a fun and unique read, with great characters and a nice art style. I would recommend it for all ages!

Teen SRC 2018 – Space Boy by Stephen McCranie

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(Please excuse the varying image quality.)

Space Boy“, by Stephen McCranie (author of “Mal and Chad”), is one of the most beautiful graphic stories I have laid my eyes on. The vibrant colouring, lush landscapes, gripping plot, and wonderful character design are only some of the many reasons I love the series. Although I am posting this as a book review, “Space Boy” actually is currently being serialized as a free webcomic on Webtoons. However, in the comic’s popularity, McCranie has offered merchandise and physical copies in several volumes, so I figured it was okay to review here. I will be reviewing the comic as a whole, though it is yet to be completed.

Since this is a graphic novel, I guess it’s only fitting to start with the graphics. As you can see from the covers, the colouring and illustration are stylised and bright, with many round, bouncy looking shapes. This ‘cute’ style does not detract at all from the beauty McCranie instills in the world he’s built. Each illustration aspect is brought together with soul, colour, deep expression, and emotion. This is especially true for the characters.Read More

Teen SRC 2018 – Cold Cereal by Adam Rex

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Cold Cereal by Adam Rex

Cold Cereal by Adam Rex is two parts comedy, one part urban fantasy, and a little sci-fi thrown into the mix for good measure. I am honestly upset that it does not have a bigger following, because it is HILARIOUS. The three main (human) characters may have slightly bland personalities, but Rex makes up for them by tenfold in the humourous, fantastical, sometimes poetic, and most definitely strange world he builds around them. Every page, every end of chapter leaves you wanting more of that world, and the suspense that lives in it.

The demographic for this book is probably somewhere from 7-12, but there are some sequences that you will probably understand better if you’re a little older.

“Cold Cereal” will enchant your, capture your heart, and quite possibly bring you to tears (of laughter). It has not changed my life in a big way, but even as I reread it for the fourth time, it still holds my attention and makes me laugh. Read this book. You will not regret it.

Note: “Cold Cereal” is part of a trilogy: The Cold Cereal Saga. The following books are “Unlucky Charms” and Champions of Breakfast”. Both are also awesome.

Teen SRC 2018 – Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy

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Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That is an incredibly ugly and gaudy cover, there is no way that any book with an author worth their salt would allow this to happen. It must be terrible.” At least, that’s what I thought when my brother brought it home. But little did I know that a) There are actually several other covers that are much better looking, and b) IT IS A GREAT BOOK THAT STARTS A FANTASTIC BOOK SERIES. All of the books are filled with style, fun, flair, wit, and humour.

The book follows Stephanie Edgely as she discovers an underground world of magic after the death of her uncle with his old friend; a literal skeleton named Skulduggery Pleasant. “Scepter of the Ancients” is an awesome adventure and fantasy novel that really works to avoid several of the tropes that are seen so often in the genre! The main character, Stephanie, is relatable, strong, and quirky without being ‘the chosen one who is also not like other girls and really hot but like,,, not in a conventional way’. In fact, unneccessary passages about her physical features are nonexistent. Instead, they let you fall in love with her as a character. All of the supporting characters are unique and loveable in their own ways, the setting is creative and plausible, and I highly enjoyed the atmosphere/mood. All of these elements are tied together with the clever writing and charm. This goes for all the books in the series, but “Scepter of the Ancients” has a particularly gripping plot!

As for reading age, I think that it is much like Harry Potter: appropriate for young readers, but still appealing to older ones! (There is some gore and it features darker themes, so keep that in mind.) Overall, I have loved this book to pieces, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the fantasy or adventure genres, or anyone looking for a fun read!

To end off, here’s some of the good covers. (“Scepter of the Ancients was originally released with the title “Skulduggery Pleasant”.)

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Teen SRC 2018 – Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean – Edited by Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar, and Anita Ray

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Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean – Edited by Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar, and Anita Ray

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean is a collection of short stories, mostly dystopian/sci-fi. I honestly picked up this book at first because of its awesome cover, but I ended up really enjoying it! I was pleasantly surprised by the graphic stories, which are all amazingly illustrated. The length of the book means that you can read it in one or two sittings, and the stories were all charming and enjoyable. One thing I might’ve changed is to give some of the stories longer lengths to better develop their concepts, but that was the only flaw I found. I particularly enjoyed the humour and wit in several of these powerful stories. 10/10 would recommend!

Teen SRC 2018 – The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

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Summary (taken from Goodreads): 

We live in the same place, but never together.

Summer for Sasha and Ray means the sprawling old house on Long Island. Since they were children, they’ve shared almost everything—reading the same books, running down the same sandy footpaths to the beach, eating peaches from the same market, laughing around the same sun-soaked dining table. Even sleeping in the same bed, on the very same worn cotton sheets. But they’ve never met.

Sasha’s dad was once married to Ray’s mom, and together they had three daughters. But the marriage crumbled and the bitterness lingered. Now there are two new families—and neither one will give up the beach house that holds the memories, happy and sad, of summers past.

Review:

As a lover of “The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants”, I was really excited to read this book. I was disappointed. Despite the cool/fun premise, “The Whole Thing Together” hardly delivers. There are some problematic sexist/racist elements in the book, and a whole lot of the “she’s not like other girls” trope. The main characters are bland, hard to relate to, at times downright mean, and boring. I hoped it would be a sort of sweet, “finding friends in unexpected places” relationship from which they could grow as people. Alas, it was romance. Their particular romance is icky and weird. I mean, if you have to clarify that it’s not technically incest, something is wrong. Despite these things, some of the supporting characters were actually quite likeable. Their stories stopped me from abandoning the book completely, as well as a couple well written sequences.

In all, “The Whole Thing Together” is not completely horrible, but I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone either.