Review Crew - book reviews by teens, for teens

Book Review: Dream Differently
Bertram, Vince M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Written by the president and CEO of Project Lead the Way (PLTW), Dr. Vince M. Bertram, Dream Differently provides excellent advice. Directed at mainly high school students thinking about college and their future, Dream Differently provides insight about many confusing aspects of today's economy.

Dr. Bertram explains the best way to follow your dreams while still being practical. Topics such as what is your dream, what college to attend, what to major in, and what other classes to take besides required classes. While Dr. Bertram encourages STEM courses, he also explains how to pursue your dream in other areas. Overall, Dream Differently was very helpful advice on what to do to ensure your success in today's world.

Reviewer's Name: John B
Genres:
King of the Wind
Henry, Marguerite McCallum
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The book, King of the Wind, is a lovely story about a horse and his master. The connection between Sham, the horse, and Agba, a boy, is focused upon during the book, and the author certainly created something special.

The characters are decently developed, but the connections between characters are much better. The setting of the book is also quite unique and fits well with the story. It's more than just a classic horse story. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, as it's a pretty quick read and a great book.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
Sounder
Armstrong, William H.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The book, Sounder, is a great read. While it is a short read, it packs a powerful punch. The only reason I could really no like the book was that it does get to a be a cliche "dog story" at times. The characters are pretty well developed, and the story does get very dark. The multiple ongoing conflicts also captivate the reader. While its sort-of a children's book, the book also does have some cool underlying themes that the reader can pick out.

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone, as its quick and phenomenal read.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
The Rules
Holder, Nancy
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Rules, by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie, is a great thriller but lacks much else. The focus of the book is on the plot, but it's just an average thriller plot. None of the characters are developed over the course of the book, and it doesn't have enough clues to be a mystery. I felt like the author could've expanded for on the theme of rules, but it was a good idea. The book just kinda lacks sustenance, although it does provide a pretty good thriller experience. I would recommend this book to an avid thriller fan, but not really anyone else.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
The One and Only Ivan
Applegate, Katherine Castelao
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"The One and Only Ivan" by Katherine Applegate is about a silverback gorilla named Ivan who lives at a mall and video arcade told from his perspective.
Ivan has other animal friends that include an old elephant named Stella who is sick and in pain. He goes through a lot of things with his friends but he still wants to go somewhere with other gorillas because he thinks he is the only gorilla he will ever know. The mall almost closes until a new baby elephant arrives. At the mall the elephants are mistreated and Ivan and Stella don't like that another elephant will be hurt. Time goes on until Stella becomes very sick. The mall downplays her illness until she can no longer do the tricks, so doctors come to help Stella get better. In the end all the animals including Ivan go to a zoo where they are treated better and are with other animals.

I would recommend this book. It is very heartwarming but at the same time sad. I cried multiple times while reading "The One and Only Ivan". I chose to read this book because I read it before in third grade and wanted to read it again. Obviously, I could not relate to the characters who were animals. The ending is surprising and the book isn't predictable.

Reviewer's Name: Oriana O.
Genres:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a classic for today's generation. It tells the story of a boy named Harry Potter who finds out he is a wizard and proceeds to attend a wizarding school and encounter the dark wizard who killed his parents. This story was a large part of my childhood and one of the reasons I enjoy reading so much. Although it is a very easy read and truly a children's story, the Harry Potter books are magical for all ages and I would suggest everyone read them.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K.
Genres:
Irena's Children
Mazzeo, Tilar
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book tells the true story of Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who saved 2,500 children during the purging of Jewish people from Warsaw during World War II. This book details the trials and tribulations faced not only by Irena but the people and children of Warsaw. The underground network formed by Irena and her many friends allowed thousands of children to be placed with different families and continue living rather than being sent to German camps. I was truly awed by the courage described in this book and the measures taken by the people of Warsaw to save the lives of children who weren't even theirs or their friends. The horrors of World War II are indescribable but the necessity of remembering it is imperative, especially when stories like this are nearly unheard of

