Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday by Natalie C. Anderson

Amazon.com: Let's Go Swimming on Doomsday (9780399547614 ...

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Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday tells the story of teenager Abdi and his family, who live in Somalia, Africa. In Somalia, there is an Islamic terrorist group called Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab is known for killing or kidnapping civilians and making young boys become soldiers. Troops from the United States, as well as Africa, are working to defeat Al-Shabaab, but this group continues to terrorize Somalia. Abdi’s older brother gets kidnapped from school and then three years later, Abdi’s entire family gets violently kidnapped from their home. When Abdi is offered a chance to save his family, he goes for it, even if it means he has to become a child soldier in Al-Shabaab’s Army. Abdi’s story is split between the then and the now, which was a little confusing, but each chapter is dated, which helps you follow the timeline of the story.

I thought this book was a real page turner. Although there are violent parts, you want to keep reading to find out what happens to Abdi and his family. Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday is a fiction book but reads very much like a non-fiction book. The characters and places are written so realistically, I found myself double checking to make sure that this truly was a fiction book. I think the author did a great job of portraying what kinds of things people might to do to protect and rescue their family. Although the violent parts of this book are hard to read, I think Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday is a must-read book for everybody.

The most memorable part of the book was when we get to see snippets of Abdi’s past life with his family. The memory of Abdi, his brother, and father on the boat show how much the family loved one another and that they lived a pretty normal life. The memories of his family are what drives Abdi to survive, and I liked that we got to relive them with him.

5-stars

Reviewed by James, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Deadly Curious by Cindy Anstey

Amazon.com: Deadly Curious eBook: Anstey, Cindy: Kindle Store

You can place a hold on a print copy or an eBook copy of this book.

It is 1834, about a year since the murder of Sophia Thompson’s cousin Andrew Waverly. Despite the passage of time, the case has remained unsolved, taking a toll on the Waverlys. When Sophia receives a desperate letter from Daphne, she decides to accept her invitation to visit and look into the mystery of Andrew’s death. Sophia is very interested in becoming a detective (specifically for the Bow Street Runners of London), and this visit provides an opportunity to not only help Daphne and the rest of the Waverlys, but also to gain experience needed to prove herself worthy of becoming the first female detective. Joined by Jeremy Fraser, a rookie Bow Street Runner on the case, the two try to find suspects, clues, and evidence. However, Sophia and Jeremy find that this investigation is far from straightforward, with foggy memories and false leads, along with an inept constable who is impatient to close the case. As they search deeper, Jeremy and Sophia start finding danger with every discovery they make.

For me, the plot wasn’t the best. That’s not to say the story was terrible, but I wished that it was more tight. Instead, the plot kind of went all over with no clear direction at first. Only towards the end did things start falling into place, but it felt illogical and rushed. However, that could’ve been the point, as Jeremy and Sophia were investigating a year after the crime. I liked how the mystery wasn’t very clear or obvious, which made me think (I’ll discuss in more detail below). The two protagonists were likable, but I didn’t get particularly attached to them or any of the other characters. One thing that bothered me about Jeremy was that Sophia would describe him with traits that I didn’t find in him myself. That could have been because I didn’t read between the lines or because of Sophia’s crush, but I wish the author would have made it more clear. Another thing that I wish was done better was Sophia’s and Jeremy’s romantic attraction toward each other. It didn’t feel very organic. It instead felt like it was there just for the sake of plot. At the end, the motive felt a bit weak and unconvincing. There also wasn’t any good humor (which I like to find in books), only somewhat clever exchanges. Despite all these complaints, I didn’t strongly dislike the book. I even enjoyed the thriller aspects, during the time Sophia and Jeremy found themselves in some scary situations. All in all, I’d say this isn’t a bad book, just one that you shouldn’t expect much from.

One memorable thing about the book is that the culprit and the motive weren’t (at least for me) and I wasn’t able to figure out exactly who did it, the reason behind it, and how all the clues came together. Often times in mystery books, there is at least one or two clues that can get me on the right path and maybe even solve the mystery before the protagonist does. This was not the case with this book, as the trail was a bit more unclear, which makes sense considering our protagonists are looking at the crime a year after it took place. Although it made me not like the plot, it was fascinating with how it was different from the mysteries I had read.

3-stars

Reviewed by Christine, Twin Hickory Library

Read + Review, Teen Reviews

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

Read + Review, Teen Reviews

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

Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson

The Lucky Ones

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