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Welcome to Around the World: Teen SRC 2021

Welcome to Around the World: Teen SRC 2021

Summer is finally here! We are looking forward to reading your reviews and awarding you for it! Prizes will be awarded all summer starting in July. Each week, we will be giving away a random prize plus a prize for our favourite review. This could be a post or comment that is well written, thought provoking or shows a lot of insight and no, a review does not have to be long to be considered. Like someone else’s review? Let them know, commenting on the blog counts as a post entry too!

Tune in on July 5th to participate in the Heist! Criminal mastermind Cody Vandango has hired you – Ainsley Jones. Your mission – to travel around the world to each of the seven continents and steal something of value without getting caught. Mission #1 begins NOW! Click here to complete the mission.

Mission #1 is the beginning of everything. Try your luck here

Mission #2 begins July 12th! Click here to complete the mission

Mission #3 is here! Click here to complete this week’s mission!

Teen SRC 2021 – #murderfunding by Gretchen McNeil

#MurderFunding - McNeil, Gretchen

A fast-paced creepy book with many gory murders, #murderfunding by Gretchen McNeil makes up for its poor characterization and cheap tropes with action scenes and suspense. 6/10 for incredibly poor representation (POC especially, watch out) and cringe-worthy teenage slang. Seriously, I don’t know how editors approved the “teen” slang in this book–I’d rather hear teenagers speak like any regular adult than speak like they did in this book. “For reals” made an appearance, and an attempt to say that a character was “salty” (see: frustrated, annoyed) resulted in “less salted”. I LAUGHED SO HARD.

Anyway, I didn’t love this book much, but it was fast-paced and emotionally bland enough to get me out of a reading slump, which is great. There was some attempts to be political in this book, but they failed incredibly hard–resulting in an almost conspiracy-like feel. I did enjoy the formatting of discussion forums/articles on the Internet, but once the Russian meddling plot line was added, that began to feel cheap, too.

Overall, if you’re looking for a quick, creepy thriller, this is it. Otherwise, find something else.

P.S. This is the sequel to #murdertrending, which I read but then forgot mostly about. It is possible to read #murderfunding (2nd book) without having read the first (which got better ratings than this one, btw), but there is some confusing vocabulary to get through at the start. My suggestion: pick up #murdertrending first, then this one if you enjoy it. Happy reading!

Teen SRC 2021 – Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Wilder Girls by Rory Power is about a group of girls on an island with a new parasite called The Tox. The parasite affected the males differently and instead would turn them into monsters. It follows the story of Hetty, who had one eyelid sealed shut by the Tox. During this time, they are sent supplies and are told that the cure is in developement.

The book was exciting given that it had very quick development. It’s a quick read, so I would recommend it to readers who enjoy dystopian stories with gruesome descriptions. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Teen SRC 2021 – Holes by Louis Sachar

The novel I’ll be reviewing today isn’t actually categorized as a teen read, but I think it’s quite appropriate for adolescents of any age so I hope this won’t be taken down.

I loved this book back when I first read it in Grade 7 or 8, and I still love at 16, based on a recent re-read.

Holes by Louis Sachar is about a boy named Stanley Yelnats, who is under a “curse” brought upon his family by his great-great-grandfather. And because of said curse, Stanley has been sent to a boys’ detention center called Camp Green Lake, where he is forced to dig holes all day, everyday… definitely an unorthodox camp activity. Clearly, there’s something else going on that Stanley’s missing.

Holes is one of those books that feels very well planned out, I hope you know what I mean. The pacing is great, the action is great, and the plot is awesome. The ending is wrapped up very nicely and realistically, readers won’t be baffled nor unsatisfied, and the overall storyline is really cool!

I also really enjoyed the flashbacks in the book; they helped me understand the story and allowed me to predict what was coming! They were also woven in very well and didn’t disrupt the flow of anything which I appreciated. The flashbacks were also a great way of showing not telling, which allows the readers to have their own sort of “eureka” moment when they figure something out!

Overall, I’d rate the story an 8/10. It’s not the greatest thing ever, but it’s pretty darn good; especially for a “children’s” book! I’d recommend it to anyone who likes realistic adventures with a tinge of mystery! (There is also a pretty good movie adaptation of it, so if you’re a film person, you should check that out!)

TAMBA Author Interview – Eileen Cook

You Owe Me a Murder : Cook, Eileen: Amazon.ca: Books

Back in March, Stephanie and I had the chance to interview the amazing thriller writer, Eileen Cook. She has written many incredible books, such as The Hanging Girl, You Owe Me A Murder, and With Malice, so we were so excited to talk to her!

We had a blast learning about everything from where she gets her inspiration and how she builds suspense to the tips she has for emerging writers!

Read on for a few of our favourite highlights:

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Rosie: So, what got you into writing and when did you first develop more of an interest in doing it seriously?

