Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

The Red Palace by June Hur

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In this book, Nurse Hyeon has dedicated her whole life to working hard, and it has finally paid off. She is now a palace nurse, a title carrying so much prestige that her father will have to acknowledge her now! However, one night, tragedy strikes. Hyeon witnesses a terrifying massacre and her mentor, the woman who has been more of a mother to her than her real mother ever has, is accused of being the culprit. Convinced that her mentor could never kill, she teams up with a young and well-regarded inspector to prove her mentor’s innocence. As she becomes more and more wrapped up in the mystery, she gets tangled up in a web of royal spy networks and realizes that she may have some connection to the crime-and that the culprit might be targeting her next.

I loved the main character. She was fully developed, multi-dimensional, and struggled with her identity, her family, her values, and her safety. She knew exactly what she wanted and was not going to allow anything to stand in her way, not even a terrifying mass murderer. While I thought the premise of the novel was very fascinating and complex and I loved the historical mystery aspect with ties to true events, I did think the plot was kind of slow and it did bore me at times. There were definitely times when I thought that Hyeon’s inner monologue’s were repetitive and I kept thinking that she was emphasizing certain parts of her life way too often. Additionally, the plot twists were unsurprising and boring. It seemed like the majority of the book was either Hyeon complaining about everything that she had already complained about or it was Hyeon arguing with each one of the characters about her involvement in the case. That being said, the ending definitely made up for the lack in plot progression. Everything tied to the end nicely and it was an appropriately intense scene with the culprit at the end. Finally, the end was nice in the sense that it actually made sense to the readers who were paying attention to the mystery. It wasn’t like usual mystery books, where at the end, the author seems to remember that it’s a mystery and just invents a character to throw in at the very end and call them the killer. This book did a nice job making the killer a character who actually made sense considering the rest of the novel. The end didn’t drag out dramatically like most books where the author takes forever tying up all the loose ends. I liked how the book just ended without the extensive conclusion.

I definitely will remember how much I loved the ending. It was because of the intensity and then the very quick close that I actually ended up liking the book. Otherwise, I would’ve walked away thinking that I had just wasted my time. Therefore, I will try to learn from how well-done the resolution was and keep it in mind.

Reviewed by Caitlin, Glen Allen Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Great or Nothing by Caroline Tung Richmond, Joy McCullough, Jessica Spotswood, and Tess Sharpe

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During World War II, four sisters have just suffered a terrible loss. They’ve always been able to find solace in and support each other, but their unbearable grief has pushed them away from one another. Meg stays home with their mother and waits for her life to put itself back together again, while Jo joins an all-female community responsible for making machinery for the military. Amy lies about her identity in order to work for the Red Cross, and Beth feels useless and despondent as she watches her sisters deal with their grief without the comfort of each other. While on their separate journeys, the sisters each find their own ways to deal with their grief and discover their independent identities before learning that one doesn’t need to be perfect for those who will love you no matter what.

I absolutely loved this book. The beginning didn’t really capture my attention and the story seemed to just start with no context or exposition whatsoever, but just a few pages later I was hooked and the plot was engaging throughout the novel. I enjoyed the development of each of the characters throughout the book and saw parts of myself in each one of them. I loved Jo’s feminist determination to carve her own path for herself, Meg’s steady belief in the best of everyone, and Amy’s carefree growth during her journey. Beth’s sections of the book were written in verse, and the poems were so relatable and embodied everything lovable about poetry. The entire book conveyed a very gentle yet youthful energy, which really helped to further the reader’s enjoyment and comprehension. The setting of World War II was a perfect portrayal of the message and I really liked the unique perspective on the era. The book did a great job walking the reader through the stages of grief and through the journey of each of the characters.

I really liked the character development throughout the book. The reader was able to experience the grief and the journey with the characters and one’s own experiences were reflected perfectly. I watched the characters grow and felt myself grow with them. Also, the excellent portrayal of feminism during the 1940s was done really well and I know I will take that portrayal way with me. Finally, some of the poems will always stick with me. They were really emotional and helped to emphasize the overall message of the story.

