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Teen SRC 2020- The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos

The Girl They Left Behind - Veletzos, Roxanne

The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos is the most moving, heartbreaking and beautiful book I’ve read in a long time. Set in World War II Romania, the book tells the life story of two families joined despite war, boundaries, and suffering, by the daughter they share.

Natalia is four years old when the knock comes on her door. The police is here to arrest her father and take her and her mother away. It is only by sheer luck that the family runs away in the cover of the night. Fearing for their lives, and that of their daughter’s, Natalia’s parents have to make the worst decision of their lives. Leave Natalia behind, and give her the chance at a better life, breaking their own hearts in the process, or risk taking her with them, where death is an almost certain possibility.

Enter Despina and Anton. In every way except one, they are the perfect young couple. She is rich and gorgeous, he is charming and happy. But after four miscarriages, the sadness that hangs on Despina is too much for Anton to accept. At the orphanage, Despina and Anton are shocked to meet Natalia a silent, broken girl, and not the joyous bundle they expected. But something stirs deep inside her heart and Despina knows she needs Natalia’s love just as much as Natalia needs hers.

Despina, Anton, and Natalia’s story is told in gripping scenes and chapters, time passing as Natalia slowly grows up into a young woman. With the war ending, and the Soviets taking control, the family’s fortunes are reversed. They lose everything, and come close to losing each other. Victor, a young man Anton took under his wing years ago, returns later in the story as a powerful Communist leader. He becomes, even as they begin a secret affair, Natalia’s only chance at freedom.

With the devastation of war and the power of love, comes the pain of sacrifice. What will Natalia choose: staying with the only people she’s ever loved, in an ever-shrinking world, or leave behind everything to seek freedom, and answers to a past she thought buried?

Wow, okay, so the description went a little long (sorry! and believe me, there were no spoilers in it). The book itself includes so much more, and every bit of it is raw, and riveting. The passage of time was discreet, and well-written, and the subplots/ change in perspectives were amazing. The only thing I didn’t like in the book was the romance between Victor and Talia, and the fact that sometimes a scene would start in the middle, telling us what happened before instead of showing it. That glossed over some things should’ve been more important.

Anyway, the book shook me to my core. It made me cry, both from sorrow and happiness. Each character is complex, none of them perfect (having well-written characters in historical fiction is a must!!) The Girl They Left Behind matches to the likes of The Book Thief. 10/10, no regrets.

Teen SRC 2020 – This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavour - Oppel, Kenneth

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

In this prequel to Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein undertakes a dark journey that will shift his life into a new shape that no one predicts. Victor’s twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor is able to cure him even after performing drastic operations. Reluctant to let go his brother, Victor calls on his attractive cousin, Elizabeth, and best friend Henry on a hazardous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, perilous alchemy and a bitter, sour love triangle that threatens their quest at every turn. Victor knows he has no option of failing. But his victory depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science, love, and loyalty. Along the way he has to decide how much he is prepared to sacrifice, a piece of him, his love, or his own inseparable twin.

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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- The Boy in the Red Dress by Kristin Lambert

Title details for The Boy in the Red Dress by Kristin Lambert - Available

A murder mystery set in the late 1920s New Orleans with POC and LGBTQ representation. No, this is NOT. A. DRILL!!

It’s New Year’s Eve and Millie’s FINALLY been left in charge of her aunt’s speakeasy, the Cloak and Dagger for a night. She wants to show everyone she’s capable of managing things herself, but things go from bad to worse very quickly when a young rich girl is found dead, and her best friend Marion is the prime suspect. Millie knows that Marion couldn’t have killed the girl, even if she was waving around his picture before the show and asking too many questions. She also knows the police won’t hesitate to throw a boy like Marion behind bars, and that she needs to save him before they do.

The race to find the real killer and hide Marion from the police is Millie’s biggest priority but it gets complicated when Millie’s mom comes to live with her and her aunt again. Let’s just say they were never the best of pals, and being abandoned did nothing to improve Millie’s feelings. And that’s not to mention her love life. Who will win Millie’s heart: the witty and beautiful waitress Olive, or the charming, handsome bootlegger Bennie?

