Teen Book Reviews

Local teens write Teen Book Reviews in exchange for volunteer hours. If you're interested in becoming a volunteer and getting hours for reading and writing reviews, learn more on our teen services page to get started. All reviews are out 5 stars, 5 being the best. All reviewed books are available for checkout.

Mars-One by Jonathan Maberry


Mars-One is a science fiction thriller that does not disappoint. Set in a very near future where the first humans set off for the red planet, Tristan Hart must leave everything he has known, including his beloved Izzy, to go on a mission he knows he will not return from. This book starts slowly, building context and giving the story emotional weight. I admit I did feel a bit bored in the book's first chapters, but the story feverishly escalates, with pace and heart-pounding events that entice the reader into reading more, sprinkled with star-crossed romance and selflessness. This book gave me similar emotions to watching thrilling movies such as The Martian and Inception. I always found my eyes straying down the page, spoiling crucial events that I could not resist reading ahead about. The final sprint is a marvelous joy that encapsulated me for an hour straight, and this book is a must-read for people looking for fast-paced science fiction thrillers. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and despite the slow start, the novel's brilliance warrants a five-star review. Thanks for looking!

Reviewed by Thomas, grade 11.

Omen of Ice by Jus Accardo


Omen of Ice is a superbly creative take on mystical and otherworldly beings. It is an exciting and suspenseful thriller that provokes an overwhelming feeling of excitement. It is heart-pounding, filled with twists and suspense. The characters are exquisite and magical. The narrative was perfectly harmonious with that of the character in the novel. The novel is wonderfully written, and the flow is smooth and easy to read. I enjoyed every encounter, scene, and detail. Each turn of a page ignited a sense of thrill and anticipation for what will happen next. It is like a journey into the unknown, with mysteries abound in each step and turns towards this magical realm. The novel is well suited for young adults who seek the thrill and excitement riddled with mystery, magic, chivalry, loyalty, and friendship. It is the perfect theme one would expect in a well-rounded novel. It is spectacularly entertaining and one of a kind. Two thumbs up!

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10.

Unexpecting by Jen Bailey


Unexpecting is an intensely emotional, revealing, and real-world novel about a young adult's unexpected journey into parenthood. It is about making difficult choices for the right reasons, courage, love, friendship, and personal sacrifices. Forging one's destiny is like a journey filled with challenges one must navigate and overcome. Benjamin Morrison is a thriving, vibrant young adult who unexpectedly must learn to be a parent. He must now think about himself and the life and welfare of the one he loves. The unexpected twist in his life journey taught him how to make compromises both in his personal and academic life. While Ben was experiencing multiple external and internal forces that brought him to the verge of failure, he found a renewed commitment and courage to face his reality with the help of his family and friends. This novel is a classic journey into what it takes to be a parent and personal responsibility. It has given me a clear and fresh perspective in life about responsibility, courage, and selflessness. It is an educational, creative, and entertaining novel to read.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10.

Pure of Heart by Delilah S. Dawson


Pure of Heart is an exciting and brilliantly written fiction incorporating well-known Disney characters like Snow White, Rapunzel, and other vibrant and unique characters. These agents of good, also known as guardians, team up to overcome the evil forces threatening their way of life and the entire microverse. It is an epic adventure into the dark land to search for the mirror, which is immensely magical and powerful and can create a twisted replica of anyone’s friend. It is an emotionally intense, suspenseful, mystical, and fascinating tale about courage, camaraderie, and loyalty. It is a masterpiece in its own way because it has the perfect constructive interaction of the most iconic Disney characters fighting the agents of darkness in a new realm. It is like a work of genius, well thought out, and a masterclass. It is a magnificent tale; I loved and enjoyed every scene and moment! It is an impressive book to read!

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10.

Shades of Black by Carlos Anthony


Shades of Black is a novel that depicts a real-life scenario that highlights the challenges and the price we must pay to fit into society. This novel sheds light on the life experiences of a young teen trying to be part of a community dominated by a culture different from his own. As a young teen, it is often difficult to make the right choices, especially when there are so few good options. Sometimes, the pressure is too much that young teens, who are still learning, lack life experiences, conscientious decision skills, and family support and must rely on their primitive survival instinct to feel safe. One of the most important lessons I learned from the novel is to think about the long-term consequences of my actions rather than the immediate gratification I can gain from them. The feeling of belongingness is crucial to one’s emotional and psychological well-being, so one might be willing to pay a steep price to fit in. This novel gives a very realistic view of the world around us; it is entertaining, revelation, and educational.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10.

A Quantum Life: My unlikely journey from the street to the stars by Hakeem Oluseyi and Joshua Horwitz


A Quantum Life is a bold, rich memoir by renowned African-American physicist Hakeem Oluseyi. This intriguing, wonderfully crafted memoir dives deep into the perilous journey of Dr. Oluseyi and his dream of reaching for the stars. A boy entranced by the beauty of the night sky overcame almost insurmountable odds as he faced drug addictions that clashed with his elegant mind. This is a truly inspirational piece of literature that hit me hard as I also plan on pursuing a career in physics. It gave me incredible insight into how tough navigating academic ventures is while at the same time balancing family, emotions, goals, and becoming an adult. Dr. Oluseyi had every excuse to quit at any stage, yet he carried on and demonstrated unyielding perseverance, a quality I consider extremely valuable. At every stage of this book, I was locked in and eager to learn more about his story. It truly is an incredible and uplifting experience that shows that no matter how much adversity you face, you can reach the light at the end of the tunnel with hard work and endurance. I recommend this book to anyone needing inspiration or having a tough time, and I guarantee you will be able to take something away from it.

Reviewed by Thomas, grade 11.

Hellfinder by Paula Stokes


Hellfinder is like a journey into another dimension; the way the story unfolded was brilliant. This is a story of a demonic proportion in the majestic Icelandic landscape. The hellish environment inside an Icelandic volcano is perfect for hell, which is hot, fiery, and perilous, where evil can only be enjoyed. I love the story's combination of horror, romance, adventure, mystery, and suspense; it gave a classic twist and turn, ups and downs like a roller coaster ride. I could only imagine the horrors of fighting off demonic entities; it is a classic tale of heroes overcoming the agents of evil. I enjoyed each character's uniqueness and their role in the story. It was hugely entertaining and mesmerizing at every turn of the pages, which kept me wanting more. This is another great read, and I loved every aspect of the story; it is beautifully written and heart-poundingly entertaining!

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10.

Leigh Howard and the Ghosts of Simmons-Pierce Manor by Shawn M. Warner


This is one of the coolest ghost stories I have read this year, perfect for the Halloween celebration. Leigh Howard is grieving the loss of her parents and cannot phantom the idea of not knowing what really happened. The mystery surrounding her parents' passing has been tormenting her; she must do something, or she will forever be without peace. She knows the only way to achieve closure is to see what really happened for herself. This ghostly, eerie story is so entertaining and full of life lessons. It showed bravery and loyalty among friends and family. The characters are amazingly vibrant, and the story's plot is just as vibrant. This is an adventure full of mystery and suspense. I can only imagine the challenges of losing one's parents and trying to fit into a new family. It must have been exceedingly difficult, but somehow, Leigh managed to pull through. This story is about love, friendship, personal strength, and sacrifices to overcome insurmountable odds.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10.

