The Art of Insanity by Christine Webb

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In The Art of Insanity, an 18-year-old high school senior named Natalie Cordova grapples with bipolar disorder while navigating the pressures of college admissions and the gossip mill at school. She conceals the truth about a near-catastrophic car accident that wasn’t accidental, fearing it would disrupt her mother’s perfect image. As the weight of her secret grows heavier, Natalie faces additional challenges, including an art show that could shape her future and the presence of Ella, a classmate who knows too much. Amidst it all, she finds solace and connection with Ty, a captivating boy who brings light into her life. With humor and insight, the book addresses the journey toward self-acceptance, shedding light on mental illness and promoting understanding while featuring characters from diverse backgrounds.

The Art of Insanity by Christine Webb offers an engaging and educational reading experience, regardless of familiarity with mental illness. The book skillfully balances the seriousness of its subject matter by incorporating entertaining moments, particularly through the endearing antics of a pug character. The juxtaposition of beautiful art against the protagonist’s challenging life experiences adds depth and resonance to the story. It is a compelling read for teenage girls, encouraging them to broaden their perspectives beyond their social circles, while also providing great enjoyment for adult readers. Above all, the book explores the importance of honesty, highlighting the consequences of our choices for ourselves and future generations.

The Art of Insanity by Christine Webb is notable for its in-depth exploration of mental illness, presenting different perspectives that enhance our understanding of the subject. I especially liked how the author highlights the uniqueness of each individual’s experience with mental illness, promoting empathy and dispelling stereotypes. Webb skillfully integrates these themes into the story, making the book a memorable read that encourages readers to embrace the diversity of human experiences.

Reviewed by Shreya P., Glenn Allen Library

Books, Read + Review

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

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The third book in the Skyward Series by Brandon Sanderson continues to share the story of Spensa, a human pilot, as she travels in the Nowhere. She battles time and foes on the mission to get home from the Krell ship, Superiority, where she was collecting information on their technology and way of life. Along the way, she will meet new friends, and make new enemies, all while traveling in an uncharted, dangerous world that most don’t survive. Follow Spensa through the Nowhere as she learns more about not only herself, but the world around her and her family.

This book is full of twists and turns that I did not expect. I really enjoyed how Sanderson described the Nowhere and how easy it was to visualize while reading. The new characters that were introduced added a whole new perspective and storyline, while also bringing up old mysteries and wrapping up the whole story very nicely. I do wish that there was more perspective from Spensa’s friends on Defiant, such as Jorgen so that readers are able to understand what was happening while Spensa was on her mission.

The most memorable part of Cytonic for me was the growth as a character that M-Boy experienced. It was really nice to see him move past the previous restrictions that he had and really become a memorable character.

Reviewed by Avery B., Twin Hickory Area Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

What the Fact?! by Seema Yasmin

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“What The Fact” is a book that discusses the good and bad places of information and how to avoid fake news. The book is divided into five sections. The first section talks about false information on the internet and how to recognize it. The second section discusses bias and how beliefs do not necessarily mean something is right. The third section talks about the press and news, although it may be perplexing for some readers. The fourth section talks about the effects of social media on the brain. Finally, the fifth section talks about different methods of convincing someone to do what you want them to do.

“What The Fact” is an important book that helps readers identify and avoid false information. The book covers topics such as biases, the influence of social media, and the importance of critical thinking. The examples in the book were helpful for understanding the concepts discussed. However, I found the political content to be boring and believes that the book could have been more effective with additional examples. The more supporting details, the better.

One of the parts of the book that stood out was the example of a person who decided to eat only bananas as a way to diet. This story was used to illustrate the power of social media, as the person’s extreme diet choice became popular and others began to adopt it as well. This trend took on a life of its own, and people became overly influenced by what they read online.

Reviewed by Nitya G., Twin Hickory Area Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

The Do-Over by Lynn Painter

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Emilie Hornby’s Valentine’s Day could not have gone worse. She gets late to school after hitting a classmate’s car, spills coffee over her outfit, and she sees her boyfriend kissing another girl. To top it all off, her father bears unwelcome news, making it all too much. Overwhelmed, Emilie goes to bed, ready for the day to be over… only to wake up and find that it’s February 14th all over again. She relives the agonizing events day after day, and at first, no matter how much she tries, nothing changes. Her car still gets damaged, and her plans with her boyfriend don’t work out. But as she starts to embrace the resetting Valentine’s Days, Emilie finds herself making use of the opportunity and unexpectedly getting closer to Nick. Breaking free of everyone’s expectations, Emilie wonders if she even wants everything to return to normal when the loop is over.

