Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

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Want to place a hold on this title? Click here for the print copy, here for the eBook copy, and here for the eAudiobook!

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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Click here to place a hold on the print copy!

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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Want to place a hold on this title? Click here for the print copy, and here for the eBook!

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

Read + Review, Teen Reviews

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

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We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez is the story of three teenagers who are growing up in the barrio in Guatemala. Although Pulga, Pequena, and Chico are not related, they say blood doesn’t matter – they’re family. Life is hard in the barrio, money is tight and crime is prevalent. Pulga says that in some places terrible news is unexpected but in the barrio, it is not. Pulga dreams of escaping to the United States to lead a better life. He has been researching and drawing maps of the route he will use to escape for years. Even though life is dangerous in his town, he knows escaping to the United States is a harrowing journey that not everyone survives. However, after Pulga and Chico witness a violent crime and Pequena is being forced into marriage with a criminal, they know the time has come to run. But will they be able to survive the journey to the United States? Without passports or much money, the harrowing journey to freedom will require Pulga, Chico, and Pequena to travel on buses, trains (La Bestia also known as the death train) and walk across a desert. They will also need to rely on the kindness of strangers when trusting people is frowned upon. Although this journey is dangerous; it is a risk they are willing to take for the possibility of a better life.

I thought this book was intense. The author did a great job of depicting the brutal reality of a dangerous journey. I liked that it was written in the first person perspective. Pulga and Pequena alternate narrating the chapters. I thought it was a great way of telling two sides of the same story.

The most memorable part of this book was when I read the author’s note at the end of the story. Although I knew this was a realistic fiction book, reading about the real life details the author uses makes the plight and escape of three teenage immigrants much more harrowing and heartbreaking.

4-stars-1

Submitted by James, Twin Hickory Library

Read + Review, Teen Reviews

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

link to eBook here.

link to no wait eAudiobook here.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a prequel based 64 years before the original Hunger Games series. Coriolanus Snow, an eighteen-year-old capital citizen, whose family name is on the verge of being diminished, has an opportunity to change his family’s fate. For the first time in the history of the Hunger Games students from a prestigious capital school, known as the Academy, will have the chance to mentor one of the twenty-four tributes for the 10th Hunger Games. Not only is the Snow family name in jeopardy, but also the opportunity for Coriolanus to make a name for himself. To Coriolanus’ surprise, he has been given the daunting task of being the mentor to the female district 12 tribute, but he quickly realizes that someone else is in charge of his fate.

As a huge fan of the Hunger Games series, I was very excited to read Suzanne’s prequel and what we would entail while reading. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place in the Capital from the viewpoint of Coriolanus Snow. Since the viewpoint of Coriolanus is one as a viewer of the Hunger Games, rather than a tribute fighting for their life, you get more depth of the horror that goes around the games that was not achieved in the first books. The plot is rather interesting going deep into Coriolanus’ thoughts and mindset. Since the first books show how evil Coriolanus Snow is, we as readers already know what he becomes, but it is the path that gets him there that is the most interesting. Throughout the book, there will be many unexpected happenings, but there are also some dry spots that make the book a bit dull.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has many memorable moments throughout the book, but the ones that stand out the most to me are the connections made to the previous books. Suzanne found truly amazing ways to connect the books through her ways of writing. Not all of the connections may be clear to the reader, but the more you dig into the book the more you will find. I really enjoyed the new perspective of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, while many were skeptical about reading about Snow, who we all despise from the previous Hunger Games books, it happily surprised me by how quickly I forgot about what I already knew about him. Throughout the book, I also enjoyed how it was separated into three parts which truly have different plots and characters throughout. There are a couple of things that I disliked about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, one of them being the somewhat dry parts of the book. Since this book is 517 pages, a lot occurs with Snow and the surrounding characters, but there are some times where it feels like the book is at a standstill and not much is happening. Although The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes cannot compare to the first Hunger Games books, it exceeded my expectations and I cannot wait for the movie!

4-stars

Reviewed by Kaitlyn, Gayton Library