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K.
Vassa in the Night
Porter, Sarah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In this wildly imaginative and wacky story, the main character Vassa and her trusty living doll Erg must survive the dangers of a magical Brooklyn, convenience store, and the possibility of beheading. This story takes a modern and dark take on the Russian folktale "Vassilissa the Beautiful" as Vassa struggles with who she is and what she wants from the world. I found this book very interesting because it is much different from many of the other books I have read. This story is odd, quirky, and disconcerting to a degree as for a while you have no idea what is going on. The whole book almost seems to be an odd delusion or hallucination. I enjoyed reading this book because I am so used to flat or normal stories that have a clear indication of whats going on and it was fun to have to think and question what was going on.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K.
Awards:
To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Han, Jenny
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Over the summer, I, like many teens, watched and loved the Netflix original movie, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. After watching the movie, I knew I had to read Jenny Han’s book which the movie was based upon. Although I discovered this book because of the movie, I will try and focus on the book alone for this review.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a teen romance novel about young Lara Jean, a high school daydreamer who writes love letters to the boys she has crushes on. She never sends out the letters though, they’re just for her to write so she can let out her feelings and move on from her crush. Lara Jean writes 5 letters and the story begins when they mysteriously get sent out to each of the boys. Lara Jean then has to deal with the stress and drama of it all.

The book was a fun read. It was very easy to get through, and the story was fun and not the most predictable. Lara Jean is a great character and you can’t help but love her. In fact, all of the characters are great and they really do bring the book together. However, if cheesy romantic books are not for you, then neither is this book. Although the book is not your classic love story, it is still pretty mushy, for lack of a better word. Also, it is pretty unrealistic. If you want a love story you can relate to, I doubt this one will do. Another aspect is that the book is not deep or though-provoking in the slightest. This book is only for those who want an easy, light read that they don’t have to think much about; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. Overall, the characters were great and the story was enjoyable.

It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t much more than an entertaining story.

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn P
Genres:
Pop

Pop

Korman, Gordon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Pop is about a boy named Marcus. In his second year of high school, he moves to a new city and a new school. In his old town, he was a Junior Varsity football player and he wants to try out for varsity this year. After he trains all summer, he shows up to tryouts to discover that he is unwanted on the team. The last season, they went 11-0 and won the championship, so they don’t want to risk losing another perfect season. He barely makes the cut but knows he will be sitting on the bench a lot.

One day while he is practicing, a strange middle aged man appears. Besides being able to catch, throw, and hit like a truck, he has an impeccable sense of balance. While Marcus is getting better at football, he wonders who the mysterious guy he practices with is and his oddities. Meanwhile, the team is headed for its second perfect season and, with Marcus’s monster blocking, they are unstoppable. Marcus finds out that the guy who has been helping him is really a ex-NFL player, but doesn’t remember because he has Alzheimer’s Disease. The family is hard at work keeping the disease a secret but it is getting Marcus in trouble. Will Marcus be able to get himself and Charlie out of trouble without spilling the big secret?

I loved this book! While I enjoy Gordon Korman’s books, I don’t usually enjoy books about sports, but this one was really great. It touched me how Alzheimer’s Disease affects not just people’s everyday lives, but how it affects the person themselves. I don’t know how you keep living when the truth is revealed to you and you are so confused.

Reviewer's Name: Ben D.
Awards:
Survival of the Sickest: A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease
Moalem, Sharon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Survival of the Sickest, by Dr. Sharon Moalem, is a book that talks about the surprising connections between disease and longevity. The author does a great job of changing the reader's understanding of illness and presenting a new view of our bodies. While some people may find biology and other sciences boring, the book applies to everyone. The information is conveyed well and in a way that isn't just straight facts and boredom.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those who are into biology.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
The Never War
MacHale, D.J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Never War, by D. J. MacHale, is the third book in the Pendragon series. The series take place in a dystopian universe where multiple "territories" exist. This time, Bobby Pendragon, the main protagonist, is forced to set out to "First Earth" to protect New York City during the year 1937. The book's setting is amazing and cleverly crafted, as always, and the plot is intruiguing as well. The characters are also well developed and their identities start to mature after the first two books. The antagonist Saint Dane is also fascinating as his entire identity is shrouded in mystery.

