Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep a Secret

Ellery and Ezra are twins who’ve been sent to live with their grandmother in Echo Ridge, Vermont for a short period of time. Although the two have only traveled there twice in their young lives, they know that a series of interesting events have occurred there, one of which has involved their own family. Their aunt went missing on the night of the school’s homecoming dance many years ago; since then, numerous tragic homecoming-related incidents have also occurred. As soon as they move there, similar ominous threats are being made, escalating so far that another student eventually goes missing. It is up to Ellery, Ezra, and some of their closest friends to find the girl, identify the culprit, and solve the mystery haunting this town for decades.

The thing that I enjoyed the most about this book was the structure of the plot. Each chapter was very eventful, and throughout the novel, there were many twists and turns that hooked me into the story. In fact, these plot twists made the novel so interesting that I read it for hours on end whenever I had the time to do so. Because of the suspense, I asked myself lots of questions about what was going on and attempted to piece the clues together, unfortunately with little success. I also liked how relatable all the characters were compared to most high school kids. I, myself, am a teenager, and I thought they were portrayed similarly to people that are my age.

The most memorable thing about the book was the final scene when all the mysteries were solved. I will not reveal anything that happened, but I will say that it is not something that I (or likely anyone that read this book) would’ve expected.

Reviewed by Griffin, Gayton Library

Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: The How & the Why by Cynthia Hand

The How & the Why

Cassandra McMurtrey has always been curious to know more details about the 16-year old biological mother who gave her up in a closed adoption in Idaho Falls. After turning 18, she decides to search for her while struggling with her adoptive mother’s hospital stay and heart condition. While Cass is searching for the truth about her biological mother “S,” the author directly reveals her narrative to the reader by interweaving letters every few chapters that “S” writes for an unborn Cass. “S” discusses the circumstances of Cass’s conception, the dysfunctional and cold home life she has, the events that pass at the Booth Memorial, a place for pregnant teenagers to achieve schooling, and the other pregnant teen girls that she’s surrounded by. As the span of a school year passes by with Cass learning more about her best friend Nyla’s adoptive situation, rehearsing with new boy Bastian, and trying to understand about the identity of “S”, “S” has her pregnancy journey simultaneously unfold.

I thought the book was engaging and sweet, even though it moved at a slow pace. As a result, I loved seeing the loving and supportive relationship that Cass had with her parents with all of her ventures and all of the charming, sarcastic, and poignant letters that “S” wrote. Still, I wish that Nyla’s story was explored more and her imperfect situations touched upon in her friendship with Cass. I also would’ve preferred Bastian being less of a potential love interest and more of a friend since I don’t feel like the romance aspect meaningfully added to the story.

Nyla discussing her heritage and the identity she had as a baby is interesting because she’s raised by her adoptive parents as an African-American, English-speaking, Mormon; yet, this is the exact opposite of how she was born. Even though adoption can be a wonderful thing for children, it did highlight that there are stories, family members, languages, and cultures that are lost in building an identity for yourself that I hadn’t considered.

Reviewed by Manasa, Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: Swing by Kwame Alexander

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This book takes place in a small town where Noah and his best friends, Walt and Sam, live. They are all high school juniors and play sports. Noah has had a crush on Sam since 3rd grade, but Sam has a boyfriend named Cruz, who is the best baseball player on their high school team. When Noah’s mom and dad travel to Barcelona, Noah decides to throw a wild party. To his surprise something unimaginable happens, and Noah and Sam’s relationship will never be the same.

I enjoyed the plot and the setting, however I wish there were more characters in the book. I want to be like Walt because he seems wise, but is not the best at sports. Although he is not athletic, he is exceptionally good at giving people advice. As he does with his friend, Noah, Walt encourages him do what he’s dreamed of doing since 3rd grade. I think that Noah is an amazing artist, but was upset that he is terrified to show his feelings that he has for Sam. He worries that he may push her away, so he is very reserved and cautious around her. I hope Kwame Alexander will write another book to sum up all of Noah’s, Sam’s, and Walt’s feelings.

