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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 – They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

They Wish They Were Us - Goodman, Jessica

Another YA mystery set at a prestigious boarding school! I seem to have a soft spot for those. Anyway, I had high hopes for this book because wow, what a cover. They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman gets a 7/10 because while I enjoyed the setting, and smaller details, the mystery just didn’t deliver.

They Wish They Were Us is about a group of elite students at Blackbrook Prep, called the Players. Being the elite of the elite means good grades, better parties, and the best drama. But it all comes at a cost. No one knows this better than Jill Newman, whose best friend was killed by her boyfriend during Player initiation. That’s all done and dusted, though, because it’s three years later and Jill is going to make the most of her senior year. But then she gets a text message, questioning what happened the day she became a Player… and when Jill looks deeper, she realizes not everything is as it seems.

There is a lot of your typical YA stuff in this book, like partying, pulling pranks and drinking…most of it I don’t enjoy nor find realistic. The only thing I feel this book did better than any other YA mystery is the character relationships which are complex and go deeper than labels. I also liked the premise of a boarding school with its unjust hierarchy system, as well as how Jill’s financial struggles played into the story. Still, like I said before, the mystery was too predictable and got frustrating as the book dragged on.

Overall, I would recommend this book as a contemporary drama/coming of age more so than a mystery. It’s fun, shocking and you’ll enjoy the character relationships in spite of the lukewarm plot. 7/10

Teen Book Review – I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

I Am the Messanger

TL; DR 8.5/10 only because it’s not my style of book (like The Book Thief was), but do give it a read just in case it is yours.

I’ll be honest and say that I only started I Am The Messenger because Markus Zusak is the one that wrote The Book Thief. I wasn’t expecting the books to be completely alike, but considering they have the same author, I did expect some similarity. In that regard, I was disappointed.

I Am The Messenger is very different from The Book Thief. The Book Thief’s beauty is apparent and classy, it’s like a stunning painting on the wall. I Am The Messenger has beauty, too, but it’s inconspicuous and not obvious at all. To continue my metaphor, if the Book Thief is a revered masterpiece, I Am The Messenger is a patch of graffiti, but like… talented graffiti.

Awkward metaphors aside, here’s the disclaimer: DO NOT PICK THIS BOOK UP EXPECTING “THE BOOK THIEF” 2.0

Now that we’ve got that settled… Ed Kennedy is the main character in this book. He is an underage cab driver, hobbyist card player, and completely in love with his best friend Audrey. He lives in a shack (his words, not mine) with the Doorman (foul-smelling but beloved dog). In other words, Ed Kennedy is a deadbeat at the ripe old age of 19.

But then Ed Kennedy stops a robbery. Which isn’t much of a feat, really, since the bank robber was almost as incompetent as Ed himself, but it does end up changing his life. Because that’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.

On the cards, there are simple codes. Sometimes addresses, sometimes the names of movies or places… but the goal is obvious, at times even simple. Ed has to make an impact. Doing good (or bad when needed) Ed becomes the Messenger.

The question remains… who is behind Ed’s mission?.

My review, finally: This book is the kind of good that slaps you in the face five pages from the ending. There are pieces of gold comedy in there– it made me laugh out loud. There are also some very ugly scenes, scenes that are uncomfortable and seem to serve no purpose than making the reader insane. But like I said, it’s really good. (I can think of no other way to describe it, sorry!!) The romance is shockingly well-written, and doesn’t take up too much of the book, which is always a plus. I’d definitely recommend it, but with some pointers: you’ll be confused. You’ll want to stop reading, and send an email to the author involving a lot of question marks. You’ll wonder at the slang. But at the end, if you stick with it, you’ll appreciate it for the gem it is, and the message (pun intended) it carries.

Teen SRC 2020- The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager - Philippe, Ben

When I first started reading The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe, I didn’t expect much from it. I was wrong. So, so, so wrong. It’s an amazing book but before I start telling you exactly why, let me tell you what it’s about.