Although stories about a repeating day are nothing new, I’ve had good experiences in the past with this cliché and was intrigued by the summary. I’m happy to say that the book didn’t disappoint. Something that I really enjoyed is how once Emilie finds herself relatively free of consequences, she gets into a lot of fun shenanigans, and I found myself having fun with her. It speaks to how well the author developed Emilie’s growth from quiet and obedient to something more. It was exhilarating in a way watching her push past what was expected of her and letting loose, especially since I can relate, being a relatively quiet and obedient person myself. Emilie’s love interest was also fun, and they had good chemistry together. However, since it was mostly Emilie’s story, we don’t really know a whole lot about the love interest for a majority of the book. Additionally, the romance did move a little too fast considering only Emilie remembers anything from the previous Valentine’s Days, but it was cute enough to make up for that. One thing I didn’t like is the presence of miscommunication to create drama. Miscommunication is a trope that has been overdone in stories, especially in romance, as a way to create conflict. Although I do understand that miscommunication is a common trope in romance, I wish the story didn’t resort to it but gave us something more nuanced, especially since it felt a little abrupt and unfair for the characters. I do appreciate that it made sense within later context, but it felt like a copout from developing a better conflict to have. This story also ended up giving a hint as to why the never-ending loop happens in the first place; I personally wasn’t a fan of it, but it was touching. Although a few things slightly annoyed me, this book was overall very fun and cute, with lots of heartwarming fluff that I appreciated. It’s between 4 and 5 stars, but I’ve rounded down to 4 stars.

What was memorable about this book is the genuine fun that I felt while reading it. I think one of my favorite moments in this book is that at one point, Emilie receives a promposal (albeit pretend) that’s Cupid Shuffle themed, and it’s in public. In the context of that moment, the contrast of what the crowd thinks versus what’s actually happening is hilarious, both for the characters and for me. It’s one of those moments that amazed me with how fun it was.

Reviewed by Christine J., Twin Hickory Area Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

The Door Of No Return by Kwame Alexander

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The Door of No Return is a short story-like novel following Kofi Offin. He grew up in a kingdom called Asante, modern day Ghana. Kofi has a brother called Kwasi who thinks he is better at everything compared to Kofi. Eventually, Kofi gets the idea to challenge Kwasi to a swimming race as he is much better underwater. This is around the time that a wrestling competition between Upper and Lower Kwanta happens. The Kwantas are the two parts of Asante. During the match, Kwasi faces off against the heir of the Lower’s throne, Yaw. Unfortunately for Yaw, he is killed after Kwasi accidentally knocks him out cold. Lower Kwanta wants revenge. They capture both Kofi and Kwasi. Kwasi is killed by Lower while Kofi stays in prison until a group tries to free them. They are captured by Lower’s military and are taken prisoner again. Eventually, Wonderfuls, foreigners who arrived in Asante, take them on a boat. Now, it is life or death for Kofi. Will he survive or will he drown with not even his swimming skills to save him?

This book resembles real life 1850s in many ways. I can see so many similarities to African culture. Wonderfuls are foreigners and how they put Kofi and other people on the board seems to be like the Atlantic slave trade. The time period backs that up as this is the 1850s and 60s. That would mean that this is happening during European colonization of Africa. Kofi describes the flag on the boat as having 7 red stripes and 33 stars, the exact flag of the US during 1860, so this would say that Americans came to Asante to take slaves. Asante is also known to have lots of gold. Real life Ghana is Africa’s lead gold producer. During the Atlantic slave trade, Ghana was ravaged for its gold. During the Atlantic slave trade, Ghana had two sides, one that embraced the colonizers, and one that didn’t allow these people in at all, perfectly matching the book. The location of Cape Coast Castle in the book is a real life location in Ghana. Even the location of Asante matches that of modern day Ghana. So, the book was based off of modern day Ghana is 1860 when the Atlantic slave trade was happening. Kofi was kidnapped and shipped off to slavery by Americans. Seeing all these connections really shocked me. It told me that Kwame Alexander put time into this book. He did his research on Ghana and put these clues in the book, or, I guess, just tells us that it is Ghana in the author’s note, but it was fun putting all these pieces to conclude what was the story of Asante, what happened to Kofi, and a lot of other mysteries surrounding this strange, African kingdom.

My favorite part of the book was when the wrestling competition was happening and how the author described the yam festival made by the real-life Asante empire. The wrestling competition was described beautifully. The plot twist that Yaw would die was a shocker as I didn’t expect him to die, just lose. That plot twist drove the story onward and explained how Kwasi got killed. Without that, the story would lose meaning. The main tie for the story was so good and frankly the climax of the story. Ties for the story in many other books are lost and the only purpose is to hold the story together. The tie in The Door of No Return is the polar opposite of that and I love it.

Overall, I give The Door of No Return a perfect 5 out of 5. All the pages are in short bursts, around the size of the average poem, just without the rhyming. Yet, the book is 398 pages of perfection. It makes up for the lack of words on the pages with a lot of pages. That makes the book long and neat. I recommend it to anyone with a taste for historical fiction or frankly the need for a good story to read.

Reviewed by Akshith I., Twin Hickory Area Library