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Teen SRC 2021 – All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

So, I’m sure we’ve all heard of this book by now, right? All the Bright Places – a young adult fiction novel written by Jennifer Niven – explores themes like community, individuality, mental health, and trauma. I personally think it was actually a rather educational book for teens. The main characters, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, are both struggling through their own problems. Will their love be enough to heal each other’s scars?

Violet and Finch first met on top of a bell tower. If it weren’t for their coincidental meet, it’s possible one of them –or both of them- would have jumped that day. But they saved each other from doing so, and ever since that, they slowly begin to feel less insecure about themselves. They make memories together, precious moments filled with laughter and delight…until Finch starts slipping back into the black hole that he’d just managed to crawl out of.

I did enjoy this book, and I like how the author uses lots of symbols. For instance, the flower and the bird. I think it provides some emotional depth to the plot. I also think this novel can actually teach you a lot of things about mental health; I, for one, certainly learned quite a bit.

The one thing I’m struggling on with this book is finding excitement. This book review, so far, probably isn’t showing much enthusiasm either, because I found the book rather boring. I don’t know WHAT IT IS with me and popular books, but somehow I’m almost always slightly disappointed by them. I could say, truthfully, that I liked this book, but there were no scenes that left a deep impression on me, and it’s not my number one book recommendation. I think some of that has to do with the fact hat I predicted the ending after the first chapter, but hey, the book was enjoyable at least.

I’d rate All the Bright Places 6/10, and I’d recommend it only if you have a lot of time on your hands. Again, it’s not a bad book, but the plot line was a little too monotoned for my preference. By the way, if you do happen to enjoy the novel, they made a film out of it on Netflix!

Teen SRC 2021 – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval, a fantasy fiction book written by Stephanie Garber, dives deep into a magical world of puzzles. “Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.” That is true. But what if you don’t know what you desire the most? What if a mischievous, young sailor takes the place of the most important person in your heart?

This novel is about Scarlett Dragna and her sister, Dontella Dragna. They grew up listening to stories about Caraval, the magical performance that only occurred once a year. Since they were nine years old, Caraval has always been their dream. Now, suddenly, seven years later, Scarlett receives an invitation to Caraval. But is Caraval really the enchanted place everyone thinks it is? And if it really is so magical and innocent, why is everyone there so secretive? Scarlett has to draw a line between illusion and reality, in order to save her sister in time.

This book is SO magical, and I don’t mean just the plot. I read for around five minutes, I swear, and suddenly I finished the whole book. Please do not ask me how that happened; I don’t know myself. But what I do know is that this is the best fantasy book I’ve ever read in my entire life. I have no words for the amount of elegant description of beautiful settings, the captivating way Garber writes about the characters. It was the perfect amount of everything; I really don’t know how else to describe it. The happiness and heartbreak was so carefully balanced, the romantic aspects not overwhelming the plot, and the story itself full of magic.

Normally, I have a “things I didn’t like,” or critique section in my book reviews. Let’s just say, I stared at the computer for ten minutes and couldn’t think of a single piece of criticism to write. The book was amazing.

I’m sure I’ve made this overly clear throughout my book review, but in conclusion, I’d rate this book 10/10. I really hope other people will read the book and like it as much as I did. Also, there’s actually a series to this book, and I’ve got nothing but over-the-top excitement and high expectations for that. I seriously could not recommend this book more, go try it for yourself and hopefully, embark on the same thrilling adventure I went on while reading!

Teen SRC 2021 – All This Time by Mikki Daughtry

I’m not much of a romance reader. I’m more of the “fantasy, horror, and phycological thriller mix that keeps you awake past midnight thinking about the book” kind of person. But, you know, I saw this book at the library and I give full credit to the cover art, because if it hadn’t been that darn elegant, I probably wouldn’t have picked the book up in the first place. So, All This Time is a fiction romance novel by Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott, that sends you on a whole whirlpool of emotions.

