Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

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Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé centers two Black students, Chiamaka Adebayo and Devon Richards, as they are the only Black students at their school, Niveus Private Academy. They both have done exceptional jobs so far in their years of high school and both are in the running for valedictorian at the end of senior year. However, as their senior year begins the whole school starts to receive messages from an anonymous texter by the pen name of Aces. Aces sends out the deep dark secrets of both Devon and Chiamaka seemingly targeting just the two of them. It starts as what seems like a joke or a prank, but turns into something very dangerous that not only threatens their academic futures but their lives, safety, and the safety of their loved ones.

Ace of Spades was a book that was so sickening to the point where I felt nauseous from what these students went through. While I understand that reading something that may make readers uncomfortable is not ideal; I believe that if Black people have to live similar experiences portrayed in this book it’s only fair we [allies] read something that makes us feel uncomfortable as well in order to try and understand the struggles they face almost every day. Regardless, this book brought me a new perspective from the eyes of those in the Black community. Ace of Spades is definitely something I think everyone should read but it does contain content that may be too much for some people; so before reading, be sure to be aware of the trigger warnings on this book. Personally I love betrayal and books where my jaw might as well be on the floor and this book provided that for me perfectly. Every so often I was met with a plot twist that I would not have seen in a million years especially in “Part Three: Ballot or Bullet.” I loved Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s portrayal of the lgbtqia+ community in Devon and Chiamaka. As a member myself I relate to Chiamaka when she didn’t feel like she had to make it a big deal and have a “self-hate” moment when figuring out her sexuality but just knew who she was.

This book made me emotional in so many ways. I was angry, sad and on the verge of tears, and scared all when Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé wanted me to be. The descriptions in Ace of Spades are phenomenal as I felt everything Devon and Chiamaka went through. The betrayal of their peers, the fear of being watched, and the frustration behind the question “Why?…Why us?”

Reviewed by M. at Twin Hickory Library

Read + Review

Read + Review: The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris

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Alex Rufus is everything you’d expect a 16-year-old to be, he has a job at an ice cream shop, in his safe, suburban town. He has a girlfriend, and he and his brother are on good terms. However, this seemingly normal boy has a secret: after touching anything, he can see the future of that object. He knows one thing about his “power,” that it came after the car crash of his parents. When he learns that his brother, Isaiah, will die from unforeseeable reasons, and that he and his girlfriend, Talia, will break up, Alex becomes desperate to save him, as well as his relationship. Alex knows he can’t make the same mistake again. Alex knows he must save them. Along his journey, Alex learns the important of truth, identity, and what it means to be family.

I thought the book was paced slowly, and even with the amount of pages, some things weren’t explained as thoroughly as I would have liked. Despite being important people to the main character, Alex, the parents weren’t spoken of in the amount of depth I would have expected them to be. There were too many characters that were introduced, with little explanation of their significance. However, I enjoyed the development between Alex, his brother, and his girlfriend. It was realistic, the feelings, the words, and how the characters come to understand each other and their differences.

One memorable thing about the book would be Morris’s mastery of the human nature. The expression and feelings of each character were real; the interactions in the book happen incredibly often in real life. The Cost of Knowing brings true events to light, giving readers a chance to read about topics they might have not known about, or have been sheltered from.

Reviewed by Melody Y., Twin Hickory

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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

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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

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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