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YA Book Reviews

All posts include:

Bibliographic citation with APA format, the cover of the book, a brief summary, and a personal response (includes connections to literature elements and themes). Posts will also include other books related to the theme of the specific book, strengths and weaknesses, recommended audiences, as well as links to book trailers and other URLs that might be of interest.

*Reviews for books 1-8 are on my blog feed.

Book Review 9: “A Great and Terrible Beauty” by Libba Bray

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Summary: “A Great and Terrible Beauty” by Libba Bray: Out of the books I have read so far, I think I enjoyed this one the most. This is probably because it is more fantastical/paranormal than the others. So here goes: Our main character, Gemma, lives in a time many many years before ours (1895) and has started having visions. Her very first vision comes just before her mother commits suicide. Thereafter, Gemma is forced to go to a type of boarding school where they are trained to be real ladies suited for marriage. Here, Gemma meets Pipper, as well as other girls who make a tight inner circle. Together, they learn about Mary, a girl from the past, who had a very dark secret. Gemma continues to have her visions, and soon finds that they link her to another world full of power and danger.

Reflection: This book did not properly end. I suppose that’s why there are two other books. It stopped 2/3rds through with a rushed book-mark-type of ending. For this reason, even though that is not cool, I’d like to read the other two to see how the story is resolved. I enjoyed the dynamics between the girls and their competitiveness to be in the “in-crowd.” I also enjoyed the roundness of the characters; they weren’t flat, which helps readers to have a more vicarious reading experience. There is a very down-to-earth teacher in the story who reminds me of that one person destined to positively impact a student’s life, as well as Gemma’s occasional note about the role of women that was interesting. Lastly, I absolutely enjoyed the audio version of this as the one reading made the dialect and tone completely come alive. It was gorgeous.

Ages: Middle school and high school library. I think both groups of students would enjoy it, but that it does lend itself towards high school a bit more in the fact that the characters is a bit older and readying for marriage.

What lasts: This is a timeless story that transcends through the ages; it is relatable and you genuinely begin to feel for each character, which helps generate empathy. I will continue to look for these kind of stories – one’s that relatable and that reflects the inner desires of the young, as well as societal boundaries put upon them.

Stars 4.5 out of 5.

Here is her FAQ page that looks highly entertaining as well as informative.

#amreading #libbabray #books #ya

Book Review 10: “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi

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Doust thou likest graphic novels? En esta es para tu. Okay, so I never did get that Spanish degree…. not that this has anything to do with Spanish.

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Summary: Marji is a very young girl learning about the terror, rebels, and leadership that affects their political system. Her entire life is focused on her relationship with God and being a prophet. As she grows, she struggles to understand why people believe so strongly in someone only to change their minds. She tries to understand the distinct differences in revenge and forgiveness. Her everyday life is full of stories about men going to prison for their beliefs. This affects not only her growing beliefs and thoughts on how and what to believe, as well as how she interacts with others. As her life continues to change and she is introduced to more violence, her relationship with God slowly begins to change.

Reflection: I’m not really a fan of this book. The reason for that is simply that I wasn’t engaged. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not an important book. This book does a good job of teaching others about a life that is vastly different than their own. It also does a good job in teaching empathy to others. I like it for that. I think it’s important to have educational books available to us and that memoirs do an exceptional job at teaching us.

Age group: I think high school students would be most appreciative of the book, while younger one’s might read it due to the variety of images which tell a story in themselves.

Here is an interesting article conducted by Emma Watson (former Hermione on Harry Potter).

Here is a review you might find interesting, as well.

Book Review 11: “Ask the Passengers” by A.S. King

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Summary: Our main character is Astrid Jones, a girl who has moved to a small town. She has an ordinary job deveining shrimp and goes to a school where rumors spread like wild-fire. Her dad is stoned all of the time and her mom is controlling and shows preferential treatment to her sister, Ellis. There seems to be a lack of love, and to make up for it, Astrid takes refuge in lying on a picnic table and sending it up to the passengers that fly over. And just when she thinks she might have found love, it just so happens to be with the wrong person, or gender. Astrid has to cope with her budding sexuality, the biases towards it, and her parents lack of love.

