Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

The Red Palace by June Hur

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In this book, Nurse Hyeon has dedicated her whole life to working hard, and it has finally paid off. She is now a palace nurse, a title carrying so much prestige that her father will have to acknowledge her now! However, one night, tragedy strikes. Hyeon witnesses a terrifying massacre and her mentor, the woman who has been more of a mother to her than her real mother ever has, is accused of being the culprit. Convinced that her mentor could never kill, she teams up with a young and well-regarded inspector to prove her mentor’s innocence. As she becomes more and more wrapped up in the mystery, she gets tangled up in a web of royal spy networks and realizes that she may have some connection to the crime-and that the culprit might be targeting her next.

I loved the main character. She was fully developed, multi-dimensional, and struggled with her identity, her family, her values, and her safety. She knew exactly what she wanted and was not going to allow anything to stand in her way, not even a terrifying mass murderer. While I thought the premise of the novel was very fascinating and complex and I loved the historical mystery aspect with ties to true events, I did think the plot was kind of slow and it did bore me at times. There were definitely times when I thought that Hyeon’s inner monologue’s were repetitive and I kept thinking that she was emphasizing certain parts of her life way too often. Additionally, the plot twists were unsurprising and boring. It seemed like the majority of the book was either Hyeon complaining about everything that she had already complained about or it was Hyeon arguing with each one of the characters about her involvement in the case. That being said, the ending definitely made up for the lack in plot progression. Everything tied to the end nicely and it was an appropriately intense scene with the culprit at the end. Finally, the end was nice in the sense that it actually made sense to the readers who were paying attention to the mystery. It wasn’t like usual mystery books, where at the end, the author seems to remember that it’s a mystery and just invents a character to throw in at the very end and call them the killer. This book did a nice job making the killer a character who actually made sense considering the rest of the novel. The end didn’t drag out dramatically like most books where the author takes forever tying up all the loose ends. I liked how the book just ended without the extensive conclusion.

I definitely will remember how much I loved the ending. It was because of the intensity and then the very quick close that I actually ended up liking the book. Otherwise, I would’ve walked away thinking that I had just wasted my time. Therefore, I will try to learn from how well-done the resolution was and keep it in mind.

Reviewed by Caitlin, Glen Allen Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Great or Nothing by Caroline Tung Richmond, Joy McCullough, Jessica Spotswood, and Tess Sharpe

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During World War II, four sisters have just suffered a terrible loss. They’ve always been able to find solace in and support each other, but their unbearable grief has pushed them away from one another. Meg stays home with their mother and waits for her life to put itself back together again, while Jo joins an all-female community responsible for making machinery for the military. Amy lies about her identity in order to work for the Red Cross, and Beth feels useless and despondent as she watches her sisters deal with their grief without the comfort of each other. While on their separate journeys, the sisters each find their own ways to deal with their grief and discover their independent identities before learning that one doesn’t need to be perfect for those who will love you no matter what.

I absolutely loved this book. The beginning didn’t really capture my attention and the story seemed to just start with no context or exposition whatsoever, but just a few pages later I was hooked and the plot was engaging throughout the novel. I enjoyed the development of each of the characters throughout the book and saw parts of myself in each one of them. I loved Jo’s feminist determination to carve her own path for herself, Meg’s steady belief in the best of everyone, and Amy’s carefree growth during her journey. Beth’s sections of the book were written in verse, and the poems were so relatable and embodied everything lovable about poetry. The entire book conveyed a very gentle yet youthful energy, which really helped to further the reader’s enjoyment and comprehension. The setting of World War II was a perfect portrayal of the message and I really liked the unique perspective on the era. The book did a great job walking the reader through the stages of grief and through the journey of each of the characters.

I really liked the character development throughout the book. The reader was able to experience the grief and the journey with the characters and one’s own experiences were reflected perfectly. I watched the characters grow and felt myself grow with them. Also, the excellent portrayal of feminism during the 1940s was done really well and I know I will take that portrayal way with me. Finally, some of the poems will always stick with me. They were really emotional and helped to emphasize the overall message of the story.

Reviewed by Caitlin, Glen Allen Library

Uncategorized

Why Would I Lie by Adi Rule

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A student’s aspiration in becoming a school’s valedictorian is not a force to be reckoned with, especially when that student is Viveca North. For as long as she can remember, Viveca, a senior in high school, has been buried in her notes, books, and papers, hoping to become the ultimate student and gain admission at the esteemed Everett College. Even at Elton Prep, a high school known for its rigor, Viveca had little trouble climbing her way to the top, and it seemed like it would stay that way until Jamison Sharpe showed up at the beginning of the year. Jamison was perfect, not only in his academics, but he was talented, charming, kind, and most importantly, sociable. It was almost as if Jamison was identical to Viveca, but had somehow found a way to be better. Jamison was not a threat to Viveca at first; all she had to do was to keep acing her classes, just like she had always done. However, when Jamison made his way ahead of Viveca, claiming that sweet valedictorian spot in what seemed like no time, she knew something was wrong. How could a random kid, that no one had ever heard of before, find his way to the illustrious Elton Prep and almost immediately make it to the top? Determined to uncover the truth before her place at Everett College is taken, Why Would I Lie? illustrates the ambition of Viveca North, a student that somehow has to balance perfection, being a good person, and revealing the answer to a mystery that could change her life.