When Kyle’s girlfriend dies in a car crash, he can’t find the motivation to do anything. Kyle blames himself for Kimberly’s death, and it seems that everything around him is a constant reminder of the nagging pain over his loss. And then he meets Marley – a girl who’s suffered from her own loss – and Kyle slowly starts recovering, his life becoming more whole than it ever had been. There’s a problem, though. Does Kyle really like Marley as “just a friend?” And even though Marley’s all sunshine and rainbows on the outside, that doesn’t mean she’s completely healed from her loss…

Can I just say…I don’t re-read books. Unless I’m bored out of my mind, I rarely read books again. Why? Well, there’s plenty of new books out there that I want to read, and I wouldn’t want to spend my time reading the same plot that i’ve already read instead. And anyway, not a lot of books are interesting enough to re-read anyway. Or so I thought. I must’ve re-read this book around…four times?! I even returned it, and then borrowed it again from the library just to read it a second time. THAT’S how good it is. The plot twists are truly amazing, and completely unpredictable. You become so, so attached to the characters, so when you read about them, you actually feel something for Kyle and Marley. All This Time describes emotions in the most precise way possible, and even for me, a black-hearted “sadist” who likes to read about murders, this book was heartbreaking.

(sadist/saddest? get it?! worst pun ever, I know, but I have no sense of humour… so there you are.)

This is definitely my favourite romance book. Yeah, I mean, it’s true that I’ve only read like two romance books in my life, but I have a feeling this one’s going to stay at the top for quite the while. Are all romance books this good?! Hopefully not, otherwise my favourite “fantasy, horror, and phycological thriller mix that keeps you awake past midnight thinking about the book” thing might possibly get bumped down to second-favourite genre. 10/10 for All This Time with no hesitation!

Teen SRC 2021 – Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

Good Girl, Bad Blood - Jackson, Holly

Good Girl, Bad Blood – a teen mystery book written by Holly Jackson – has been #1 on my reading list, ever since I finished reading A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder a while ago. By the way, quick recap: I absolutely loved that novel. It was thrilling, suspenseful, and easily the best mystery book I’ve ever read. So how was its partner in the Good Girl series? Let’s find out…

In Good Girl, Bad Blood, Pip is turning her first solved mystery into a podcast for people all over the world to stream. She feels like she’s finally falling back into the rhythm of her own life again, after losing so much to be able to solve the murder last time. So, you can imagine how she feels when one of her best friends comes knocking on her door, stating the three simple words: “My brother’s missing.” Will Pip sacrifice herself again and accept the investigation?

Just like the first book in this series, Good Girl, Bad Blood has a phenomenal plot, and the amount of suspense crammed into a relatively short book is truly impressive. Again, Jackson succeeded in making me turn each page with bated breath, too intrigued to put down the book even for a short while. I think my favourite thing about the book was honestly the dialogue, especially between Ravi and Pip. I must’ve been smiling way harder than what was considered “natural” reading the dialogue between those two; IT REALLY WAS TOO ADORABLE.

I’m going to have to say though, I liked the first book better. Maybe it was because I had relatively high expectations for this one, but I think the ending was significantly more underwhelming, and we all want a plausible ending in a mystery book, especially since that’s what the clues and suspense in the whole novel is leading up to. I’m also starting to get rather annoyed by Pip; I think her personality always becomes as bland as a piece of stale bread whenever there’s a mystery she has to solve. Like, come on, we want to know who the murder is, but that doesn’t mean the main character isn’t any less important.

I would give this book 8/10, simply because it’s missing that little bit of spark throughout the entire thing, which most likely has to do with the main character’s lack of personality. I do recommend this book, though, and I think it’s definitely worth reading, especially if you’ve already read the first one. Speaking of, there’s a third book in this series that I haven’t gotten around to yet! Looking forward to binge-read another one of Jackson’s novels 😉

Teen SRC 2021 – The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

“Forever was something we all took for granted, but the problem with forever was that it really didn’t exist.” 

The Problem with Forever – a romance novel by Jennifer L. Armentrout– is a beautiful book that captures emotions so elegantly. The book revolves around main characters Mallory Dodge and Rider Stark, who knew each other from the same foster home they went to. No, they didn’t just know each other. They were friends; best friends when they were younger, and maybe even more now.

It’s been four years since escaping that abusive home, and still Mallory hasn’t healed. When she meets Rider again, she realizes he hasn’t, either. So when they cross paths once again, neither of them are sure if they want to be reminded of their past, but turns out, fate is something they can’t control.