Norris Kaplan is a Black kid from Montreal and he is moving to Austin, Texas. Being an only child of divorced parents, living with his dad’s new family is not an option. And Judith (immigrant, professor, all-around cool mom), doesn’t have many options when it comes to a job. So Texas it is. Norris knows he will hate it. If you ignore the fact that it is TEXAS we’re talking about (and the tiny little detail of Norris’s skin colour), there’s the heat, the lack of hockey, and perhaps even more glaring than the Texas sun, his lack of friends.

Norris promises his mom that he will try. And trying means reigning in his sarcastic and often caustic tongue, limiting his thoughts to the pages of his counsellor-given notebook. Enter: Maddie, kind (?) cheerleader, Liam, budding hockey enthusiast (rich, too), Aarti, beautiful and witty photographer (Norris is in love). Even Patrick “Hairy Armpits”, school bully, is given a chance in Norris’s new Texan life.

But then things start to go awry (see: Norris’s inability to keep his mouth shut and general tendency to be a jerk) and soon he has as many enemies as friends. Seems like his sweat glands had the right idea… Texas isn’t the right place for him and might never be.

I know what you’re thinking. This is just another new-kid-finds-his-tribe type of book. And it is, (kind of), but not so cliched. (arrogant Black French Canadian protagonist might have given that away.) There are the usual party scenes, and quirky date scenes, of course, but there are also other more poignant plot lines. Norris’s relationship with his parents, for example, the complexity of which I loved. There’s also discussions about depression, racism, and what it means to be yourself. Best of all, there’s no preachiness in the book, or lines stolen from a therapy/parenting book. The characters feel real, and they act like real, flawed teenagers. The wittiness of the dialogue alone is a feat. Norris’s character development is WONDERFUL and gosh, this book really is a feel-good story that will break your heart and make it whole again.

Alas, I am but a judgemental critic and The Field Guide to the North American Teenager gets a mark shy of a 100: 9/10. Why? The chapter headings (you’ll have to read the book to understand) were off-putting and a hassle. There were also some stereotypes in the book I could have done without (see: Indian girl with strict parents, Black absentee dad) but the plot lines did okay with them in the end.

Overall, this is a book I would recommend to everyone, and if you’re looking for your next read, you’ve just found it. (P.S. Isn’t the cover just GORGEOUS?)

Teen SRC 2020- Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Dry

Living in a time where dystopian books are common and overdone (the more apocalyptic and doomsday-ish, the better) it’s truly rare to find a book that will leave you with chills running down your spine. Dry, by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman does exactly that.

The idea behind this book is also unusual but not entirely unimaginable; what if the taps were to suddenly go dry? What if there was no more running water, and what if everyone around you suddenly became a thirsty water-zombie that would stop at nothing to get a few drops of the stuff? I know what you’re thinking. No running water, the end of the world, and ZOMBIES? Not another apocalypse book!

And while I don’t consider myself an expert on sci-fi or dystopian novels (not really my genre), I think this book did some things differently that changed it from an overused cliche doomsday book to something special.

First: This novel is narrated by a multiple person perspective. The first few characters stuck throughout the story, but others were just here to offer ‘snapshots’. I found it interesting because we didn’t just see what the Tap-Out meant for Alyssa, Kelton and their friends but for a whole host of different people. Living the apocalypse isn’t really fun when you don’t get the whole experience, am I right?

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Teen SRC 2020 – The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner - Dashner, James

In the Maze Runner, by James Dashner, Thomas wakes up in the Glade with no memory of his past just like everyone else. The only thing they all remember is their name. Glade is filled with boys his age, with some who already been here for 2 years.

They all contribute in order to keep everyone alive; they raise livestock, grow food, build, etc. and the most crucial and dangerous job, the runners. The runners spend everyday running in the giant maze surrounding Glade, attempting to solve it and escape. Every night the doors close, and no one can get out or in.