Saint Juniper’s Folly by Alex Crespo


Saint Juniper’s Folly is a suspenseful, eerie, and emotionally charged thriller. Jamie, Theo, and Taylor, the three teenagers who experienced supernatural phenomena, bonded and became allies in this gripping, ghostly story. This is one of the best heart-pounding and exciting stories I have read this year. The story is a classic example of how different individuals from divergent backgrounds and life experiences teamed together to face the most grueling and dangerous encounter within the Saints Juniper’s Folly. Alex Crespo demonstrated superb creativity and brilliant storytelling. The narrative is astonishingly unique compared to other ghostly thrillers I read in that Saint Juniper’s Folly combines all the best characteristics of suspense, thriller, mystery, and drama. The book is beautifully crafted; it is a work of art, fascinating and entertaining. It is perfect for young readers like me who appreciate exciting, intense, and roller coaster-like experiences.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10.

Actually Super by Adi Alsaid


The book is about Isabel’s quest to prove that men, despite their flaws, are inherently good. It is about seeking the light out in the darkness, no matter how dim. This book is about seeing the goodness in everyone. This book is truly inspiring because it showed me how an ordinary person can become extraordinary. It taught me how a simple gesture of kindness can positively impact the lives of others. Though her quest to seek extraordinary individuals took her around the world, she learned that superheroes are not like those from the comic book who can fly, see through walls, or fly but are ordinary individuals doing extraordinary deeds. These superheroes do not dwell in spaceships or distant galaxies; they are around her, near or in front of her. Unlike in the movies, these superheroes do not wear masks or hide their identities; they are among us, living with us, like our family, friends, and neighbors. I learned that being extraordinary is not about manifesting superhuman physical strengths but showing respect, kindness, and justice. It is a must-read; it is entertaining and a revelation.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10.

The Wolfpack by Amelia Brunskill


The Wolfpack is a thrilling novel about a closely knit nine girls in Havenwood. The tranquil lives and then sister bond of the girls are shaken deep down into their foundation and are about to crumble when one of them mysteriously vanishes without a trace. While the eight young girls remaining must figure out what happened to their friend, immense tension, suspicion, and feelings of paranoia grow. The sense of uncertainty among the eight girls surrounds them as they try to unravel the truth. Emotions run high in this heart-pumping, cult-like narrative. The circumstances surrounding their friend’s mysterious disappearance might have a sinister twist, but no one really knows for sure. This is a gut-wrenching novel, full of suspense that ignites the imagination. It is a one-of-a-kind novel, beautifully narrated and easy to read with a nice flow. It is a masterpiece, one of the best thrillers I have read this year.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10.

Just a Hat by S. Khubiar


The novel is about a brave thirteen-year-old Jewish boy named Joseph Nissan’s life experiences moving into a town in Texas. This is a tale that describes how a young immigrant like Joseph stood against bullying and discrimination. Joseph’s life experiences provided me with unbiased views about bullying. Even though I have never thought about it before or experienced it, it does not mean it is not happening near or around me. Joseph’s story is both inspiring and a powerful reminder for all of us that we as a nation must stand together against bullying and discrimination because there is only one race on earth: humans. Despite our differences, we must learn how to be inclusive and respectful to each other. It demonstrates how courage, friendship, humor, loyalty, and family helped overcome hatred. This book is both educational and entertaining. It took me through a roller coaster of emotions. This book is great because lessons from it can become an inspiration and a reminder to be kind to one another. Truly an emotional, funny, and true-to-life story.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10.

The Revelry by Katherine Webber


The Revelry is a mystical, suspenseful, exciting, and thrilling novel that describes camaraderie and friendship. The story is about the mysterious and life-changing events Bitsy Clark and her friend Amy were involved with during the annual Revelry event deep into the woods. Everything that happened during the Revelry gathering was tightly sealed in secrecy, and each participant like Bitsy had no recollection of what transpired during the event. She has no memories of attending the event, leading her to question her reality. Bitsy's life turned upside down while her friend Amy was experiencing success in life. Mysteries surrounding Bitsy's attendance in the annual Revelry haunted her, and she must work diligently to unravel the truth. The novel tells a tale about friendship amid challenges and the growing pains that come with it. I enjoyed reading the novel because it captivated my imagination and ignited my curiosity. The book triggered a sense of excitement and a powerful emotional response. It was one of a kind and one of the best I read so far.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10. 

I'll Tell You No Lies by Amanda McCrina


The novel is a thrilling tale about loyalty, trust, and tragedy in the setting of the Cold War era. Shelby Blaine and her father, an Air Force officer, moved to New York while dealing with the tragic loss of a loved one, her mother, and her father's wife. Shelby and her emotionally distant father experienced and coped with grief differently. While her father was busy interrogating an escaped Soviet Pilot, Shelby must deal with her grief without her father's emotional support. With twists and turns in the novel, Shelby gets unexpectedly involved in the world of secrecy and possible espionage when she meets Maksym, a suspected defector. The more she digs into Maksym's past and cover story, the more her suspicion grows, and she questions her own understanding of the truth. I enjoyed reading the novel; it was beautifully written. It is a classic Cold War-related novel that took me decades in the past. I highly recommend the novel for readers who enjoy and appreciate fast-paced, unpredictable, suspenseful, and emotionally charged.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10. 

The Legacies by Jessica Goodman


The Legacies is a thriller in the setting of an extravagant event for the children of the wealthy, famous, and powerful that led to murder. The Legacy Club, one of the most exclusive societies, ushered an annual competition among thirty-six elite seniors from the elite New York Prep school. The event was called the Legacy Ball, in which the winner will become a member of the Legacy Club. The competition’s prize is undeniably life-changing, and the participants were fierce and among the best and the brightest. The story chronicles the events, people, and circumstances that led to the murder. The story unfolds quickly; it is heart-pounding and suspenseful. The story showed how a peaceful and fun-filled event took a turn for the worst. It reminds me of how easily deceit, alcohol, and drugs can cloud judgment for even the brightest of us. The story showed how the insatiable pursuit of fame and power can lead to unthinkable actions. This is a must-read; it is one of a kind. It is educational and fun to read.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10. 

Where Echoes Die by Courtney Gould


While Beck and her sister Riley are experiencing grief from the loss of their mother, they travel to a mysterious town called Backravel, hoping to find answers. Backravel is in a dry, desert-like climate out of nowhere. Beck and Riley could not help but notice the eerie ambiance and the lack of amenities in the town except for a small treatment facility. Inhabitants of the town of Backravel have forgotten their past and do not seem to remember how they ended there. Neither do Beck and Riley remember how they arrived in the town. The sisters hoped their journey to the town would help them deal with their sadness and grief, but little did they know it would lead to more questions and mystery. The story demonstrates the unbreakable bond between family. It is a story that reminds us that love is boundless and the only thing that will endure time and cross the vast expanse of space. The story reminds me how grief and loss can strengthen the bond that holds a family together. The story showed how, like ordinary people, Beck and Riley were vulnerable during their grieving process but became stronger after the experience. The book is full of mystery and suspense that triggered my imagination. It was a dreamlike experience with multiple interpretations and endings. Great read! I enjoyed it very much.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10. 

