Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Victor and Nora: A Gotham Love Story by Lauren Myracle

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You can reserve a print copy here, an eBook copy here,

In this classic retelling of Batman villain Mr. Freeze’s tragic romance, Victor Fries, an up-and-coming young scientist, meets Nora Faria, a girl diagnosed with a fatal illness that will kill her at an early age. As the two become fast friends, they realize that they have a lot to talk about, including their pasts. Once Victor learns about Nora’s illness, he’s determined to save her by using a previously unexplored, and possibly unethical, method: preservation by freezing, also known as cryopreservation. However, Nora plans to end her life on her birthday, sooner than Victor can possibly finish his experimental cure. Will Victor’s cure work, and save Nora?

I honestly thought this book was emotionally moving. I knew a lot about Mr. Freeze, the Batman villain, but DC Comics never dove deep into his backstory, so I went into this with tempered expectations. However, I came out of the book stunned – the ending was as I had assumed, but the way Myracle came to the book’s conclusion was a wild ride of twists and turns. The characters were full of life and charm, each having their own characteristics and inner conflicts to battle. I absolutely loved how close the titular characters were and reading their inner dialogue gained my sympathy for their causes. In addition, seeing Gotham City portrayed as a friendly and bright environment was fantastic. Usually Gotham City is portrayed as a grim city full of crime, and its reimagining gave the city a new perspective.

The most memorable part from the book was Victor and Nora meeting for the first time. The two being able to relate through the pain of losing a loved one was what tied them together and established their bond. I believe it was memorable because it was their grim circumstances that brought them together, rather than their wildly different personalities.

Reviewed by Allyson, Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights by Karen Blumenthal

Amazon.com: Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive  Rights (9781626721654): Blumenthal, Karen: Books

You can reserve a print copy here, an eBook copy here, or an eAudiobook copy here!

Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights by Karen Blumenthal discusses how reproductive rights came to be. The book informs the reader of the history of contraceptives and abortion, starting from the 1800s to the present. It also addresses the women and men who’ve supported or opposed contraceptives and abortion, why they supported or opposed them, and what they did for and about women’s reproductive rights. It provides statistics and facts about abortion and tidbits of information previously provided to give the reader more insight.

This book was informative for me, seeing as I didn’t know much about abortion or Roe v. Wade until I read it. This book informed me about the history of reproductive rights, Roe v. Wade, and what women had to go through back in the day. While reading, I felt many emotions, especially sadness and anger. I liked that the book was in four parts with subsections in each, and after a subsection, there would be a page or two examining a specific topic that was in a subsection, which helps readers, and me, to understand that topic.

The most memorable thing about the book is that it details what went on in the courtroom during Roe v. Wade. It showed me how each side presented their case and how they defended it. It also showed me how the justices asked questions and how they came to a decision after the hearings. Blumenthal gives the insight of not only the advocates for abortion but also the opposers of abortion. It helped me to understand why they were opposed to it, whether it was a moral or religious reason. Furthermore, this book also helped me to understand why the topic of abortion and contraceptives is so controversial.

Reviewed by Roopa, Tuckahoe Library

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Read + Review: The Friend Scheme by Cale Dietrich

Amazon.com: The Friend Scheme (9781250186997): Dietrich, Cale: Books

You can reserve a print copy here and an eBook copy here!

Matt Miller is a high-school student with a big secret: his father is the head of one of the biggest mobster families in the city. His secrets don’t stop there. Matt grapples with the fact that he will never live up to the son his father has raised him to be, a ruthless and cold killer who hates the Donavans’ his family has been fighting with for years. With these doubts in mind, he ends up meeting a boy named Jason who begins to see Matt as the person he really is. This connection between the two boys turns from romantic to dangerous as new plots and secrets reveal themselves and Matt must make a choice to stay loyal to his family or to reveal who he really is.

I found myself relating to the main character, Matt, a lot of times when reading the book. I think the author did a great job narrating his feelings and writing his journey. The book goes into detail the inner crisis he has within himself and the struggle between making his family proud or choosing his own path in life. The plot reminded me of Romeo and Juliet as it was about two boys from opposite sides of a war who fall in love with each other. I appreciated how Matt was able to finally find himself and figure out what he wanted to do with his life. I felt proud in the end when he realized that a life of crime wasn’t permanent for him and that he could stand up to his father and choose his own destiny.