Overall, the book is a great adventure novel and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in books like the Harry Potter series.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
The Book Thief
Zusak, Markus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"The Book Thief", an intriguing story that focuses on a little girl living in Nazi Germany, is a delicate and emotional piece that will have you turning the pages until it is finished. This story is quick read, though surprising based on the 584 pages, and has you hooked on every word of every sentence of every paragraph. This novel is historical fiction, and is written by the perspective of death. Liesel Meminger, the main character of the story, is a foster child living in the excruciatingly difficult times of Nazi Germany. In the story, she faces so much, many of which happening before she meets her foster parents, only to have more head her way in the face of the war. This book is very raw and emotional, and really puts life as we know it into perspective. If you like historical fiction, real stories, and a happy ending, this book is for you.

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
Genres:
Moby Dick
Melville, Herman
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Moby Dick is a classic piece of literature, an iconic masterpiece. The story, once it pick up, is extremely engaging and interesting. The characters, such as Ishmael and Captain and Ahab, all exude personality and uniqueness. Plus, it has one of the greatest antagonists in all of literature: Moby Dick himself. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel from beginning to end. There are some downsides, such as the language of the seamen being somewhat hard to grasp, and the several chapters describing whaling or the anatomy of whales being completely pointless. However, these do not detract too much from the overall experience, and the novel is still an exceptional one. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a good novel to read, or anyone who has a passion for the ocean.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C.
Awards:
Frankenstein
Shelly, Mary Wollstonecraft
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The classic tale of mystery and horror is also one that is an extremely entertaining read. While it may not be the scariest novel ever, the mere ideas that it presents are certain to make one a bit uneasy. The plot is iconic: Victor Frankenstein, aspiring philosopher and scientist, creates a horrifying monster out of dead bodies and reanimates it from the dead. The monster then goes on a murderous rampage after being rejected by his very creator. The novel is very good, and the message it presents, of not overreaching for knowledge, is a timeless one. The only downside to this icon of horror is that some chapters tend to drag, and have little purpose. However, this is not a huge detriment since the rest of the novel is so entertaining. I would recommend to thriller or horror enthusiasts.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C.
Awards:
Lord of Chaos
Jordan, Robert
2 stars = Meh
Review:

While the first five novels in the Wheel of Time series were near masterpieces in their own right, the sixth entry is where the series begins to peter out a bit. Whereas the previous novels were compelling high fantasy adventures, this one seems to exist in more of the vein of a drama. Intense magical battles and high stakes plots to unravel are here replaced with the female characters prattling on about the color and feel of their dresses, or complaining about men with each other. Additionally, there is an enormous cast of characters to keep track of, which does tend to drag the novel down and make it more confusing than it needs to be. True, this was also a problem in the the first five novels, but compounded with the sometimes boring plot and mundane female characters it becomes a much more noticeable problem. Most of the novel is people sitting around postulating for power and talking. However, there are some things to be appreciative of, such as the political intrigue, chapters from the Forsaken point of view, and the return to Shadar Logoth, but these things just don't help the novel in the long run. I would recommend it to anyone who has read the previous five books.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C.
Awards:
Genres:
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Albertalli, Becky
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda" is about a student named Simon who is 17 and is closeted. He emails his unknown friend that goes by the fake name Blue frequently and also goes the fake name Jacques. Everything is fine, until Martin sees Simon's email one day in the library. Martin uses the emails as a way to blackmail him. Simon is forced to do everything Martin asks in order to keep his sexual orientation a secret from the outside world. Martin does terrible things to get what he wants which is a chance with Simon's friend Abby. While this is happening Simon becomes closer with Blue and eventually develops a crush on the unknown boy who goes to the same school. Many things happen between Martin and Simon but everything ends when Martin takes things too far. As a result of Martin's extreme act, he is forced to come out to everyone. Simon becomes even closer with Blue and things escalate to them knowing each other's identity. Blue and Simon end up dating in real life and everything ends happily despite the many issues Simon had to face with coming out and Martin.