However, this all spins out of control only a day after Thomas arrived. They had the first girl to arrive, she came a day after Thomas which is peculiar as the for the last 2 years only one child arrives every 1 month, the “controllers” had stopped sending supplies, and those who had “changed” all suspect Thomas of something Wicked.

I liked this book so much I finished it in one day. To see all as the plot unfolds, and have the secrets and answers come out. When I first started, the first couple chapters were so confusing as they spoke in “glader slang”. But as I continued it all started to make sense. I loved the plot and the story but I hated the ending. I would rate it 8/10 and definitely recommend it.

Teen SRC 2020- Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything - Yoon, Nicola

I enjoyed Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon because it sounds a little bit like Rapunzel from Tangled, It’s Maddy’s birthday and she wants a change because she’s been trapped in her home all her life. A difference that I discovered is that Maddy is trapped because of a disease and not an evil witch. Something amazing happened at the end but I won’t give spoilers. I fully recommend this book if you are interested in romance.

Teen SRC 2020 – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give eBook: Thomas, Angie: Amazon.ca: Kindle Store

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas features Starr Carter, an African American teenager who sees her childhood best friend, Khalil Harris, being shot and killed by a police officer after a routine traffic stop escalates into Khalil’s untimely demise. Starr is then forced to decide whether she will adhere to the unspoken laws of her local neighborhood and stay silent about the injustice she had witnessed, or testify in front of a grand jury and join an ongoing movement to end racist/xenophobic violence and police misconduct in communities across her area.

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Teen SRC 2020- Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence

The year is 1957, and Spain is under the iron-fist rule of General Francisco Franco. Daniel Matheson, a Texan teen, is visiting Spain with his family. With his passion for photography, he hopes to take the perfect picture for his portfolio, a picture that will also somehow convince his dad to let him pursue his dreams.

But Spain isn’t the perfect tropical paradise it seems for its American tourists and soon, Daniel finds himself falling– for his maid, Ana, and for the secrets some people would do anything to keep buried. Ana herself is enchanted by the American freedom promised by the hotel magazines. She dreams for a life for herself and her family away from Franco’s tyrannical rule.

Daniel and Ana are the main characters, but we are also given glimpses into other people’s lives. For example: Julia, who is Ana’s older sister, and a new mother, is drowning in secrets and fear. Her brother, Rafael, who works both at a slaughterhouse and a cemetery is fighting with the past and his memories. Fuga, Rafael’s friend wants to bullfight more than anything, and Daniel’s mother is struggling to find out where she belongs.

As any Ruta Sepetys book, Fountains of Silence is as rich in history as it is in humanity. This book brought to light an injustice often overlooked in history: Spanish babies were stolen from their families, proclaimed dead, but instead given to other families of a higher creed. I loved the historical accuracy of the book, but sometimes grew bored with the many first-hand documents.

A beautiful romance, a suspenseful historical fiction, and everything I search for in a novel. 9.5/10, only because I didn’t like the large skip in time (it throws me off) and some parts felt dragged on. Otherwise, STRONGLY RECOMMEND!!

Teen SRC 2020 – Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl Book Spoilers | POPSUGAR Entertainment

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli is a renowned and critically acclaimed young adult novel which was published in August 2000. Like many of Spinelli’s other young adult novels, Stargirl deals with issues of conformity versus individuality, leaving the novel to resonate with various demographics from young adults to adult educators alike.

    Leo Borlock is an eleventh grader who would like nothing more than to conform within his stereotypical high school environment. However, Leo and the rest of Mica high school become torn away from their conventional existence by the arrival of Stargirl Caraway, a defiant and eccentric student who has been homeschooled her entire life and is now attending high school for the first time.  In the first half of the school year, Leo observes Stargirl’s abnormal actions and how his classmates react to her strange lifestyle.  At first, the students are suspicious of Stargirl’s eccentric nature and are hesitant to socialize with her. As the story progresses, some of the students are influenced by Stargirl’s individuality and become more open-minded themselves.

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