Mystery and historical fiction are my two absolute favourite genres. Combining them while weaving diversity, romance, and a complicated mother-daughter relationship into the story is no easy feat but Kristin Lambert makes it look it is. Millie is a sarcastic, spunky, and rash main character and she propels the story forward while her family and friends yell warnings from behind. There’s never a dull moment, and hilarious scenes at every corner.

The Boy in The Red Dress gets a 9/10, because although it was one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had in a long time, the mystery’s final result was a bit disappointing, and there was nothing deep about the novel that would have me thinking about it a long time after I’ve put it down. Strongly recommend if you enjoy the mystery and historical fiction genres!!

Teen SRC 2020 – Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray

Hey guys! I’ll be reviewing Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys today, a YA historical fiction book.

This story takes place during the Holocaust, in Lithuania, also known as the Baltic genocide. A 15-year-old girl, Lina Vilkas, is arrested alongside her mother, Elena, and her little brother, Jonas. They are shoved onto a train by the Soviet Secret Police (The NKVD) alongside many other Jews, heading towards a concentration camp. To document what is happening to her, Lina draws pictures detailing everything she goes through in hopes of later showing the world.

I really, really enjoyed this book. To be fair though, I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a historical fiction, it’s just an extremely good genre. I appreciate the effort Sepetys puts into researching each of her books and it really reflects when one reads them. This story is definitely not a light read and it will probably make you cry at some point but I would still recommend it to anyone. I think reading about the terrible things that have happened in history is a key part of never repeating it in the future, and if you happen to like reading, historical fiction is a great way to educate yourself.

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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 – 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 Book Review – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner - Hosseini, Khaled

I have returned from the dead to bring forth a review of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This book was recommended to me by a friend in passing conversation. I came upon it by chance at my school library, and decided to check it out. I devoured the book in a day, and do not regret the sleep I missed because of it. But, that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

Amir is the son of a wealthy merchant in Kabul, Afghanistan. His mother died giving birth to him, and he has continued to disappoint his father after the fact. His father wants a son that is into sports and one that can stand up for himself. Amir loves literature and is a self-proclaimed coward. Other than his unsteady father-son relationship, and his dead mother, Amir has everything going for him. Him and Hassan ( servant, best friend, and from the ethnic minority in Afghanistan) spend their days kite fighting.

Everything is perfect. Until the day it isn’t.

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TeenTober 2019 – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The first time I tried reading this book, I got to about page 7 before I gave up and returned it. My 12-year-old self just did not like the perspective the story was written from, she found it too boring and not action-filled enough. In Grade 9, I tried it again and now it’s one of my favourite books, ever.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak takes place during the Holocaust, centred around a girl named Liesel, who has just lost her brother and is now living with foster parents. What sets the story apart immediately is that it’s told from Death’s perspective, who meets Liesel just 3 times in her life but finds her incredibly intriguing. Liesel’s story is one of laughter and one of tears but it’s also one that everyone should read.

I would recommend The Book Thief to absolutely everyone and anyone. Although it’s definitely not a light read, you won’t regret taking some time to fully process it. This is one of those rare books that made me truly cry. Cry with tears streaming down. Death really does have a way with words… The plot, the world, the characters, everything is so well written that you just can’t help but fall in love with it all. The final rating is a 100000000000/10, read it and then comment on this post, we’ll cry together :’)

Teen SRC 2019- The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

The Pearl Thief - Wein, Elizabeth

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein is a mystery, historical fiction and romance novel all in one.

Before Verity, there was Julie. (The Pearl Thief is the prequel to Code Name Verity, a best-selling book by Elizabeth Wein which you should totally read right now if you haven’t 0_0 i’m serious) Julia Beaufort-Stuart comes home to her grandfather’s estate from boarding school, expecting one last summer of relaxation, of appreciating grandfather’s large estate grounds before it, and all of her grandfather’s possessions are sold off.

What she didn’t expect is waking up in the hospital her beautiful hair cut off because of an injury on her head that made her unconscious for almost three days. Julie is unsettled, especially when she starts to realize that her having hit her head might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees has disappeared, and the last day he was seen was the same day she was injured.

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