Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Loveless by Alice Oseman

Loveless is a standalone novel following the story of Georgia, a hopeless romantic who realizes she’s never had a crush on anyone, ever. Georgia goes down a path of self-acceptance as she navigates the obstacles hurtled at her through university, and the ever-present question of when romance would strike her. The story follows tear-jerking moments, hilarious situations, and an overarching theme of friendship and acceptance. Loveless is an extremely important coming-of-age, LGBTQ+ story of a community that tends to be underrepresented in popular culture today.

This book was so important on so many levels. The representation and diversity genuinely had me thrilled. It had such an authentic, inclusive cast of characters, and Oseman made you relate to and love every character on every level. The depiction of friendships was genuinely heartwarming, and I loved the importance placed on platonic rather than romantic relationships. This is an essential YA read, due to its fantastic writing style as well as its hilarious, honest, and touching moments. It was genuinely hard for me to put this book down!

Georgia was a fantastic main character, and I was rooting for her in every moment of the book. It was fantastic to see her come to terms with herself and see her journey of self-acceptance.

Reviewed by Anna at Twin Hickory Library
Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Fallout by Steve Sheinkin

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Steve Sheinkin weaves together the story of the Cold War in an elaborate book. This historically significant war is shown in the perspectives of all sides, which come together to form an amazing tale. The dangerous atomic bomb’s developments raise terror and chaos, and the simple question, “what is next?”, will ripple through you as you go through this story. The strong, resilient President Kennedy is in charge of each step, yet, even the U.S. president was shaking in fear of the scary possibilities ahead of America – and the world. Meanwhile, the powerful Soviet figure Nikita Khrushchev is constantly making his next moves. This compelling, heart-pounding series of events leaves the destiny of the world swinging in the balance between America and the Soviet Union. Who will emerge victorious?

I was amazed by the entire way the author scripted the story. The research involved in it has definitely paid off, and each single sentence in the book does not go without its significance. The detail put into it is astonishing. Additionally, the illustrations included are helpful and assist in visual rendering of each important person in the book.

The one improvement which I think should be added to the book is the span of the story. This book only deals with the events towards the beginning of the Cold War, but I would also have liked to see the way everyone reacted when America became the surprise winner in sending a manned spacecraft to the moon.

Overall, this book is a great eye-opener in seeing the events of war in the way others saw it, and is greatly informative. I highly recommend it!

One thing that really stood out to me in this book was the names of the chapters and parts in it. After reading a few chapters, I realized that the name of the chapter gives a slight, clever clue into what will be discussed in it. For instance, there is a chapter named “Zugzwang.” This metaphor refers to the events in that chapter being compared to a chess aspect. I attempted to predict what would happen in each chapter, and really enjoyed this guessing game!

Reviewed by Shreya at Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Straight on Till Morning by Liz Braswell

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In a magical retelling of the classic Peter Pan story, Straight On Till Morning tells the tale of sixteen-year-old Wendy Darling and her exasperation with her life in London – routines start to feel droll, waiting after her brothers becomes taxing, and her want of adventure overtakes her dreams. Wishing her life were different, she writes of the trials and tribulations of a Peter Pan in Neverland, who she nearly ran into four years ago. She knows she’ll have to come visit again, since she’s got something of his he needs desperately. When adventure presents itself to her wrapped in a pirate ship, Wendy finds it hard to say no. As she explores the very thing of her dreams, Wendy will soon answer the question: Should you meet your heroes? Or is it better to become one?

Peter Pan has been one of my favorite reads for all my life, and any chance I get to read a retelling of the story, I never turn down! I thought this book was great! I loved how it gave us more of an insight into Wendy as a character. In the original Peter Pan, Wendy is kind and motherly, yes, but she exists only to be a mother to the rest of the characters. However, in this read, she actually has hopes and dreams, and while she cares for her family, we see how she feels about her society and about what could become of her future. Wendy is beyond that timid little thing we first meet in the classic. The plot was also fantastic! It moved quickly, and never left you bored or waiting for the chapter to be over.

Something memorable about this book was the relationship between Wendy and Tinker Bell on Neverland. In the original, there is a jealousy between the two. Both girls have a special place in their hearts for Peter, and it becomes a battle of who he keeps in his heart. In this book, however, there is a friendship between them that we’ve never seen before, making it all the more remarkable.