Garden of the Cursed by Katy Rose Pool


Garden of the Cursed is a fantastic book for readers who enjoy fiction, fantasy, and magic. It is a journey into a whimsical world of world-building, curse-magic, and curse-breaking. Marlow Briggs became one of the best curse breakers of Caraza City. Marlow is young, fearless, and smart but has challenges trusting people around her, which might have been her Achilles heel. She rose into the pantheon of curse-breakers by solving countless cases. Despite her achievements, she remained intrigued and mystified by her mother's disappearance. Marlow continued her quest to unravel the mystery of her mother's disappearance. Marlow might have gotten an opportunity to finally learn the truth about her mother when an old friend, Adrius of Falcrest, requested her to help break a dangerous curse. Though Marlow tried to avoid Adrius because of the rejection she experienced years ago, she had to set her emotions aside. Marlow was desperate to pursue the only lead that could help solve her mother's mysterious disappearance, even if she must endure tremendous suffering pretending to be in a love affair with Adrius. The book's narrative has taken me in a whole new level of fiction, fantasy, and magic. The story encompasses both the old and the new world, where modern technologies mingle with the old-fashioned way of living. It is a story of bravery, romance, and perseverance. It is one of the best fantasy books I have read this year.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10. 

Sky of Seven Colors by Rachelle Nelson


Sky of Seven Colors is a masterpiece fantasy story about love, sacrifices, and selflessness. Meg, the story's main character, has experienced tremendous grief after losing her mother. Again, she must face extreme grief and uncertainty when Andrew, her love, had a terrible accident that left him in a critical condition that may lead to death. Meg became overwhelmed with guilt and desperation to save the most important person in her life. She revisited the site of Andrew's tragic accident, where a portal to another unknown dimension unknowingly teleported her to a world void of colors. Meg becomes trapped and must confront the reality that she might lose her life to save the one she loves the most. Though Meg is young and timid, she has unquestionable ethical principles that guide her throughout her journey in the mystical and colorless world of giants. The giants in this colorless world rest their hopes in Meg to save their own kind. Meg unequivocally knows that she must fight hard to her last breath to save Andrew and get back to her true and colorful world. Sky of Seven Colors exquisitely inspired my vivid imagination and kept me motivated, excited, and thrilled at each turn of the pages. This a must-read story. It is a story of love, hope, and selflessness.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 10. 

The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander


Black history started long before slavery and plantations in America. It began in Africa. The award-winning author Kwame Alexander wrote The Door of No Return to tell the African part of the African American story. This is the first book in a trilogy that follows an 11-year-old boy in his village in Upper Kwanta. Kofi Offin is like every other young boy in his village, spending time with his family and friends, preparing for manhood, and not knowing life outside of his small village. But a deadly accident, a feud between villages, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time get Kofi captured. On a trip away from everything he knows, he is trapped with other people like him, wondering if he will ever return home and be free again.

I loved how the book was written from the point of view of a child. It encompassed all a kid's childish curiosity and imagination, making the story better. The story's use of language and formatting made it feel like it was from a child's perspective, and it could still send a meaningful message simultaneously. Another thing I enjoyed about the book was what it stood for. Although the story was fictional, it was based on real places in Africa, written to describe how people lived before and during the slave trade. It represented the truth of African American history, telling how the middle of it isn't the beginning. The book taught me about African culture in a way that I loved, using the language, talking about its food, and explaining its customs and traditions. It left me feeling like I had learned a lot. The story was amazing, and I loved its representation of African history, so I give it 5 out of 5 stars. People who want to learn about how life was in Africa before slavery should read this book.

Reviewed by Mauris, grade 8.

Black Was the Ink by Michelle Coles


As racism is an issue that America has been dealing with for centuries, Michelle Coles writes Black Was the Ink, a story that journeys through Reconstruction-era America to convey how historical racism within politics affects the modern-day Black community. Malcolm Williams, a 16-year-old Black teen in D.C., is tired of waiting for change in the U.S. since racism has affected him his whole life. With violence growing in his neighborhood, Malcolm's mother decides to send him to his family's farm in Mississippi. Rather than having a regular family reunion, he learns that the state will take the farm that has been in his family for generations. It doesn't concern Malcolm until one of his ancestors reaches out to him from beyond the grave, urging him to save their family's land. Malcolm sees parts of his ancestor's life after the Civil War, meeting the real Black statesmen who fought for change. Being inspired by his family's resilience back then, Malcolm must use his ancestor's experiences to find a way to save the farm.

I liked the way the author connected racism from the past, over a century ago, to its effects today. Although it was presented in a fictional scenario, it represented today's issue. I also enjoyed how the events in the past were historically accurate. The story displayed how much history is being hidden today, showing how some historical figures mentioned in the book aren't taught about in schools despite their work's impact. It was great how the book left me wanting to learn more about them and their importance in history. The only thing I didn't like about the story was how abruptly the tone changed—lighthearted moments switched to political without much transition. Other than this, the book was informative, inspirational, and thought-provoking, so I give it 4 out of 5 stars. This book is for anyone who wants to read about why change was needed back then and why it is needed now.

Reviewed by Mauris, grade 8.

Ashfall Legacy by Pitticus Lore


Do aliens really exist? This is a question that 16-year-old Sydney Chambers can answer without hesitation: Yes. He knows this for sure because he is part alien. From the mind of Pittacus Lore, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the I Am Number Four series, comes Ashfall Legacy, a mysterious and fascinating sci-fi story that is out of this world. This story is the intriguing first book of the Ashfall series. Since learning that he was a hybrid, a half-alien, and half-human, Syd has always been curious about his father's past on a distant planet called Denza. But he never had the chance to learn about it since his father went missing, thought to be dead for years. When Syd finds a device that indicates that his father is alive, Syd must learn about his father's past to find him, figure out what made him go missing, and discover the secret that could destroy humanity.

I enjoyed how the book retold the classic story of the existence of aliens and higher life forms. Rather than just reusing common sci-fi ideas to create the aliens in the book, the author took a unique approach to creating each species, making them have beliefs, behaviors, and attributes entirely new to the sci-fi world. Along with this, the book's imagery was amazing. The language used to describe the worlds, settings, and characters made imagining these new planets and lifeforms easy, fascinating me almost as much as the plot. The storyline was especially indulging, and each character's development made it more interesting. Finally, I loved how the book had a little bit of everything: humor, action, coming-of-age, and sci-fi. Because I didn't think anything was bad about the story, I give it 5 out of 5 stars. This book is for those who love just an all-around great sci-fi story.

Reviewed by Mauris, grade 8.

Ashfall Prophecy by Pitticus Lore


Is the future already predetermined? Or can it be changed by the choices you make? 16-year-old Sydney Chambers returns in the sequel to Ashfall Legacy to figure out the answer to this question. Pittacus Lore, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the I Am Number Four series, brings the second installment of the Ashfall series with Ashfall Prophecy. Syd, a half-human and half-alien, grew up on Earth, his father being from a planet called Denza. Since his father mysteriously disappeared when Syd was young, he goes to find the truth about what made him disappear on Ashfall. There, he discovers the brutal history between humans and Denzans. He must decide whether to free humans from Earth, a planet meant to imprison them or destroy it so that they can't torment other species again. When Syd is prophesized to become a world-killer, he does whatever is in his power to make sure he does not meet this fate. With the help of his alien allies, the universe's fate falls into his hands.

The book conveyed the plot excellently. The author wrote the story in a way so that it slowly unravels as you read on, piquing your interest as it continues. The imagery, just like the series' first book, allowed me to really envision each setting in space. Along with this, the storyline progressed very smoothly. It wasn't hard to understand most situations that the characters were in. Although it did get a bit complicated at some points, it didn't take away too much from the book. The only thing that I didn't enjoy was the way it ended. The climax seemed a bit too quick for how the story built up to it, and the falling action wasn't very satisfying. But overall, I loved the book's way of putting me in a new world. The book was a fascinating sequel, so I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. I recommend this book to lovers of all things alien.