Response: The motif of this book was love, as well as paradoxes. The author wanted to show her readers through her characters how to think – by questioning that which they already take for granted as common sense. Astrid alludes to Socrates a lot and learns the greatest lesson from him: which is not being willing to be defined; not being put in a box. Her main conflict is coming to terms with being accepted for who she is and that doesn’t necessarily mean she fits into a one-size fits all box. This book will definitely teach readers empathy as well as make them consider morality as they know it. While I don’t identify with having feelings for the same sex, I identified with how Astrid mentally handled overwhelming worries. She says, “I turn up the music to block out the sound of my own thoughts,” (King, pg. 217) when she’s driving. I’ve done this on the way home from work and have often wished I could turn my own thoughts off. It’s easy to say that this book delivers empathy, vicarious experiences, and philosophical/moral questions.

Strengths: Capturing the mind of a girl who is truly struggling with an internal dilemma.

Cons: The parents are pretty absent in Astrid’s life and don’t identify with any kind of belief or moral system, as some still do. This book is not the norm for all, but for a lot, I’m sure.

Audience: high school book shelves. Ages 14 and up.

Related books: “Annie on My Mind,” by Nancy Garden – I will be reading and reviewing this next.

Relevant links: Check out Kings website to find a list of more books by here.

A visual review, not by me: Enjoy.

#ala #bookreviews #yabookreviews #yabooks

Book Review 12: “Annie on My Mind” by Nancy Garden

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Summary: Liza is an ordinary girl who happens to like going to museums. She also attends a private school. One day, she meets a girl named Annie at the museum who can sing beautifully. Together, they engage in role play as old knights and ladies. Their little episode leads them to slowly but surely becoming friends. Meanwhile, Liza, who attends a separate school than Annie, fails to tattle on her friend who is piercing other girls’ ears in the restroom. As a result, she is under scrutiny from Mrs. Poindexter, the principal, of sorts. Meanwhile, she is slowly finding that during her everyday life that it is becoming more and more difficult to not think of Annie. Annie, seems to feel the same way, even though she does hold back a little bit more due to her home-life. While her family isn’t aware of her feelings, they are supportive of her but struggle financially. Well, this is a book that explores homosexuality. And, as a book that I am required to read, I can tell you that Annie and Liza continue to explore their relationship, even to the point of getting caught and having to deal with the repercussions of a society that does not accept it in the least, despite their stated open-mindedness.

Response: Spoilers ahead: This is a book where the characters aren’t totally sure what’s happening to them other than the fact that they have strong feelings for one another that intensifies. When the physical connect becomes too strong, they have to face their fears and understanding of societal and moral boundaries. While this book certainly addresses those against it, it doesn’t go into depth as to why they really feel that way other than to use some cliche response of people who are often called bigots. I don’t totally agree with the use of those against lesbians in this book, as they are not all mean and see it as something utterly disgusting. For example, while I am against it, I still know how to love and respect others with truth, without being hateful and harming them. This book was very one-sided in that respect. However, for those in the book who were for it, they did a good job at showing understanding of a person’s feelings, even if they are feelings that they can’t justify other than knowing that they really feel love for the person in their lives. The book was published in 1982, which would explain why it had so much more telling than showing. However, it helps readers to understand people who have feelings for the same sex, although I felt like the sub-plot, of raising money for a school about to be shut down was arbitrary, other than the fact that it had two homosexual teachers in it. The theme of this book is choosing love over ignorance, and while it does touch on some moral quandaries, it never really does say why love prevails over morality. The reoccurring symbol of knowledge in this book is books, as seen in the two teachers house, as well as the idea of educating yourself over a topic. It seems that the girls do this at some point, but we’re never really told just what they read and it isn’t really discussed. This book has good reviews for aiding the LGBT community, but I feel that if it were written in this decade that the writing and story itself would be more compelling. I did appreciate what her father said here, “You’re my daughter,” he said again, “I love you. That’s the main thing, Liza, always,” (Garden, pg. 190). Just because it is not morally right, doesn’t mean that we cannot still show love. That’s my honest review.

Audience: high school library, ages 15 and up for the fact that it seems to say: do what feels right, instead of what is right, which I disagree with. I know that morality and right and wrong are subjective, but I feel that a person should have a strong sense of what is right and wrong, moral and not, before doing what feels right.

Links: Here is the link for her “about me” page.