A thing I found memorable about the book was the plot twists that had me gripping the edge of my seat. I also appreciated how the relationship between Jason and Matt wasn’t rushed at all and was taken slowly. One thing I did dislike though was that it felt as if it was too fast paced and lacked emotion at some point. Especially towards the end when the biggest conflict of the book gets quickly resolved, I wanted more detail going into that. I also wanted Matt to spend more time trying to fix his strained relationship with his father. The dialogue also seemed awkward in some parts, as it went over the same point multiple times.

Reviewed by Tasnia, Libbie Mill Library

Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed

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After humiliating herself and nearly ruining her odds at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the last thing Khayyam Maquet wants to do is relax in France during her summer vacation. The annual family holiday in Paris is something that Khayyam should look forward to, but after being burned by a judge for her scholarship essay, all Khayyam can think about is how to rewrite her submission. Add Khayyam’s so-called boyfriend Zaid, who suddenly stopped communicating with her, and it almost seems impossible for Khayyam to enjoy herself. A chance encounter changes everything when she meets Alexandre Dumas, the descendant of the famous writer with the same name. Khayyam, an aspiring art historian, is thrilled, considering how the original Dumas was a topic in her failed essay. When they discover a connection between Dumas, Delacroix (a renowned painter), Lord Byron (a famed poet), and a Muslim woman named Leila forgotten to history, Khayyam is determined to solve the mystery of the woman’s story. Together with Alexandre, Khayyam searches throughout Paris for clues and embarks on a journey of revelation while exploring her identity. Switching back and forth between Khayyam in present day and the enigmatic Leila of the nineteenth century, this story takes a look at the struggles of two young women making their mark on history.

I like how Khayyam was French, Muslim, Indian, and American, and how her complex identity makes up who she was. Her feelings of not being able to completely fit into any of those groups is relatable. I like how witty and clever Khayyam was, and Khayyam’s dialogue with other characters was usually amusing to read. Khayyam’s disdain of colonialism and orientalism is also something I appreciate. The author’s detailed writing style made it easier to envision the story happening, and doesn’t take away from the moment. This is where things start going a bit downhill for me. Much of the plot can only be described as unbelievable. There are numerous instances that require suspension of disbelief, especially regarding the historical hunt where everything feels straightforward and convenient. History is a field of study that requires great research and substantial evidence to transform ideas into facts; both of these elements in this book are a bit weak, which is why I can’t accept this book’s attempt at creating a realistic discovery of the forgotten past. Despite the characters being intriguing, I didn’t really connect with them. Zaid has few character traits besides being sketchy and while Alexandre is mildly likeable, in the end he falls a little flat. Khayyam’s parents are generally happy and perfect at saying the right things to Khayyam. However, they aren’t in the story enough for me to get attached and thus they lack some depth. They also seem a little too relaxed, letting their seventeen-year-old daughter roam around Paris alone or with a friend she just made that summer. Although I previously stated that I liked some things about Khayyam, there were other things that bothered me too much to fully enjoy her character. First, her constant feminist comments started to annoy me. Of course, feminism itself isn’t bad and I know it is one of this book’s themes, but when it’s forced into the majority of the conversations Khayyam has, it gets redundant. I even sometimes felt this way about some of Khayyam’s remarks on colonialism and orientalism, despite liking the general attitude. I wish the author made her point in a way that didn’t feel overdone. Second, Khayyam is extremely trusting, to the point where she seems too naive. In the past, she hadn’t seen through Zaid despite his shady behavior. In the present, she randomly comes across this stranger who happens to be related to Dumas and almost right after, they exchange phone numbers. I can’t think of any good reason for why she wasn’t more cautious around Alexandre. These thoughts, juxtaposed with Khayyam’s almost immediate attraction to him, make it jarring to read and puzzling to understand. Third, Khayyam’s behavior is questionable. She is upset with how unclear her relationship with Zaid is, but instead of being direct with him, Khayyam instead moves onto Alexandre and even uses him to make Zaid jealous. Despite not liking how Zaid plays mind games, Khayyam does the same. Moving onto Leila, my main complaint is that her story was short. When I first read the original synopsis, I expected that I would be reading a novel split between the two heroines’ perspective. In reality, there are only a few pages at the most whenever the book shifts to Leila’s narrative while Khayyam usually has full chapters. The brevity made Leila’s story seem less important than Khayyam’s, and the briefness also made Leila’s character too distant for me to care about her. What’s even more baffling is how concerned Khayyam is with Leila and her story. Maybe that’s just how Khayyam is, but if the author had given the reader an opportunity to actually connect with Leila, I feel that I wouldn’t have been as uninterested with Leila’s story and I would’ve understood Khayyam’s passion for learning about this unknown woman. The story’s shortness, plus its formal writing style, makes Leila’s side of things overall a bit dull. As for the rest of the historical content (regarding Dumas, Delacroix, and Lord Byron), I only had a vague idea of their significance. Only those who were familiar with at least one of the men could somewhat follow. Being a person who hadn’t really known any of them, it was all hard to keep track of. I especially got lost in the areas of the story where the historical content is rather dense. This was another part of the story that wasn’t as interesting, and it made me care less about the historical mystery. I wish the author exposed the reader to those famous men in an intriguing way so that I could understand the great enthusiasm Khayyam had for this part of the past. All things considered, Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know isn’t awful, but it definitely has flaws that lower its quality. I would probably give it a few decimal points above three stars, but I wasn’t feeling generous to round up to four stars. Frankly, it already feels a little generous putting it at three stars.

