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: Secrets of camp Whatever by Chris Grine

Volume one of the graphic novel series invites us to the mystical town of Nowhere, where Willow and her family have recently moved in. Willow, an eleven-year-old girl with a hearing disability, is sent off to a peculiar summer camp while her parents unpack. Despite the dark rumors and fantasy stories told about the place, she reluctantly agrees to go due to her father’s fond memories with the camp. Soon after she arrives, strange things start to happen, and she and her new friends, Violet, Emma, and Molly, stumble upon a thrilling adventure filled with stoned gnomes, vampires, and a menacing fog.

I love stories set in camps, which made this book irresistible to put down. The plot is very intriguing, and the colorful illustrations were a visual treat. I felt the book is suitable for any audience since the narration was easy to follow. I enjoyed the book’s version of Bigfoot (one of the characters) and how some of the villainous-looking ones turned out to be the dearest beings I have ever seen. Additionally, I loved hanging out with Willow. Despite having a hearing disability, she is surprisingly courageous. It’s rare to see a deaf person as a protagonist, and I appreciate that the author didn’t make it her identity

One memorable aspect of the book is when Willow learns the truth about one of her camp friends. There was a lot of foreshadowing that made me think about that character and her knowledge about the camp, but I couldn’t predict it till the end. Overall, this was a fulfilling read, and I am eager to read more of Willow’s adventures in the next volume. 

Reviewed by Sruthi, Twin Hickory Library


Read & Review: On the hook by Francisco X. Stork

The author of Disappeared delivers a nail-biting novel about hope, courage, and the pursuit of happiness. On the Hook follows Hector Robles, who is a promising high-school student and a proficient chess player. Growing up in a struggling Mexican family, Hector envisions going to college and helping his family lead a better life. However, this vision derails when Joey, a local drug dealer and Chavo’s brother, threatens to kill him. Chavo, the head of the Discípulos gang, envies Hector’s brother, Fili, for an earlier confrontation. All this leads to a clash between Fili and Chavo at a local church, causing Hector to make a decision that lands him in a reform school with Joey. It’s up to Hector now if he wants to seek revenge or think about the consequences and keep working hard for his family.

The book explores very intense themes, and at times, I found them quite challenging to read. It goes in-depth about grief and vengeance and their effects on one’s physical and mental state. However, the prose was straightforward, and I liked how the author shares his experiences as an immigrant through his books and characters. It entices me to read more of his work and learn more about him. His story-telling and choice of words make the readers think about the character’s position. But, I wish the author could have written the story from Hector’s point of view, but otherwise, it was an engaging read filled with memorable characters and a powerful message.

The most memorable part of the book is where Hector learns about Joey’s traumatic childhood. It created empathy for Joey even though he is an antagonist of the story. On the other hand, I liked how Hector didn’t use it to trigger him and dealt it his way to even things out between them.

Reviewed by Sruthi, Twin Hickory Library


Read & Review: Renegade Flight by Andrea Tang

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In a war-torn world governed by rogue artificial intelligence, only Peacekeepers can hope to contain the monumental threats that they pose. An aspiring warrior, Viola Park hopes to rise to her true potential by becoming a Peacekeeper and uphold her family’s noble name. Unfortunately, when she receives her rejection letter at the GAN Academy for Cybernetic Arts due to illegally modifying her test, she must enter the academy under probationary status. Her sole chance of redemption lies with the mysterious Nicholas Lee, the undefeated mech pilot champion. Battle and deception roam free as Viola faces the academy’s trials, where she must emerge as the champion to achieve her dreams. The line between friend and foe wears thin in Andrea Tang’s stunning “Renegade Flight”.

The bold and vividly described universe was a pleasure to read; I enjoyed the futuristic rendition of our world. Additionally, the novel was quick to dive into action, it squandered no time in building the conflict. However, while I admired the writing style, it was undermined by a heavy use of profanity. Furthermore, the main plot was deterred by an interesting, yet greatly exaggerated romantic subplot, which made it difficult to focus on the story. Overall, I enjoyed “Renegade Flight”, but found it slightly labyrinthine regarding the central concept.

A memorable aspect of the novel was the unique employment of robotics. They possessed a conscious mind and exhibited animalistic qualities that were fascinating to explore. Moreover, their interactions with the characters granted them a personality of their own. Their addition to the story made the science fiction more tangible and enthralling to the reader.

Reviewed by Soumya, Twin Hickory 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