Book Review 13: “Sisters” by Raina Telgemeier

Summary: I listened to this on YouTube by Cute Little Bookworm LPS. The young girl in this video both read the story aloud as well as showed each page that she read. It was enjoyable to see a young person take such an interest in this book, enough so that she felt inspired to share it with others. This story is about a young girl who wants a younger sister to play with. When she finally gets a sister, she finds that it wasn’t quite what she expected. And then, she gets a little brother. What she was hoping would be someone to play with her, but their age gaps prove to make that impossible, as they each have different needs and want different things. Meanwhile, they live in a small space with a growing family. Together, they get to see what it’s like to share rooms, experience each others pets, and travel together to go see family.

This is a Will Eisner award winner.

My Response: I think kids would really enjoy this book so that they can identify with the characters in the story. The theme of this book is about the growing pains of siblings. In this story, the sisters have to learn to put up with one another as they grow up and experience difference stages of their lives. When they reach their family in Colorado, the girls find that they still can’t relate with one another, or even their older cousins who they once looked up to. With this said, the sisters still choose not to hang out together, because they know it’s just because they still don’t fit in with the others. On the family ride back home, with a loose snake in the car, the sisters finally have their moment to bond and give each other something the other wants. The story addressed a potential separation/divorce in the story, but left this unresolved. This book has a lot of imagery, as it is a graphic novel, and captures a lot of detail, as well as onomatopoeia. There is a lot of yelling by the girls, which is typical of teen sisters. This book is great for young students/readers who want to learn about their own relationships with their siblings/family, as well as students who enjoy visuals to aid their reading.

Audience: Middle grade libraries, ages 8-14.

Links: Here is the link to many other graphic novels by Raina.

#sisters #rainatelgemeier #graphicnovels #audiobooks

Book Review 14: “Saints” by Gene Luen Yang – a Graphic Novel

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Summary: Four-girl is a young girl who lives in a small village that is anti-Christian. She, unlike her three other siblings, survived, and for some reason, instead of being joyful, her grandfather hates her for this, as he claims that he’s seen too much death. He calls her a devil (Yang, pg. 9) and because of this, Four-girl (being the fourth baby) decides to become the best devil there is. She comes across others speaking about foreign devils; Christians, and wants to learn to be one of them, not understanding in the least what this means. So, she finds a man and his wife who are excited to teach her how to be a Christian. Meanwhile, she’s really just trying to get back at all of those in her family who have shunned her. Oddly, she meets a raccoon who seems devilish himself, and urges her to be as horrible as possible.  Throughout the story, we see her year after year as she slowly changes. Meanwhile, the tension is getting stronger between the Christians and those who look to destroy them. This is a book from the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten list.

My Response: Spoilers: Four-girl runs away with her teacher to a Christian village and takes on the new name, Vibiana. She also has visions of a martyr, Joan. Throughout the novel, Vibiana tries to determine what the will of God is for her, as she later becomes a Christian in the story. She takes heart from Joan and from a guy at the village that she had flutterings for, who was a murderer in the past and decides to become a female warrior to protect the Christians in her camp who are under threat. At the very end, an invasion takes place, killing many. Vibiana is told to renounce her faith, but instead she leaves her attacker with a prayer, and is killed. In the end, Vibiana is a martyr herself. I fully enjoyed this book, as there were several moments where I laughed out-loud, and others where I’m sure my face was crinkled in deep thought. This graphic novel really deals with coming of age as well as becoming a person who can morally think for themselves. This book allows for others to live vacariously through Vibiana; those who are also trying to figure out their purpose in life. The ending, however, made a big statement about life, about how everyone believes they are important and meant to make a difference but life is cruel, and while people think better is to come, they never get it; they die. It shows the harsh reality of life. Now, at least I’m pretty sure Vibiana died, because it was the last page before the Epilogue – the reason I might be a tad unsure is because the book had a few loose pages.

Audience: middle and high school libraries. Ages: 11- and up.

Links: Website plus a page for books and comics.

Another neat visual book review. Enjoy!

#geneluenyang #graphicnovels #bookreviews #yabooks #middlegradebooks

Book Review 15: “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard

So this book is pretty awesome.

