Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Classics

The Cask of Amontillado
Poe, Edgar Allan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This isn’t a full length book but rather a short piece of writing - the first I read of Poe’s but by far the most entertaining. The piece is set in an unnamed Italian city during the Carnival season and depicts the protagonist, Montresor, inviting Fortunato, a former friend, to a wine tasting in his cellar. Fortunato previously insulted Montresor and this invitation isn’t one of forgiveness, but revenge. The language isn’t difficult to understand as most pieces from the 1800's are and there isn’t any research needed to be done beforehand in order to read this piece. The Cask of Amontillado possesses a dark, morbid theme which is entertaining depending on the audiences interests, for example, if increasingly horrifying character behavior is something that surprises you. I felt a range of emotions from suspicious to terrified throughout the piece and if there are any audiobooks you can get your hands on, that definitely assists in terms of establishing a more realistic setting. When I listened to the audiobook, echoes of their voices and droplets of water dripping from the ceiling of the damp cellar were included to contribute to an overall eeriness.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Wilde, Oscar
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I read this novel on a whim - I had never read any of Wilde before and did not know too much about him as an author apart from the fact he was put on trial and imprisoned during his life. The Picture of Dorian Gray was thoroughly surprising and unexpected. Dorian Gray, at the beginning of the novel, is perceived by Basil Hallward as an individual worth obsessing over, he is infatuated with him and without knowing Dorian yet, the reader is too.
But then the reader is introduced to him physically and I realized he isn't all that. He's almost pompous but somehow clever and he's beautiful. Both Basil and his friend Lord Henry Wotton are influenced to see him more positively by that but I think the fact that Dorian is not tangible to the reader allows us to see him for who he truely is. According to Lord Henry, beauty is worth more than genius is, depicting which friend he prefers over the other. I wanted to sympathize with Basil because he was more sensitive than the others and I felt pity for him as I realized he was not a character anyone particularly cared immensely for. I preferred Basil over both Henry and Dorian because Henry's beliefs appeared rather traditionalist and were more controversial than common and the fact that Dorian was supposed to be a character without any fault was already a warning for me. Honestly, from the title, I did not know what direction the novel was going in from any point during the reading. To clear a few things up, Basil is an artist who paints a portrait of Dorian because he appreciates him in a more aesthetic manner than others who enjoy his company but the portrait appears to change into something more demonic as time goes on symbolizing how awful Dorian was becoming as a person. I mean, I needed to stop reading for a few minutes because I could not believe how little Dorian cared for others but I will admit that the absurdity of it all was entertaining. There is a lot of murder in this book which definitely makes the novel more interesting but then I guess I should also mention not get too attached to some characters.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Charlotte's Web
White, E.B.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

While it may be considered a children's book, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White lives up to its name as a classic. The simple story provides for a light and easy read, while still providing an elegantly woven story. The characters, while not super developed, are jocular and entertaining, and still preserve the sort-of dramatic side of the book. The friendly relationship between Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig soon turns into a matter of life and death, allowing for many twists and turns throughout the book. Though simple, the book also has several deeper meanings (I won’t spoil them), allowing for speculation among its audience. The fun in discovering what E.B. White could have meant in just one of the book's lines may very well be the entire hook of the story. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, no matter what their age is. There’s always fun to be had in a book, whether it be hidden or minuscule.