One memorable thing about the book is when Walt, Sam, and Noah go to a mall to buy a gift for Noah’s mom for her trip to Barcelona. While Noah is picking out a hat for his mom, Walt is off talking with the Clerk, Divya. Walt likes her a lot and even through she is out of college, he asks her out on a date.

Reviewed by Tyler M., Tuckahoe Area Library

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Read + Review: Impostors

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Impostors by Scott Westerfeld takes place in the futuristic city of Shreve, ruled by Rafi and her father. Rafi is a diplomat loved by all, while her father is exactly the opposite, and always seems to be one step ahead of everybody. To the average person, that may seem like that’s all there is to this family, but it definitely is not. Even the first family has its own dirty little secret-and that secret is Frey. Frey is Rafi’s twin sister, born 26 minutes after her. These 26 minutes are why Frey has been training to kill ever since she was 6. These 26 minutes are why Frey has been trapped in her room for her whole life. These 26 minutes are why Frey is Rafi’s body double. And these 26 minutes are why Frey got involved in a political deal her father made over metal, and for the first time has been sent away from her sister and to another first family, where she will be held hostage until they finish harvesting the metal. During her time as a hostage, Frey meets Col, who she gets too close to, and soon starts to notice something off about her impression. So when the deal starts to crumble apart, Frey is forced to choose between staying with her father, or running off with Col and becoming a rebel.

In all honesty, I am a BIG fan of the author of this book, and adore his work. I will eat up any of his books, and will always get lost in the universe he so masterfully creates, so when it came time to review this book, I decided to try my best to criticize this book in the perspective of someone who is not as in to this kind of genre as me, and it was still good. Right off the bat, I want to say to NOT READ THIS BOOK IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE REST OF THE SERIES! If you do so, chances are you will be really lost. Now to start off this review I want to discuss the characters. This category is especially important in this book, and I think the author did a great job on it. The characters were all very different, and had their own dynamic personalities. I sometimes got lost thinking about what I would do in these situations, and found myself hating the villains, and rooting for the heroes, which not a lot of books make me do. The writing was mediocre, but was still skillfully executed. But every good thing still has a bad side, and this book is no exception. The concept was interesting, but the plot was not. It was a slower book and was very detailed, something I like, but I can see how some people would get annoyed with it. The story was good, but near the end, I was starting to get bored, but as always, Westerfeld never disappoints, and there was a crazily well written action sequence and an ending that kept me wanting more. All in all it was a good book, and I highly recommend it.

One of the most memorable parts was an action scene near the end, where Frey and some friends she meets along the way orchestrate an attack, and once the attack is launched, ends up being by far the coolest, most well written part of the book. I got lost in the description of the events, and was sitting on the edge of my seat the entire duration of the fight. I can’t reveal too much without giving away spoilers, but I can say this battle leads to one of the most shocking events of the book, that you definitely don’t want to miss.

Reviewed by Aryan A., Glen Allen Library

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Read + Review: Endurance: My Year in Space and How I Got There

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Scott Kelly, just like his twin brother, was a hyperactive kid with a ridiculously short attention span and a thirst for adventure. Being someone who just barely made good enough grades in addition to what was probably an undiagnosed case of ADHD, there didn’t seem to be much of a future ahead for him, especially in a time when life was much less accommodating of learning disabilities. Yet, despite all of that, he, alongside his brother, became an astronaut for NASA. This the story of how he overcame the odds, found his motivation to study, became a naval pilot, and reached what was arguably the highest point of his career: a year spent in the International Space Station. This is his endurance.

This tale of overcoming the odds, determination, and life in zero gravity was one that both inspired and deeply fascinated me. Not only did he undergo numerous trials, but he also came out a man who had accomplished what few could even dream of. I also heavily empathized with his struggle to find a goal in life, specifically one that not only suited his interests, but also one that wouldn’t be affected by the areas he lacked skill in. I definitely recommend this book to anyone in need of motivation in following their dreams.

My favorite part about this book was getting glimpses into what the life of an astronaut is like. The stress that comes with launching, the annoying technical errors, and trying to adjust to life in zero gravity are all written here in great detail.

Reviewed by Dahlia S., Twin Hickory Library