One memorable thing about this book is the themes. If the author’s goal was to leave the reader remembering her thoughts on sexism, colonialism, and orientalism, she definitely succeeded. I have difficulty recalling much of the historical aspects and how the information Khayyam and Alexandre found was significant in their journey, but I don’t think I’ll be forgetting her points anytime soon. While it was irritating how the execution was handled, these themes are still important and worth reflecting over.

Reviewed by Christine, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Havenfall by Sara Holland

Amazon.com: Havenfall (9781547603794): Holland, Sara: Books

You can place a hold on a print copy or an eBook copy!

The Inn at Havenfall is a sanctuary between realms, where people from all worlds can come together safely to ensure peace and unity across the universe. Earth is the only non-magical realm, and for the sake of neutrality, the Innkeeper of Havenfall must be from there. This responsibility falls to Maddie’s uncle, who is tasked with running the Inn and preserving the delicate balance between the realms. Regardless of the pressure, Maddie’s summer visits convinced her that Havenfall is her home, and with her brother dead, her mom on death row, and her dad acting distant, she has nowhere left to go. Despite her father’s wishes, she wants more than anything to be the next Innkeeper and decides to spend her summer back at the Inn to learn from her uncle and gain his approval for her to become his successor. However, when a murder threatens the renowned safety of Havenfall and her uncle mysteriously falls unconscious, her dream starts to become true sooner than she expected. With her trust misplaced and her beliefs challenged, Maddie quickly realizes she’s in over her head as she tries to run the inn and uncover the truth about Havenfall. The fate of all the realms rests on her shoulders as forces conspire against her with the fragile balance of the worlds at risk.

While I truly enjoyed reading this book, it had its strengths and weaknesses. The plot itself was captivating, with the mystery and fantasy elements woven intricately, but the pacing was a bit off, with large chunks of exposition and narration broken up by repetitious flashbacks and plot-driving events. However, it wasn’t a detrimental issue because I was still able to appreciate the overarching story. In addition, the use of imagery in the world-building is exceptional and creative, but it feels wasted as the majority of the story only takes place at the inn. Since she is good at creating lush environments and colorful scenery, the author’s writing style is very much suited for an adventure that spans across the realms, and the one location makes it feel somewhat stuck and repetitive. The characters also lack much depth or development, except for Maddie in some cases. Nevertheless, while sometimes predictable, the story and its twists were entertaining, and, despite its flaws, I still felt invested in the novel and the fate of Havenfall.

The most memorable part of this book for me is the world-building because, while they are less explored, the realms were very unique and interesting to learn about. The history and lore of this universe were well-written and detailed, and the author’s ability to place the reader in these alternate realms with harsh environments and magical elements is excellent. While the origins of this multi-realm universe aren’t fully explained, the world itself was well-thought-out and well-imagined.

3-stars

Reviewed by Ananya, Twin Hickory Library