Teen Book Reviews: We Were Liars and Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from two teens who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, reviewed by Kylee V.

“We Were Liars” is set mostly on Beechwood Island, a private island owned by the Sinclairs. On this island, you can do water activities like boating and there are mansions all over the island as the Sinclairs are a very rich family. The main character, Cadence, is the oldest of her cousins and will most likely be the one to inherit her grandfather’s fortune. Cadence, her cousins, and Gat Patil (a friend) go to this island every summer and do everything together. This group is known as the Liars. The Liars have so much fun and romance starts to bud with two of these characters. However, with so much money, it can be expected that there will be conflict and jealousy. Cadence’s mom and her aunts are always getting drunk and fighting with each other, and this beautiful private island is dimmed by the ugly truth of wealth and power.

I have to say that this book was very good and forced me to try and come up with possible endings as I was reading. The ending is shocking and the little bits of information along the way that the reader gets will have the reader changing their mind over and over again on what might happen. An accident occurs when Cadence is 15 years old, and she (and the reader) must work out what happened on that specific summer vacation. I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars, because it was really engaging and made me get invested in the characters. There were so many unexpected twists that I almost couldn’t keep track of where I was in the story. Along with this, there are a good amount of flashbacks that occur in the story, so at times it may get a little confusing on what is going on. Even though it could get confusing with the flashbacks, these flashbacks also provided Cadence and the reader with information about the accident that occurred when she was 15. A problem for me was that I was always getting some of the characters or the places messed up, so like I said before it was hard to keep track and could get a little confusing. I appreciated how the book was a mystery that was written realistically and thought there were good lessons in this story. This book I think would be definitely popular among teens and I would highly suggest checking it out.

4 stars.

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans, reviewed by Kylee V.

I have read and reread this book countless times because I absolutely love the entire series. Richard Paul Evans does such a great job of developing the main character, Michael Vey, throughout the series. Michael Vey is this shy and bullied kid in high school that isn’t one to get much notice. He deals with Tourette Syndrome, which causes him in his case to blink uncontrollably and gulp for air when he gets nervous. I am a big fan of science fiction and always root for the underdog, so when it turns out that Michael, the scrawny kid, has been born with these electrical powers the story becomes even better.

Michael’s best friend, Ostin Liss, is a genius and will be supporting Michael throughout. Not to spoil too much but other people from Michael’s high school will play a role in this ongoing adventure of stopping Dr. Hatch, the villain, from getting too powerful. He is going to be faced with many challenges, be forced into a fight against evil, and go on a rescue mission to save someone he loves dearly. Throughout, the entire series there is a ton of action, plenty of twists, constant adventure, and even some romance. The characters in these books will never have the same life again once Dr. Hatch steps into their lives, and secrets will be revealed that have shocking conclusions.

This book has something for almost everybody and will want you to continue on in the series. However, if you are not the biggest science fiction fan I might read another book. I would recommend this book to boys and girls from 5th grade to high school, even though it may be an easier read for the older grades. I love this book a lot and had to rate it a 5/5 because it is one of my favorite books in the series and in general. The author does a great job of explaining characters and events, so it is very easy to connect with the character. The reader can clearly see what is going on in the character’s head, which I think makes it so much more enjoyable to read. Since this is the first book, be prepared for lots of surprises as the story progresses. Also, a small negative because this is the first book in a long series, lots of characters are introduced and reoccurring information is brought up kinda fast so I would highly suggest you pay close attention. To combat this, the author does provide a nice character list throughout the series and has a quick Prologue of what happened in the book before it. To further this point it can be at times a little rushed, but not too often. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of series, I would at least try reading the first book because I think after you read it, you would want to give the second book a shot. Heads up though the series is very long. I have read all of the books in the series so far, all the way to “The Final Spark”, and if it turns out you’re interested in this book I would highly suggest reading the entire series. Overall, if you are a big science fiction fan or wanna try something new where the main character is the underdog with POWERS definitely give this book a shot because you won’t regret it.

5 stars.

Teen Volunteer Book Reviews: One of Us is Lying and Dread Nation

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from two teens who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

One of Us is Lying by Karen A. McManus, reviewed by Julia F.

If you enjoy a mix of realistic fiction, mystery, high school drama, and social media intrigue, One of Us is Lying, by Karen M. McManus, is for you.

Who murdered Bayview High School’s Simon Kelleher? Was it Bronwyn, the bright academic who wishes to attend Yale? Or could it have been the Cooper, the group’s “jock”? Maybe you will suspect Addy because she is popular and social? Or was it the troubled Nate who already has a checkered past? You may be wondering why someone would want to kill Simon in the first place. He ran the school’s widely followed juicy gossip app ABOUT THAT, which was set to reveal secrets about each of the suspects. All four had skeletons in their closets, but was someone’s secret devastating enough to warrant a murder?

