In the Serpents Wake by Rachel Hartman

In the Serpent’s Wake, the sequel to Rachel Hartman’s Tess of the Road, continues the story of Tess, a determined young woman tracking the Polar Serpent to help her friend. Throughout her journey, she discovers secrets long buried and omitted from written history by those in power. However, her journey intercrosses with others with different ideas, such as Marga, an explorer with high hopes for her future, a dragon named Spira, who is searching to rediscover themselves, and Jacomo, a priest searching for his purpose. They all have different theories about what uncovering the serpent could do for them as they run from their history. However, the past cannot stay buried forever.

While I enjoyed the plot and the continuation of Tess’s dedication to helping her friends, I found the overall layout lackluster. It was enlightening to read the story from multiple perspectives, but there was no beginning indication of who was narrating each chapter, making it confusing to figure out what was occurring. As well as that, the wording wasn’t very engaging, causing me to have to close the book for days at a time to regain the energy to finish it. However, I loved Tess’s character development from the first book and her longing to help her friends while overcoming something herself. Overall, I enjoyed the storyline but felt the plot was very drawn

I felt the most memorable part of In the Serpents Wake was how each character was going through something that the others weren’t aware of. That moral is incredibly important during our age of technology, which often restricts empathy towards others.

Reviewed by Ella H. at Twin Hickory

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Promise Boys by Nick Brooks

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In a very intense private school for boys who would otherwise not have an opportunity for education and success, the strict and often irrationally cruel Principal Moore made a lot of enemies during his career. One seemingly ordinary day, a gunshot goes off while three boys are in detention and Principal Moore is found dead. The three boys, JB, Ramon, and Trey, are immediately accused of committing the murder. They all have motives that seem to fall into place, but these boys believe that they are each innocent. While enduring questioning and scrutiny, they discover the flaws and corruption of the criminal justice system. Due to this, they decide to launch their own investigation and hopefully clear their names.

I really enjoyed this book. I found it to be extremely well-written and engaging. Not only did the characters and their individual struggles seem so real, but the mystery kept me guessing the whole time. I especially enjoyed how the author explored topics like corruption, race, and class while weaving it flawlessly into the murder-centered plot without anything feeling out of place. I also enjoyed how the book drew attention to how the media only shows the side of the story that they present to the audience. I thought that all of these highlights of society were done very well and flowed nicely with the plot of the story. However, I did feel like there were minor subplots mentioned throughout the story but were never resolved. For example, the students continuously run into a teacher outside of school and speculate about the different aspects of the teacher’s life, such as when she was seen with a police officer or went on maternity leave without being pregnant, but despite the amount of time that the author spent on this subplot, I felt like no conclusion was drawn and these seemingly important questions were left unanswered when the book ended.

One memorable thing about the book is the flawless blend of the exploration of difficult topics, like the parallels between race and class and the handling of the criminal justice system of these parallels, and the fast-paced and engaging murder mystery. I thought the author did a great job with this story and drawing attention to these issues while keeping the primary focus on the murder. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys murder mysteries or anyone who likes a diverse cast of characters who stand up against social issues and fight for themselves.

Reviewed by Caitlin F, Glen Allen Library

The Art of Insanity by Christine Webb

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In The Art of Insanity, an 18-year-old high school senior named Natalie Cordova grapples with bipolar disorder while navigating the pressures of college admissions and the gossip mill at school. She conceals the truth about a near-catastrophic car accident that wasn’t accidental, fearing it would disrupt her mother’s perfect image. As the weight of her secret grows heavier, Natalie faces additional challenges, including an art show that could shape her future and the presence of Ella, a classmate who knows too much. Amidst it all, she finds solace and connection with Ty, a captivating boy who brings light into her life. With humor and insight, the book addresses the journey toward self-acceptance, shedding light on mental illness and promoting understanding while featuring characters from diverse backgrounds.

The Art of Insanity by Christine Webb offers an engaging and educational reading experience, regardless of familiarity with mental illness. The book skillfully balances the seriousness of its subject matter by incorporating entertaining moments, particularly through the endearing antics of a pug character. The juxtaposition of beautiful art against the protagonist’s challenging life experiences adds depth and resonance to the story. It is a compelling read for teenage girls, encouraging them to broaden their perspectives beyond their social circles, while also providing great enjoyment for adult readers. Above all, the book explores the importance of honesty, highlighting the consequences of our choices for ourselves and future generations.

The Art of Insanity by Christine Webb is notable for its in-depth exploration of mental illness, presenting different perspectives that enhance our understanding of the subject. I especially liked how the author highlights the uniqueness of each individual’s experience with mental illness, promoting empathy and dispelling stereotypes. Webb skillfully integrates these themes into the story, making the book a memorable read that encourages readers to embrace the diversity of human experiences.

Reviewed by Shreya P., Glenn Allen Library

Books, Read + Review

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

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The third book in the Skyward Series by Brandon Sanderson continues to share the story of Spensa, a human pilot, as she travels in the Nowhere. She battles time and foes on the mission to get home from the Krell ship, Superiority, where she was collecting information on their technology and way of life. Along the way, she will meet new friends, and make new enemies, all while traveling in an uncharted, dangerous world that most don’t survive. Follow Spensa through the Nowhere as she learns more about not only herself, but the world around her and her family.

This book is full of twists and turns that I did not expect. I really enjoyed how Sanderson described the Nowhere and how easy it was to visualize while reading. The new characters that were introduced added a whole new perspective and storyline, while also bringing up old mysteries and wrapping up the whole story very nicely. I do wish that there was more perspective from Spensa’s friends on Defiant, such as Jorgen so that readers are able to understand what was happening while Spensa was on her mission.

The most memorable part of Cytonic for me was the growth as a character that M-Boy experienced. It was really nice to see him move past the previous restrictions that he had and really become a memorable character.

Reviewed by Avery B., Twin Hickory Area Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

What the Fact?! by Seema Yasmin

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“What The Fact” is a book that discusses the good and bad places of information and how to avoid fake news. The book is divided into five sections. The first section talks about false information on the internet and how to recognize it. The second section discusses bias and how beliefs do not necessarily mean something is right. The third section talks about the press and news, although it may be perplexing for some readers. The fourth section talks about the effects of social media on the brain. Finally, the fifth section talks about different methods of convincing someone to do what you want them to do.

“What The Fact” is an important book that helps readers identify and avoid false information. The book covers topics such as biases, the influence of social media, and the importance of critical thinking. The examples in the book were helpful for understanding the concepts discussed. However, I found the political content to be boring and believes that the book could have been more effective with additional examples. The more supporting details, the better.

One of the parts of the book that stood out was the example of a person who decided to eat only bananas as a way to diet. This story was used to illustrate the power of social media, as the person’s extreme diet choice became popular and others began to adopt it as well. This trend took on a life of its own, and people became overly influenced by what they read online.

Reviewed by Nitya G., Twin Hickory Area Library