Eileen: Well, I absolutely loved the library, and I’d go with my family every week to check out huge stacks of books. So very early on, I realized that somebody must actually write all of these stories! And I used to go and find where my book would go on the shelf if I ever wrote one, and make a little space for it there. Then, when I was 10, I discovered a book in the adult section of the library called Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King, and I went to check it out, along with my little pile of Nancy Drews and Judy Blume… and despite a warning from the librarian, I still ended up taking it home. It was terribly scary and I slept with the lights on for a while after that… but I remember thinking it was really cool! The fact that I knew it was make believe but that it was still able to make me so terrified? And that was the first time I realized, yes, I want to do this.

Rosie: I can totally relate to that! I think it’s so crazy how books are literally just words on a page, but somehow they can still make you feel so many different emotions, and so strongly too!

Stephanie: True. And speaking of the thriller and adventure genre, how do you create such suspense in your books?

Eileen: Well let me tell you, it’s a lot harder than it seems. Especially because readers are getting a lot better at solving these mysteries than they used to be. Anyway, what I play with most often is: what do people see versus what really happened? For example, say you have a crush on someone, and you decide to tell them, but then you see them hugging someone else in the cafeteria and you’re like… NOOOO! I’ll never talk to them again! But later, it turns out they had just been hugging a cousin or something. So the suspense comes from convincing people that they see one thing, when they might actually be seeing something else. It’s a little bit like magic, almost!

Rosie: That’s so cool! And speaking of ways to create suspense and make your books more thrilling, what do you think makes a good story?

Eileen: I think a good story is something that makes you want to understand the characters better. Not anything to do with the plot, it’s the person. I have to care about the characters or at least find them interesting, which can definitely pull me into the story! 

Rosie: Yes I completely agree. With amazing books, I just end up wanting to be friends with them or get to know them better.

Stephanie: And they’re really able to drive the story forward, especially in your books, I’ve noticed! Like all the actions and the plot is driven forward BY the character.

Eileen: And something else! I used to think that when writing was hard, it meant that it was bad… but in reality, sometimes writing is just difficult. Just like how any other job is just hard on some days. It’s important to just keep pushing through, and pursue your passion!

Rosie: That’s so true! And on this same topic of overcoming obstacles in writing… Do you have any general tips for becoming a writer? As I know many members of our audience are likely aspiring writers, myself included!

Eileen: Ooh… I have many tips, but I’ll just give you the most important ones; the first of these is: read a LOT of books, because sometimes they really are the best teachers. When you finish a book, open it back up and read it again. Think about potential changes you could make and how that’d affect the story! Read like a writer. Another piece of advice would be to be nice to yourself. When I first began, I’d have amazing ideas for a book but I’d start writing and just never finish because it always ended up lousy on the page. What I had to learn was that everybody writes terrible first drafts. And we often compare our rough drafts to published novels… which is not realistic at all! So yes, be nice to yourself.

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Eileen Cook is currently working on another thriller with lots of mayhem, a possible accidental murder, and maybe even poison, so keep an eye out for that — it sounds deliciously suspenseful!

Once again, a huge thank you to Ms. Cook for taking the time to talk to Stephanie and I. Our discussion was so intriguing and we definitely learned a lot!

CONGRATULATIONS! Teen SRC Winners Week #2

There were some really wonderful and thoughtful reviews written this week. I’m always amazed with all the different kinds of books that are reviewed and how well they are written. So good job everyone!

This week’s winners are: Rahma and Zhang.

Be sure to keep writing Teen book reviews all summer for you chance to win some great prizes!

And Week 3 of the Heist is already out. Have you tried you hand at the adventure yet? Be sure to join the race around the world here!

Teen SRC 2021 – Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Jade Lange

Rebel, Bully, Geek, Pariah - Lange, Erin Jade

The blurb led me to believe that Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Jade Lange would be amazing, filled with many dynamic characters who share their perspectives and have great character development.

I was hugely disappointed to find out that this book was only told from the POV of Sam, the “Pariah”. The plot was intriguing, but Sam wasn’t a very likeable character. She constantly told herself that she wasn’t like the “other girls” that she called Barbies. Her mother had been to jail and rehab many times and Sam subconsciously uses that to pity herself throughout the book. That made the book harder to read and I was tempted to put it down many times. Her only reason for staying during the adventure, that could’ve gotten her arrested or killed, was that it was the first time she was invited somewhere.

One of the main themes of this book was relationships. Something that threw me off was Sam flirting with York, the “Bully”. They are literally being pursued by a gang and the police and she’s worried that York has been with other girls. One relationship dynamic that I did enjoy was between York and his little brother Boston who is the “geek” that’s mentioned in the title. It portrayed sibling relationships realistically without overdoing it. Another character was Andi, the “rebel”. Andi was once the queen of the Barbies but is now a stereotypical gay character with a tragic backstory. She did make the story more interesting by constantly being sarcastic but her “friendship” with Sam from Sam’s perspective was awkward at times.

