Teen Book Reviews: Warcross & Call Down the Hawk

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/.

Warcross by Marie Lu. Reviewed by Ella K.

Warcross is a book perfect for teens and young adults who enjoy science fiction and future societies. The story is set in a world where a young fourteen-year-old boy, Hideo Tanaka invents a pair of highly sophisticated virtual reality glasses called the NeuroLink. The glasses work by tricking the brain into thinking what it is seeing is real. In order to market the product, Tanaka also creates a video game that can be played within the virtual reality construct. This game, called Warcross, involves two teams battling to steal the other’s gem, called an Artifact, while avoiding a series of obstacles and the other team.

Emika Chen, a struggling hacker makes money in the only way that she can with her criminal record, as a bounty hunter. After failing to get a $5000 bounty that would have saved her from eviction, Emika turns to that fake reality to escape her problems. In the process, she accidentally hacks her way into the Warcross international tournament and makes the news worldwide. After this display of talent in hacking into one of the world’s most secure systems, Emika is invited by Hideo Tanaka himself to visit his headquarters in Japan. He offers her a ten million dollar reward to discover the identity of a hacker, nicknamed Zero, who he believes is a threat to the entire NeuroLink system. Emika has to use her hacking abilities, wit, and deception skills in order to remain undercover and thwart Zero.

The creation of this science fiction world is a shift away from the dystopian works that most know Marie Lu for, specifically her work in the Legend series. In this story, Lu showcases her writing and world building abilities by creating a world that many video game players dream of. The book’s plot is enticing outside of the new society that the reader gets to experience. While the betrayals and spy work that the reader gets to experience is captivating, the addition of a romance seems cliche in the midst of the situation that Emika finds herself in. It is well written, but Emika has been a powerful and independent person for most of her life. Her troubled childhood ensured it. Her interest in a powerful man takes away from that aspect of her character in a way. Overall, this hardly takes away from the book, and some readers, particularly those interested in romance, will enjoy the addition.

4 stars.

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater. Reviewed by Mia V.

Call Down The Hawk, the first book in the Dreamer Trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater, is a spin-off from the Raven Cycle series, following Ronan Lynch. The original Raven gang has all been split apart due to college, with Adam studying at Harvard, Gansey and Blue taking a gap year to travel and Ronan going off on his own. In the second book of the Raven Cycle, we find out that Ronan can pull objects and creatures (such as his pet raven, Chainsaw) out of his dreams. This power is incredibly rare and powerful, which makes Ronan vulnerable to being killed by those who don’t approve of his power or captured in order to make use of this power.

In Call Down The Hawk, however, Ronan’s power seems to be acting strange. Ronan feels as if he is dying if he is not near the ley lines, or the Barn at all times. Ronan also finds he is being hunted again, as threats loom from all different directions. Ronan meets other people with similar dreaming issues as himself, such as Jordan Henessey, who battles her own fears and nightmares which manifest themselves in real life due to her powers. As Ronan runs from those who want him dead, he also tries to help Hennessey deal with her own issues with her power. Call Down The Hawk takes a break from the search for Glendower and instead dives deeper into Ronan’s power and his own personal struggles both with himself and with his family.

I would definitely recommend this book. I would especially recommend it to someone who has read the Raven Cycle and has loved Ronan. Ronan was one of my favorite characters in the Raven Cycle, so I was very excited when Maggie Steifvater’s new Dreamer Trilogy was released and was set to focus more on Ronan. Although I was expecting the book to take a different direction, I still found the plot interesting and exciting.

4 stars.

One Book, Two Readers – Teens Review “They Both Die at the End”

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, and get their different takes on the same book. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. Reviewed by Jessica N.

They Both Die at the End, the title itself is intriguing and Adam Silvera does a fantastic job creating a book that lives up to its engaging title. He allows us as the readers to think and reflect about our own lives and what we would do if we found out that we would be dying in the next 24 hours.

