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Teen SRC 2020- A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder - Jackson, Holly

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson seemed like an interesting read (the cover is amazing, and i judged the book by it, fight me 😉 ). But then, the synopsis ended up disappointing me. It sounded like the book was a mash-up of literally every other YA murder mystery. We have our usual ‘good’ white girl protagonist, our suspect from a marginalized community, with a name like ‘Sal Singh’ to make it extra obvious. We have the popular/mean girl murder victim (Andie) and the lazy/racist reporter. Then, of course, Ravi. The younger brother of previously mentioned murderer that killed his girlfriend then himself (Sal Singh). Of course, Ravi is the cute but very reserved and intense love interest.

The first quarter of this book made me want to chuck it at a wall. But I kept going and… it improved. BY A LOT.

The characters stayed flat. Only Pippa (protag) had some sort of character arc, and even that was half-hearted. No, the only thing that redeemed this book was the mystery. It was SHOCKINGLY well-planned and thought out. I didn’t guess the murderer and wouldn’t have in a thousand years, but IT MADE SENSE.

The romance ended up growing on me, and the relationships between the characters are okay. I don’t have much else to say, so the rating: 8/10. Boring and stereotyped characters, but BRILLIANT mystery. Enjoyable, and suspenseful, but seriously– too many cliches.

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 – The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

The Downstairs Girl

A historical fiction mystery with a witty protagonist not afraid to speak her mind. You can’t go wrong with a book like this, but adding proper POC representation, unconventional family troubles, and career goals is just icing on the cake.

Introducing: Jo Kuan. She lives with her stand-in father, Old Gin, in the basement of a print shop, in 1890’s Atlanta. Having just been fired from a millinery (apparently customers are uncomfortable with her directness. Or maybe it’s her Chinese features. Probably both.) Jo has no choice but to take up position once again as a maid for Caroline Payne, the downright cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the city. If memory serves right, Jo is going to have her work cut out for her, especially now that she’s started anonymously penning the column “Miss Sweetie.” She started the column so that the newspaper shop (also secretly serving as her home) can stay in business.

But as each article starts voicing more and more progressive ideas, the elite of Atlanta pick up pitchforks. How could someone so openly write against segregation, encourage women to ride the bicycle, and–gasp!– promote a future for women that ISN’T marriage? Jo knows that if Miss Sweetie is unmasked as a Chinese commoner, it could mean her life. But having had a taste of the freedom words can give, Jo isn’t ready to give up so easily.

I absolutely adored this book. The summary I (tried to) give above is just a fraction of the plot, all of which is completely riveting. Stacey Lee’s writing style is unique, and honestly, at first, I didn’t know what to think about it. The funny expressions grew on me, though, and I ended up loving her style. Don’t let the cover put you off (the potential wasted on portrait covers is a hill I will die on)– this book is worth a read.

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 – Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1) by Leigh Bardugo

“No mourners. No funerals. Among them, it passed for ‘good luck.'” – Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo blew my mind. Honestly, I was a bit weary when I first picked up this novel. It’s a well-known book, and I’ve seen it everywhere- from my local library to my school library, it was always at the front of the bookshelf. At this point, so many people were talking about it. However, I was still a little suspicious because I usually don’t enjoy fantasy novels (totally just a lack of imagination on my part). Still, I decided to give it a read after all the big talk, and I don’t regret it at all.

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Teen SRC 2020 – Legend by Marie Lu

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“Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time.” – Marie Lu, Legend

Legend by Marie Lu is possibly one of my favourite books of all time. Honestly, I’m quite a sucker for dystopian novels because the rush I get when I’m reading is so wild. The pace that Marie Lu sets for this book is exhilarating, and there are no dull moments in this book.

This story is told through two POVs between Day (Daniel Altan) Wing and June Iparis. Day is an infamous criminal who’s on the run from Republic officials with the help of his friend, Tess. At the same time, June is a prodigy, recently graduated from a Republic academy (although she’s had a good share of rulebreaking herself). When June is set on a mission to hunt down Day, they end up colliding, and everything starts to unfold as they find out their real enemies and underlying secrets.