Reviewed by Mauris, grade 8.

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim


Six Crimson Cranes follows the story of a young girl, Shiori’anma, the only princess of the kingdom of Kiata. She can perform magic, although it is unfortunately forbidden in her kingdom. One day after running away from her betrothal ceremony, she discovers secrets hidden in the palace. However, a curse is placed on her and her brothers before she can do anything. Her six brothers turn into six cranes, and she ends up with an unremovable bowl on her head. The story continues with Shiori’anma’s journey to undo the curse, where she uncovers secrets that could destroy the kingdom. The amount of descriptive language used in the book creates a visually pleasing environment for the reader. When reading the book, I could envision the scenes taking place thanks to author Elizabeth Lim’s vibrant descriptions. The plot of the story is fast-paced and engaging, keeping readers hooked. The storyline has no plot holes, which is rare in fantasy books. In addition, romance is written in a way that flows nicely within the story. The romance itself is somewhat predictable but still nicely paced. Overall, this book is an amazing, one-of-a-kind work that everyone should read. I recommend this book to people who like fantasy stories, especially ones involving mythology or ancient civilizations. I would rate this book a 5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Samantha, grade 10.

Kneel by Candice Buford


In America, liberty and justice are meant to be for all. But a Black teenager named Russel Boudreaux finds that this isn’t the case when he becomes a target for hatred after speaking up about racial injustice. His story shines a light on the racism that lies within the justice system. Author Candace Buford tells Russel’s story in Kneel, which reflects the racial inequity in the United States. Rus is a local star and co-captain of the varsity football team at his high school. Getting a football scholarship is his ticket out of the small town, which is his one goal. He stays on track until his best friend is unfairly arrested and kicked off their football team, making him unable to keep silent against the injustice. Rus kneels during the national anthem to protest this, but it quickly backfires. Now, he questions whether he did the right thing as he tries to finish his season and deal with the backlash, wondering if he can still achieve his dream.

I loved how real the story felt. It completely captured the full scope of the racial issue in America authentically. It discussed and confronted the issue in depth, sending the message about the injustice in America and the need for change. Other than the social aspect of the story, I liked the changes in the mood of the story. It was able to be lighthearted and funny at parts while also having a serious tone where it was needed. This also helped deliver the message of the book. I didn’t think that there was anything bad about this story. The plot was interesting, and the lesson was deep, so I gave the story a 5 out of 5 stars. Those who love a story of activism and a call for social change while also enjoying sports should read this story.

Reviewed by Maurice, grade 8.

Sisters of the Snake by Sarena and Sasha Nanua


In Sisters of the Snake by Sarena and Sasha Nanua, Rani and Ria couldn’t be any more different. One is the princess of Abai. The other is an orphan, a bandit just stealing to survive. One day their lives collided, and everything changed. Ria and Rani, orphan and royal, are unquestionably identical. The newfound twins make a deal to switch places, but there is danger in both worlds. The thief and princess must work together to save their home or watch it all fall into ruin.

As a lover of the fantasy genre, having a mix of magic and prophecies, along with the action of the story, was perfect. The descriptive language of the authors gives the reader a perfect image and understanding of the book. This novel is a great read for someone who loves fantastical stories, lots of adventure, and a little romance. If you enjoy this book, you should also read the sequel. Overall, I really enjoyed the story, so I give it a 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewed by Ellice, grade 10.

Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron


Have you ever wished that you could become the protagonist of your favorite comic book? In Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron, Maya, a twelve-year-old from South Side Chicago, wishes that she could take back that wish. From being attacked by otherworldly beings to the color being drained from the world, Maya is thrust into a new world to uncover the truth. She finds out that her father is the guardian of the veil, the wall between our world and the Dark, where the Lord of Shadows and his army await. She finds out that she is a godling, half human and half orisha. Now that the veil is weakening, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world. Unfortunately, her father is kidnapped, so it’s up to Maya and her friends to get him back and stop the Lord of Shadows before it’s too late.

Though the story was a little slow in the beginning and I wish it had a little more action, overall, the concept of an unknown, ancient world is brilliant. I enjoyed the vivid imagery of the book; it helped with the evolution of the story, and it grabbed the reader's attention. There are a couple of plot holes that I wish the author addressed, but altogether, this is a great read for someone who loves a little fantasy and adventure. If you enjoy this book, you should read the next two books in this series as well. Overall, I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.

Reviewed by Ellice, grade 10.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas


One can never fully prepare for every challenge that comes along with raising a child, and these challenges worsen if you are raising a child as a teenager. 17-year-old Maverick Carter isn’t ready for any of them when he has his son, and it only gets worse as he tries to separate his life as a father from his life as a gang member. Angie Thomas, the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Hate U Give, writes the prequel to the award-winning novel, set seventeen years before the story’s events. Maverick, being the son of a gang legend, is expected to take after his father and run the King Lords. He deals for them, making enough money to support himself and his mother while his father does his time in prison. He can manage this fine until he finds out he has a son. Now, Maverick must do whatever he can to stop his life from falling apart while providing for his family.

The authenticity of the story was appealing to me. The plot had the issues of teenage parenthood and gangs laid out in a way that wasn’t sugarcoated. It told of the challenges that come along with these issues while having an element of realness. The development of the main characters stood out to me as well. Maverick started as an immature teen just trying to get by, but he ended the story as someone that knew the true importance of supporting and providing for others. The only element of the book that I didn’t enjoy was that it slowed down in some parts. A few chapters in the book were necessary for the plot, but I felt that more feeling in those areas would make the story better. Despite this shortcoming, the whole story was an emotional rollercoaster and its realness made it unique, so I give the book 4.5 out of 5 stars. The book is for those who love an authentic story that reflects real issues within the streets of the inner city.

Reviewed by Mauris, grade 8.

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris


The ability to see the future is always portrayed as a power that can only be used for the greater good, but it turns out that it can be more of a curse that only makes things worse. For 16-year-old Alex Rufus, this curse ruins his life. Brittney Morris, the bestselling author of SLAY, writes The Cost of Knowing, the story of Alex’s life that questions whether fate is set and stone or not. Alex’s abilities are stimulated whenever he touches something, a vision of the object’s future flashing in his mind. The power started after his parents died years ago, causing him anxiety ever since. He does his best to cope with this, managing his difficult life as an orphan, but his life starts to lose stability once he sees a vision of his 13-year-old brother Isaiah dying soon. Trying his best to win a race against time, Alex does whatever he can to change his little brother’s fate.

This anxiety-inducing story does an excellent job of showing the complexity of relationships and what it means to be a family. I liked how the author wrote the book in a way so that this sci-fi power is translated into a story that deals with issues of reality. The science doesn’t have to be explained for the story to be great. It took issues that can be seen in everyday life and made them part of an indulging storyline. The relatability went as far as to portray the way that teens think, the serious parts alongside the lighthearted ones. The only element of the story that I didn’t enjoy was the lack of adventure in it. Although I liked the depiction of reality, I felt that with a power as creative as seeing in the future, there should have been a bit more action in the story. Overall, the book was funny, deep, and very interesting, so I give it a 4 out of 5 stars. The book is perfect for people who like a good story of reality with a sci-fi twist.

Reviewed by Mauris, grade 8.

