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.

8 Mars Novels for Fans of the Red Planet

Were you glued to your screen on Feb. 18, 2021, when NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover made its final descent to the Mars?  This is the first rover mission designed to seek signs of past microbial life. Earlier rovers first focused on and confirmed that Mars once had habitable conditions. The goals of this mission are:

  1. Determine whether life ever existed on Mars
  2. Characterize the Climate of Mars
  3. Characterize the Geology of Mars
  4. Prepare for Human Exploration

If you’re caught a touch of Martian Fever, or just wondered what it might be like to be on Mars yourself, we’ve got a reading list for you:

Kids’ Fiction

The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm. Bell has spent his whole life – all eleven years of it – on Mars. When a virus breaks out and the grown-ups all fall ill, Bell and the other children are the only ones who can help.

We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey. After a year on Mars, a young boy and his family migrate to the planet Choom, but the inhabitants of Choom, who look like giant mosquitoes, don’t really like humans and it is up to the boy and his family to change their minds if they hope to survive.

Last Day on Mars by Kevin Emerson. While waiting to leave Mars before it burns up just like the Earth before it, Liam and his friend Phoebe discover some facts about time and space and realize that the human race is just one of the races trying to survive in space.

In the Red by Christopher Swiedler. When a massive solar flare hits their Mars colony, friends Michael and Lilith are stranded with no protection from the sun, a quickly dwindling supply of air, food, and water, and little hope for rescue.

Adult/YA Fiction

Red Rising by Pierce Brown. A tale set in a bleak future society torn by class divisions follows the experiences of secret revolutionary Darrow, who after witnessing his wife’s execution by an oppressive government joins a revolutionary cell and attempts to infiltrate an elite military academy.

The Martian by Andy Weir. Stranded on Mars by a dust-storm that compromised his space suit and forced his crew to leave him behind, astronaut Mark Watney struggles to survive in spite of minimal supplies and environmental challenges that test his ingenuity.

The Sky So Big and Black by John Barnes. Accompanying her eco-prospector father on a tour through the Martian wilderness, Terry finds herself having to guide the trip’s young survivors back home after a terrible accident.

Mars Life by Ben Bova. Discovering proof that intelligent life had existed on Mars millions of years earlier, scientists Jamie Waterman and Carter Carleton struggle to protect Mars funding in the face of ultra-conservatives who fear the discovery will compromise their religious beliefs.

 

YA Books for Theater Geeks

You have a show-tune playlist. You have a program or Playbill from every show you’ve seen.  You break out into accents in the middle of conversations. You own every season of Glee (and all the High School Musicals – admit it). You are a theater geek – embrace it, celebrate it! Read about it! The theater plays a leading role in these YA books:

1. Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg.  Emme, Sophie, Ethan, and Carter are seniors at a performing arts high school in New York City, preparing for the senior recital and feeling the pressure to perform well.

2. Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth. 15-year-old Emma is acting as stage manager for her school’s production of Hamlet when she finds herself transported to the original staging of Hamlet in Shakespearean England.

3. Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Designing sets for her middle school’s play, Callie tries to overcome limited carpentry skills, low ticket sales, squabbling crew members, and the arrival of two cute brothers.

4. Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka. A contemporary romance inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet follows the efforts of a plucky but lovelorn teen theater director who is unexpectedly cast in a leading role at the same time she begins receiving relationship advice from a playwright friend

5. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen by Dyan Sheldon. Mary Elizabeth Cep, (though she calls herself “Lola,”) sets her sights on the lead in the annual drama production, and finds herself in conflict with the most popular girl in school.

6. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan. The tale of a pair of teens who meet by chance on a Chicago street corner and discover that they share a name and intertwining destinies involving an epic production of a high school musical.

7. Like It Never Happened by Emily Adrian. Gaining instant popularity after landing the lead in the school play, Rebecca breaks a pact with her new friends by dating a fellow cast member until backstage drama escalates into a life-changing accusation.

8. Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley. Seventeen-year-old Max, struggling to come to terms with his mother’s death, is cast as the ghost in “Hamlet” and finds strength in his new theater friends.

9. Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills. Claudia agrees to coach actors in her high school’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” leading to new friendships–and maybe even new love.

10. Noteworthy by Riley Redgate. After learning that her deep voice is keeping her from being cast in plays at her exclusive performing arts school, Jordan disguises herself as a boy to gain entry into a competitive, all-male a cappella group that is looking for a singer with her vocal range.