Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Beauty and the Besharam by Lillie Vale

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Kavya Joshi is competitive, to say the least. There’s a word she’s always been called- besharam. Her relatives and classmates, especially the ones that don’t speak Hindi, describe her with some intricate spin on the word. Brazen, bold, brash, or shameless- anything that indicates that she tries a bit too hard and talks a bit too much. Kavya knows what people think about her, but she’s determined to achieve much more than anyone ever expected her to. More than anything, she’s steadfast in beating her childhood rival and once friend, Ian Jun. He’s the only one who can defeat her in everything (including AP Stats), and she’s not going to give up anytime soon. However, due to an unexpected turn of events, a long coming break-up with her boyfriend, and a twisted game of truth-or-dare, she ends up kissing Ian. That’s right- kissing her arch nemesis. Kavya continues to treat Ian like a rival, but she can’t shake the feeling that something is different. Sick of the never-ending bickering between the two, their respective friend groups decide to create a series of challenges for Ian and Kavya to complete over the course of summer break. Along the way, Kavya navigates a difficult relationship with her sister, cracks in the Moon Girls, and of course, her painfully expanding feelings for Ian Jun.

I loved all the characters in the book because of their apparent flaws. The most prevalent example of this is the main character, Kavya Joshi. Kavya makes some poor choices throughout the story. However, she never hesitates to help her friends and family, making her a good person regardless of her mistakes. The duality of her personality is what makes her an interesting character. This description can also be used for many characters in the story, like Simran (Kavya’s sister) and Ian. One thing I slightly disliked was the writing style of the book. I feel like some sentences were structured a bit awkwardly. However, this didn’t detract from the overall message of the story. The trope “rivals to lover” is often overused, but this book incorporates it in a way that doesn’t feel cliché. The side characters feel like real people instead of props to push along the plot. Overall, this book is great!

One memorable thing about this book was the pop culture allusions. The book cleverly references relatively modern-day franchises like Pokémon, Sailor Moon, and Schitt’s Creek. Also, the title is an incredible pun. I might be a bit biased because of the awesome Desi representation.

Reviewed by Vaidehi, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Drawn That Way by Elissa Sussman

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Hayley is one step closer to her dream of becoming a renowned animation director when she makes it into the summer internship held by her animation hero, Bryan Beckett. Inspired by the well-known film Beckett directed based on his son, A Boy Named Bear, Hayley has loved animation for her entire life. She will do anything to become a director on one of the four short films her and the other interns will be making. However, when Bear himself shows up as one of the 41 interns, and Bryan Beckett isn’t the type of man she thought he would be, Hayley’s well-thought-out future plans begin to crumble.

I loved Drawn That Way because of the powerful narrative of representation and inclusion. Within Hayley’s internship group and the employees at the studio, the vast majority of people are white males. The girls in the internship learn from their own experiences and the retellings from their female advisors that the world of animation is often sexist and cruel. While Hayley has a real, authentic talent, she has to fight harder than any of the boys in the internship to make herself be seen, and she doesn’t always win the battle. Reading Hayley’s story is empowering and will show young girls and people of color that even when it may seem like the world is against you, you have the strength to continue fighting and achieve the recognition you deserve.

It may seem like this book would only be relatable to teenagers who love art and animation, but that is not the case. Drawn That Way is a story of making and losing friends, failure and recovery, healing broken relationships, and realizing that what you wanted wasn’t what you thought it would be. Hayley learns many valuable lessons about her own self worth and relationships with others that will be remembered by anyone who reads her story.

Reviewed by Kayla, Glen Allen Library
Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Great or Nothing by Caroline Tung Richmond, Joy McCullough, Jessica Spotswood, and Tess Sharpe

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During World War II, four sisters have just suffered a terrible loss. They’ve always been able to find solace in and support each other, but their unbearable grief has pushed them away from one another. Meg stays home with their mother and waits for her life to put itself back together again, while Jo joins an all-female community responsible for making machinery for the military. Amy lies about her identity in order to work for the Red Cross, and Beth feels useless and despondent as she watches her sisters deal with their grief without the comfort of each other. While on their separate journeys, the sisters each find their own ways to deal with their grief and discover their independent identities before learning that one doesn’t need to be perfect for those who will love you no matter what.

I absolutely loved this book. The beginning didn’t really capture my attention and the story seemed to just start with no context or exposition whatsoever, but just a few pages later I was hooked and the plot was engaging throughout the novel. I enjoyed the development of each of the characters throughout the book and saw parts of myself in each one of them. I loved Jo’s feminist determination to carve her own path for herself, Meg’s steady belief in the best of everyone, and Amy’s carefree growth during her journey. Beth’s sections of the book were written in verse, and the poems were so relatable and embodied everything lovable about poetry. The entire book conveyed a very gentle yet youthful energy, which really helped to further the reader’s enjoyment and comprehension. The setting of World War II was a perfect portrayal of the message and I really liked the unique perspective on the era. The book did a great job walking the reader through the stages of grief and through the journey of each of the characters.

