Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

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The Henna Wars follows the main character, Nishat, a Bengali immigrant living in Dublin, and her journey in coming out to her parents as gay. Things get even more complicated in Nishat’s life when she beings to develop feelings for Flávia, her old childhood friend. Things take a turn for worse when Nishat goes against Flávia in a business competition as they both take on creating their own henna business, even though for Flávia it’s a matter of her appropriating Nishat’s culture. As Nishat battles through instances of racism, homophobia, and sabotage, she beings to realize the hidden layers to her crush-now-turned-competitor and realize there’s more to her than she remembered.

The Henna Wars is set in Dublin, Ireland where it follows 15-year-old Nishat, the daughter of two Bengali immigrants, and the events following her coming out. It features her sister, Priti, as well as her childhood-turned-crush Flávia. The plot starts off with Nishat coming out to her parents as gay and soon enriches itself in the business competition being held in her business class, where the most successful business will be branded a winner at the end. The book follows Nishat’s conflicting feelings as she throws herself into the competition with the determination to beat Flávia’s rival henna business. I though the book was amazingly accurate in depicting a South Asian character that wasn’t heaped up with stereotypes. The book at times was tough to read because of the various instances of racism and homophobia Nishat had to face at school and from her parents. However, the book does an amazing job at showcasing complex characters who do make mistakes, who at first can’t find the courage to stand up for themselves, and ultimately showing them amend these mistakes.

The most memorable part I liked about this book was the sisterly relationship Nishat had with her sister, Priti. Priti was a character who stood by her sister through everything, who was the first to support her, and I really liked how their relationship was realistic as sisters. They do fight and say harmful words to each other, but they ultimately make up and realize their mistakes. Another thing is the development of Nishat’s parents who do go through their own process of realizing their faults from the first reaction they gave to their daughter’s coming out. Furthermore, the relationship between Flávia and Nishat was one that I also fell in love with. It starts off with them initially growing apart from the competition, but we can clearly see through the moments her and Nishat share the reasonings behind Flávia’s actions and why her reluctance seems to show at some parts. Overall, the book did a wonderful job at depiction Nishat’s journey and development as a character and the relationships around her.

Reviewed by Tasnia, Libbie Mill Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Go the Distance: A Twisted Tale by Jen Calonita

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Go the Distance is a book intended to be an reinterpretation of the Disney movie Hercules. The protagonist, Meg, embarks on a quest from the goddess Hera to become a god. Meg is only allowed to stay with her lover Hercules among the Greek gods if she becomes a god herself, differing from the movie’s ending of the two being united without additional conditions. To fulfill this quest, Meg must rescue the soul of her former boyfriend’s wife from the Underworld and the devious god Hades with only a time limit of ten days. She encounters many hardships along the way and is forced to face her past in order to advance in her quest.

I’m a big fan of the Twisted Tale series from Disney, and seeing one of my favorite movies reinterpreted for this series brought me immeasurable joy. The writing is up to par as always with the Twisted Tale series, and all the characters imitate their movie counterparts, which was an important detail that I worried about while reading. Meg is generally characterized as sassy and bold, which Calonita correctly interprets in this book, and I appreciate the author for staying accurate to the movie. I also loved seeing Meg’s past explored; the movie never fully fleshed her out as a character other than being a pawn in a game beyond comprehension, and this book brought meaning to her character.

The most memorable part of the book was a particular flashback to Meg’s past. Without describing in detail, the relationship between Meg and her mother reflected Meg’s inner strength and motive to live, and influenced how she became independent.

Reviewed by Allyson, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

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Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo picks off from the first book in the series of King of Scars. Rule of Wolves is set in the POV of our three main characters, Nina Zenik, Zoya Nazyalensky, and Nikolai Lantsov, as they battle foreign enemies and forces beyond their understanding to ensure safety and victory for their home country Ravka. The book dives into the political games playing throughout the story as it sets the stage for the ultimate war between Ravka and Fjerda that will determine the fate of all Grisha and Ravkans alike. Rule of Wolves brings back old characters, dives into the POV’s of new characters, and brings the ultimate conclusion to the series.