The Upper World by Femi Fadugba


Have you ever experienced déjà vu so badly that you could have sworn that what you experienced really happened? Esso Adenon, a 16-year-old growing up in the gang-infested streets of South London, knows this feeling all too well. Brilliant physicist and author Femi Fadugba makes his debut with The Upper World, a story that revisits the concept of time travel. Esso grew up without his father, but he learns more about him after reading his journal about "The Upper World," a place beyond space and time where you could see the past and future. After reading this, Esso thinks that his father may have gone mad until an accident sends Esso to The Upper World. At the same time, this story also follows the life of Rhia, a foster child and soccer star who lives 15 years after Esso's events. Although their lives are a generation apart, their paths cross to find a way to prevent a tragedy from ever occurring.

As the story progresses, it makes more sense as you read on, pieces of the story fitting together like a puzzle. Time travel can be difficult to comprehend, but the author delivers it in a way that makes sense and is easy to understand. I enjoyed the book quite a bit just for this reason, a sci-fi story where the science makes sense. The book is also very lighthearted and told through a growing teen's mind, making it relatable to the intended audience. The only element of the story that was harder to read was all the slang that it used. As an American reading a story set in South London, I couldn't understand some of the UK slang words used, such as "neek" or "yute." Other than this small issue, the book was amazing. It was action-packed, thrilling, funny, and fascinating. For these reasons, I give the book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. This book is great for anyone who loves reading books like these.

Reviewed by Mauris, grade 8.

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra


Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra is a one-of-a-kind fantasy adventure that ignites curiosity and imagination. It highlights culturally inspired traditions and unique and intriguing characters that foster magical and delightful experiences. The novel delivered multifaceted attributes that range from action, romance, fantasy, magic, suspense, intrigue, and suspense. This is one of the best fantasy novels I have read so far. The novel provided remarkable reading pleasures and thrills and inspired a new life-changing point of view about learning more about myself first to become the person I would like to be. This inspiring and thought-provoking novel portrays discovery, heroism, loyalty, and chivalry. I was amazed by the uniqueness of the novel's characters, plot, and setting. The pace of the narrative was right because it allowed time to digest, analyze and picture out the scenes while it also enticed me to keep going.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 9. 

Of Cages and Crowns by Brianna Joy Crump


Of Cages and Crowns by Brianna Joy Crump is a novel about Monroe Benson, a goddess-touched, strong-willed young lady who can fashion fire at will. She faces a unique conundrum where she must decide whether to accept or deny her destiny. As she battles against the other nine powerful goddess-touched competitors, she realizes that her relentless efforts to escape her destiny might only lead to a grimmer outcome for her and the world around her. Realizing that there is much more at stake; she makes alliances and fights with her heart. This novel is truly a great read because it provides a unique blend of thrills, dystopia, romance, action, and suspense suited for a reader wanting to enjoy an amazing experience. The novel's pace was right, while the setting and plot were relatable so that I can paint a picture of it. The narratives made it easy to follow and understand while giving me a sense of intrigue and wanting to keep reading.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 9. 

The Silent Stars Go By by Sally Nicholls


The Silent Stars Go By by Sally Nicholls is a very inspiring story about hope, family, and love. As I read the book, I experienced emotions ranging from feeling empathetic, happy, hopeful, and surprised. The story taught me to appreciate small things and be thankful for the time I have with my friends and family. The story also provided valuable life lessons about healing, resilience, and being hopeful about the future despite challenges. It made me ponder how important my family and friends are in my life as I venture to discover beyond the horizon. I enjoyed the story because each turn of the page kept me wanting for more and hoping for a miracle to happen, which it did at the end. This book is a great find if you want to experience joy, surprise, hope, and love. It is a classic treat for a reader; I give it five stars.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 9. 

Road of the Lost by Nafiza Azad


Road of the Lost by Nafiza Azad is amazingly entertaining and full of excitement. I experienced intense thrills and suspense as the magical tale unfolded. It is a remarkable journey of discovery and learning how to adapt to a new reality. I can relate my life experiences to that of Croi as I discover who I really am and learn how to adjust to a new reality. It gave me a new perspective on life about change and learning to become a better person. The story's characters, plot, and narrative are unique and original. The author narrated the story in a way that is enchanting and full of heartfelt emotions. As I enjoyed reading through the book, I felt a range of emotions, from feeling uncertain, thrilled, hopeful, and most excited at each turn of the page. The words, phrases, and conversations were well thought out and innovatively crafted like magic. I loved and enjoyed the story, plot, narrative, and characters. I highly encourage youth like me to read the book; it is enchanting and worth your time.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 9. 

Nothing Sung and Nothing Spoken by Nita Tyndall


Nothing Sung and Nothing Spoken by Nita Tyndall chronicles the destructive and suppressive events that unfolded during World War II. The story highlights how love, friendship, personal sacrifices, and making hard choices helped overcome hate and tyranny and ultimately end the war. I learned that war is one of the most destructive forces ever, fueled by hate and greed. The war destroyed the physical world and instilled fear but never dampened hope nor overcame love. The story reminds me of many historical events I learned from school about ordinary citizens acting extraordinarily to help save lives during the war. The story taught me a valuable lesson about how my choices can affect other people and the world. It made me realize that in war, no one truly wins, everyone loses, and the ultimate enemy is not the people we are hurting but the war itself. Teens like me who want to be enlightened about how powerful the power of freedom to choose can be to do good must read the book.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 9. 

The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen by Isaac Blum


The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen by Isaac Blum is an amazing story about boundless love and friendship. The story also highlights how hate causes pain and suffering and destroys a community. The book improved my awareness of Jewish culture and religion and the challenges they have endured for many years worldwide. If you are looking for a unique opportunity to experience and learn about how love and friendship overcame hate, this is the book you need to read. It is very inspiring, funny, down to earth, and yet very educational. Hoodie and Anna-Marie’s life experience showed that friendship knows no boundaries and love is truly universal. The story is a realistic depiction of the modern-day state of the world. The story shows that we, the people of the earth, still have lots of growing up to do, like learning to be respectful of our differences. I felt excited, a bit angry, and sad but mostly hopeful while reading. I enjoyed the conversations, narratives, and plot of the story, giving it 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 9. 

Wakers by Orson Scott Card


Life in the future isn’t really a utopia with flying cars, time travel, and world peace. It seems only to be a world of isolation, death, and imminent danger to Lazarus Hayerian. From the mind of Orson Scott Card, the creative author of the award-winning story Ender’s Game comes a story that reshapes the idea of reality in the future. As the first installment of The Side-Step trilogy, Wakers takes a new approach to the classic sci-fi concept of alternate realities. Laz, a boy born with the ability to travel between alternate realities, suddenly wakes up in an abandoned world where no one else is found. Having to figure out what is going on and why he is left there, he must survive in the run-down environment until he finds answers. 

As the story unravels, I think the articulate language used to describe the progressing story is brilliant, creating imagery that allowed me to understand the situation well. But at some points, the explanation of every little detail took away from the simplicity of these moments. In my opinion, there wasn’t enough explanation of how certain concepts worked during other moments, such as the protagonist’s ability to travel through alternate realities. I personally would have also enjoyed the book more if the mood changed more often in the story, from the serious tone of finding answers to a tone with possibly more comedy or action. Due to the constant seriousness, the story got quite boring at some points. But despite the shortcomings that I think the book had, I loved the premise of the story: a character with the power to travel between different realities trying to find answers in a futuristic environment. I loved seeing how creatively this idea was put into a book. Although there were some elements of the book that I was disappointed with, the concept of the book kept me engaged and allowed me to enjoy it. I give this story 4 out of 5 stars because of this. Anyone who enjoys a great sci-fi story is bound to enjoy this one.

