Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: The Knockout by Sajni Patel

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The Knockout is about the challenges that Kareena Thakkar faces. She is an Indian girl who practices Muay Thai, a martial art and combat sport. Kareena is very gifted in the sport, but people in the Indian community have made her feel isolated because it isn’t traditional for a girl to fight. Despite judgement, she chooses to continue Muay Thai and just avoid popular Indian events. Kareena’s dedication to the sport earned her a chance to fight in the US Muay Thai Open. This is a great opportunity for Kareena because doing well could potentially land her on the rumored Olympic team. Along with all of this, Kareena battles her growing feelings for Amit Patel, the perfect Indian boy.

I really enjoyed the realism of the book, since it stemmed from the author’s personal experiences. It was upbeat and fun, while also talking about the pressures of Indian culture. It was nice to read about a character that doesn’t fit the usual narrative of most books. Kareena not only develops feelings for Amit, she begins to work on her own self-love journey. At times, she would feel very conscious of her appearance because of her muscles and strength. However, towards the end of the book, she has more confidence to wear traditional Indian outfits that expose her muscles.

One memorable thing about the book was Amit’s character. It was very refreshing to read a story in which the guy is more adamant about his feelings. I also really loved how supportive Amit was with allowing Kareena the space she needed to focus on Muay Thai, while still showing her that he was in her corner. He also was very understanding of how Kareena feels about being judged by the Indian community. Amit goes as far as defending her against his own parents.

Reviewed by Maya, Fairfield Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

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Concrete Rose, the prequel to The Hate U Give, follows 17-year-old Maverick Carter as he navigates the transition to adulthood as a young Black man. Mav thinks he knows everything about looking out for family. By dealing drugs- a secret shared only between him and his closest friend, King- he is able to provide for his overworked mother and imprisoned father. It isn’t until he gets news that he is a father himself that he realizes what it truly means to be a man. Break-ups, gang involvement, and the hardships of trying to balance fatherhood with school make him question his values and everything he believes in. Author Angie Thomas does an excellent job telling Maverick’s inspiring story through this hilarious, cute, and suspenseful book.

Concrete Rose is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve ever read. It had a perfect blend of suspenseful, hilarious, and cute moments that kept me on the edge of my seat and enjoying every part of it. I also really enjoyed experiencing the plot through the eyes of Maverick and getting to see his character development firsthand. As a fan of The Hate U Give, I really loved learning about the characters’ early backgrounds and how they influenced their adult lives. However, it’s worth noting that Concrete Rose can stand as an incredible book on its own and can be enjoyed after reading or without ever having read The Hate U Give.

One central theme that stuck with me from this book is the importance of looking at situations from multiple perspectives. Oftentimes, we make assumptions about people without seeing all the sides of their story. Concrete Rose opened my eyes to new perspectives on issues such as racism and police brutality that are very relevant today.

Reviewed by Cathy at Tuckahoe Library

Books, Teen Reviews, Uncategorized

Read + Review: Majesty by Katharine McGee

In this sequel to American Royals, McGee defies all expectations. Reading the American Royals series, you are immersed in a monarchical America where George Washington’s ancestors rule. Majesty follows the Washington children and others within the royal circle while they navigate their lives with the scrutiny of the press ever-present. As Beatrice takes the throne of America in the aftermath of her father’s death, she must grapple with her future as the first female monarch as she reluctantly commits to her relationship with Teddy, her fiance. Sam is devastated that Beatrice, her sister, will be marrying her crush and decides to enact revenge. Daphne, an ambitious young woman who will do anything for the power that royals hold, pulls Sam’s twin Jeff into her villainous hold, while her dark secret threatens to end it all. Nina, a commoner, finds unexpected love post-Jeff while strengthening her friendship with Sam. As Beatrice’s fate looms above her, she must come to terms with her true feelings. Her siblings, on the other hand, must learn to choose what they value the most. This book will keep you on your toes with all of its unexpected twists and turns. Alongside its romantic exterior, Majesty delves into heavy topics, such as grief and misogyny, adding depth to the characters.