Reviewed by Caitlin, Glen Allen Library

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Why Would I Lie by Adi Rule

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A student’s aspiration in becoming a school’s valedictorian is not a force to be reckoned with, especially when that student is Viveca North. For as long as she can remember, Viveca, a senior in high school, has been buried in her notes, books, and papers, hoping to become the ultimate student and gain admission at the esteemed Everett College. Even at Elton Prep, a high school known for its rigor, Viveca had little trouble climbing her way to the top, and it seemed like it would stay that way until Jamison Sharpe showed up at the beginning of the year. Jamison was perfect, not only in his academics, but he was talented, charming, kind, and most importantly, sociable. It was almost as if Jamison was identical to Viveca, but had somehow found a way to be better. Jamison was not a threat to Viveca at first; all she had to do was to keep acing her classes, just like she had always done. However, when Jamison made his way ahead of Viveca, claiming that sweet valedictorian spot in what seemed like no time, she knew something was wrong. How could a random kid, that no one had ever heard of before, find his way to the illustrious Elton Prep and almost immediately make it to the top? Determined to uncover the truth before her place at Everett College is taken, Why Would I Lie? illustrates the ambition of Viveca North, a student that somehow has to balance perfection, being a good person, and revealing the answer to a mystery that could change her life.

If I could describe this book in one word, it would be “wow.” It has been quite a long time since I have read a book that keeps me wanting to turn the pages before I finish reading, which made me wish that I could speed-read and absorb words with just one glance. There was never a dull moment in Why Would I Lie?, because Adi Rule perfectly captured what it is like to be an over-achieving student in an incredibly competitive, frustrating environment. Viveca was a beautifully written character that resembles what it means to be human. She was selfish, ambitious, and imperfect, despite she herself thinking she was flawless. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Viveca’s path to understanding herself, her peers, but also, seeing her dreams and desires come true. Viveca never gave up, even when the whole world seemed to be against her.

One memorable thing about the book was how immersive the story was. Throughout the book, I frequently found myself conversing with the book, trying to guide characters to their next decision. The dialogues seem to include the reader into the conversation, and it was almost as if the thoughts of the characters were spoken directly to the reader. Further, the book had a lot of imagery, sensory, and figurative language that transported me to the world of Elton Prep in the blink of an eye. Why Would I Lie? pulled me into its universe, making me want more and more of it as I read.

Five stars

Reviewed by Melody, Twin Hickory Area Library

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Tough as Lace by Lexi Bruce

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Lace Stewart has at all, or so it seems. She’s star of the lacrosse team, straight A student, and uber-confident, but behind her carefully crafted façade, she’s crumbling. It starts with her slipping grades, and from there it only gets worse. The life she’s work so hard to create is being pulled from under her feet as she’s forced to watch. Worst of all, the brave face that she’s practiced her whole life may be what causes her anxiety to spiral and lose it all.

This was the first book I read in verse and I think it was written quite well. The book was beautifully written and it talked about struggles that so many people face. It perfectly captures the way that anxiety is often stuffed into a corner and ignored. The shortness of the book better emphasized the importance of the topic it was addressing, and it did a good job dealing with a heavy issue. Lace is developed as a complex character, as most real people are. This made the book seem more realistic and quickly allowed the reader to see that Lace has flaws like anyone else. This is an important part of creating a character and Lace proved to be a strong and determined protagonist. Overall, this book tackled a tough topic through a complex and compelling story.

Something memorable about this book is that it doesn’t just deal with anxiety. It talks about almost everything teens experience from sports to work, and it makes the book very relatable.

Reviewed by Nainika, Twin Hickory Library

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At The End Of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp

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When the world doesn’t want you, you’re shoved into a corner with no one to turn to. That’s how the teens at Hope Juvenile Treatment Center feel, as if no one wants them, and really they don’t. But when the normally cruel guards begin acting strangely, they know this is their chance. They band together and make a break for it until they realize: the world outside is plagued by a mysterious disease, one that’s spreading rapidly. The place that was once their literal prison is now their only safe haven. There’s nowhere to go, and they only have each other.

Everyone in this book was developed well, even though there were quite a few characters. The book was truly written in a way that allowed the reader to see all of the characters’ complexities and true desires. This allowed me to feel a connection to the characters and get sucked into the story. Also, it was very unpredictable and it constantly kept me on the edge of my seat. There were many twists that I wasn’t expecting which is something I really liked. The execution of this book definitely lives up to the premise and it is everything I expected it to be. At The End Of Everything is a breathtaking story about those who are forgotten, and I loved every minute of it.

Something that I found memorable about this book is how all the characters are so different personality wise, yet the similarities between them are undeniable. The circumstances in this book are ones that bring forward so many of the same emotions in them, and it really highlights how at the end of the day, we’re all human.

Reviewed by Nainika, Twin Hickory Library