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Summary: This book is about a girl named Mare who lives in what would appear to be an alternate world much like our own. There are Reds and Silvers; two different classes of people. The Reds have red blood and the Silvers have silver blood, as well as very unique powers, such as invisibility, mind control, and fire. Mare is a poor girl who picks-pockets and tries to survive. She doesn’t have a job and will soon be sent off to war, just like her friend, Kilorn. In an attempt to save her friend from being sent off to war, she tries to steal enough money (a fortune, really) to have him secretly sent away. Only, her plans go awry when she finds herself working for the King. It isn’t long at all when she finds that she is just as powerful as the Silvers are, possessing power over lightening. To cover up the fact that she has red blood with Silver powers, she is betrothed to Maven, though she is beginning to have feelings for Cal – both of whom are princes. With rebels trying to rise up, Mare joins them only to find that Maven is also on their side. This book is an ALA Quick Picks Top Ten recipient, as well. This is a book from the Quick Picks Top Ten List.

My Response: Spoilers. Turns out Maven isn’t on their side. I love this kind of story; where our government and powers are questioned. I also like when the readers, as well as characters are tricked. There is also a love triangle, and I’m honestly wanting Cal to win out. This book has very poetic language, a lot of conflict, and plot twists. Books like this are great for youth who want to live vicariously through a character who stands up to difficult situations around them, especially when it seems difficult to do so in the real-world. I love fantasy books like this. The difference between books like this and realistic fiction as that YA realistic fiction seems to address concerns such as poverty and sexuality in a more realistic and relevant way. However, fantasy done right can do the very same thing, often with more rewarding outcomes. Can’t wait to read it’s sequel. The writing is sharp and the imagery is beautiful and very visual; “Red as the dawn…Rise,” Aveyard, pg. 50).

Audience: middle and high school library. Ages 10 and up.

Links: Here is the link to her website. Victoria is very down-to-earth and a great author to follow.

Also, here is a very enthusiastic review that you might enjoy watching.

#victoriaaveyard #redqueen #yabooks #bookreviews

Book Review 16: “The Iron Trial” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

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I love middle grade fantasy books. In fact, that’s what I’m hoping to publish by the end of May, 2018. It makes sense, then, that I would enjoy this ALA Quick Picks Top Ten book that focuses on magic and growing into one’s self.

Summary: Callum is a young boy who is known for making trouble and giving smart-alec remarks to teachers. He lives with his dad and suffers from the loss of his mother. There is a Magisterium and they are holding trials to see who will be accepted and trained as a mage. Callum’s father does not want Cal to be trained in magic and encourages him to fail the tests. Despite his best efforts, though, Cal is chosen and leaves his father to go train. Together, he trains with Aaron and Tamara. At first their training is boring, as all they do is sort sand. He deals with a leg that holds him back and gives others a reason to taunt him. Despite this, he learns magic and begins to make friends just when you start to think he won’t. This is a book from the Quick Picks Top Ten List.

My Response: Spoilers. It has been compared to Harry Potter, but the world is vastly different. I really enjoyed the lizard, Warren. Bringing animals and such alive are really fantastical and a joy.  Towards the middle of the book, his dad sends a letter to the school asking that they bind Cal’s magic, as seen here, “You must bind Callum’s magic before the end of the year” (Black, Clare, pg. 139). That would be very intriguing and hard to understand. I like how the book starts out with Cal being denied full access to his magic, as most teens are denied most privileges of adulthood. The revoking of privileges, or rights, as also reflected by Cal’s dad trying to bind his magic. Obviously this lends itself to mystery, but it also reflects what youth face today and resonates with readers. The twist at the end of the book reminded me of Lord Voldemort and lived off of Professor Quirrell as well as being the last Horcrux in Harry Potter. The fact that Cal has a part of The Enemy in him is super neat, but not too original. It was neat, too, how he had a messed up leg in that there are flaws in every person, and this too, resonates with readers. Also, the magic is very original, even going so far as to list it’s rules, such as, “Power comes from imbalance; control comes from balance,” (Clare, Black, pg. 83), which makes this story very immersive.

Audience: Middle and high school libraries. Ages 10 and up.

Links: Here is a link to writing advice from Cassandra Clare.