Reviewer Grade: 8th

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Genres:
Stuart Little
White, E.B.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Stuart Little, by E. B. White, is quite the fascinating tale of an adventurous mouse on a quest to find his beloved, lost friend. The book is endlessly entertaining, and Stuart the mouse hooks the reader with his various shenanigans. Rather than developing the side characters, E. B. White strives and succeeds at focusing on peculiar Stuart and amusing the reader. The side plots also fit very nicely into the main story. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, as it is a quick, easy, and wondrous read.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Awards:
Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The novel Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, is a 'meh' romance novel. While I may not be a big fan of the genre (which is why I personally find it excruciatingly boring), the book exceeds in describing how relationships were the main influence of wealth and power in Britain around the 1800s. Jane Austen also gives each character an 'okay' backstory. Other than that, the book struggles to keep the reader interested. The characters are bland, their relationships have a very poor development, and some of the well-developed side characters just leave without any sort of sentimental goodbye. The book just seems to be a monotonous lecture with all of the uneventful dialogue, and overall, the book just doesn’t seem to capture the reader. I would maybe recommend this to some hardcore fans of romance, but other than that, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. There’s a reason they had to call the movie, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Book Review: Don Quixote
Cervantes, Miguel de
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Written in 1605, and translated in at least 50 languages, the novel Don Quixote has often been considered the father of western literature. And for good reason. Coming in at around over 900 pages, this novel is an amazing read. This book follows the hilarious journey of Don Quixote and his portly sidekick, Sancho Panza, as they travel around Spain searching for adventures. I would suggest this book to anyone who enjoys long novels, humor, or anything like Princess Bride.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C.
Awards:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Carroll, Lewis
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, is a rather peculiar adventure tale filled with all sorts of oddities and misfits. The story begins with the main protagonist, Alice, as she follows the White Rabbit into the infamous rabbit hole. In Wonderland, or so it seems, she meets several creatures all with the strangest backstories and personalities. The story is carefully crafted so that much of the book confuses the casual reader. A great concern for detail is needed to understand the novel and its full meaning. The book shares the complexities and hardships of growing up, in which the Lewis Carroll absolutely nailed. He also shares his negative opinions about the British government through the main antagonist, the Queen of Hearts, who is meant to be a high and powerful monarch, but never does anything. Overall, the book is a great read and it is certainly entertaining to spend some time to pick out the many small details hidden in the book. 8th Grade.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
1984
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

