Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Classics

The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, Scott F.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The classic tale of "The Great Gatsby" follows Nick Carraway, a newcomer to the city, who discovers the lavish and intoxicating life of Jay Gatsby, his next door neighbor. Nick soon becomes entangled in a net of secrets and deception that involves his friends Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom. After hearing so many incredible things about "The Great Gatsby", I came into the story with high expectations. Unfortunately, they were not really met. While the story is undeniably powerful, it lacks in some areas. I found all the characters extremely unlikable. There was no one to really root for. In addition, there were parts of the story that seemed to drag on for far too long. I found myself asking, "When is something going to happen?" at several points. All in all, I didn't hate this story, but it definitely wasn't my favorite classic to read. Grade 12.

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Awards:
1984
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

1984 is a timeless classic about a dystopian future where war is constant and you are constantly watched and carefully studied by an ominous force called the Thought Police. Everyone is expected to completely devote themselves to The Party (the ruling government) and believe everything they say. If the Thought Police detects the slightest amount of dissonance in a citizen, they disappear and, according to The Party, cease to exist - and never existed. One party member, Winston Smith, has been rebelling against the Party in thought only for years. Now, he finally gets enough courage to stand up for what's right. Will Winston be able to stop the tyrannical rule of The Party or will it all be in vain? Find out in 1984!

Reviewer's Name: Mckenna R.
Lord of the Flies
Golding, William
2 stars = Meh
Review:

A group of boys are stranded on an island after a plane crash. With no adult supervision, the boys are free to do whatever they want. At first this is something to celebrate. However, as their time on the island grows, the boys learn the challenges of staying alive. Eventually, some of the boys become complete savages and complete chaos reigns the island.
Lord of the Flies is full of symbolism and is at some points very difficult to understand. To follow the story, much inferring is necessary along with a fairly advanced vocabulary. I personally did not enjoy the story very much.
However, some readers may disagree. I do not recommend this book for anyone that is younger than high school.
Reviewer Grade:9

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Genres:
Nineteen Eighty-Four
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Okay, let me just say this: All you poser dystopian teen novels 'breaking the rules' with scandalous gratuitous plot elements better just step back. Nineteen Eighty-Four, the granddaddy of all dystopian novels, just handed your butt to you. This book isn't kidding around. Danger, insubordination, illicit sex, graphic torture, this book has it all. It's not for the weak of heart. And the ending is so powerful and heart-wrenching! The only reason it doesn't get 5 stars from me is the lengthy political and philosophical treatises that appear a few times in the book. I get it, this is the quiet power behind the novel and the part that is dissected by academia. But I'm not an academic, so it didn't do it for me.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Huckleberry Finn is a rebel against school, church, and the respectable society that wants to civilize him. Therefore, after faking his own death, Huck embarkes on a raft journey down the Mississippi River along with Jim, a runaway slave. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel full of shenanigans, adventures, schemes, and pranks in addition to deep contemplation that gives some great advice. This adventure is truly a classic and I highly recommend it for any middle schooler or older since there is something in this book for all ages.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Animal Farm
Orwell, George
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Animal Farm is a dystopian novel about a farm overrun by the farm animals. The animals revolt and create their own hierarchy, which poses an overarching metaphor for humanity. Like many of Orwell’s books, this book exposes the flaws of mankind in an allegorical manner. I chose this book for its dystopian nature, and it did not disappoint. It is artful in its satire, and Orwell takes a clear stance on tyranny. This is among the best dystopian books I have read.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J
The Call of the Wild
London, Jack
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I chose to read this book because it was cheap at the bookstore, and I am so glad that I read it. I have not read many realistic adventure books, but it is my new favorite genre. The Call of the Wild centers around a hard-working, strong dog named Buck who is tragically sold into hard labor. This book evokes sentiments from utter despair to immense joy, and Jack London’s writing style is simple yet eloquent. I strongly recommend this book to everyone.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Awards:
The Alchemist
Coelho, Paulo
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