Though I enjoyed the book, it was disappointing when compared to its predecessor. Many relationships seemed rushed or forced, not natural when looking at the characters themselves. The story abandoned many plotlines or smoothed them over too easily. The characters, though nuanced, seemed a bit superficial at times. Most decisions were not made to strengthen the characters but rather to enhance a storyline that was rushed. Full of cliche tropes, this book had some sweet romantic moments but was full of predictable endings.

McGee highlights women in this book, writing solely from their point of view. She shows their strength and vulnerability, giving them a multifaceted intensity that many authors fail to enact. In Nina, a LatinX character who grew up with two moms, she includes a diverse viewpoint to exhibit the unique challenges minorities face. Majesty also explores the challenges Beatrice faces as the first female monarch. It highlights the systematic misogyny of America while supporting the strength of a female ruler.

Reviewed by Adhya, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions by Sheena Boekweg A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions: 9781250770981: Boekweg, Sheena:  Books
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In this book, Elsie and her friends have been called by their secret society of women. They have spent their entire lives being taught how to get the society’s agenda accomplished by standing behind important (male) figures who could change the world. Now, they must compete with each other to win the heart and the ring of the man whom their society has decided will be the future president of the United States. They work hard to ensure fairness, inclusivity, and friendship during their competition even though their entire future depends on them beating the others to the top.

I thought it was a really interesting concept, and quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Boekweg really explored the idea that behind every man who changed the world, there was a woman who was really responsible. As a feminist, I loved that idea and I thoroughly enjoyed how inclusive and accepting the girls’ friendship was, even though they were essentially competing for a future. I thought the personalities of the main character, Elsie, and the love interest, Andrew, were extremely well-developed and they felt so real and relatable to me. Elsie was multidimensional and I could really understand her struggle to find the balance of friendship and future, and I could feel her desperate search for the answer between pride and doing what is right. I found myself contemplating the answers along with her. However, I thought that all of the other characters were very much stock characters and lacked the emotional depth that they needed to truly play their role in the story.

The author did a great job presenting the idea that if you want to make a difference, you can still be strong and fight for your beliefs if you do it discreetly. It gets just as much done if you were to start a riot and scream about what you want. I will always remember Elsie’s silent and relatable strength, resilience, persistence, and fighting spirit as she worked her way to her true self throughout the course of this novel.

Reviewed by Caitlin at Glen Allen Library

Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Cold Hearted by Serena Valentino

Cold Hearted (Villains Series #8) by Serena Valentino, Hardcover | Barnes &  Noble®

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Serena Valentino’s Cold Hearted explores the background and story of Disney’s Cinderella from the perspective of Lady Tremaine, the villainous stepmother. Lady Tremaine, reeling from the loss of her beloved husband, seeks a new spouse as a supporting father for her two daughters. When she meets the picture-perfect Sir Richard, her dreams are seemingly fulfilled as she is suddenly whisked to a new land with her daughters. However, she discovers that her destiny as a wicked stepmother is set in stone, with supernatural forces in play. Will Lady Tremaine live out her happily ever after, or is she doomed to her prewritten destiny?

Having only read one of the books from this series, I went into this mainly because I enjoyed the Twisted Tale series. I recognized they had different overall narratives, but I recalled that the book about the Beast felt similar to the Twisted Tale series, and believed this series was in the same vein. I was wrong. This is strictly a retelling of the source material from the perspective of the villain, but acknowledges the other stories from this series as a part of a shared universe. Another assumption I had about this book was that there would be some sort of diversion from the actual tale being told, but this was only a device for the villain’s perspective of the story. Though I enjoyed it, I felt a little bit disappointed as the story felt as if it was stopped short. The connection to the other Disney tales within its universe is only explained at the beginning and end in about 10 pages or less, so I had to piece the puzzle together without any prior knowledge. I will, however, acknowledge that Valentino’s writing style immersed me in the retelling of Cinderella, and I almost forgot how it tied into a bigger narrative. Outside of that, this book was unexpectedly not what I thought it was going to be, but it was not bad.

The most memorable part of the book was retelling the relationship between Cinderella and Lady Tremaine though the lens of the latter. Knowing Lady Tremaine’s thought process throughout Cinderella’s life and her backstory made me sympathetic towards her. This sympathy reminded me of the Disney movie Cinderella 2, where they gave a redemption tale to Anastasia, one of Cinderella’s stepsisters.

Reviewed by Allyson, Twin Hickory Library