Reviewed by Mauris, grade 8.

Dead Flip by Sara Farizan


Dead Flip by Sara Farizan reminds me of the movie Tron; it is thrilling and mysterious. This is a story about three close friends sharing their life experiences and passion for arcade games and Halloween. It is a story about friendship, experiencing and overcoming grief, and the hope of finding closure. The story's setting took me on an adventure into the past while instilling a sense of thrill and suspense. The plot showed how individuals cope differently despite sharing the similar experience of loss. Dead flip is cleverly written; its narrative appeals to youth wanting to experience thrill and suspense. The sequence of events is somewhat fast-paced and segmented, but the conversations are direct and easy to understand. While some parts invoked sadness, there are instances that uplift the spirits as well. The ending was a bit surprising for me. I did not have any clue where the story was going at first. The story sparked curiosity and conflicting insights about many possibilities of how the story was going to end.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 9. 

Orphan Wish Island by Sarah Anne Carter


Orphan Wish Island by Sarah Anne Carter is about Miriam, who, at a very young age, experienced the tragic loss of her parents two days before her 8th birthday. Her story is captivating and very inspiring because she learned how to cope at a young age despite the challenges of losing her parents. I can only imagine how frightening and hard it would be to lose parents, especially at a very young age, like Miriam. Miriam learned to work hard to achieve her goals and used her limited number of wishes to improve herself. The story unfolds in a manner that is very easy to understand. The events and settings were described very clearly as if I was watching the story from a wide screen. Like Miriam, I learned a valuable lesson in life about hard work and how crucial loyalty and trust are to becoming happier. I, too, have many wishes, and as the story taught me, I need to work hard for every wish I make to make it come true. The story fostered a new perspective on how love, family, and friendship keep our candlelight shining bright during the darkest and most challenging chapter of our life’s journey.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 9. 

The Woods are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins


The Woods are Always Watching is a novel by Stephanie Perkins, a spooky, nightmarish thriller. It is filled with suspense, action, and creepy scenes that trigger the imagination. As I read the novel, I can only imagine myself being lost in a dark, cold forest littered with ghosts, monsters, and otherworldly beings. I can only imagine the horrors if I were in the character’s shoes. The novel portrays unimaginable fear of the unknown as the protagonist tries to navigate back to safety. The novel is fast-paced, entertaining, and heart-pounding. I had several instances where I had goosebumps. It is a great read if you are looking to experience thrill, suspense, and excitement. I felt goosebumps and chills deep in my bones as I read through the novel; not something I recommend reading before bedtime unless you might want to experience it in your dreams. However, I learned a great deal about the positive impact of mastering my fear, teamwork, and respecting differing opinions when facing the most difficult challenges.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 9. 

Don't Look Back: a Memoir of War, Survival, and My Journey from Sudan to America by Achut Deng and Keely Hutton


Don’t Look Back, written by Achut Deng and Keely Hutton and illustrated by Mallory Grigg, is a powerfully inspiring memoir about Achut Deng’s perilous and traumatic journey from war-torn Sudan to live a new life in America. Her experience related to pain, suffering, grief, and torment for many years made her whole, stronger, and hopeful. I felt sad reading her story; however, after reading her story, my sense of hope was renewed. Her story is captivating, inspiring, and educational because before learning about her memoir, I did not know much about the deaths and suffering in Sudan. This experience fostered curiosity and my commitment to learning about my immediate surroundings and our planet. Don’t Look Back is an illustration of resilience, hope, love, and survival against years of unimaginable pain and suffering. I appreciated that the sequence, flow of events, and conversations were easy to comprehend as if I were part of her journey.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 9. 

Getting Comfortable with Uncertainty for Teens by Juliana Negreiros, PhD, Katherine Martinez, PsyD


As you can guess by the title, the majority of this book is about the concept of uncertainty and how to overcome it. I personally love how this book uses different diagrams to explain ideas. I also appreciate the topic of uncertainty; this book talks about the things people struggle with most with uncertainty and how to conquer those. I came out of this book with a different outlook on approaching things I am uncertain about. Chapter nine was my favorite part of the book, as I relate to it quite a bit. Chapter nine is about treating yourself with kindness, how kind words are helpful, and can motivate you to try to do better the next time. Overall this book is extremely useful if you are nervous and anxious about new experiences, and I fully recommend it.

Reviewed by Aspen, grade 12.

Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland


Path of Deceit is entertaining to read! It is a great story for teens who are looking to be inspired and intrigued at the same time. The book is full of adventure, fun-filled scenes, and suspense. The writers portrayed events naturally and smoothly, like a real-life scenario with a twist of adventure and suspense. The flow of the conversations and events was relatable and easy to follow and understand. The book provided great details about the characters, events, and settings, which provided a clear picture of the layout. The book highlights love, selflessness, friendship, and self-sacrifice for the greater good. The story and the characters were inspiring in a way that inspires a person to make some sacrifices to help others. The story conforms with the Star Wars theme about hope and allowing oneself to become an instrument for change for the greater good. As I ponder more deeply, I realize that the force is the love that binds us all and what makes life worth living. This is one of the most inspiring books I have read in 2022.

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 9. 

Dark Tides by Kimberly Vale


Dark Tides, book two of the Kingdom of Bones series, is full of action and adventure. There are a lot of scenes that portray violent encounters between the protagonist and agents of darkness. The book features heroic characters with great leadership qualities, loyalty, and bravery. The protagonist portrayed heroic attributes, something that is on display in real life during challenging times. The events from the book unfold quite suspenseful and scary at times, but hopeful. The book's layout and sequence of events can get jumbled up initially, but it became clearer as I read through the entire book. I enjoyed reading the book because it fueled my imagination. The way scenes and characters were described was clear, like I was in the story mingling with the characters and experiencing the events as they unfolded. Book two is full of action and suspense that made me not want to stop reading because I want to know what happens next. I am looking forward to reading book three!

Reviewed by Henrique, grade 9. 

By night. Volume one by John Allison; illustrated by Christine Larsen; colored by Sarah Stern; lettered by Jim Campbell


From the beginning, it was a little confusing and crazy, but the more we get to know the characters, the more the storyline makes sense. The main characters, Jane and Heather, are long-lost friends who split up after high school but reconnect one day. As they catch up, they come across a crazy portal to another dimension that they later decide to explore further. We get introduced to Heather's father and Jane's co-worker, who later play a more prominent role in the story. As the girls get "stuck" in the portal, Jane's co-worker and Heather's father go in to look for them; once they find them, each character has formed a connection within the dimension creating a series. I was never interested in the book like others were; I have been nose-deep in other books. It was sort of boring. Many reviews of this book say this is not the best one John Allison has written, nor is it an accurate representation of what he writes.

Reviewed by Rory, grade 11.

Wonder Woman: Dark Gods by James Robinson; artists Stephen Segovia, Jesus Merino [and seven others]


Wonder Woman: Dark Gods is an action-packed comic from multiple perspectives. We, the reader, know things throughout the book that Wonder Woman doesn't! The dark gods try to destroy her throughout the book, battle after battle, even one against her own brother. Diana is dragged from place to place to defeat each of the gods. As a wonder woman fan, it is really interesting to see what things are put on the screen and what's kept on the pages. As far as my opinion on the comic goes, it was an interesting read but not the best. The writing was unpredictable, which for some people could be good, but for this type of book, I want to understand why the plot line is going the way it is. The actual pictures within the comic were great; the artists involved in making this book are really talented!