I really liked the character development throughout the book. The reader was able to experience the grief and the journey with the characters and one’s own experiences were reflected perfectly. I watched the characters grow and felt myself grow with them. Also, the excellent portrayal of feminism during the 1940s was done really well and I know I will take that portrayal way with me. Finally, some of the poems will always stick with me. They were really emotional and helped to emphasize the overall message of the story.

Reviewed by Caitlin, Glen Allen Library

Uncategorized

Why Would I Lie by Adi Rule

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A student’s aspiration in becoming a school’s valedictorian is not a force to be reckoned with, especially when that student is Viveca North. For as long as she can remember, Viveca, a senior in high school, has been buried in her notes, books, and papers, hoping to become the ultimate student and gain admission at the esteemed Everett College. Even at Elton Prep, a high school known for its rigor, Viveca had little trouble climbing her way to the top, and it seemed like it would stay that way until Jamison Sharpe showed up at the beginning of the year. Jamison was perfect, not only in his academics, but he was talented, charming, kind, and most importantly, sociable. It was almost as if Jamison was identical to Viveca, but had somehow found a way to be better. Jamison was not a threat to Viveca at first; all she had to do was to keep acing her classes, just like she had always done. However, when Jamison made his way ahead of Viveca, claiming that sweet valedictorian spot in what seemed like no time, she knew something was wrong. How could a random kid, that no one had ever heard of before, find his way to the illustrious Elton Prep and almost immediately make it to the top? Determined to uncover the truth before her place at Everett College is taken, Why Would I Lie? illustrates the ambition of Viveca North, a student that somehow has to balance perfection, being a good person, and revealing the answer to a mystery that could change her life.

If I could describe this book in one word, it would be “wow.” It has been quite a long time since I have read a book that keeps me wanting to turn the pages before I finish reading, which made me wish that I could speed-read and absorb words with just one glance. There was never a dull moment in Why Would I Lie?, because Adi Rule perfectly captured what it is like to be an over-achieving student in an incredibly competitive, frustrating environment. Viveca was a beautifully written character that resembles what it means to be human. She was selfish, ambitious, and imperfect, despite she herself thinking she was flawless. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Viveca’s path to understanding herself, her peers, but also, seeing her dreams and desires come true. Viveca never gave up, even when the whole world seemed to be against her.

One memorable thing about the book was how immersive the story was. Throughout the book, I frequently found myself conversing with the book, trying to guide characters to their next decision. The dialogues seem to include the reader into the conversation, and it was almost as if the thoughts of the characters were spoken directly to the reader. Further, the book had a lot of imagery, sensory, and figurative language that transported me to the world of Elton Prep in the blink of an eye. Why Would I Lie? pulled me into its universe, making me want more and more of it as I read.

Five stars

Reviewed by Melody, Twin Hickory Area Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

This Might Get Awkward by Kara McDowell

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Gemma Wells is a teenager who’s never been to parties, had many friends, or stand out at school. To her, Lake Powell was the only place she needed in life; all those other typical teenager activities didn’t matter. However, during her solo trip to Lone Rock Beach, a supposedly empty beach in this season, her excursion was unexpectedly accompanied by the most popular kids at her high school. Realizing that her crush, Beau Booker, is with this group, Gemma thinks that this might be her long-awaited chance at getting with Beau. That fantasy is almost immediately crashed when Beau falls off a boat and got a concussion, only saved by the quick CPR given to him by Gemma, before being sent to the hospital. At the hospital, Gemma was horrified to learn that everyone thought she was Beau’s girlfriend, but Beau had told her to pretend she was close with him. In a confusing journey to fulfill Beau’s wishes, meet a new, mysterious Booker brother, and discover her true identity, This Might Get Awkward tells a tale of how a once-outcast teenage girl finally finds a place where she belongs.

This Might Get Awkward fit into a few cliches, loner finding belonging, pretending to be dating the most popular boy, and a girl being torn between two romantic interests. However, I didn’t find these stereotypes to be overwhelming. Gemma’s seemingly hopeless situation was very unrealistic, which made it more interesting to see how the story would play out, especially since she seemed to brush off anyone who was trying to help her. When she met the other Booker brother, Griff, the two immediately hit it off, with undeniable chemistry. Yet on almost every step of the way, she was making mistakes and not taking responsibility for her actions. Gemma frequently pushed away the people who cared about her, making her an incredibly frustrating character. Despite Gemma’s occasional, questionable attitude, I enjoyed experiencing her journey to becoming a new person that she finally felt comfortable as.

One memorable thing about the book was the idea that the most unexpected people can become friends with each other. Most people stay away from others if there’s any indication that they “don’t fit,” and that was true for Gemma too. With Beau’s accident, however, Gemma made many amazing friendships with people she never would have talked to otherwise. I thought this gave an important message to the readers, to never be afraid to talk to other people, even if they are the complete opposite of you.

Reviewed by Melody, Twin Hickory Library