I read this book because I had heard good things about the movie Love, Simon and wanted to read the book it was based off of. "Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda" was an amazing book. I loved the LGBT+ representation. Simon's feelings were very real and relatable. I finished the book in a day because I enjoyed it that much. I would definitely recommend to anyone and I would definitely classify it as one of the top three books I have read this year.

Reviewer's Name: Oriana O.
Genres:
The Last Star
Yancey, Rick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Last Star by Rick Yancey was an enthralling close to The 5th Wave trilogy that left me in a trance of teardrops and the grip of a smile. Throughout the series, a group of survivors varying in age and personality banded together while a cruel species from another planet seized the Earth in determination
for solitude-- without care to the danger of the human life that already inhabited the planet. The book follows the minds, attitudes, and decisions of several characters, including Cassie Sullivan, her little brother, and her high school crush, along with other rogues that had survived the inhumane attacks of the inhuman. It was a race to get to the next page as the question of survival blared atop the ink and paper and as hate and wrongdoing and abandonment bloomed within the dying fields of love and innocence and hope. I thoroughly enjoyed this story because of how unfathomable yet relatable it was; the idea of aliens attacking Earth is very far from reality, but the way humans responded to the intruders in The Last Star was raw and familiar. I picked this book up because I had previously read the first two books of the series (The 5th Wave and The Infinite Sea) and appreciated the storyline of the movie, "The 5th Wave". The Last Star was at no point predictable; there were plot twists tucked into the spaces between chapters. Along with this, Rick Yancey's poetic script was remarkable throughout the story because of his beautiful descriptions of the action that allowed a new depth to be reached within the intricate plot. I would recommend this book to anyone who seeks adventure from the confines of a bedroom, as well as the understanding of the crude emotion that helps us to grow not as persons but as a people.

Reviewer's Name: Anya G.
Life and Death Twilight Reimagined
Meyer, Stephanie
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

In "Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined", the hit series Twilight is essentially gender-bent -- Bo, a human boy from Arizona, moves to the Washington town of Forks to live with his father. There, he meets Edythe, a vampire girl, and they fall in love. This book left me speechless, but not in a good way. The writing is atrocious; the dialogue was cliche and awkwardly phrased. The characters are flat and one-dimensional -- everyone simply changes genders and names (ex. Alice becomes Archie, Jasper becomes Jessamine). For reference, I also read the original Twilight book, just to see if it was as badly written as the reimagined one. I discovered that there were several lines from the original that were also in the reimagined version. It was as though she copied and pasted the same lines from her first book into this one. That seems to contradict the idea of a remake. For those who might be wondering if the reimagined book is any better than the original, the answer is no. But, if you enjoy a cheesy read like I do sometimes, then you may enjoy "Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined."

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
The Hunger Games
Collins, Suzanne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In "The Hunger Games", sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her young sister's place in the cruel Hunger Games, an annual televised competition where children fight to the death until one remains. Although I'd watched all the movie adaptations before reading this book, I was still completely hooked. Everything about this book is absolutely fantastic -- the characters, the plot, the writing. The characters are complex and complicated, blurring the line between good and evil -- Katniss, in many ways, makes a phenomenal anti-hero. The plot moves quickly -- every chapter leaves on a cliffhanger, making it impossible to put the book down. The writing is succinct and gripping. The only criticism I could think of is that the beginning is a little slow, but it picks up very quickly from there. Everyone should read this book -- it's possibly one of the greatest books I've ever read. "The Hunger Games" is simply amazing.

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.

Pages