We find out that Bronwyn has gone to interesting lengths to protect her academic future and her family’s legacy. Cooper has a baseball career in the balance, and his tangled web of lies threatens to take away his opportunity to be a star. Addy is not who she seems to those around her and now she stands to lose those closest to her. Nate doesn’t have as much to lose, but the post could land him in jail. Simon’s death causes new alliances to form between the suspects as they scramble to protect their secrets and prove their innocence. As you read this book you will find yourself suspecting each of the four students at one point or another.

This book will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. If you are looking for an exciting thriller and quick read, be sure you have a chunk of time available because you won’t want to put it down! Good news— there is a sequel (One of Us is Next) that follows Bronwyn’s younger sister Maeve and it is just as captivating.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, reviewed by Stephanie D.

Dread Nation is a historical fiction novel that takes place during the American Civil War… with one important twist. In this alternate history universe, the fighting stops halfway through, around the year 1863. Why? The answer is simple but terrifying: the soldiers don’t stay dead anymore. The Civil War is postponed as Northerners and Southerners alike grapple with a zombie apocalypse, and our story focuses in on a teenage girl named Jane. Jane is sent from her mother’s plantation to one of the recently opened combat schools. These have been springing up around the country as African and Native American teenagers are forced to learn to fight zombies (or “shamblers”, as they are called in the book). Dread Nation follows Jane and her classmate Katherine as they are sent to defend Summerland, a frontier town under the constant siege of shamblers. Once in Summerland, Katherine pretends to be a wealthy white woman and Jane her Attendant (someone who is responsible for their employer’s life in the event of a zombie attack). Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Summerland, the town is soon overrun by shamblers, and Jane and Katherine must flee to save their lives.

I gave this book a solid four stars. I really enjoyed the universe building and detailed description of historical events, because I could compare it to the version of history I had learned in history class and the fictional zombie version. It was fast-paced, which I enjoyed, but I also felt that the pacing was rather inconsistent. The first part of the book felt much slower than the second, even though the latter seemed like it was supposed to be the focus of the story, as it contained a majority of the action. In short, there was too much build up to the climax of the book, and in the wrong places. I would have liked to hear more about Jane’s life on the plantation and the story of her family, which was revealed piece by piece throughout the novel and provided an interesting side plot. Additionally, I would have preferred a more complete ending. I understand that this is the first of a series, but the conclusion did not feel nearly concluding enough to tie up all the loose ends left by the big zombie invasion and battle of the final chapters. One final criticism is that I found the character of Jane to be a very typical YA heroine: a rebellious tomboy, always the best at everything, and generally “different from everybody else”. These characters can certainly contribute a lot to a story, but they seem to be everywhere and therefore Jane did not earn this book any points in the protagonist department.

Teen Book Reviews: “Concrete Rose” and “If I Tell You the Truth”

Today’s book reviews are by volunteer Ima T.

 

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Concrete Rose serves as a prequel to the much loved story of The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas. However, it’s not necessary to have read The Hate You Give, because the Concrete Rose has its own complete, separate storyline.

The story follows Maverick Carter, who is a 17 year old living in Garden Heights. He has been involved with the King Lords gang since his father had previously been a pivotal part of it beforehand. His role is to sell small amounts of weed and recruit new members. He made a nice sum of money from this role and could help pay the bills with his mother. Yet his life turns upside down when he realizes he has a son, which leads him to attempt to leave the gang. The reason he does this since he knows that the environment he is in with a gang would not be good for his son. But things start to change once he finds it harder and harder to scrape money together for his family and the people who support him. Maverick needs to find a way to break the cycle of involvement with gangs. One heart-stopping event occurs when a close friend of Maverick’s is murdered, and once this happens, he truly has to learn how to deal with grief and trauma with people who are still relying on him.

Concrete Rose is a fierce novel with important themes that can be applied to everyday life. For example, in the novel, Maverick struggles with the fact that he is being constantly compared to his powerful father, who was previously part of the gang but is now in jail. Nicknamed ‘Li’l Don’, he has big shoes to fill and constantly feels as though he should be more of a man. His emotional development throughout the book gives an inside look to readers who want to learn more about the father described in The Hate You Give. Concrete Rose is an amazing read, and truly lives up to its name of describing a boy who is struggling to flourish and realize his full potential.

