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Read + Review: Flowers in the Gutter by K.R. Gaddy

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Flowers in the Gutter tells the true stories of three German youths named Fritz, Gertrude, and Jean who come of age during World War II. Disgusted by Hitler and the Nazi regime, they join groups called “The Edelweiss Pirates.” Edelweiss is a flower that grows in the Alps, and the Pirates saw it as a symbol of freedom. They defy the oppressive German government and come into conflict with the Gestapo, SS, and Hitler Youth. They endure great trials and tribulations, but their spirit is never broken.

The book is quite interesting. The topic is quite timely and hopefully will inspire readers to stand up for what they believe in. At first, I thought it would be written in a narrative style, like a fiction book. However, it wasn’t exactly like that; “semi-narrative” might be a more suitable adjective. I was glad of this, because it was clear that the author was not taking artistic license while still being engaging and readable. While I had no major issue with the book, I did feel that there were slight undertones of criticism toward traditionalism and conservatism, while glossing over issues with Communism. That said, this was not particularly important in the context of the book: youth standing up to Nazism. Also, there was some use of strong language – appropriate situationally, but I felt I should warn of it.

I think the most memorable aspect of the book was the beginning section. The depiction of Germany’s descent into a Fascist nightmare was visceral; I could almost feel the tension and disorder in the air, and I felt very bad for the protagonists, who at this juncture were only children with no real idea of what was going on.

Reviewed by Asher, Libbie Mill Library

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Read + Review: Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolartz

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Jane Anonymous is a seventeen-year-old girl who was kidnapped and held captive for seven months before she escaped, leaving another victim behind. Now, she has to reacclimate to everyday life as she grapples with her trauma and guilt while dealing with the changes in herself, her family, and her friends. She’s not who she was before she went missing, and she’s not who the people in her life want her to be, but she knows she has to heal and accept what happened to her, even as she and her family make mistakes on what’s best for her. As she comes to terms with the horrific events she experiences by writing them down and reliving those memories, it becomes clear that not everything was what it seemed, and the truth behind her kidnapping is uncovered. The story is told in two alternating timelines, one being during her time in captivity when she is locked in a room and provided with basic necessities as she comes up with an escape plan along with another kidnapped teen, and the other being after she returns home and has to deal with her trauma for the sake of a normal life. Overall, Jane Anonymous is a riveting and emotional tale full of mystery and heart, making for a mild but striking psychological thriller.

This book was compelling and thought-provoking, and it was told through a unique voice whose trauma is explored and laced within the tone of how she relays her horrific experiences. Jane, the main character and narrator, feels like a real person with real emotions. Her thoughts and experiences are raw and genuine, and Jane’s voice complements the gripping and emotional story. One aspect that I found a bit strange though was the structural format of the novel as it alternated from “Then” and “Now” point-of-views to retell Jane’s life during and after her kidnapping. While it was a good stylistic choice for the purposes of storytelling, to show contrasts and build suspense, this fits the motives of the author and not of the narrator of the book, as it is explained that Jane is writing down her story for therapeutic purposes, so the switch between timelines makes it feel less authentic. However, it was overall still a very well-written and engaging story, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading and uncovering the secrets of the narrative.

The most memorable part of this novel is the exploration of Jane’s mental state during and after her kidnapping. Though I felt it could have elaborated even further on the implications of Jane’s experiences on her mental health, the effects on her behavior, thoughts, and narration are crafted skillfully, legitimizing rather than glorifying the impact of traumatic events. Both timelines show her coping mechanisms and social interactions and how they develop in response to the trauma she is facing/had faced. The handling of mental health, though at times not perfect, was most memorable because it was realistic and showed the good and the bad, with dynamic and complex characters who struggle with the loss of family and friends.

Reviewed by Ananya, Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson

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May McGintee is considered to be one of the lucky ones. She survived a school shooting at her high school by hiding in a closet. Unfortunately, her twin brother Jordan, her favorite teacher, and several other classmates were not as lucky. They were all killed in the shooting. Because of the shooting, May and her classmates are relocated to another high school. At her new school, May meets Zach Teller. When Zach and May meet, they immediately form a connection and become friends. That is, until May finds out Zach’s mother is the lawyer who is defending the school shooter.

I thought this was an emotional and powerful book. This book is mostly about May trying to deal with her grief and guilt while trying to find a way to heal emotionally. I especially liked that this book was told from both Zach and May’s points of view in alternating chapters. I thought this really helped you get to know the characters. Even though this is a fiction book, it felt very realistic.

The most memorable part of this book was when the survivors of the shooting came together for a memorial for their lost friends. Although the memorial was sad, I thought it was a nice way for the survivors to mourn together and remember their fallen classmates.

Reviewed by James, Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli

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Former childhood best friends Jamie Goldberg and Maya Rehman reunite as high school seniors when their mothers decide that political canvassing would be a beneficial activity for them both to participate in during the summer. For Jamie, this gives him the opportunity to practice his public speaking skills before giving a toast at his sister’s bat mitzvah. For Maya, canvassing provides her with the perfect diversion from considering her parents’ separation during Ramadan. As they greet likely voters and advocate for Jordan Rossum to become their state senate candidate in Georgia, they both become very close and have to consider the ramifications of love intersecting with their different faiths.

I thought the book was really good, but slow during the first 1/4 when Maya and Jamie didn’t really interact. When they did meet up though, it was great to see how passionate they were about making a difference in their communities. It was especially interesting to see how Jamie’s Jewish faith guided how he reacted with the Fifi the poodle memes since anti-Semitism isn’t too commonly discussed in the media. Ultimately, while all of the characters were charming, Jamie’s grandmother (Instagramm) was my favorite; I loved how she was the social media queen for the Rossum campaign and how tech-saavy she was.

Maya’s reflection about her friendship with Sara and how it was a beautiful gift, even if it was evolving, was so realistic. It was a reminder that growing up can lead to change in the most unexpected ways.

Reviewed by Manasa, Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer

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This book follows Jemima Kincaid as she navigates her senior year of high school. Suddenly, she is named to Senior Triumvirate, which consists of two other members, Gennifer, the school’s popular girl, and Andy, the charming athlete. When prom is just around the corner, it is up to the Senior Triumvirate to organize a dance that the school won’t forget. When her inner feminist speaks up, she proposes to have the Last Chance Dance, where the students submit the names of any and every person they’ve ever considered romantically into a website. The site pairs the students up based on the data, and voilà! You have happy couples all around, and no male agenda dictating them. But when things don’t go to plan, Jemima has to keep up as things start to spiral out of control. A new romance blooms up for her, and with it comes distance between her and her best friend. As Jemima tries to keep everything under control, she starts to lose herself in the process.

I really liked the book as a whole. The writing kept the reader interested and following along with the story. The writing style was humorous and easy to relate to, giving it the feeling that it was actually written by an 18-year-old in high school. The characters are written very well, and they are well thought out. The main character is written as if you can either immediately hate her overdramatic disposition, or love and relate to her role. Overall, the book was a fun read, and enjoyable.

One memorable part of the story was the friendship between Jemima and Jiyoon, Jemima’s best friend. During the middle of the story, they start to grow apart without realizing it. Even though they claim to still be best friends, they still are not as close as they were before. The book does a very good job showing the ups and downs of friendship.

Reviewed by Chinmayi, Twin Hickory Library