I enjoyed this novel because the action and the plot twists were invigorating. Every time I thought I had something figured out, something just had to go wrong. I had my breath held the entire way through because of how fast-paced it was (which I love), and I couldn’t put the book down until I reached the end.

However, I felt like there were still pieces missing. I would’ve liked some more details about the world revolving around them. I had so many questions about their surroundings that were left unanswered. I also would’ve liked more time spent on Day and June’s chemistry. It felt rushed, and I wanted to see more development between them.

Lastly, I just want to put it out there that Tess and Day have the most intriguing friendship ever. Their friendship is so well developed to the point where it felt like they were siblings. The way that they cared for each other is a dream most people have, and they were always there for each other. Their backstory was so heartwarming, and it helped me realize how much time it takes to develop sincere trust. I feel like side characters don’t usually get the same amount of admiration as main characters do, which is quite a bummer- but I don’t see how anyone could not adore Tess!

All in all, this novel was an astonishing read, and I would definitely recommend it. My rating for this novel is an 8.5/10 because there were some missing pieces to the story that I would’ve enjoyed seeing.

Till next time,

Max.

Teen SRC 2020 – The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

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The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

A science fiction novel with a hint of romance? Sign me up! Throughout this novel, you will be lead through a roller coaster of wild emotions; it can range from excitement to absolute terror. There won’t be a single feeling of disappointment with this book, because every page will have you reeling on the edge of your seat.

On the day of Ruby’s tenth birthday, she sent to a rehabilitation camp called Thurmond. Why? She had obtained a peculiar disease that killed the majority of the children in America. Locking children up in a camp because of a “disease”?! That sounds crazy, doesn’t it? It almost seems as if the government is… scared of them. Now at the age of sixteen, the truth about Ruby’s abilities are revealed… and she barely makes it out alive. On the run, she meets three other kids who also escaped. They then start their journey to a safe haven called the East River- where supposedly, there are kids just like them. But as they continue their journey, Ruby will be faced with a decision that will determine her future.

“Just one more page!!” I cannot stress this enough, but that sentence is almost never true (unless you somehow have amazing control over yourself.) I thought that this book was absolutely phenomenal. I’ve read many sci-fi novels, but this one was so unprecedented that I ended up reading until the sun came up. The relationships built between the characters were so wholesome and there were times where I needed a moment to collect myself before I could continue reading. This book has single-handedly made me cry and laugh so much- sometimes, even at the same time. Ruby is such a sweet girl and reading from her POV was astounding because it showed how selfless she was. I would, without hesitation, give this book a 10/10. 

Thanks for taking time to read my review!:)

Till next time,

Max

Teen SRC 2020 – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

 

Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Off the Shelf

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is about a young girl known as Liesel Meminger who grows up in Germany amidst World War II who lives with her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Throughout the story, Liesel steals various pieces of literature, even though she is oblivious to what the words and paragraphs within them mean and how to read them. At first, she doesn’t even know how to comprehend the words and letters within the books, but she knows that the books themselves hold significant values and ideas. Hans notices and teaches her how to make sense of the letters, in which Liesel slowly progresses in her journey to become a more literate person. Eventually, Liesel realizes that Hans and Rosa are secretly in defiance with the Nazi regime by hiding a Jewish boy known as Max in their basement. 

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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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Teen SRC 2020- Most Likely by Sarah Watson

Most Likely

Most Likely by Sarah Watson can be described as a most interestingly structured coming-of-age story about four girls and their friendship. So, you ask, what’s so interesting about the book’s structure?

Well, the story begins with a scene, as follows: A newly-elected (female!) American president is about to be sworn in to office. Her husband (who’s last name is Diffendefer or something like that) is there by her side. It is also revealed that her husband and her are deeply in love and have been for a long time. The catch? We don’t know her name. Since there are four protagonists in the story, she could be any one of them. Throughout the book, we are given clues to help us guess which of our female leads becomes the future president of America (and ends up marrying Diffendefer).

And of course, while the reader plays with the idea of guessing/choosing a president, the four girls -Ava, CJ, Jordan, and Martha- are each going through their own battle in the war more commonly known as senior year in high school.

So. What did I think of the book?

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