Book Review 17: “Lily and Dunkin” by Donna Gephart

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Summary: This story is about a boy named Tim and another boy named Norbert who likes to be called Dunkin. Both of them have their separate secrets. Tim secretly longs to be a girl, while Dunkin is dealing with Bipolar Disorder. Tim, who wants to go by the name, Lily, is bullied, and has a hard time finding acceptance between school and his dad. His mother and sister accept him, but his 8th grade year presents various challenges. He seeks consoling by a tree that reminds him of his grandpa, as his friend Dare, tries to make him accept who he is. The two boys are drawn to one another, but due to peer pressure, Dunkin stays away despite wanting to befriend him. Tim, aka, Lily, must learn to let go of his past, as does his friend, Dunkin. Dunkin goes through various psychotic breaks and tries to be someone he’s not by not taking his meds and trying to fit in with the ‘in’ crowd. Only, this doesn’t last long before he has to come to terms with his disorder and grief.

Response: The book describes the agony and inner-turmoil for teens trying to discover who they are as they attempt to be accepted by their peers and society. It addresses the common parental denial and frustration with their teens going against the norm. It also addresses bullying by those who are unfamiliar with difference, presenting prejudice due to a lack of not understanding. This book helps readers who are in the norm, develop empathy to those who are different from them by understanding the importance of accepting others’ uniqueness, as well as readers who are different, by understanding that it is healthy to accept yourself for who you are, rather than repress differences and risk devastation, such as suicide. You can see how Tim; Lily has already internalized who she is here: “Yes,” I say, feeling both terrified and brave at the same time. “I was wearing my mom’s dress when you saw me this morning.” Good girl, Lily. Now tell him why” (Gephart pg. 43). Now she just has to come to terms accepting it outwardly. Each boy also comes to face their past: Dunkin must accept that his dad is deceased and finally grieve, while Lily has to let the tree that reminds her of her grandfather be cut down.

Audience: High school library. Ages: 15 and up.

Links: Video from the author about “Lily and Dunkin.”

Book Review 18: “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley

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Summary: This is a combination of a picture book/informational book on all things related to adolescent body changes, sex and all it encompasses, as well as how babies are born. The illustrations inside are graphic enough that you know exactly what is what, without being so believable that you’re looking at nude pictures. A feature in this book is a bird and a bee who continually show up throughout the book to share their ideas on the various topics being discussed. Such things discussed includes the various types of bodies; this allows girls and boys to see that being different than their peers is “normal.” It discusses the difference between caring for someone in a loving way, and in a loving, sexual way. For those who wonder just what sex really is, this book will tell them in an easy to understand language. It discusses AIDS and how they’re infections, as seen here, “AIDS – as well as other infections…can be passed from one person to another” (Harris, pg. 15). This is the book that I would imagine is used when teachers teach Sex Ed in their health classes.

Response: Hmmm, this is a tough one. I know for a fact that I don’t want my children to be educated by their teachers about this. This is something I would want to explain to them; the reason for this is because it is a sensitive issue and I fear the bluntness and crudeness that some people have towards it (even without meaning to). It’s delicate and special, and important information that should be handled with care. I don’t believe in ignorance, however, which is why I think this is a very good book to use as a parent if you really want to teach your children in a way that they can understand and not be confused. This book does a good job of educating without being crude, and it’s up to the teacher/parent, to comment on it in a similar manner. So in a nutshell: great for parents who want to educate their children. Not so much in a school, but if it is going to be taught anyway, I think this book is a great choice to use. There isn’t much allegory, or allusions, or metaphor in this book. It’s straight to the point; it tells you how things work and why without being too technical or too opaque. While I very much believe in modesty and avoiding sexual encounters until marriage, I also believe that knowledge is power and a diminisher of fear and misconception.

Audience: Ages 13 and up. Not in a library; parents need to know if and when their child is going to read it, but it is a good, recommended source, depending on your personal beliefs.

Links: Here is a link to a page that lists her books.

Book Review 19: “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness

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Summary: Todd lives in a different world where there are only men and they can all hear each other’s thoughts. This is a dystopian story where new settlers defeated the Spacks, who appear to be pretty harmless. One day, not before Todd becomes a boy (thirteen years of age), he happens upon a place where there is no “noise,” whereas there is usually noise, “There’s just no such thing as silence,” (Ness, pg. 17). Ben and Cillian, whom his mother left him with to raise, finds this out and tells him he must run away. Before he runs, they give him a knife which Todd keeps with him throughout the story. On his runaway journey, he meets Viola, a girl who doesn’t talk at first and who he can’t hear. Together, they escape a preacher and other dangers while trying to find the town, Haven. Todd’s sidekick is a dog that can also talk named Manchee. It turns out that Todd’s life in Prentisstown was one big lie and they’re we never supposed to leave.