The characters in this book are too cute. None of that “make-a-character-just-for-the-sake-of-the-plot” nonsense, and somehow the well-thought characters make the plot even more appealing. I’m not gonna say this was the kind of thrilling, breathtaking, overflowing-with-plot-twists book, but it was a sweet read and was easy to get through.

I would recommend this book, and rate it 7/10. It was really smooth and I feel like a movie adaptation would be amazing!

Teen SRC 2021 – They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

“No matter how we choose to live, we both die at the end.” Take a moment to let that sink in. In They Both Die at the End, – an adventure fiction book written by Adam Silvera– two teenage boys named Mateo and Rufus receive an alert, telling them they would both be dead within the next twelve hours. The two boys meet and spend their last day on Earth creating memories with each other, visiting strange places, and eating at fancy restaurants. That was how they chose to live. But of course, it doesn’t matter, because They Both Die at the End.

I think that this book does the most fantastic job of making ordinary things seem magical. That’s the case for Mateo and Rufus, because they have to enjoy the everyday activities we take for granted before they’ll never be able to do them again. There are also quite a handful of scenes that have deep, meaningful quotes that make you stop and think.

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Teen SRC 2021 – Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry

Introduction

Call It Courage, a legendary adventure story by Armstrong Sperry, is a book filled with spirit and courage, despite its short length. The protagonist, Mafatu, is forced to overcome his fears and face the dangers of the world on his tiny canoe. Mafatu struggles with the two options he has on hand, either get made fun of in the safety of the island or try to prove his courage but at the same time risk his all.

Plot Summary and Background

Mafatu is the son of Tavana Nui, the chief of Hikueru island. Ever since his mother was killed by a deadly hurricane that ripped her canoe into bits, Mafatu dreads the ocean and is afraid to go near it. As a result, he doesn’t go fishing or sailing with the other boys, and instead spends his days making canoes and spears for them to use. Everyday, Mafatu is laughed at and almost everyone thinks that he is “only good for making spears.” When Mafatu turns fifteen, he decides that he’s had enough. He wants his father to be proud of him, and so, he sets off on a journey. Will Maui, the sea God, be on his side?

Things I Liked

Call It Courage teaches us many useful lessons. I think Mafatu’s determination and courage is what helps him go through multiple obstacles that otherwise would have ended up fatal. I also really liked how throughout the book there were lots of little glimpses inside the characters, and we get to know lots about Mafatu’s feelings. Another thing that makes the book really engaging is how we can clearly see Mafatu getting closer and closer to overcoming his fears. There are specific moments in the book where you stop and think to yourself; Wow, that was a really great moment of growth for Mafatu!

Things I Disliked

Call It Courage isn’t the most realistic book, and it’s not that easy to relate to. Other than that, there really isn’t much to critique about the writing, however there are a few warnings. To some people, the book may seem incredibly boring because of how much detail Sherry writes with; he rarely uses short sentences and is almost always describing things like the sun shimmering off the ocean, the scent of the wind on the island, and so on. When a storm hits, Sperry captures every detail and writes: “The sky darkened. A burst of lightning lit up the sea with supernatural brilliance. An instantaneous crack of thunder shattered the world. Lightning again, striking at the hissing water.” It creates a very visual effect and is a great way of showing the reader, but sometimes when you want to get to the exciting parts you first have to skim through this huge paragraph of description.

Conclusion

Call It Courage involves lots of emotion, and Armstrong Sperry paints so many pictures in your mind that it’s almost like watching a movie. Although I personally think that sometimes his descriptions get in the way of a very exciting plot line, I would recommend this book. It’s a bit like the shortened version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, so if you liked that one, you’re bound to find Call It Courage very fascinating! 4 out of 5 stars.

Teen SRC 2021 – Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

“Look on the bright side”, you hear them say. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, especially when life isn’t so encouraging. In Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata —the protagonist, Katie Takeshita, is a Japanese girl born in America. The word “kira-kira”means “glittering” in Japanese. Katie and her sister Lynn learn, through a tumbling turn of unexpected events and depressing changes, that even if situations get dire and stoop to their lowest, hope is the magic that allows them to see things from a very special perspective, the Kira-Kira way. This book is full of inspiration and shows young children a more creative way of thinking. 