1984, written by renowned author George Orwell, a pseudonym for Eric Arthur Blair, follows the protagonist Winston Smith set in what Smith believes to be the 80s in London. In fact, Smith is not sure of anything anymore, definitely not the exact year or what happened to his family or who the mysterious dictator called Big Brother is or who his state is at war with. Eurasia, right? No, must’ve been Eastasia... All Smith knows are the mottos of each of the ministries that form the government in Oceania, where London is. WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. He is told what to think, what to say, and what to do for nearly every part of his life. His government banks on strict organization and dire consequences for disobeying the rules. 1984 is an interesting read that set the bar for dystopian novels, defining inefficient governments from real life examples.
The novel is more realistic being inspired by Orwell’s hatred for totalitarianism and the events of World War II. I recommend 1984 to anyone curious about examining different types of societies, their standards and how those effect the population. The novel is fairly political and examines rebellion, although not as face paced as typical young adult reads. 1984 allows for an in depth examination of the character’s internal conflicts, Winston is one of the more detailed and complex protagonists because there are many parts where he cannot he sympathized with due to his lesser characteristics. The setting is clearly presented in a more world-building way than just giving out straight information. I was especially pleased, surprised, curious, and angry throughout the progression of the story.
Overall, I did enjoy this book more than most others, but the fact that Winston does not form any significant relationships until the second part and is the primary person talking, I was relatively bored during the middle chapters.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Awards:
Brave New World
Huxley, Aldous
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Among one of the first Dystopian genre novels ever published, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World questions the extent at which technology could potentially control society. Set approximately 632 years after the creation of the Model - T, a World State now controls society with the intent on eradicating personal thinking and individual creativity. With a new system called the Bokanovsky process, the World State utilizes the idea of Henry Ford’s assembly line to produce thousands of nearly identical embryos that will grow up to work for the State. All embryos are conditioned to be in one of the 5 castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon; with Alphas destined to control the World State and Epsilons to perform menial labor. When Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson, and John decide that something is wrong within this “perfect” society, they take it into their own hands to expose the World State and stop this flawed Utopia. Huxley’s novel, written in only 4 months, is phenomenal because it challenges the ideals of the limits to which technology can override nature. With the novel being published in 1932, Huxley questions practices that were uncommon and unrealistic back then, but are slowly becoming a reality now as our society leans more and more towards technological innovations. I recommend this novel to high school readers, especially those interested in the Dystopian genre, since this is a perfect example of a Dystopian Utopia.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
Oedipus Rex
Sophocles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The hero isn’t always epic and won’t always have a happy ending, sometimes he may face a tragic event and meet his downfall. Sophocles Athenian tragedy Oedipus Rex, or Oedipus the King, is a phenomenal play written and first performed around 430 B.C. The play follows the story of Oedipus, a man who became the King of the city Thebes by solving a riddle and defeating a sphinx that was threatening the city and then marrying the queen of Thebes, Jocasta. One day, when Thebes is suffering from a catastrophic plague, Oedipus sends his brother-in-law Creon to an oracle to find out how to stop the plague. Creon returns telling Oedipus that the plague will cease if the killer of the previous king, Laius, is found and exiled. Little does Oedipus know, he is Laius’s killer. Before Oedipus was born, a prophecy was told to Jocasta that her son would kill his father and marry his mother, and so she sent her son out to be killed in the mountains. That boy was Oedipus, and as the prophecy stated, he has returned to Thebes unknowingly to fulfill that prophecy. I love this Greek play by Sophocles because it is one of the first pieces of literature that tells the story of the “tragic hero” and his downfall. I recommend this play to all, but more advanced readers as the translation is also a bit complex.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Adams, Douglas
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is witty, genius, and an example of common English humor: dry, but hilarious.
Seconds before Earth is blown away to make way for an intergalactic freeway, Arthur Dent discovers galaxies and planets, lightyears beyond his own. He hitches a ride with his best friend, Ford Perfect. Ford is a cleverly disguised alien, who has been stranded on Earth for the past 15 years as he writes a revised guide to the galaxy. Arthur and Ford happen to hitch ride with the most disagreeable and intolerable creatures, the Vogon. They are then discovered and thrown into the soul-sucking abyss of space. Seconds before they suffocate, Ford and Arthur are picked up by a recently stolen ship, stolen by the president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and his girlfriend, Trillian. The ship is on an improbability drive, which is why they crash land on a long believed mythical planet, called the Heart of Gold.
The planet was in a hibernation-like state, and has only just awoken recently. Trillian, Ford, and Zaphod explore while Arthur meets Slartibartfast, who explains that the Earth was a test, run by mice, to discovery the Question of Life, since they know the answer is 42. However, Earth was destroyed seconds before test completion. Trillian, Zaphod, and Ford are captured by the mice and kept in a dream-like prison. That is, until Arthur is brought to the mice and the group is reunited. The mice explain that they are interested in harvesting Arthur’s brain as organic evidence.
So, naturally, the group manages to escape in the knick of time, avoiding both the mice and the galaxy police, who are searching for Zaphod.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Awards:
Watership Down
Adams, Richard
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

In an ever-increasing list of books I failed to read as a child, I finally managed to get to Watership Down. While I am aware that many people speculate the true meaning of the book to be an allegory for Nazis or Communism, or whatever, the prologue provided by the author in this edition stated that it was merely a bedtime story for his children. With this in mind, I’m sure many subconscious influences led to some of the themes in Watership Down.
Either way, the story seemed to be a rambling series of events that didn’t have much of a point or purpose.

Let’s be clear: I like rabbits. I think they’re cute, and I even own two of them. Therefore, I appreciate the little details of lagomorph mannerisms sprinkled throughout. And yet, there were a few confusing choices made in this book, like giving a somewhat-confusing “rabbit language” that rarely had context, and was mostly abandoned by the end of the book. I also couldn’t buy into the idea of a “rabbit army” since most of the rabbits I’ve seen in the wild have been mostly solitary animals, and hardly in the numbers described in Watership Down.

When it comes right down to it, the thing that perhaps disturbed me the most about this book was the anthropomorphism of the rabbits. Sure, the “side stories” about El-Ahrairah were distracting and often unnecessary, and I couldn’t honestly tell you the character traits or attributes of any of the numerous rabbits, but the fact that they could talk to each other made them seem somewhat human. Consequently, this then introduces ideas like war and sex trafficking via the “innocent” covering of rabbits. I feel these tend to be mostly human traits, so it pulled me from the story when I had to remind myself, “Wait, these are rabbits.”