Response: Spoilers: Despite crocodiles and being maimed by the dog, the preacher, Aaron, keeps coming after Todd and Viola in hopes to become a mytar; he wants Todd to become a man by killing him. This book has a lot of different, bolded font that is not grammatically correct – due to their lack of education. It shows the reader the importance of knowing how to both read and write, and the struggle that it becomes when you don’t; he could barely read the map he was given when told to run. Together, Viola and Todd keep “hope,” which is a theme of this book. They all want a better future and a better world. In the end, Viola kills Aaron, and other than killing one spack who Todd feared, Todd was never forced to use his knife on a human, a symbol of both manhood and an object of oppression, as he didn’t want to use it. In all honesty, I did not think this was a very interesting or compelling book. Though, I do think it might be interesting for teens. Meanwhile, the people that settled before them disposed of technology, while an army also arises to take over the new world. Viola wanted to warn the people coming in on the ships but has no way of doing so, and his harmed in the end. The book ends with the antagonist taking over all of the settlements, as well as Haven. Dunt dun dun.

Audience: 12 and up. Middle-grade library.

This is the first of a trilogy and is soon to become a movie.

Links:

Book Review 20: “Scythe” by Neal Shusterman

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Summary: This is the story about a girl and a boy, Citra and Rowan, who are both selected to become Scythe’s. This is a really neat book, also dystopian, where disease and death has been eradicated. Now, not only do people not die, but they can regenerate, too. Once you turn 100, for example, if you want, you can turn the corner and become 20 again. The story starts out with Faraday, a Scythe, who comes to visit Citra and her family. This is a very scary thing, because Scythes are meant to reap people so that overpopulation does not occur. Naturally, everyone fears the Scythes, and Citra and her family are afraid he is going to glean one of them when he comes. Instead, he goes next door; “Then he left to kill their neighbor,” (Shusterman, pg. 11). Both Citra and Rowan, the two primary characters in this book, are soon after chosen by Faraday to be his apprentices; normally it’s only one. As they start to learn about being a Scythe, and all it entails, they must face evil for the first time, not just from killing innocents, but from other Scythes, as well. This is a book from the Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten list.

Response: Spoilers: The Scythe, Goddard, enjoys killing more than he should and without compassion. When Scythe Faraday decides to apprentice two people, he insists that this is wrong and demands that when it is over, that there is a winner between the two, and that the winner must glean the other. Unfortunately, Citra and Rowan don’t want to do this, and they are separated in their training, as seen here, “And you, Rowan, will complete your training in the capable hands of the Honorable Scythe Goddard,” (Shusterman, pg. 174). Meanwhile, Citra also gets a new trainer, Madam Curie, when they’re told that Faraday has gleaned himself. There are ten commandments that Scythes have to abide by once they actually become one, and their training is hindered when Citra is framed for the murder of Scythe Faraday. However, he’s not dead, having faked his own death, but no one knows. Citra escapes and is hidden until her names is cleared. At their final test, Citra wins, but enables Rowan to escape with immunity for a year. This is a really neat book in that it is definitely different and unique. It makes the reader question the idea of death, as well as power. It makes the reader ponder the fact that life is temporary, and what life would be like if it wasn’t. It’s definitely thought-provoking. The theme of this book is about having compassion and that death is a necessary evil, as well as that even in a perfect world without death, there can still be evil. It also deals with diversity in that there is to be no biases with gleaning.

Audience: Ages 15 and up, high school library.

He has a really neat website with a lot of books and movie trailer for his book, “Scythe.” Check it out, here.

#nealshusterman #Scythe #yabooks #yabookreviews #bookreview #yareviews

Book Review 21: “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers

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Summary: This book follows a boy named Steve Harmon who is on trial for murder. Read like a play (because our protagonist imagines his life this way), we get to see a glimpse of Steve’s past before the crime happened, and his present, as he awaits his trial for murder. In a robbery gone wrong, Steve, who was just going in the store at the wrong time, is accused of taking the role of the lookout. His prosecutor wants everyone to see him as a monster, and Steve, who is afraid and lonely, must anxiously wait to see if he is acquitted along with the other boys who were involved in the robbery and murder. Meanwhile, we’re not completely convinced if his lawyer believes he’s innocent, and even Steve begins to question his own innocence at some point.