Reviewed by Rory, grade 11.

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia; illustrated by Gabriel Picolo


This book is about how Raven lost her memories after a car crash with her foster mom. After that, she had no memory, and her mom died. She had been living with her aunt and became good friends with her aunt's daughter Max, who were like sisters. Raven struggled to fit in at school, knowing she barely had any memories of herself. She started getting scared and confused about how she could feel other people's emotions and hear their thoughts. Luckily Max helped her by giving her handphones so she could avoid the outside voices a little better. The main reason for this book was for Raven to figure out who she was. What I liked about this book is how Raven became this strong, overcoming person facing her problems. This shows that no matter what you are dealing with, there will always be a positive side in the end.

Reviewed by Ariana, grade 11.

What If We Were... by Axelle Lenoir; translation by Pablo Strauss and Aleshia Jensen


This book is about how two best friends named Nathalie and Marie who played a game called "What if we were." They pretend to be Vikings, spy agents, magical creatures, and even junk food. They are high schoolers who enjoy playing make-believe. They would come up with crazy but thoughtful ideas to plan out each character they would pretend to be as. It is a funny and entertaining book with a lot of details in it. The two best friends both have a creative mindset. Also, later Nathalie starts to have a crush on someone, and it was cute how Marie tried to help them get together. It was a nice little romance that I enjoyed. It showed such an amazing bond their friends have for each other. What I liked about this book was how detailed the drawings were; the illustrations were excellent. It described each scene as what they were pretending to be.

Reviewed by Ariana, grade 11. 

Magical Boy V. 1 by The Kao


The overall feeling of the book when you look at it is rather fun, with all the colors and lights and how the book is titled brings a welcoming feeling to this novel. However, this book started rather quickly, jumping right into the conflict between the protagonist and the mother figure for them. It then continues on to how the protagonist is finding themself, using their best friend as comfort and a way to be happy with their inner self. The novel then jumps into how the protagonist comes from a long line of 'Goddesses,' using their light magic to fight against the evil monsters trying to get into this overworld through a portal. In my opinion, I actually like how they tried to go down a different path from the usual Magical Girl trope, going down a different one being that the protagonist used to be female but then transitioned to a male, bringing a change into the family dynamic. All in all, this novel was a good read.

Reviewed by Audrey, grade 11.

Space Trash V. 1 by Jenn Woodall


Space Trash was an interesting cover, instantly pulling me in with the bright title across the front. This novel was about humanity venturing into space to escape from the wasteland they had created on Earth, but somehow, the main characters ended up on the Moon in front of the Earth, in a somewhat boarding school for women. The contents are scrambled in this issue, mostly focusing on the interactions between the main protagonists. We come to find that these certain students in this boarding school are all delinquents, all having some history of being bad. Towards the end of the book, however, we find that the main protagonists and this other group that has been interfering with them for a long time have a similar path they want to travel down, to venture back to Earth with an old spaceship. My favorite part of this novel was that they were open with all the emotions and LGBTQ+ in this book, plus the idea of space adventures. However, the book was rather lacking in drama and sometimes felt a little stale. Ultimately, this is a very fun book.

Reviewed by Audrey, grade 11.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Golden Wind Part 5, Volume 5 by Hirohiko Araki


Hirohiko Araki's Manga JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Golden Wind Part 5, Volume 5, is a great continuation of the series. In this book, the gang is on their way to the island to drop off Trish to the boss, Giornio is planning to use this to meet the boss to bring him down for good. On the way, they are stopped by stand users, and an epic battle ensues.

The art in this installment is phenomenal; it portrays the stand powers super well without motion. Emperor Crimsons' ability is clear to understand and extremely well illustrated, and the fight with white ice is thrilling.

These chapters are a big turning point for all the characters involved after meeting the boss; the writing was fast-paced and kept me interested.

I recommend this manga series to anyone who likes creative powers in manga and anime and people who like 80's references.

Reviewed by Aspen, grade 12.

Love from Scratch by Kaitlyn Hill


Flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, butter, and vegetable oil. By themselves, they are things that you would find in an ordinary kitchen but put together, they make a wonderfully delicious vanilla cake. Any good relationship is like a cake. Layers upon layers of perfectly measured ingredients that from the outside look effortless, but the chef knows the hours it took to make, bake and frost it. In Love from Scratch by Kaitlyn Hill our head chefs, Reese Camden and Benny Beneventi, are summer interns at Friends of Flavor, a major food network. They are both hoping to get the one fall internship spot. But as tensions rise and sparks fly, will their friendship hold strong or deflate like one wrongly cooked soufflé? Love from Scratch is for the feminist romantics that want to destroy the patriarchy at noon but still have crepes at two. Hill’s writing is intriguing and inventive with many cheesy puns, see what I did there? She is very good at pulling in the reader and holding them close like a yummy Bundt cake she doesn’t want to share. Love from Scratch deserves a well-earned five Michelin stars for the tasty morsel that it is. So, dig in!

Reviewed by Marisa, grade 10.

Prepped by Bethany Mangle


Do you ever read articles on people who "prepare for the end of the world?" Well, for eighteen-year-old Becca Aldaine, that story you scroll through is her everyday life. Her days are nothing like yours or mine. They are full of training, inventory, and taking care of her younger sister Katie. Katie is too young to start training at ten, and Becca would like to keep it that way. Becca's dad is the leader of their small town and is always harder on Becca than Katie. Then there's Roy. Roy is the boy that Becca is paired with for an arranged marriage. Becca is not having it. But something is changing. For the better or, the worse, Becca does not know. Prepped is most certainly a well-written, structured, and rounded story. But I think that some things could have been written differently to avoid trauma triggers. There are some parts that could have been written in another way to convey the same emotions and ending. But Bethany Mangle did a wonderful job writing Prepped. Prepped is for the YA readers who love a good suspenseful romance with a touch of mental abuse thrown in for fun. Prepped most definitely earns a rock solid 4.5 stars, and I would recommend this book to many of my friends with only a few exceptions.

Reviewed by Marisa, grade 10.

You've Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Have you ever lost someone and just wanted one last conversation, one last sentence, one last word? For senior Julie, she wants that more than anyone could imagine. When her boyfriend of three years dies tragically in a car crash, she simply wants to hear his voice one more time. So, she picks up the phone, just to hear Sam's voicemail. But is she getting more than she asked for? The writing style of Thao pulls at the heartstrings of the reader again and again throughout the novel. It makes us develop a strong emotional attachment to the characters that are just not there in other works. Romance and loss are the biggest players in this novel, so be ready for a good cry. Without a doubt, You've Reached Sam by Dustin Thao deserves five stars alongside the best of the best.

Reviewed by Marisa, grade 9.

