Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Classics

1984
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

1984 introduces Winston Smith as the primary character. Smith is a middle-aged man that lives within a dystopian society in April of 1984. Being nearly 4 decades after World War II and just a couple of years after the apparent Atomic Wars, Smith lives through the totalitarian state of Oceania, where is activity is consistently surveyed. At this point, Smith attempts to relocate himself from this totalitarian state in order to put him back to normal behavior.

1984 is another novel involving a dystopia, however, it stands out for its strong character development. The premise of the story is heavily shown through the setting, as it demonstrates a controlled and tyrannical lifestyle.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Nam T
Awards:
The Things They Carried book jacket
O'Brien, Tim
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Things They Carried follows through the perspective of a soldier within the 23rd Infantry Division. Enlisted during the Vietnam War, the book covers over the soldier's, as well as the platoons experiences throughout. The Things They Carried is a collection of stories that correlate to one another, bringing an ultimate immersion to those that are interested of any war, or historical context.

The Things They Carried is a book that has a deeper insight within the emotional, mental, and physical state of the soldiers that went through the Vietnam War. Having a darker and more serious tone than other novels, it is one that stands out and deserves recognition.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Nam T
The Crucible book jacket
Miller, Arthur
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Arthur Miller creates a horrifying and suspenseful narrative in his iconic play The Crucible with the intention of realistically depicting a terrible chapter in our country’s history. The play follows a group of young women, led by Abigail Parris, as they accuse hundreds of people of witchcraft, and cause a massive panic among the townspeople.
The Salem Witch trials is a topic that is mostly looked over in our history classes, so this book was extremely interesting in that it depicted an event that I only had surface level knowledge of. I was fascinated with the intense depth of all of the characters, and the almost rational actions of the villains. This book was perfect to read right before Halloween. Despite these things, the narrative can be somewhat slow at times, and while I enjoyed the historical anecdotes embedded in the book, they distracted me from the actual story. However, the rest of the book was great and I highly recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L
Awards:
The Bell Jar
Plath, Sylvia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Sylvia Plath creates vivid,realistic and gripping narrative in The Bell Jar in order to depict the harsh treatment of both women and the mentally ill.
The story follows Esther Greenwood, who is a young and successful woman, slowly descending into madness. It chronicles her interactions with men, other young women, and her mother, and how those things had contributed to her becoming mentally ill.
This book is easily one of my favorites. Throughout the entire story, the readers are in Esther’s mind. We see first hand how she becomes insane.
Sylvia Plath has such an intense and realistic writing style that Esther’s actions almost seem rational. It makes us question our own sanity. This book definitely had the best portrayal of mental illness I have seen so far. It also deals with other intense themes such as the treatment of women in society. Despite these themes being severe and somewhat terrifying, the book remains eloquent and lyrical. The Bell Jar is provocative and heart wrenching at the same time, and I believe it is one of the best books ever written.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L
Genres:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

“It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”. Harper Lee writes a beautiful and provocative narrative in To Kill a Mockingbird in order to create a conversation about relevant themes that affect our world. The story follows Scout and her brother Jem as their father, Atticus, defends an African American man named Tom Robinson in court for raping a young white woman.
Meanwhile, the children meet a new boy named Dill, and are curious about their neighbor, “Boo” Radley. The book deals with intense themes such as racial injustice, class, and growing up.
When I first read this book in 9th grade, I didn’t care too much for it. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t think it was something that I could read again.
But I was wrong. While re-reading this book, I discovered why it is a classic. The book deals with serious issues while still remaining eloquent and poetic. I adored Scout’s character and her development seen through her interactions with Boo Radley. I thoroughly enjoyed Harper’s writing style and her ability to create distinct and well rounded personalities for each of her characters. I believe that this book should be read both in schools and outside of them because of its powerful and controversial narrative.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L
1984
Orwell, George
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