To be honest, I only really bought this book because it came heavily recommended from the manager of the bookstore I was at. He claimed it was a book you could read over and over again, and get a new message from every time. But about a quarter of the way through, I admitted to myself it was an average book. It didn't have spectacular or eye-opening writing, and the plot was okay I guess. Essentially, it's about a young shepherd who meets a 'king' in a marketplace in Spain. The king convinces him that there is a Personal Legend everyone has in this world, and the universe conspires to help you achieve it. All throughout this book, Santiago (the shepherd) follows omens, prophecies, and recurring dreams in the hopes of finding a treasure by the Egyptian pyramids. On the way, he helps a crystal merchant, meets an English man who aspires to be an alchemist, the love of his life, and eventually the alchemist himself. In the end, he finds himself, the woman he loves, the treasure of a forgotten pirate (cliche! Boo!), and he accomplishes his Personal Legend. It was okay, but really generic writing and not a very interesting plot. Who knows? Maybe the message will change when I read it again. But I rather doubt it.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Awards:
Siddhartha
Hesse, Hermann
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Siddhartha is a tale of a young man who lives many different lives, from a Brahmin's son to an ascetic to a wealthy merchant. He does this all to find inner peace, or nirvana. I liked this book because of its style of narration. I have learned about Buddhism before from textbooks, but this style of information is so much more interesting. Siddhartha has many character flaws, but he eventually manages to wash them away in the cycle of time. Reading this book is a very introspective experience that everyone should have.

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Genres:
The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Great Gatsby is a classic set in the Roaring Twenties. It exposes the flaws in the very ideals that built America--wealth, beauty, and the American Dream. The tone of this book is despondent, and every character is tragic in one way or another. Indeed, this is a book of many emotions, some even gut-wrenching. My favorite aspect of this book is how Fitzgerald uses fiction to talk about very real issues. I strongly recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Genres:
Twain, Mark
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Mark Twain's beloved nineteenth-century novel is a thrill. Tom Sawyer is the story of a boy that everyone can relate to. From being bored in Sunday school to playing pranks on the teacher to running away and playing pirates, Tom Sawyer is full of boyhood adventures. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is filled with comedy, warmth, and youthful innocence. However, below the surface, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is about young boys facing the cruel adult world. This novel is truly a classic and can be enjoyed by all ages, especially upper elementary, middle schoolers, and high schoolers.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
The Scarlet Letter
Hawthorne, Nathaniel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Rich with symbolism and human feeling, the compassionate author leads us to consider deepest plumes of human sentiment. We are artfully led by the hand into the inner corridors of human hearts, where we are taught to stare down passion, shame, despair, revenge and finally courage.

First, we are compelled to walk around in a world where there is no forgiveness. We are removed from the fresh and life-giving promises of scripture to a stale and unrelenting universe, a universe in which once you have sinned in certain ways, you are branded for life. Hawthorne’s world takes the world of Jesus and turns it upside down. Where Jesus welcomed the repentant prostitutes and the reformed tax collectors and had his very harshest words for the proud, exacting Pharisees, in Hawthorne’s world the town’s peoples’ sins of unforgiveness and pride are smugly overlooked.
Hawthorne’s world does to us what all good fiction ought to do: it causes us to shudder. We feel instinctively the cruelty of the sentence placed upon the young woman and the baby, although we acknowledge her sin. This should lead us to praise our God for the forgiveness and grace that is so freely offered us in scripture. As the Pharisees ask Jesus what they should do with the woman caught in the act of adultery (and where, I always wonder, is the man?), we should know his response: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” John 8:7

Yet we come to appreciate the large-heartedness of Jesus all the more as we come to live in the world of Hester Prynne. Hawthorne, understanding the longing that we all feel to be welcomed and loved unconditionally within a society of people, haunts us with the solitary and scorned life Hester Prynne is relinquished to. As we sink deep into the mire of her forlorn pit, our hearts should soar all the more with the blessed promises of our great God:
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Eph 2:12,13

As we walk around in Hester Prynne’s world, we know what it would be like to be separated from Christ, to be alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, to be cut off from the promises of God. And yet we rejoice, because we know by faith that Hawthorne’s world is a skewed, twisted world, bearing no resemblance to the true community of faith.

