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

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

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Jonah had always been a bit reckless, but Liv never imagined that he would do anything like this. When Liv’s older brother accidentally shoots himself after acting carelessly with a gun in his best friend Clay’s attic, she can hear the screams from a house over. Jonah is alive, but he doesn’t respond to anyone and can no longer take care of himself. No one meant any harm, but that doesn’t mean that no one is getting blamed. Liv’s mother is suing Clay’s father, the owner of the gun, for money to take care of Jonah. As tension grows in their small town, Liv refuses to leave Jonah – or Clay – behind.

Grief is something that was illustrated well in this book. In my opinion, watching the one you love fade away is even more painful than just watching them die. Seeing anyone I love in the state that Jonah was in would absolutely break me. And Liv shows that she is breaking. She starts spending more time with Jonah, her grades drop, and something happens to her where she can no longer understand it when some people talk. The state of mind of just barely getting through every day and hardly understanding what’s happening hits me in the heart. The memories and stories that she tells are meaningful and show how much her family means to her. Liv has friends that she still hangs out with outside of her brother and Clay, which is an important part of the grieving process, so I’m grateful for it. Also, I thought that Clay and Liv were a great pair in general. The way they interacted just made me happy. They very clearly enjoyed each other’s company and understood what the other was going through.

One memorable thing from the story would be when Liv narrates about her friends. She goes on to talk about the hardships that her friends have gone through. Liv claims that everyone has something. She has Jonah’s situation. This moment especially hurts because you start to realize that everyone is going through something, and some people are going through things you may never understand.

Reviewed Annabel, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

This Might Get Awkward by Kara McDowell

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Gemma Wells is a teenager who’s never been to parties, had many friends, or stand out at school. To her, Lake Powell was the only place she needed in life; all those other typical teenager activities didn’t matter. However, during her solo trip to Lone Rock Beach, a supposedly empty beach in this season, her excursion was unexpectedly accompanied by the most popular kids at her high school. Realizing that her crush, Beau Booker, is with this group, Gemma thinks that this might be her long-awaited chance at getting with Beau. That fantasy is almost immediately crashed when Beau falls off a boat and got a concussion, only saved by the quick CPR given to him by Gemma, before being sent to the hospital. At the hospital, Gemma was horrified to learn that everyone thought she was Beau’s girlfriend, but Beau had told her to pretend she was close with him. In a confusing journey to fulfill Beau’s wishes, meet a new, mysterious Booker brother, and discover her true identity, This Might Get Awkward tells a tale of how a once-outcast teenage girl finally finds a place where she belongs.

This Might Get Awkward fit into a few cliches, loner finding belonging, pretending to be dating the most popular boy, and a girl being torn between two romantic interests. However, I didn’t find these stereotypes to be overwhelming. Gemma’s seemingly hopeless situation was very unrealistic, which made it more interesting to see how the story would play out, especially since she seemed to brush off anyone who was trying to help her. When she met the other Booker brother, Griff, the two immediately hit it off, with undeniable chemistry. Yet on almost every step of the way, she was making mistakes and not taking responsibility for her actions. Gemma frequently pushed away the people who cared about her, making her an incredibly frustrating character. Despite Gemma’s occasional, questionable attitude, I enjoyed experiencing her journey to becoming a new person that she finally felt comfortable as.

One memorable thing about the book was the idea that the most unexpected people can become friends with each other. Most people stay away from others if there’s any indication that they “don’t fit,” and that was true for Gemma too. With Beau’s accident, however, Gemma made many amazing friendships with people she never would have talked to otherwise. I thought this gave an important message to the readers, to never be afraid to talk to other people, even if they are the complete opposite of you.

Reviewed by Melody, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Cold by Mariko Tamaki

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When Todd Mayer is found dead, he seems like just another kid to Georgia, someone who has nothing to do with her. However, as the investigation unfolds, Georgia realizes that Todd might be more connected to her than she thought, and before she knows it, her family is at the epicenter of the murder. Meanwhile, Todd is a ghost of who he once was: literally. After being found dead in the snow, he feels as if he’s woken up from a deep slumber. Now, he spends his days watching the investigation from above, reflecting on his life and how he got here. He’s left helpless as the secrets of his life are peeled away one by one, finally revealing what happened to him that fateful night.

I really enjoyed this book, especially because of how descriptive it was. Everything was told in great detail making it very easy to visualize the characters and places. I feel like we really get to know Georgia, even though she doesn’t take the front seat in the investigation. The connection she feels to Todd, who she’s never met, allows us to get a glimpse into who she is and what she cares about. The ending was something I never saw coming, even though there were quite a few clues leading up to it. The story is woven in a way that leaves a trail of signs, while being utterly inconspicuous. Overall, this slow burning mystery carefully unfolded into something deeper, making for a great book.

Something memorable about this book is how Georgia and Todd’s chapters are told from different points of view. Georgia’s chapters are in first person and Todd’s are in third person. I really like how this gave Georgia’s chapters a more personal feel and made Todd’s more omniscient, especially because he’s seeing everything from above as a ghost.

Reviewed by Nainika, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen

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Scottie Zajac’s life has become a lot more complicated. While driving out of the school parking lot, her car suddenly crashes into the car of Irene Abraham, one of the most popular girls at school and her nemesis. Scottie’s car is still driveable, but Irene’s most certainly isn’t, and thanks to her mother, Scottie has been volunteered to carpool with Irene until Irene’s car is fixed. At the same time, Scottie is still dealing with heartache and anger after breaking up with her girlfriend Tally. An idea to get revenge on her is raised, and Scottie is willing to execute it. With her amazing persuasion skills (and a bribe) Scottie convinces Irene to start a fake relationship with her. Everything is perfect, from her heightened popularity to Tally’s jealousy, until real feelings between the girls threaten to come to the surface.

The characters left me feeling nostalgic when I finished the book. They were charming, unique, and the relationships between all of them felt like a real school environment. It is quickly pointed out that the main characters have flaws, which is more than needed in any story. Plus, the book then proceeded to allow Irene and Scottie to grow, which was refreshing to see. Every single romantic scene was adorable and felt authentic. My favorite character was Irene, which is a popular opinion, but it’s obvious why. Irene spoke her mind, went after what she wanted, was funny, caring, and shut down any patronizing thing that someone had to say about her. She had her values and morals that she stuck to. And yet she still let her guard down, because it’s okay to be weak sometimes. She as a person made me admire cheerleaders more than I already did.
This book included how Scottie had to heal from her past relationship before going to a new one, and that must have meant so much for anyone that has been through a breakup. It was specifically stated that healing and moving on was important. I’ve never read a romance that said anything like that. That process is always glossed over. I’m grateful for this story, because of how real it felt. I’m definitely reading all of Kelly’s other books.

One memorable part of the book that I’ve already noticed playing into my behavior is Irene’s confidence. I know I already ranted about her, but the way she stood up tall and didn’t back down showed me a trait that I want to have. I’m a quiet person. I’ve begun speaking louder, and more people are listening. And this specific quote from a character named Honey-Belle: “I always say when I like things so the universe will hear me clearly.” Everyone takes things for granted or forgets to tell others that they make them happy. When I read that for the first time, I immediately told my best friends how much I loved them.

Reviewed by Annabel, Twin Hickory Library