As I’ve previously mentioned, the plot itself was quite good. Four teens getting thrusted into an adventure they didn’t want. Almost committing murder, hiding drugs, and running away from a gang, all while trying to avoid the police! This book’s mystery was very well plotted. I’d give it a 3.5/5.

Teen SRC 2021 – Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

Though I’d like to admit otherwise, what first drew me in to this book was the cute cover design. I was expecting a standard cheesy YA romance, but the story surprised me with it’s realistic characters and layered story.

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer stars Prudence, “Pru” to her friends, over the course of her summer before junior year of high school. After a freak karaoke accident, Pru finds the universe has gifted her the ability to control karma. People she finds doing good are rewarded, and those who are mean or disrespectful are punished accordingly. Now she has the perfect opportunity to seek justice with her lazy, uncaring lab partner Quint, who’s responsible for her terrible biology grade.

What she can’t figure out is why he never seems to be brought to justice, no matter how many times she tries using her power. Forced together again as a last attempt to bring up her grade, Pru finds the more time she spends with Quint outside of class, the less unbearable he becomes. Even worse, his work and devotion to the local Sea Animal Rescue might even make him…cute.

Personally I was pleasantly surprised with Pru’s growth as a person over the months we follow her. I loved how the author managed to capture Pru’s thoughts and opinions. The reader may be able to see through her assumptions at times, but it’s easy to see why Pru herself thinks that way. Above all, her “karmatic insights” serve as a great way to illustrate the blurred line between justice and revenge, and the downfalls of quick judgments.

Teen SRC 2021 – Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1) by Amie Kaufman

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff follows a group of cadets from Aurora Academy who were sent on a simple supply sending mission. However, they weren’t told that this would determine the outcome of a very long war. The crew consists of Auri, a girl with supernatural powers, Tyler Jones, a star pupil of the Academy, and many other people who are considered as misfits.

This book consisted of many plot twists and was very confusing overall. I didn’t like it a lot, but I’d recommend it to anyone who is a fan of interstellar romance or someone who likes reading about aliens.

Teen SRC 2021 – The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

I had high expectations for The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins because of the original trilogy and…it lived up to them! I’d give it an 8/10. The only downside of this book is that the exciting part doesn’t start until very late in the book.


This book was told from the perspective of the one and only President Snow. He is in his last year at the academy and hopes to win the prize that will help him into university, which he otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. A way that he can win this prize is if he mentors the winner of the 10th Annual Hunger Games. When he is assigned the girl from district 12, the lowest of the low, he is embarrassed but still determined to win. The story continues as he tries to help Lucy Gray, the tribute, win the Games.

***SPOILERS BELOW**

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Teen SRC 2021- Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

In the book Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen, Ever Wong’s strict parents are sending her to Taiwan for a summer program before the start of college/medical school. Only when she arrives, Ever realizes that the “Loveboat” program is less about reclaiming her roots and more about partying all night–at least according to her classmates it is. As Ever breaks more and more rules set out for her by her parents, the future she doesn’t want looms at the end of summer. Will she deny the expectations of med school and follow her dreams of dancing or is the strength of her immigrant parents’ sacrifice too much to shed?

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t expecting to like this book. To me, it sounded like Ever, a rigid rule-following daughter goes to a fun summer camp, learns the taste of freedom (and goes crazy) which leads to her rejecting her future and her parents. This isn’t exceptionally original or interesting, as far as plots go.

In the end, I was right. I didn’t love this book very much. At Loveboat, Ever gets stuck in a love triangle (sigh). There is some cheating that is disguised as not-cheating, a lot of drama (most of it unnecessary), and girl hate. Like seriously, I do not understand the friendship–if you can call it that–between Sophie and Ever. There were some things that surprised me in a good way, though. The daughter of immigrants and the “your dream not mine” plot line was surprisingly well-written. Ever does not completely discount her parent’s perspective and admits that their sacrifice is not something she can ignore, even if a future of dancing means more to her than anything. For such a shallow novel, these type of discussions were surprisingly nuanced.

Unfortunately, most other discussions were not. Some heavy topics are brought up in the novel, like depression, gender stereotypes, and the stigma of dyslexia, but aren’t fully developed or discussed. Some plot points don’t add up (Sophie spending loads of money but her backstory being the fact that she’s poor, for example). We are introduced to some characters that don’t show up again, such as Meghan. Also I don’t want to spoil anything but the last couple of chapters were SO rushed and most of it didn’t logistically make sense…

Some plot lines show surprising depth and are fun to read but the shallow drama and emotional/romantic manipulation throughout the book makes it a very frustrating read. A fun setting with cultural nuances but flat characters and too much teenage drama. 7/10.