Hawthorne’s character Dimmesdale is as unlike to Christ as nearly any man can be. Dimmesdale’s portrayal of failed manhood is so epic, I can scarcely think of another rival in literature. Here we see a man so small, so petty, so devoid of the smallest scrap of courage or courtesy, that he sits back passively allowing a woman to not only care for, love, and instruct his child alone, but also do so while laboring under the unrelenting sorrow of his shame. He sees this woman daily scorned, reviled, despised, belittled, made an object of while he walks around enjoying his position of influence and respect in others’ eyes. The fact that his sin daily eats away at him till his health is completely deteriorated does not make him any less pathetic in my eyes. No, he is the more pathetic for it. For he shows none of the manly dominance over human affairs that God gave to Adam when he blessed him and gave him dominion over the world. Instead, Dimmesdale is a peon, a victim of circumstance, a shadow of man, resigned to say simply “come what may,”
devoid of action and refusing to take responsibility at every turn.

What a striking contrast to our mighty savior. It is the man Jesus Who in all things takes the initiative. Jesus takes the shame for sins He never committed. Jesus stands up and takes our punishment. Jesus bears all our sorrow and our shame. Jesus, though perfect, identified himself with the lowly, with sinners and allowed himself to be crucified in the most undignified and hideous fashion, next to violent criminals. Jesus, instead of leaving a woman to lonely sorrow while he enjoyed respect, became a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. (Is. 56)

Is the Scarlet Letter a book for today? Why else does abortion flourish today except that we are plagued with a generation of Arthur Dimmesdales walking our streets? We have everywhere men who will not take responsibility for their actions and protect the children they have carelessly fathered.
Instead, they take their women to the clinic in the shadows and leave them to the abortionist scalpel, which brands hearts with a letter so hot and scarring, only the red-hot blood of Christ will heal.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Dracula
Raven, Nicky
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is an adaptation to Bram Stoker’s novel, which was designed to make it an easier read for teens. The art is amazing, but the book did not hold my attention very well because the plot is slow to start. I recommend the age to be 13+ because of the word choice used. It is more of a teen/adult book. The book is in 3rd person which makes it easier to connect with the characters because you can get everyone’s perception of the story.
Beware Count Dracula!

Reviewer's Name: Kaitlyn S
The BFG
Dahl, Roald
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is so awesome it's probably my favorite book. It has so much detail that you can imagine exactly what this BFG is going through. Over all i love this book.

Reviewer's Name: Delaney
Awards:
Anthem
Rand, Ayn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I really enjoyed the book Anthem because of the dystopian future theme that was present throughout the book. The book Anthem follows the life of Equality 7-2521, who finds he is set apart from everyone else in his society.
This society that Equality lives in is structured around the opinion of the majority. Equality is intellectually advanced and strong, both are qualities that his society frowns upon since everyone is meant to be considered “equal” there. I strongly recommend that you read this book if you are a fan of similar books, such as The Giver and The Hunger Games, that focus on future societies.
Reviewer Grade= 9

Reviewer's Name: Hanna N.
The Old Man and the Sea
Hemingway, Ernest
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I did not enjoy reading The Old Man and the Sea mostly due to the format it was written in. The Old Man and the Sea is a book that focuses on one of an old man’s most memorable fishing trips where he attempts to kill massive a fish larger than his very ship. One of the main reasons why I did not enjoy reading this book is because of the fact that all of the main characters have names that are revealed throughout the story, but they are never used by the narrator figure. For example, throughout the entire book, Santiago is only referred to as “the old man” by the narrator, even though his real name is known early on in the novel. I also found the book to have a dull plot, focusing on descriptive writing rather than events that occur within the story. Even though I did not particularly enjoy reading this book, there is a lot of symbolism and descriptive writing throughout the novel, which some people may enjoy.
Reviwer Grade= 9