The book switches from multiple settings, from Ravka, Shu Han, and Fjerda as it bounces from one POV to the next. In Ravka, the plot follows young King Nikolai’s pursuit for peace while also chronicling General Zoya’s goal to establish ultimate peace for Grisha while unlocking her new powers as a Squaller. In Fjerda, we’re sucked into Nina’s job as a spy for Ravka as she strives to uncover the secrets of the Fjerdan government to help Ravka win the war. The book also introduces the POV of new characters, such as Mayu Kir-Kaat, a spy for the Shu, and the Darkling, the newly resurrected villain from earlier books, and their own motives and plots in defending their country. With all these different POV’s, I thought the book did a wonderful job in keeping pace with all the characters and being consistent with all the POV’s. The different POV’s definitely provided various tones to the story that made you grip the book in anticipation.

One of my favorite parts about the book were the characters, specifically Zoya Nazyalenzky and how Leigh wrote her character development. The book dived into the prejudice and racism Zoya faced being half-Suli and her struggle with expressing vulnerability to the people around her. Along with the characters, I loved the way Leigh depicted the romance in the book. Despite the book’s plot set in war, there romantic relationships in this book felt healthy and not one sided. I loved the way Zoya’s relationship with Nikolai was handled and how she didn’t lose the coldness to her or that there wasn’t the idea that he finally “tamed” her given her cold and rough character. One thing that I did dislike is the ending Leigh gave for Nina. I felt that her ending felt incomplete and out of character for her. But overall, the book felt exciting and mostly complete towards the end.

Reviewed by Tasnia, Libbie Mill Library

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Read & Review: Rules for being a girl by Candance Bushnell

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It’s Marin’s senior year, and she’s got it in the bag to Brown University. She’s a great student and is co-editor with her best friend of the school paper. Her grandmother, who is very important to her, is why Marin wants to get into Brown University – to make her proud. However, her English teacher Mr. Beckett or “Bex,” as students call him, makes a move on her which causes her to think about a lot – was what happened her fault? Is she overthinking it? She also realizes that there are tons of rules for girls that stem from society and are incorporated in the school’s dress code and ends up writing about it in the school newspaper and starts a feminist book club. Although she went through a lot, in the end, things begin to look up for her.

This book was good. It shows what girls go through regarding sexual harassment and when many don’t believe them about it. It brought light to how the school administration doesn’t always care about sexual harassment and how it doesn’t always help the students. It talked a bit about how feminism isn’t always intersectional, and there’s a group discussion about it during a book club meeting. Marin was okay. I felt like she was naive in the beginning. I also wondered why she didn’t think Bex was weird due to his behavior towards her, but she trusted Bex, and he betrayed that trust/abused his power when he made a move on her. Chloe, Marin’s best friend, was okay. I didn’t like her after what she did, but there was a reason behind it. I liked Gray due to his awareness of many things, plus he was there for Marin through it all. I loved the book club with its meetings and discussions and wished there were more. I hated Bex, the English teacher, so much. It was obvious what he did to Marin he did to other students. I thought he was weird, and there were tons of red flags about him in the beginning. The book overall was good, and I didn’t want to put it down.

One memorable moment was when she talked to her parents about what Bex did. They never blamed her for what happened because it was Bex’s fault and attempted to chase any doubt Marin had about it being her fault.

Reviewed by Roopa, Tuckahoe library

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Read & Review: The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

For most people, the start of World War 2 symbolized death and destruction. However, for some, it meant the beginning of a new life, a life with adventure and hope. That was how Louisa’s journey began in England, in a world full of secrecy, code, and warfare. She embarks on a magnificent journey with her elderly accomplice, Jane, and gets entangled in all sorts of affairs in hopes of proving her value in the war effort against Germany. Along with the help of the Royal Air Force, she relays messages decoded by an intricate machine from a Nazi defector. Enter a world full of excitement, mystery, and stealth in this captivating and inspiring novel.

This was quite different from other books I’ve read because it started out slow-paced, and gradually escalated things and made them interesting. The three central characters, Jamie, Louisa, and Ellen had a great connection with each other that was beautifully played out in the first few chapters of the book, and this bond got even stronger as the novel progressed. I enjoyed how different the writing style was from each different perspective of a character, and how that fits into their individual personalities. Although some characters were blander than others, the overarching plot of the novel worked out in a way that made up for that.

One memorable thing was how, instead of progressing chapters, the book simply switched viewpoints to the first-person perspective of another main character, and cycled through characters strategically in a certain situation. I also enjoyed the metaphorical comparisons made between characters who were different from the rest of the majority of England like Louisa and Ellen.

Reviewed by, Arnav, Glen Allen Library