Response: I did’t want to read this book because it wasn’t of any interest to me. I read because I like fantasy or books that I can relate to. However, it was a good read, and insightful. It helps a reader to see how vulnerable our young one’s are, and what it’s like to be put behind bars at such a young age with a full life to go. It addresses how some inmates try to kill themselves but are prevented from doing so because of how horrible the place is. I wish that all students could read this book because in a way, I think it would help some who are on the verge of making some wrong decisions. This book does a good job with the moral questioning of one’s self, questing one’s self in the eyes of another, as well as creating empathy. Concerning the moral questioning, Steve had to figure out if he truly was guilty in playing a role in Mr. Nesbitt’s death. One thing this book seemed to lack a lot of was sympathy or grief over the murder itself from Steve. I think one of the most poignant points of this book, and the theme, is how others see you. In Steve’s case, he was seen as a monster, and I would go so far as to say that perhaps the author is stating that many people judge based off of color, often-times being wrong. I understand this, and sympathized with Steve. I was glad that this book makes people stop and question their own judging and whether or not it is warranted. In the end, Steve questions his own identity and begins to search for the answer to the following question: Who am I?

Audience: middle-grade and high-school. Ages 11 and up.

#Monster #Walterdeanmyers

Links: An interesting biography from the author himself. He makes a strong and important statement at the time of 4:18.

Book Review 22: “Everything, Everything” by Nicola Yoon

Summary: This story is a story of star-crossed lovers. Meet Madeline and Olly; Madeline is sick and cannot leave her house without risking death. Olly is her next door neighbor who catches Madeline spying on him. His father is abusive. With the help of her caregiver, Madeline is allowed to see Olly once he has been decontaminated. They have an elaborate system that keeps the air fresh at all times. Madeline is used to wearing white and reading around the clock. Olly, however, creates a desire within her to change that. With their online messages and occasional visits, they soon become close friends. Only, Madeline can never leave her house, or even touch Olly. Well, guess what?

*This is a NYT Bestseller.

Response: Spoilers. Olly and Madeline touch one day on one of their visits (that her mom doesn’t know about, I might mention). And, Madeline does not get sick. Turns out that Madeline’s father and brother died many years ago, and so its just Madeline, her mother, and her caring caregiver. No pun intended. I really enjoyed the fact that Madeline and Olly admire each other physically, as well as mentally. They state the things that the like about each other, and I like how diversity is brought into the book. Well, one day, Madeline sees Olly being bullied by his father, and she runs outside to make sure he’s okay. After that, it isn’t long before she runs off with him. Despite our better hopes, she does get sick, but that is only because her immune system is so low. Turns out, she is not as sick as her mother/doctor (her mother is her – and a – doctor) says. It seems that her mother was afraid of losing her girl after losing her husband and son. So, Madeline leaves to go find Olly, who moved due to the abusive relationship that his dad caused him and his mom and sister. I really liked their love-story. I thought it was genuine, sweet, and funny at times. I love how they discovered each other and themselves through each other’s help. This book, as mentioned on top of the cover, makes it clear that “The greatest risk is not taking one.” Like my grandma says, “It’s no if you don’t ask.” This book is about living, growth, and what people will do for love.

Audience: readable by middle school and high school students. So, ages 10 and up. However, I think high schoolers would get the most out of it.

Links: Here are some short stories from author Nicola Yoon. Also, it is now a major-motion picture.

#yabookreviews #everything,everything #books #YA

Book Review 23: “A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design” by Chip Kidd

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Summary: This book covers the elements of design, stating the fact that we are all, naturally, designers. It shows us the difference between contrast – small and large letters, big and small pictures, as well as the effects of varying colors. This book also discusses typography as well as kerning and other typography related entities. It covers clarity as well as colors; A book cover for Rachel McAdams is in full color on one page and in greyscale on the opposite page with vibrant orange and red font to show contrast. This is just one of many examples of design, (Kidd, pg. 66 and 67). It also gives plenty of illustrations to study as well as completed samples of the discussed content, such as layouts for covers, image cropping, and even the all-so-important, DPI. One really neat aspect of this book as that there are ten projects to try at the end of this book.