Not Here to be Liked by Michelle Quach


I would give Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach a 4-star rating. This book was an easy-going read. It is not one of my favorite books because it didn’t really spark any big emotions or anything. However, I still gave it a 4-star because it is still somewhat interesting. I would say that it is the same level of “action” as a previous book I reviewed called Of Curses and Kisses, which is also available at this library. I do have to say that this book also has a lot of swearing and was unnecessary in some sentences. Not Here to Be Liked is about a girl named Eliza who prioritizes her high school paper a lot, which makes her a perfect candidate for editor-in-chief. She already had the position in her hands until Len DiMartile, an ex-jock, decided he wanted to run for editor-in-chief too. Eliza then writes an essay to herself to relieve her anger on the belief that misogyny was the reason Len was chosen. This book also talks a lot about feminism, which I think is important and wonderful, but I do think that the definition of feminism was a bit stretched out. There were some lines and moments where the characters define feminism, and I think it doesn’t fit.  But I don’t want to say anything for sure since I also do not really know much about the topic other than the big idea. I would recommend this book to anyone that likes a drama-type book that is easy-going and not too action-packed.

Reviewed by Lina, grade 11.

XOXO by Axie Oh


I would rate XOXO by Axie Oh 5-stars. I read this book within 2 days and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have seen other reviews on this book saying that it is like a K-drama, and I can definitely see the book turning into one. I actually kind of hope that it would because I have been watching K-drama’s ever since I was little. This book is about Jenny, who is a cellist, that finds that she has a crush on a stranger that she just met who is named Jaewoo. She then must fly to South Korea because of her sick grandma, where Jaewoo said he lives. When she gets there, she meets Jaewoo, who she finds out is one of the biggest K-pop idols. Jenny must choose if she is willing to risk Jaewoo’s career for a relationship. I appreciated the real-life moments that this book has as well. Obviously, it is not common that you will meet a K-pop star that you think has a spark with you, but I liked the types of relationships that Jenny encounters with her friends and family, as well as the experiences that she has at her school in South Korea. XOXO also really brings light to what celebrities and K-pop idols deal with in their real lives, and how they have to watch their every move in fear of a scandal that could crush their whole career. There are some cheesy and corny bits in this book, along with some cliché lines but it wasn’t super cringy. There were parts in the book that made me smile widely waiting for what happened next as well as moments where I had to turn the page in anxiety. Every time I put the book down, I was excited for the next time I would pick it back up. I really loved this book and would recommend it to friends who enjoy romance K-dramas, because it is basically the same thing in book form, and romance book lovers.

Reviewed by Lina, grade 10.

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur


I would give The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur a 4.5-star rating. This book is definitely a mystery and adventure book. It contains heart-racing scenes that will keep you reading. I like that this book is a historical fiction book (originating in 1426) because it is based on real events but with fictional characters. It is about a girl named Hwani, who is a daughter that is trying to find her missing father, as well as solving the case that may have caused him to go missing. The case where there are 13 missing girls and a disturbing crime scene in which Hwani and her little sister, Maewol, are involved. When I first started reading this book, I was a little bit confused about what was happening in the beginning, but as I continued reading, I understood more. I really enjoyed that this book has a lot of imagery. There were many scenes that I could perfectly picture in my head, at least my version of the description. This book also gives readers closure on what happens to the characters at the end. I also really loved Hwani and Maewol’s characters in the story. They are both very strong independent women with brilliant minds well represented. I recommend The Forest of Stolen Girls to any mystery and adventure book lovers that enjoy a well-detailed story.

Reviewed by Lina, grade 10.

They Went Left by Monica Hesse


I gave a 5-star rating to They Went Left by Monica Hesse. This was a unique World War II historical fiction book. Instead of starting the book with the beginning of the war and ending with the end of the war, this book was about the aftermath of the war instead. Since I was in elementary school, I have always enjoyed reading historical fiction books, especially about World War II. So, this book was very interesting to read. I really liked that the story was the result of the war because usually, I would think that when people read that the war has ended, they just think that everything is happy, and the main characters have found their family safe and sound. However, this book describes the devastation that the world had to go through after the war. I'm not sure if it is super accurate, but it seems pretty realistic because of all of the mental issues and physical scars that the characters have. When I read the summary on the side of the book, I thought that this story would have multiple perspectives, but it only has the perspective of Zofia. I really liked how the chapters were not labeled with numbers but with letters from A-Z, which has a special meaning in the story. The characters were well-written because they had realistic personalities and were all different. This book also includes a lot of detail and imagery as well. I read this book very often because it was hard to put down. I was smiling at some points, watery-eyed at others, and there were times when my eyes widened, and my hand flew to my mouth out of surprise. There were a couple of plot twists in this story, which were unexpected. There was also a bit of foreshadowing for them, though. I also thought it was cool how the cover relates to Zofia directly. I loved reading this book. I would definitely recommend They Went Left to historical fiction lovers that like an unexpecting and captivating book.

Reviewed by Lina, grade 10.

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon


I would rate Of Curses and Kisses an overall 4 stars. I think that the book overall was pretty interesting. I really like how diverse the characters were; the main character wasn’t the basic blonde girl with blue eyes. I thought it was nice how the author added the realistic expectations some parents have on their children, although the circumstances are different because most of us aren’t royals. I really liked the friendships in this book as well. This book was a gentle book to read. In my opinion, this book wasn’t super intriguing, but it was still entertaining. It didn’t really give me any feels, though, it wasn’t bad, but it also isn’t a book that I think I would read again because it didn’t really stand out to me. I enjoyed reading about Jaya and Grey’s relationship as it grew with time. One big thing that I appreciated about this book was it is very descriptive. This book has a lot of imagery because I could easily imagine the scene in my head. At the climax points, I was smiling to myself because it is a sweet story. The plot was also pretty exciting, with some unexpected parts. Personally, the build-up is pretty subtle, and it wasn’t rushed or too slow. People who enjoy soft and subtle enemies to lovers books would enjoy Of Curses and Kisses.

Reviewed by Lina, grade 10. 

The Girl in the White Van by April Henry


I would have rated The Girl in the White Van 3.5 stars, but there isn’t an option for that, so I will go with 3 stars. The beginning of this book hooked me, and it definitely kept me reading continuously. There was one point in the book when I really needed to put it down because I had to do something else, but I had to keep reading it because it caught me. My heart was beating fast, and my eyes just wanted to go faster than my brain wanted to comprehend. This book is not a 4-star or even a 4.5-star rating because of the ending. In my opinion, the ending was very rushed and abrupt. I feel like the build-up to the resolution was great and very interesting, but the ending did not show much of what I think readers would have wanted to know. The ending definitely gave closure, but I think that it was building up and then just drove off a cliff, rushing down to the ending. I was honestly disappointed in the ending because the rest of the book was intriguing. Other than the ending, the book is fairly interesting. The characters are well thought out, and I think that some situations that Savannah is put in are very relatable to some people, making the book more enjoyable to those people. I don’t think people would care, but I just wanted to say the antagonist is very messed up. If you like a thriller book that isn’t too scary but not boring, then I think The Girl in the White Van is for you. 😊

Reviewed by Lina, grade 10.

Nightrender by Jodi Meadows


In the land of Salvation, dark forces are on the brink of Incursion, but the kingdoms refuse to act due to the ancient war that the three kingdoms are actively involved in. Meet Rune Highcrown, a prince desperate to not disappoint his parents, Hanne (officially known as Princess Johanne Fortuin), a morally questionable princess willing to do anything to accomplish her goals, and Nightrender, an ancient being created solely for defending the world against the dark forces that plague Salvation. With spots of romance, horror, violence, and adventure, this book will satisfy a wide variety of readers. I give this book a 5-star rating because of the complex characters and detailed world. I would recommend this story to any fantasy lovers who want to indulge in this unique series (as there will be a sequel published in the future). 

Reviewed by Kirsten, grade 11.