If I could describe this book in one word, it would be “wow.” It has been quite a long time since I have read a book that keeps me wanting to turn the pages before I finish reading, which made me wish that I could speed-read and absorb words with just one glance. There was never a dull moment in Why Would I Lie?, because Adi Rule perfectly captured what it is like to be an over-achieving student in an incredibly competitive, frustrating environment. Viveca was a beautifully written character that resembles what it means to be human. She was selfish, ambitious, and imperfect, despite she herself thinking she was flawless. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Viveca’s path to understanding herself, her peers, but also, seeing her dreams and desires come true. Viveca never gave up, even when the whole world seemed to be against her.

One memorable thing about the book was how immersive the story was. Throughout the book, I frequently found myself conversing with the book, trying to guide characters to their next decision. The dialogues seem to include the reader into the conversation, and it was almost as if the thoughts of the characters were spoken directly to the reader. Further, the book had a lot of imagery, sensory, and figurative language that transported me to the world of Elton Prep in the blink of an eye. Why Would I Lie? pulled me into its universe, making me want more and more of it as I read.

Five stars

Reviewed by Melody, Twin Hickory Area Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

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Jonah had always been a bit reckless, but Liv never imagined that he would do anything like this. When Liv’s older brother accidentally shoots himself after acting carelessly with a gun in his best friend Clay’s attic, she can hear the screams from a house over. Jonah is alive, but he doesn’t respond to anyone and can no longer take care of himself. No one meant any harm, but that doesn’t mean that no one is getting blamed. Liv’s mother is suing Clay’s father, the owner of the gun, for money to take care of Jonah. As tension grows in their small town, Liv refuses to leave Jonah – or Clay – behind.

Grief is something that was illustrated well in this book. In my opinion, watching the one you love fade away is even more painful than just watching them die. Seeing anyone I love in the state that Jonah was in would absolutely break me. And Liv shows that she is breaking. She starts spending more time with Jonah, her grades drop, and something happens to her where she can no longer understand it when some people talk. The state of mind of just barely getting through every day and hardly understanding what’s happening hits me in the heart. The memories and stories that she tells are meaningful and show how much her family means to her. Liv has friends that she still hangs out with outside of her brother and Clay, which is an important part of the grieving process, so I’m grateful for it. Also, I thought that Clay and Liv were a great pair in general. The way they interacted just made me happy. They very clearly enjoyed each other’s company and understood what the other was going through.

One memorable thing from the story would be when Liv narrates about her friends. She goes on to talk about the hardships that her friends have gone through. Liv claims that everyone has something. She has Jonah’s situation. This moment especially hurts because you start to realize that everyone is going through something, and some people are going through things you may never understand.

Reviewed Annabel, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

This Might Get Awkward by Kara McDowell

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Gemma Wells is a teenager who’s never been to parties, had many friends, or stand out at school. To her, Lake Powell was the only place she needed in life; all those other typical teenager activities didn’t matter. However, during her solo trip to Lone Rock Beach, a supposedly empty beach in this season, her excursion was unexpectedly accompanied by the most popular kids at her high school. Realizing that her crush, Beau Booker, is with this group, Gemma thinks that this might be her long-awaited chance at getting with Beau. That fantasy is almost immediately crashed when Beau falls off a boat and got a concussion, only saved by the quick CPR given to him by Gemma, before being sent to the hospital. At the hospital, Gemma was horrified to learn that everyone thought she was Beau’s girlfriend, but Beau had told her to pretend she was close with him. In a confusing journey to fulfill Beau’s wishes, meet a new, mysterious Booker brother, and discover her true identity, This Might Get Awkward tells a tale of how a once-outcast teenage girl finally finds a place where she belongs.

This Might Get Awkward fit into a few cliches, loner finding belonging, pretending to be dating the most popular boy, and a girl being torn between two romantic interests. However, I didn’t find these stereotypes to be overwhelming. Gemma’s seemingly hopeless situation was very unrealistic, which made it more interesting to see how the story would play out, especially since she seemed to brush off anyone who was trying to help her. When she met the other Booker brother, Griff, the two immediately hit it off, with undeniable chemistry. Yet on almost every step of the way, she was making mistakes and not taking responsibility for her actions. Gemma frequently pushed away the people who cared about her, making her an incredibly frustrating character. Despite Gemma’s occasional, questionable attitude, I enjoyed experiencing her journey to becoming a new person that she finally felt comfortable as.

One memorable thing about the book was the idea that the most unexpected people can become friends with each other. Most people stay away from others if there’s any indication that they “don’t fit,” and that was true for Gemma too. With Beau’s accident, however, Gemma made many amazing friendships with people she never would have talked to otherwise. I thought this gave an important message to the readers, to never be afraid to talk to other people, even if they are the complete opposite of you.

Reviewed by Melody, Twin Hickory Library