 

If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur

If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur follows the story of Kiran and her daughter Sahaara, and it is told from both of their alternating perspectives. A compelling part of the novel is the fact that some of the story is told in verse, while the rest of it reads like a normal novel. When the novel is in verse, it is often to display emotions like sadness or anger. This allows for the distressed thoughts that the characters feel to be expressed deeper. Kiran is Punjabi, and comes to Canada on an educational visa. She leaves her strict family to go to university else where, but the reader soon discovers that she has a child on the way as a result of sexual assault. Her decision to keep her future daughter strains her relationship with her family, and leaves her isolated in a foreign country. Kiran struggles with letting her daughter grow up without much money and familial support, and there is an added fear of getting deported. Kiran had to overstay her visa in Canada for her daughter since she didn’t want to go back to her home country out of fear of finding her rapist.

The first half of the book is told from Kiran’s point of view, and the rest is from Sahaara. Sahaara wants to find her own identity since she doesn’t know about Kiran’s background. When she learns about what happened to her mother, she fights to help take down the rapist and stand by her mother, while struggling with her own self identity in the process. If I Tell You the Truth is very well written, and it expands on the important theme of community and loyalty while displaying the growing relationship between mother and daughter. Kiran’s and Sahaara’s story will strike a chord in many hearts. This is an exceptional novel, and I couldn’t recommend it more.

Review of THE BLOOD OF OLYMPUS by Rick Riordan

Today’s book review is written by teen volunteer Sarah Reid.

Percy Jackson and his friends aren’t ordinary kids. They are all demigods, half-god, and half-human, which means it’s up to them to save the world. When disaster strikes and Gaea threatens to wake from her eternal slumber, everyone is in danger. They must sail on the Argo ll and prevent Gaea from waking. At the same time Greek camp, Camp Half-Blood, and Roman camp, Camp Jupiter are prepared to go to war. But will they be able to prevent the battle between the camps? How will they defeat the giants? Will they be able to overcome the obstacles standing in their way? Can they make it to Gaea before the entire world and everything they know is destroyed?

This book along with the entire series is so amazing! Rick Riordan puts a unique spin on Greek and Roman mythology. He is an outstanding author and storyteller. The whole series is hilarious, creative, entertaining, and so action-packed. Rick Riordan uses awesome descriptive words to help you visualize what is going on. It’s almost like you are in the book. The idea for this book was so incredibly clever. The book teaches you about Greek and Roman mythology but in a fun, cool, and amusing way. All of the characters are so interesting and aren’t one dimensional like some other ones I’ve read about. They all have their own stories and cool different special powers. I love that there are always amazing plot twists that you would never expect in a million years. I loved everything about the book. I have read it and the series multiple times already, it’s just so good! I would give this book ten out of ten stars. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes books with action, adventure, friendship, comedy, and mystery, or to anyone who is just looking for an overall amazing book.

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Note:

This book is the last volume in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, which itself is a spinoff of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Here are the titles from both series, in order:

Percy Jackson and the Olympians:

  1. The Lightning Thief
  2. The Sea of Monsters
  3. The Titan’s Curse
  4. The Battle of the Labyrinth
  5. The Last Olympian

Heroes of Olympus:

  1. The Lost Hero
  2. The Son of Neptune
  3. The Mark of Athena
  4. The House of Hades
  5. The Blood of Olympus

Review of THE GIVER by Lois Lowry

Today’s book review is written by teen volunteer Matthew Reid.

Lois Lowry is an incredible author who has written more than 30 young adult books. She received her second Newbery Medal for writing The Giver in 1993 (her first Newbery Medal was for Number the Stars). The Giver is a fascinating and intriguing novel about a society that controls everyone from birth to death. Where pain, hate and love doesn’t exist. Each individual is assigned a role in this community when they turn 12 by the Committee of Elders, whether it is being a birthmother or taking care of the elderly people. If a man or woman wants to start a family they have to apply and the Committee of Elders has to find an appropriate wife or husband, they then are given one boy and girl from birthmothers who produce 50 newchildren every year.

 The story starts when Jonas, the protagonist, is Eleven. The Ceremony of Twelve is near and new batches of Elevens are given jobs for the rest of their lives. Jonas is anxious because he has no idea what the Committee of Elders are going to assign him. At the Ceremony of Twelve, The Chief of Elders skip over Jonas and continues with assigning Elevens. After the Chief of Elders is done listing all the assignments, she announces that Jonas is selected to be the next Receiver of Memory. A rare and very honorable status. The Chief Elder says that Jonas has shown all of the qualities intelligence, integrity, courage, wisdom, and the capacity to see beyond. He meets a man that is called the Giver. The Giver holds all the memories of humanity in the past. For no ordinary person in the community know the past. The Council of Elders only goes to him for advice and nothing else. But the Giver is growing old and needs a successor to help the Council of Elders at desperate times. The Giver shows these memories to Jonas including sunshine, rainbows, and love but also hunger, war, and suffering. As Jonas continues his exploration, he uncovers truths that challenge his thinking and change his life forever.

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Note:

If you like The Giver, Lois Lowry has written three more books set in the same world. Check out Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.