George Orwell depicts a horrific and terrifying alternate reality of 1984.
After years of war and conflict, the world is governed by three totalitarian regimes. The one that our main character, Winston Smith, resides under is ruled by the “party” and its leader “Big Brother”. The narrative follows Winston as he meets a mysterious woman named Julia, and the two begin to secretly rebel.
When I first started reading this book, I was a little bit disappointed. I had such high expectations (I think that was the problem) ,and it just didn’t live up to them. In the beginning, I thought Winston’s character was somewhat flat, and I didn’t feel a lot of sympathy for what he was living through. I thought Julia was unrealistic and a bit obnoxious. But in the second half of the book, my opinions had changed. The book becomes quite disturbing, and it makes you question what is actually real and what is just a fabrication of the party. It’s terrifying to say the least. Despite the fact that I enjoyed parts of this book, I have to rate it 3 stars because I wasn’t engaged in the first half of the narrative.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L
Awards:
The Bridges of Madison County
Waller, Robert James
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Bridges of Madison county is a tear jerking love story. It tells of a middle aged photographer who is sent to photograph some of the bridges of Madison County, Iowa. On his lonely journey, he meets an old house wife whose children and husband had gone on a trip. The story tells of a love with a burning passion that happened too late. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a beautiful romance story detailing a beautiful relationship that could never be. Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
Awards:
The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Great Gatsby is truly a masterpiece. The Great Gatsby tells the story of Nick and his mysterious neighbor Gatsby. Gatsby is very wealthy and throws grand parties, yet has a mysterious and possibly immoral past.
Fitzgerald is a master of imagery, character development, and mystery. Set during the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby is a fascinating commentary on life in America. I understand why The Great Gatsby is a classic and many students are required to read it. The Great Gatsby is a wonderful book that any reader from high school to adults can enjoy and learn something from.

Reviewer's Name: John B
Awards:
Book Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Lewis, C.S.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I listened to this on CD. The narrator was fantastic. The book was also fantastic. Well written, aimed at younger readers, but still enjoyable by adults. There's a reason why this book is a classic. The story had me thinking about bravery and forgiveness, but the Edmund story line was a bit frustrating. His siblings were kinder than I would've been, although I have to remember that he was just a child. All in all, a must-read, or listen.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Odyssey
Homer
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

The Odyssey is an epic poem written by Homer, and it is a literary classic about two great quests. Ten years after the fall of Troy, Odysseus still hasn't returned home to Ithaca, and his house is plagued with suitors wanting to marry his wife, Penelope. His son, Telemachus, feels overwhelmed but is sure that Odysseus isn't dead. With the help of the goddess Athena, he sets off to search for his father as the reader learns more about Odysseus's previous journey and resulting enslavement. Telemachus encounters many obstacles which shape him and build his confidence by the end of the story.
Although this book is a classic and was probably very popular in ancient Greece, it is not an enjoyable book to read. There is too much unnecessary dialogue, and the plot is excessively long. Due to the old language and lengthy descriptions, reading The Odyssey is a very strenuous task.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa H
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is a story that beautifully represents society in a way few novels can. Set in Maycomb, Alabama in the early 1930's, it is told from the perspective of a 6-year-old girl, Scout, as she grows, plays, and gets into trouble with her older brother, Jem, and comedic friend, Dill. Scout's wise father, Atticus, must defend an innocent black man accused of rape; along the way Scout meets people and learns things that impact her life. Meanwhile, Scout, Jem, and Dill, are determined to learn more about their mysterious neighbor and the violent rumors that surround him--sometimes getting themselves into humorous situations--and learn something surprising. The book is spectacularly and wisely written, with characters readers will connect with, and themes that are important in all readers' lives: courage, empathy, and the power of standing up for what you believe in. Scout's sense of humor and insightful observations will make readers think and keep turning the pages for more.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa H
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A classic piece of literature, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is a wonderful depiction of life along the Mississippi river and times past. Huckleberry Finn is a wild, adventurous, and self-sufficient young man who finds his way along the river with an escaped slave. Stealing, superstitions, and deception all describe the journey Huck Finn and Jim take together. They encounter rivaling families, con artists, and Tom Sawyer in their attempt to get north. Mark Twain paints a vivid picture of life in the South with slavery in a way that shows that not everyone believed the same thing. A truly fun and interesting story, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a book that will interest even the most disinterested reader.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K
Fahrenheit 451
Bradbury, Ray
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Fahrenheit 451 is a classic book that most people have heard the title of. With a similar style to Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, Fahrenheit 451 takes the reader into a future where books are outlawed and the people of this alternate future are basically mindless robots. The people of this future have an intake of mindless media that even surpasses that of us currently. The main character is a firefighter but different from what we are used to. These firefighters fight with fire, burning houses and books if they are found since they are against the law. But soon after meeting a girl who does not conform to this society’s media consumption, the main character begins to rebel and go against the norm. Fahrenheit 451 is a spooky prediction of what the future will hold and after reading it, I can already see us as a society heading on this path. A truly incredible read, Fahrenheit 451 is a novel that cannot be missed.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

To Kill a Mockingbird is truly a masterpiece of American literature.
Along the lines of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Harper Lee presents us with a coming of age story set in 1930s Alabama. Scout and Jem Finch explore their hometown, get into trouble, wonder about the mystery of Boo Radley, and are faced with a great challenge when their father must prove a man to be innocent. Atticus Finch, Scout and Jem's father, is a wholehearted, unprejudiced role model who always stands up for what is right and who anyone can learn a lesson from. Overall, I understand why many schools require their students to read this book as it is wonderful literature for all generations.