Response: I don’t feel completely pulled in when I first open the book due to the choice of images. Plus, the font is real big, and it seems a bit kiddish to me. Then again… redirect back to the tile. Still. I do like the book, though, and there are some neat pieces of information of how Kidd designed covers. I thought it was super neat that he designed the universal symbol of the dinosaur in Jurassic Park; one of my all time favorites. While it is not extensive, as I design book covers for myself, I will definitely reference this. This book is a practical, hands-on guide to artists and those who are interested in design. Plus, it’s not just for those students, but for everyone, because all can benefit from a better awareness of layout and design, whether that be in the form of presentation slides, brochures, or even flyers.

Audience: elementary, middle school, and high school library. Ages: 6 and up.

Links: Check out his website: Chipkidd.com

#graphicdesign #chipkidd #design

Book Review 24: “Ms. Marvel” by G. Willow Wilson – A Graphic Novel

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Summary: This is a graphic novel that includes diversity. The main character is a girl named Kamala. The story starts off with a quiet scene at a comic-book store as an introductory scene. That night, Kamala asks if she can go to a party, but is told no. She sneaks out and goes anyway. The book is strong on religion and culture, and Kamala tries to defy that only for it to turn against her. And then, after leaving the party, she blanks out on the sidewalk. Captain America and others visit her and grant her wish to turn her into a super-hero, promising her it won’t go the way she wants it to, (Wilson, pg. 25). From there, she goes on to realize that she really has turned into some kind of super hero and proceeds to save her friend from drowning. She goes on to do more heroic deeds, while her family doesn’t understand her lately and struggles to be close to her. This is a book from the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten list.

Response: This is a fun, diverse book for both girls/women, as well as those who have dreamed of being a super-hero themselves. It also ties in another culture, which is really neat, because it allows others to see themselves in the literature they pick up. Not only is it engaging, but it allows a reader to live vicariously. I like that it does a good job with tying in the action and desire to be and do more with the struggles of others understanding your growth and need for room (her family). The book is very visual and engaging with vibrant colors. It also allows for readers to experience a culture different than their own while still being relatable. Not only that, but it still deals with peer pressure and social awkwardness.

Audience: middle-school, high-school libraries. Ages: 13 and up.

Links: Here is a link to her website.

Book Review 25: “Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman

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These book covers are gorgeous.

Summary: This book is one that can easily be read for aesthetic reasons; for the beauty of the writing and language. The main character is named Seraphina. She is a court musician, which is an important aspect of the world she lives in. Believe it or not, this is a story about humans and dragons, and the dissension between them. These dragons can shift shapes into that of a human and co-exist with them. While they try to live in peace together, when the royal prince’s death occurs, the humans turn against the dragons. What’s worse, is that Seraphina has a secret; she’s part dragon. I really like the dynamics between the two as well as an incorporated peace treaty between the them – until that shatters. I also like the dichotomy of the dragons being able to turn into humans, but not fully having the ability to experience emotions. This is a William C. Morris Award winner.

Response: Immediately, the language catches you off guard with it’s beauty and variety of vocabulary. Such an example is here, “Then my world split open, and I was thrust into a cold and silent brightness. I tried to fill the emptiness with my screams, but the space was too vast. I raged, but there was no going back,” (Hartman, pg. 1). This book definitely qualifies as a high-fantasy. I also appreciated the more difficult vocabulary, such as seen here, “I burst out into the wan afternoon light, filling my lungs with cold, clean air, feeling my tension dissipate,” (Hartman, pg. 15). In many senses, because of the language and syntax, this is a great book to read just for the sake of educating yourself in writing. Here is an example of what makes this book both highly fantastical; it also shows the distrust between the dragons and the humans; “Dragons’ earrings were wonderous devices, capable of seeing, hearing, and speaking across distances… Orma had once taken his earrings apart to show me; they were machines, but most humans believed them to be far more diabolical,” (Hartman, pg. 19 and 20). I think the concept was brilliant, but I would have liked it more as an adult book with more romantic edges and more emotion from the dragons.

Audience: High school library. Ages: 14 and up.

Links: This was Ms. Hartman’s first YA fantasy book. Go to her website to find more of her books.

#Seraphina #aestheticreading

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