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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.

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 SRC 2021 – The Captive Kingdom by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Captive Kingdom (The Ascendance Series, Book 4) eBook : Nielsen,  Jennifer A.: Amazon.ca: Kindle Store

The Captive Kingdom by Jennifer A. Nielsen is the final installment of the Ascendance series. This story follows Jaron and his crew on sea, when he gets attacked be the Prozarians who are a people that were presumed to all be dead from the plague. Jaron soon found out about why they were being captured along with his long lost brother, who was also presumed to be dead.

By the time I read this book, I was a tad bit disappointed. Due to how Jaron acts, the story always follows the same route. It goes, something bad happens to Jaron, something bad happens to Imogen, Jaron pulls some slight of hand or mind trick, a miracle happens, and a good ending appears. I didn’t really like the book due to how predictable it was after reading three of the books beforehand. I would recommend this book to anyone who really loves the Ascendance series and wants closure for what happened to everyone.

Teen SRC 2021 – The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

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The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski follows Kestrel as a seventeen year old girl and a general’s daughter. Her destiny is already set for her; join the military or get married. However, her still naive mindset from being sheltered all her life, has different ideas and paths that could cause an avalanche of disasters. Each mistake takes the price of hundreds of lives, each choice comes with harsh consequences, and how much will it take for her grow out her shell and open her eyes to the cold, back stabbing world.

“But when you are faced with only two choices— the military or marriage—don’t you wonder if there is a third, or a fourth, or more, even, than that?”

The story is set in a world where war is at the edge of commencing, with rebellions standing up after the Valorians, white and fair, raided and overtook the land, enslaving the surviving Herrani, dark skinned and native to the land. Her less open minded friend dragged her out to a slave auction resulting in Kestrel impulsively buying Arin after learning about his ability to sing. This is one of the many choices her naive mind caused as she had made two mistakes here; buying a slave she has no need for making her engage in unnecessary problems, and buying him for a ridiculous price, thus the title “The Winner’s Curse.”

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Teen SRC 2021 – The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Series, Book 3): Nielsen, Jennifer A.:  8601420074835: Books - Amazon.ca

The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen is the third book of the Ascendance Series, following King Jaron, the king of Carthya. Avena, Gelyn, and Medenwal are waging war against Carthya, and Jaron knew that there was a spy in his ranks. To counter this, Jaron fakes an argument with his army captain to make the other countries think that they are disorganized, then they launched an infiltration attack on Avena. Jaron was captured, and the story follows his stories in there.

There were many close calls in the book along with exciting twists and tragic deaths. I loved this series due to its captivating language as well as the close attention to detail that is written in the book. I would recommend this book to the fans of The False Prince and The Runaway King.

Teen SRC 2020 – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451: A Novel: Bradbury, Ray: 8580001038919: Books ...

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury uses the genre of science fiction as a paragon for the author’s message, in which an unbridled oppressive government will damage its society by hindering the creativity and freedom of their people. The dystopian sub genre that outlines a futuristic technocratic and totalitarian society that demands order and harmony at the expense of individual rights is a meticulous representation of the novel. 

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Teen SRC 2020- The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

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The Chrysalids by John Wyndham has the author focusing on a variety of issues that individuals are constantly challenged with in life. The people of the fictional village of Waknuk have to struggle against constant prejudice, intolerance, and ignorance within their community. There is a constant theme of using faith as a source of control over the population, as the novel beckons its readers to understand how fear has the ability to shape and manipulate society.

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Teen SRC 2020 – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2nd Book in the Narnia Series) by C. S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Lewis, C. S.

The real world is boring; it’s dull, unimaginative and uninventive, so we create fantasies as a way to escape into a magical, different, unique world. We watch movies or plays to experience something more interesting than the harsh realities of everyday life, so we dream. Authors like C.S Lewis and J.K Rowling show us this gloomy world, and then beneath everything they give us something extraordinary. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, four rather ordinary children, Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy are about to take an exceptional adventure. When they come across a wardrobe, there is a path into a more interesting realm, in which they experience something spectacular.

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Teen SRC 2020 – Prince Caspian (4th book of the Narnia Series)

Prince Caspian - Lewis, C. S.

Prince Caspian by C.S Lewis has the Pevensie siblings spending a whole year dreaming about returning to Narnia. However, when they finally get pulled back into Narnia, they realize a very important thing, “Things never happen the same way twice.” They then discover time passes differently in Narnia, and that thousands of years had already passed and everyone they knew has passed on. Narnia has been corrupted by a cruel, cold blooded leader who killed his way to his spot, and now the children have to gather up the talking animal’s courage in order to fight back against the tyrant and have circumstances return to a peaceful state.

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