Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolartz


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

Read + Review, Teen Reviews

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

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We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez is the story of three teenagers who are growing up in the barrio in Guatemala. Although Pulga, Pequena, and Chico are not related, they say blood doesn’t matter – they’re family. Life is hard in the barrio, money is tight and crime is prevalent. Pulga says that in some places terrible news is unexpected but in the barrio, it is not. Pulga dreams of escaping to the United States to lead a better life. He has been researching and drawing maps of the route he will use to escape for years. Even though life is dangerous in his town, he knows escaping to the United States is a harrowing journey that not everyone survives. However, after Pulga and Chico witness a violent crime and Pequena is being forced into marriage with a criminal, they know the time has come to run. But will they be able to survive the journey to the United States? Without passports or much money, the harrowing journey to freedom will require Pulga, Chico, and Pequena to travel on buses, trains (La Bestia also known as the death train) and walk across a desert. They will also need to rely on the kindness of strangers when trusting people is frowned upon. Although this journey is dangerous; it is a risk they are willing to take for the possibility of a better life.

I thought this book was intense. The author did a great job of depicting the brutal reality of a dangerous journey. I liked that it was written in the first person perspective. Pulga and Pequena alternate narrating the chapters. I thought it was a great way of telling two sides of the same story.

The most memorable part of this book was when I read the author’s note at the end of the story. Although I knew this was a realistic fiction book, reading about the real life details the author uses makes the plight and escape of three teenage immigrants much more harrowing and heartbreaking.


Submitted by James, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden

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The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden is the story of a seventh grade girl named Zoey. Zoey’s life is not easy; she has a lot on her plate. Not only is she trying to survive middle school, but she also must take care of her three siblings. Zoey’s family doesn’t have a lot of money and they are living in a trailer with her mom’s current boyfriend. One of Zoey’s jobs is to keep her siblings quiet and keep everything neat, so her mom’s boyfriend doesn’t get upset. Zoey thinks her life would be so much easier if she was an octopus. Not only would she have eight arms, but she could camouflage herself and blend into the background. Zoey can’t always get her homework done because she is busy taking care of her brothers and sister. She never has the right clothes because her mother buys everything too big, so she can grow into them. The washing machine is broken, so sometimes Zoey’s clothes are dirty, and kids refer to her as grimy. Zoey’s life is hard, but her debate teacher takes a special interest in Zoey. She thinks that Zoey’s voice is valuable. This gives Zoey the confidence she needs to stand up for herself and others.

I think this book has an important message and is a must read for all middle school students. It addresses current issues such as abuse, bullying, poverty and gun control. I believe the author does a great job of breaking down stereotypes and gives the audience a look into the window of poverty. I think that this book inspires people to speak up for what’s right, even when it’s hard to do. I liked the author’s writing style because the dialogue really made it seem like middle school students were talking. I thought Zoey was a very relatable character and it was easy to root for her. Although Zoey made some questionable choices; she was never doing anything for selfish reasons. All of Zoey’s actions were driven by her desire to help and take care of the people in her life.

The most memorable part of the book was when Zoey showed up for the debate about gun control. She has strong opinions but has been holding her thoughts and feelings in for so long. Will she finally speak up? You find yourself holding your breath to see what she will do.


Submitted by James, Twin Hickory Area Library

Read + Review, Teen Reviews

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

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link to no wait eAudiobook here.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a prequel based 64 years before the original Hunger Games series. Coriolanus Snow, an eighteen-year-old capital citizen, whose family name is on the verge of being diminished, has an opportunity to change his family’s fate. For the first time in the history of the Hunger Games students from a prestigious capital school, known as the Academy, will have the chance to mentor one of the twenty-four tributes for the 10th Hunger Games. Not only is the Snow family name in jeopardy, but also the opportunity for Coriolanus to make a name for himself. To Coriolanus’ surprise, he has been given the daunting task of being the mentor to the female district 12 tribute, but he quickly realizes that someone else is in charge of his fate.

As a huge fan of the Hunger Games series, I was very excited to read Suzanne’s prequel and what we would entail while reading. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place in the Capital from the viewpoint of Coriolanus Snow. Since the viewpoint of Coriolanus is one as a viewer of the Hunger Games, rather than a tribute fighting for their life, you get more depth of the horror that goes around the games that was not achieved in the first books. The plot is rather interesting going deep into Coriolanus’ thoughts and mindset. Since the first books show how evil Coriolanus Snow is, we as readers already know what he becomes, but it is the path that gets him there that is the most interesting. Throughout the book, there will be many unexpected happenings, but there are also some dry spots that make the book a bit dull.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has many memorable moments throughout the book, but the ones that stand out the most to me are the connections made to the previous books. Suzanne found truly amazing ways to connect the books through her ways of writing. Not all of the connections may be clear to the reader, but the more you dig into the book the more you will find. I really enjoyed the new perspective of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, while many were skeptical about reading about Snow, who we all despise from the previous Hunger Games books, it happily surprised me by how quickly I forgot about what I already knew about him. Throughout the book, I also enjoyed how it was separated into three parts which truly have different plots and characters throughout. There are a couple of things that I disliked about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, one of them being the somewhat dry parts of the book. Since this book is 517 pages, a lot occurs with Snow and the surrounding characters, but there are some times where it feels like the book is at a standstill and not much is happening. Although The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes cannot compare to the first Hunger Games books, it exceeded my expectations and I cannot wait for the movie!


Reviewed by Kaitlyn, Gayton Library