A meandering story that puts humans in rabbit bodies, I give Watership Down
2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Tess of d'Uvervilles
Hardy, Thomas
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Written in the Victorian Era, Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy follows the story of Tess Durbeyfield and her tragic downfall. When Tess’s father discovers that he is the descendant of an ancient noble family, the d’Urbervilles, he sends Tess to the d’Urberville mansion hoping that Mrs.
d’Urberville will make Tess’s fortune. After being forced to take a job at the mansion to provide for her family, Tess is taken advantage of by Alec d’Urberville and is forced to live in shame and exile. After meeting a man named Angel Clare, Tess and Angel fall in love, but Tess has neither the strength nor the heart to tell Angel of her shameful secret. When she finally does, her secret tears their relationship apart, but will their love triumph over this “sin” ? This novel by Hardy truly reveals the division of men and women during the Victorian period and how a sin commited by a woman, even if not by her own fault, had everlasting consequences back then. I recommend this book to mature readers, as there is mature content and sexual references, but I highly recommend reading it because it holds both culture and themes that are present even in modern society.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Heart of Darkness
Conrad, Joseph
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

What is the Heart of Darkness? Is it a metaphorical thing such as thoughts and mindsets, or is it a literal tangible place? Joseph Conrad’s novel follows the story of Marlow, an introspective sailor, who recounts his journey up the Congo River to five men who are on the same ship as Marlow:
the Director of Companies, who is also the captain and host, the Lawyer, the Accountant, Marlow, and the unnamed Narrator. What’s interesting is that the story is told from the point of view of the unnamed narrator who is conveying to the readers what marlow is telling him. Marlow explains in detail of his journey into the African Continent and his venture up the Congo River. He tells of acts of imperialism, acts of racism, and acts of evil commited within the region. The Heart of Darkness has gained much praise and criticism since its release, nevertheless it explores Conrad’s view of evil and darkness, but also leaves it up to the reader to make their own conclusion. I recommend this novel to readers who are seniors in high school or above because this novel is extremely difficult to read as Conrad’s style is very complex. To fully experience the novel, one must read it multiple times.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Dracula
Stoker, Bram
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Twilight, Count Von Count, Nosferatu, where do all of these vampire themed genres come from? Also, where do all the vampire cliches come from? I mean why do they hate garlic, can only be killed with a steak through the heart, and have no reflection in a mirror? All of this goes back to the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. This 1897 gothic horror novel was written during the Victorian Era, a period many consider of high etiquette and stern morality.
The best part about this novel is that there is no one point of view, the story is written in segments of diary entries and newspaper articles. We get to see the story from multiple characters’ views, which is absolutely phenomenal because it creates dramatic irony and suspense. In Dracula, we follow the story of 7 people as they discover the existence of Count Dracula as a vampire. When one of the 7 become a victim of the Count, the rest set out to exterminate the Count and rid him of the world. I recommend this book to all readers (high school and above as the vocabulary and style is somewhat
difficult) as this teaches all of us about the evolution of contemporary culture and the culture of the Victorian Era. Reviewer Grade 12.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Genres:
Beowulf
Heaney, Seamus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The mighty hero triumphs over evil and saves the people from utter destruction. Sound familiar? Of course it does, it’s the basic plot line of the cliche hero’s tale that everybody knows. However, all of these tales most likely spawned from Beowulf, the oldest surviving English poem written in Anglo - Saxon around the 11th Century A.D. Beowulf is an epic poem that begins with Hrothgar, King of the Danes. Hrothgar’s people live in peace when they are attacked and threatened by a monster named Grendel, who kills off the Danes everynight in their mead-hall, Heorot. So in comes Beowulf son of Ecgtheow, a mighty warrior from Geatland who promises to defeat Grendel and bring prosperity back to the Danes. Beowulf is an amazing poem as it not only tells the classic tale of the epic hero and his journey, but contains hidden meanings aside from literal. Beowulf has no known author, but contains elements of factual history, which tells us this may be a tale describing actual events. This piece of literature is a traditional master piece and should be preserved as an example of how words and tales can evolve over decades. Reviewer Grade 12.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
Book Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Midsummer's Night Dream is one of Shakespeare's many plays that he wrote. Unlike many of his works, this one does not have a sad and tragic ending, and is a drama more than anything. The story is about four lovers Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius. There is a whole love triangle where Hermia loves Lysander, but is forced to marry Demetrius, who Helena loves. For Hermia to escape getting married to someone she doesn't love, she and Lysander run off into a forest where they are outside the law. Already in the forest, there is drama going on between two faeries, Oberon and Titania. Titania is protecting an Indian boy that Oberon wants, so Oberon gets his faerie Puck to go receive a love potion, so that Titania will now be distracted by love and Oberon can snatch the Indian child. Back in the city however, there is a group of actors organizing a play. After one of them tries to take up every part in the play, they get it all organized and head off to the forest to practice. So already in the first act we got everybody running off to the forest to cause drama. This play shines at how good its humor is, and is jammed pack with drama. I would recommend anyone to read this fancy story.