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

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an amazing story with important underlying themes. I really enjoyed this book. I read To Kill a Mockingbird on my own and then in class, which only made me appreciate the book more. The book explores controversial issues such as prejudice, racism, what it means to be a woman/lady, and growing up, which are all still relevant in today’s society. However, this is not a book for people who enjoy eventful/plot driven stories. To Kill a Mockingbird is more of a character-driven story (in my opinion). Harper Lee’s usage of symbolism, language and setting add to the enjoyment of the book. I could not recommend this book enough. To Kill a Mockingbird is a thought-provoking and classic book that everyone should read before they die.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L.
A Wrinkle in Time
L'Engle, Madeleine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Meg Murry is an outcast. She feels that she doesn't belong anywhere -- not at school, and especially not among her family of accomplished scientists and visionaries. But, when three strange women appear and offer to help her find her missing father, she is whisked away to another world. With the help of her brother Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin, she works to find her father and save Earth from impeding evil. I originally read "A Wrinkle in Time" back in middle school, but decided to reread it before seeing the film, and found that I loved the book just as much as I did the first time around. The writing is charming and clever. The worlds are vast and imaginative. Meg and her brother Charles Wallace undergo compelling character arcs and discover their true purpose along the journey. I have nothing negative to say about this amazing story. To anyone who loves fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, rich characters, and interesting plots, go read this book!

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Book Review: Oedipus at Colonus
Sophocles
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Oedipus at Colonus is part of Sophocles’ Athenian tragedies trilogy called the Oedipus plays. Oedipus at Colonus picks up after the events of Oedipus Rex and follows Oedipus’ life after his exile from Thebes. He starts off wandering in strange lands with his daughter, Antigone, trying to find out where they are. A citizen tells them that they are in Colonus, a sacred Athenian city. The King of Colonus, Theseus, comes to see Oedipus, and Oedipus asks Theseus if he can take refuge in Colonus in exchange for eternal prosperity for his city. Oedipus’ second daughter, Ismene, arrives and informs them that Oedipus’ two sons, Polynices and Eteocles, are planning to go to war with each other for the throne. Oedipus asks for refuge in Colonus, as he knows his sons will come for him due to a prophecy that was told: The city that Oedipus is buried in will forever have good fortune. Oedipus promises that if Theseus offers him his trust and protection, he will bring fortune to Colonus by being buried within its confines. Theseus agrees and him and Oedipus form a great bond. With Oedipus’ death nearing and the conflict in Thebes increasing; Antigone, Ismene, and Theseus must figure out how to solve the situation of Thebes as long as ensure Colonus’ security. I love Sophocles’ Oedipus plays because it connects history with tragedy and makes for one of the most revered plays for its age, dating back to 401 BC. I read the plays using the Dover Thrift Editions as their translations are the easiest for me to grasp and understand.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Genres:
1984
Orwell, George
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Although the year 1984 has long since passed, the reality created in Orwell’s novel 1984 contain aspects that our society is beginning to show. 1984 follows a society where the world is ruled by 3 superstates: Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia, each of which have a totalitarian english socialism government. The government of Oceania has surveillance on every citizen through monitors called telescreens that enable them to hear and see what every person is doing and every citizen is required to have a telescreen in
their homes. This enables them to see if the citizens are committing “thoughtcrime” and if they are, the thought police kidnap the person and erase them from existence. Winston Smith is our main character with a quiet rebellion against the totalitarian government of Oceania. He believes that he is an individual and should be allowed to have his own freedom. As Winston tries to avoid being erased from existence and maintain a romance with the love of his life Julia, the government slowly closes in on his treason. This is one of my favorite novels and a masterpiece by Orwell as it shows how a society with a controlling government creates fear and false order for the citizens. Aspects within the novel are present in our own government today, so who is to Orwell’s predictions aren’t slowly but truly becoming a reality.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:

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