Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Divided Fire by Jennifer San Filippo

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Divided Fire takes place in a land where two big countries are at war. In this world, select people have the power to control the elements with their Voice, and these people are called Singers. In order to get an advantage in the war, both countries use cruel methods to enlist Singers into the army. Because of this, two sisters, Miren and Kesia, in the relatively isolated village of Crescent Bay must keep the secret that Kesia is a Fire Singer. When Kesia accidentally reveals her powers in an effort to save a fellow villager, she is captured, and Miren must voyage across the land in order to get her sister back. Kesia must also escape the deadly situations she finds herself in, as both start their journeys to get back to each other.

I thought that the many dangerous situations that both characters found themselves in were engaging and made me want to continue reading. The use of the magic powers in the book were creative and provided interesting ways for the characters to get out of problems cleverly. Additionally, the book was fun to read, and I enjoyed the dialogue, even that which was not meant to progress the story. However, the characters were, in my eyes, one-dimensional, and none of them portrayed growth throughout the story. I found it hard to maintain interest in any of the characters, aside from Kesia and Miren.

The lengths that both of the main characters would go through in order to get back to each other showed the incredible stakes of their missions. The dual perspectives that the book has adds to the suspense, and I became invested in both character’s struggles as the plot progressed. The format of the story added to the strength of the dichotomy that was presented.

Reviewed by Shreyas, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

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Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemien is a book set during 1989, at the height of the AIDS crisis. It follows Reza, an Iranian teen boy who has just moved to NYC, who struggles with accepting the fact that he’s gay when all he’s ever known of gay life is men dying of AIDS. He meets Judy, an aspiring fashion designer, and her best friend Art. Judy falls headfirst for Reza and the two teens soon begin dating, but Reza finds himself unable to deny his attraction to Art while dating Judy. As Art and Reza grow closer, Reza finds himself at a crossroads of finding a solution that won’t result in breaking Judy’s art and finding the courage to truly be with Art loud and proud.

The book is set in NYC and during 1989, at the height of the AIDS crisis. It follows the main characters Reza, Judy, and Art. It also follows Uncle Stephen, Judy’s uncle who has been diagnosed with AIDS and his activist work with his group, ACT UP, who are fighting for reforms regarding the AIDS crisis. The best word I would use to describe this book is emotional, because it shined a light on the activist movement during the AIDS crisis. It was a story that truly delved into the harsh reality queer people suffered during the AIDS crisis due to the apathy of governments and pharmaceutical companies. I had bittersweet feelings towards the end because although the ending was sad, it felt complete for each of the characters.

One memorable thing about the book was definitely Reza’s journey and his self-acceptance. I enjoyed seeing Reza grow into someone who was sure and proud of himself, who decided that he wasn’t going to let himself be afraid of a movement that left men like him dying. I will say that I did dislike some of the main characters at some point in the story. Judy, for example, annoyed me with her initial act of criticizing the other girls at her school. It felt like a typical ‘I’m not like other girls’ case that I hate seeing in female characters. But overall, this book is a five-star worthy book that brought out all the emotions.

Reviewed by Tasnia, Libbie Mill Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

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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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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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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