Reviewed by Shishira, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Court of Swans by Melanie Dickerson

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Delia, the only daughter of Earl of Dericott, lived with her seven brothers on an estate in the English countryside. Her life was rather peaceful, though her father was infrequently home, which allowed for her stepmother to always be unpleasantly controlling. One day in 1381, she was hit with the news of her father’s death. Just two weeks later, all of her brothers, most of whom were still children, were arrested by soldiers on the accounts of treason against the king of England. Delia suspects political meddling to be behind this. No longer able to bear her stepmother, Delia herself acts to save her brothers from certain execution. She travels to London, a city unfamiliar to her, with the help of her aunt’s connections and under the disguise of working as a seamstress for the king’s court. Can she save her brothers from their fate while staying out of the countless secret agendas of the court?

For me, the book’s storyline was very intriguing, which I loved. I also found the book’s setting and how it is involved with the plot to be intriguing. It is also very realistic that a girl from the English countryside would be overwhelmed by a city such as London, which plays into the dynamics of the story. The characters’ backstories and their dialogue drew me into the book and I could not put it down. The book’s flow was great and the transitions between chapters made the plot move at just the right pace to not bore nor confuse the readers. However, I also felt the character development seemed a bit too fast and was a bit anticlimactic at times. The word choice used in this book could have also been much stronger and helped with the plot. Overall, the book is a great read!

As a history enthusiast, the most memorable part of the book is the time setting the book takes place. The medieval era is not commonly written about in fiction novels. The author, Melanie Dickerson, however, appears to be experienced with writing about medieval times, because the setting is masterfully applied in many details throughout the book.

Reviewed by Qingyuan, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Cast in Firelight by Dana Swift

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The story revolves around two main central characters Adraa and Jatin, who had an arranged marriage set up from a young age. The two main plot points of the story are about how these two characters fall in love and the various political and economic stances that their nations have. One of these was how the invention of firelight, an invention made by Adraa which impacted the people, affected the economies in other nations. The setting takes place in the fictional world of Wickery, which has five countries, each having its system behind the hierarchy. Most of the cultural aspects of the various nations in the story seem to come from India. However, some of the slang used also seems slightly based on British English. The story also has an intricate magic system which is a big part of the plot and the setting.

The main thing that drew me to the book at first was the magic system. To that aspect, I feel that the story did not disappoint. However, one of the main things that I disliked was the writing style. The premise is very cliché, and the story isn’t helpful by having the first hundred chapters be a slow burn. The story involves a contract marriage between the two main characters. I hated this since it was a generic arranged marriage setup, which meant that the two characters hated each other. Not to mention, it lasted around 100 chapters. The resolution to this issue involved the usage of another cliché of falling in love in one glance. I also heavily disliked how this book made the word “blood” into a profane word. The usage of the word “blood” seemed to be in places where it could have been using the phrase “bloody he**”, but since it’s not written in that way, the dialogue with that word feels abrupt and not complete. At first, I thought that it was due to a cultural influence and the author wanting to keep the profanity down for a younger audience. However, the author also uses other words of the same type. This confused me on whom the target audience was supposed to be or if it was just a generic misprint. However, I don’t think it was a misprint due to it happening frequently, and I disliked that a lot. It was one of the many reasons why I disliked Riya, a supporting character. I feel that can hinder a reader’s experience when they read this novel. Speaking of characters, I don’t particularly like or dislike the main characters. I enjoy the portions of world-building that are shown through them, but when the characters interact with others it comes off as cheesy. Other times, the story comes across as if those two characters were the only characters present in the story. The other characters felt one-dimensional and felt as if they were only existing to serve as a plot point for the two main characters. For example, at the end of the first on-screen fight scene, the interaction between Riya and Adraa felt very dry. It almost felt as if Riya was making Adraa into a Mary Sue type character.

For me, one of the memorable things in the book was the conflict between Adraa and Basu. This incident occurred around 50 pages into the book, and it was the scene that kept me invested in the book and prevented me from dropping the book. It was fast-paced, and the magic in the conflict was also something that I enjoyed seeing.

Reviewed by Srinivasan, Twin Hickory Library