Reviewer's Name: John B
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

You are slowly floating down river on a warm summer night. You have no worries as you gaze at the endless stars above you. You had a simple day; catching fish to eat and lazily laying in the sun as you float wherever the river takes you. This is the life of Huckleberry Finn.
I gave this book three out of five stars because it was good however it wasn't good enough for me to consider it one of my favorite books. I appreciated the multiple conflicts, the complexity of having several conflicts at once made the book interesting. The characters were all well developed even side characters had underlying intents, and backgrounds.
Additionally, the relationships between the characters was engaging, I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Huck and Jim. Finally, I really enjoyed the internal conflict of Huck as he traveled with a slave. Huck's moral conflict from a society being raised in a society that supports slavery was striking as a 21st century teenager. Despite the positive elements of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" it is only pretty good because I couldn't relate to the characters and the book lacked an emotional connection that would make it one of my favorite books. Regardless, you should read this book for to develop an understanding of the culture of the past.

Reviewer's Name: McKenzie W
Fahrenheit 451
Bradbury, Ray
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I originally purchased Fahrenheit 451 because it was an option on a summer reading assignment; the book seemed interesting based on the description but it wasn’t a book I would normally pick up. Fahrenheit 451 takes place in a world where firefighters no longer put on fires but burn books. Guy Montag is one of these firefighters though he has never really considered why he became firefighter or why books are burned. On his usual way home Guy meets Clarisse, a young neighbor, who is curious about why thing are how they are.
Clarisse asks Guy why he became firefighter and if he has read a book. While at first Guy finds Clarisse’s curiosity foolish, he begins to realize he had been a the fool all along. This book has been eye opening, I have never thought about the subtle censoring in books, and the way many things are mindless, pointless, and short. While with many books are so action packed you can’t put them down, this is not the case with Fahrenheit 451. With this book I was able to slow down, imagining everything detail, and just think about the theme. This book is a classic for a reason, the message is meaningful. The events that created the setting of Fahrenheit 451 seemed a little too relatable, and it really got me thinking about censoring in our society. This on the shorter side and it is definitely worth your time.

Reviewer's Name: McKenzie W
Book Review: Of Mice and Men
Steinbeck, John
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

The short novel Of Mice and Men by well-regraded author John Steinbeck is heralded as a classic for a reason. The book tells the story of George and Lennie, two migrant workers trying to make a living farming in California during the 1930s Great Depression. George and Lennie are not related; they are friends who travel together to find work. Throughout the novel, they encounter new relationships and people on a new ranch. There is no denying that Steinbeck was an incredibly strong author, capable of painting a rich portrait of life in such a harrowing time of hardships; however, the sad and frankly unnecessary ending of this novel took away from my liking of it, in addition to the frank descriptions of mistreatment of people and animals, combined with the elongated plot contributed to the fact that this wasn’t a book I enjoyed. Readers need to be aware that this is a very difficult book to read, combined with mistreatment of a character with mental illness, women, and animals. Some may enjoy this novel because of the vivid descriptions and powerful characters, however, in my opinion, this book was horribly sad and not something I would not read again.

Reviewer's Name: Allie S
Awards:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is a fantastic novel that examines the racism present in the South during the Great Depression. The book includes several remarkable instances of justice being served to the widespread prejudice present, which captures the reader. All of the character are well developed and serve well in their roles, especially the main protagonist. The entire setting is also intriguing and forms a solid foundation for the plot. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone as it is a fascinating tale about Southern life.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
The Once and Future King
White, T.H.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Once and Future King, by T. H. White, is a great fantasy classic that is a retelling of the saga of King Arthur. The novel is stuffed with a mix of wonderful emotions that blend together to make a very unique fantasy story. The characters are all developed very well, especially the protagonist, and the plot fits them very well. The book has some very sorrowful scenes, but does a fantastic job of spacing them out with its humor. The only downside to the book is that it is for high-level readers.

If the story was put into a bit simpler language, it would relate to more people and reduce the amount of strain placed on the readers' mind while trying to interpret it. Overall, The Once and Future King is a great fantasy novel, but its use of complicated language takes away from the world it creates.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
The Alchemist
Coelho, Paulo
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Alchemist is the story of Santiago, a shepherd boy, who goes on a journey to find treasure he saw in a dream. It is a story of philosophy and self-discovery, and its open-ended style leaves a lot of room for interpretation. That is the beauty of this book; every reader will get something different out of it. I found The Alchemist to be very inspirational and calming, as well as immensely interesting. This quick read is great food for the soul.

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J
Awards:

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