Reviewer's Name: Christopher K.
Genres:
The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

The Great Gatsby takes place during the Roaring 20’s in New York before Prohibition was ended. Gatsby hosts parties where he also gives out alcohol to his guests. I did not like this book at all because I didn’t like the love story between Gatsby and Daisy, frankly, I didn’t really like any of the characters to begin with. I think it might’ve been probably because I personally have higher morals than the characters show during this time period. I didn’t like the way Nick was used and quite honestly taken advantage of by Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby. What I disliked the most about this book is the psychotic obsession Gatsby has for Daisy because she’s his “dream.” If he has a clear mind, he’d notice that he couldn’t be in love with a lesser human being. I think all of his achievements to get to where he was, a wealthy popular man was all a waste because it was all for someone who didn’t have the equal affection in return for him. I also didn’t like how loose everybody is in the story. I thought it was sad how because Gatsby’s couldn’t see how his “dream” later became unattainable and nonexistent. I don’t recommend this book as there was hardly a turning point and it seemed to linger in unresolved conflict. I think this book suits a much older audience as it is quicker pace and sometimes hard to follow, and also for it’s immoral content.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Micah L.
Awards:
Genres:
The Jungle
Sinclair, Upton
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book I picked to read for a summer book report on a fiction American novel. The book was recommend to me by my mom who had read the book a few years earlier in a college catering class. The book describes the story of Jurgis who moved to America from Lithuania in search of a better life. The story goes on to discuss the flaws of the food and meatpacking industry and the poor working conditions. The struggles of the everyday American man are revealed along with the unsanitary process of meat packing. The book was unpredictable as Jurgis is faced with one problem after another not only within the food industry but with the constant life of struggling to keep himself and family alive with little to no money. The book was very depressing and may not be the first choice of those looking for a heroic or uplifting story. The story was never boring and there was never a time that something new wasn't being introduced into the book that added more to the story every second. The historical aspects found in the book are very accurate considering that one of Upton Sinclair's closet friends was Mother Jones who was a huge part in the labor movement during the 1900s. The book was also interesting in the fact of how much America has changed throughout the years and it what ways it is still the same and not much has been done. The book did help me throughout the rest of the year in both English and US history classes to understand the lives in which the everyday American lived. I found this book very interesting and fun, especially for a summer reading, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to take a trip into the 1900s.
Reviewer Grade:11

Reviewer's Name: Madison G.
Lord of the Flies
Golding, William
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The book "The Lord of the Flies " is a book about a group of boys who crash land on a deserted island. The boys are from ages 5-12. This novel basically shows what would happen if children were to live without adults. The whole theme of the book is "loss of innocence/civilisation/humanity/etc." At first the children have a leader, a signal fire, a meeting place, hunting party, etc. But after they've been around each other for too long things start to escalate and all of the order/organisation is thrown away. I liked this book because there were a lot of hidden meanings to all of the objects AND the children. For example in the book there is a conch shell the boys use to call each other in for a meeting on the beach and it represents law, order, and power. Another example is the signal fire. It represents rescue. I read this book because it was required by my freshman literature and composition class. But if I didn't have to read it I would've read it on my own. Some things I liked about this book were the hidden meanings. I didn't like how some parts were very boring.
Reviewer Grade:9

Reviewer's Name: Tabitha V.
Genres:

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