When Katie’s family moves to Georgia, everything seems to change. This was a time when Americans looked down on the Japanese and all other people of colour. Katie even says that the townspeople believe the Japanese are worthless, “like doormats, or ants or something!” Racism, responsibility, and anger get thrown into Katie’s life, and sometimes she feels like she could shatter under the pressure. But amidst the hurling events and frequent financial struggles, Katie manages to grasp the strong bond of love that connects her with her sister Lynn. This bond makes Katie realize that no matter how bad her grades get, or how behind their family are on their bills, her sister’s love will always protect and guide her, and help her see things the Kira-Kira way. Oh, what would she do without Lynn! But when Lynn turns 14, she becomes friends with a popular girl at school called Amber, and suddenly doesn’t pay as much attention to Katie, or at least not in the way she used to. Katie suddenly senses a deep fear that she might lose the friendly, caring sister she’d always known, or worse, lose her altogether. Kira-Kira has won the Newbery Medal for children’s literature in 2005. 

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Teen SRC 2021 – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

“Ah, if only he could die temporarily!” …that’s the kind of humour you get from reading Twain’s books. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is about a young boy named Tom who, despite his mischievous nature, is able to prove his core values of friendship, imagination, and loyalty. Tom and his friend Huckleberry Finn find treasure in an old, abandoned haunted house while exploring one night, and what’s more, a criminal on-the-loose is after it! In this book, we get dragged into the world of Tom and his friends, and follow them as they witness are forced to trust their instincts to get themselves out of danger. Twain’s way of writing is very realistic, and he’s known for his works in children’s literature. 

This novel follows the life of young Tom, who lives with his Aunt Polly and his half-brother Sid, along the Mississippi River. Tom struggles with and pulls through his boredom of going to school, attending church, and white-washing fences. He lives a regular life, and spends his days playing make believe and hoping for an adventure. But everything changes one night, when Tom and Huckleberry Finn arrive at a graveyard, where they hear footsteps and soft whispers. A shimmer of the moonlight reflecting off the knife, and a splash of blood later, the boys realize that Dr. Robinson was murdered, right in front of their eyes. After that, Twain hurls us into the second half of the book, where serious action takes place, dark secrets are uncovered, and promises are broken.

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Teen SRC 2021 – The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

“As awful as it sounds, money is power, and power is magnetic.” But what if that isn’t all there is to it? In The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes– the protagonist, Avery Grambs, is inherited billions of dollars all at once. Suddenly, she’s no longer the girl going to a public high school and eating out of cafeteria lunch trays. Her life is a fantasy…until problems arise. The question isn’t how Avery will spend the money. It isn’t if her sister, Lynn, will be okay with everything. The real question is, who in the world gave Avery the money, and why?

When Avery meets Tobias Hawthorne, the billionaire genius, her life is flipped. Scratch that. More like tumbled, rolled, and cartwheeled itself into the most luxurious lifestyle she could have ever asked for. But then, -oh, and here comes the “but then”– Avery meets the Hawthorne family. Four grandsons, each and every one of them raised to be well-mannered, respectable young men. At first glance, they welcome Avery and her sister into Hawthorne House and give warm welcomes. As time passes, though, Avery starts sensing the hostility beneath their smiles and twinkling eyes. Hawthorne House, a place of secrets, magic, and puzzles, conceals a game so complex, one could hardly call it “a game.”

I think this book had such an amazing plot line, and the pacing was perfect. It’s a mystery book, so the author doesn’t give away too much, but just the right amount readers need to feel engaged to the book. I’ve realized this is something most mystery book authors can do though, so that wasn’t the most surprising part for me. What really got me with The Inheritance Games are the characters. Oh. My. God. The characters. I still can’t believe how well-rounded they are, each with their own realistic characteristics and personalities. They felt relatable and so real, too. I feel like most mystery books I’ve read focus on the plot, and the character is, more often than not, a detective who literally does not have their own life beyond the mystery. Jennifer Lynn Barnes does the most awesome job at making the characters people who can actually exist in real life.

I have zero complaints for this book. It was breath-catching, beautiful, and just everything a mystery book for teens should be. Also, can we take second to talk about THAT COVER. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, yeah we get that, but this one is absolutely stunning. I can’t wait to read the sequel, I totally recommend this book; 10/10.