The book starts off with the two main characters, Mateo and Rufus, getting Death-Cast calls that they will be dying that day. This news changes their lives for the little amount of time they have left. They have to figure out how they are going to spend their last day, also known as their “End Day”, and leave their final mark on Earth. The novel also brings up topics of friendship and relationship. The Death-Cast company provides an app for the people that are going to die and allow them to make a new friend, a Last Friend, for the day.

Through this app and each character in the novel, each person has a significant story and the book itself is told from multiple perspectives. So not only are us the readers tasked with reflecting on how they would spend their last day on Earth, if we knew it was our last day, but, we get to see how people of different ages, ethnicities, and popularities spend their last days. This book is an emotional one that is well worth the read, and even though the readers know what is going to happen at the end (the characters both die), the ending is still very gutting and astonishing. Also, the author, Adam Silvera is expanding the story and coming out with two new further novels. The next one (the second one) is projected to come out later this 2022 year and titled The First to Die at the End, so there is something more to look forward to after reading the beautiful story of They Both Die at the End!

4 stars.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. Reviewed by Claire J.

Overall, this book covered many intriguing events and evoked a variety of emotions. The “ spoiler” being in the title of the book is what drew me to pick it up, still having hope throughout the book that they would both live despite the title. It is a darker book, with themes of violence such as guns, so I do not recommend it for younger readers. The positive portrayal of LGBTQ relationships is evident throughout the book, which was pleasant to read.

Silvera takes the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions as we follow the two main characters rated to die on their last adventures on Earth. Both boys were also trying to run from their own issues aside from death. From sick fathers to running from the police, they were already struggling with the real world struggles. Although the book showed rather interesting plot points, some felt a bit boring, hence why the rating is not as high as expected. The pacing of the book was also rather slow in my opinion, although this could have been due to the fact that I do not typically read books of this genre. Another criticism of the book is that some characters were underdeveloped. Although the two main characters were well rounded with great writing skills used to make them, some other characters I felt were not as developed. Even though they had smaller roles in the overall story of the book, I thought that they could have their characters elaborated on a bit more.

I still greatly enjoyed the book, however, it was a wonderful book to read in my down time! I recommend this book to middle-schoolers and older. For science fiction and fantasy readers looking out to try realistic fiction novels, this book is a great transition.

3 stars.

Graphic Novel Adaptations: Old Stories with a New Twist

Graphic novel adaptations are not new, comic books based on classic literature could be found as early as the 1940’s and 50’s. Lately, however, there’s been a new crop of adaptations in graphic novel format that deserve some attention. While an adaptation of a book can never take the place of the original, it has value as a companion piece to the original, offering a fresh perspective on a well-established tale. This is particularly true of graphic novel adaptations, where illustrations and a change in pace can breathe new life into an older book. Even when a book isn’t all that old, a graphic novel interpretation allows us to see the story from a different angle.

We have a whole bunch of graphic novel adaptations on our shelves, for all ages. Here are some of our favorites.

FOR ADULTS:

The Handmaid’s Tale, original story by Margaret Atwood ; art & adaptation by Renée Nault.

Animal Farm, original story by George Orwell ; adapted and illustrated by Odyr.

The Great Gatsby, original story by F. Scott Fitzgerald ; illustrated by Aya Morton ; text adapted by Fred Fordham

Small Gods : a Discworld graphic novel, original story by Terry Pratchett ; adaptation by Ray Friesen

City of Glass, original story by Paul Auster ; adaptation by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli

American Gods 1: Shadows, story and words by Neil Gaiman ; art by Scott Hampton 

A Game of Thrones, original story by George R.R. Martin ; adapted by Daniel Abraham ; art by Tommy Patterson

FOR TEENS (and adults, too!):

The Hobbit, original story by J.R.R. Tolkien ; adapted by Charles Dixon with Sean Deming : illustrated by David Wenzel

To Kill a Mockingbird, original story by Harper Lee ; adapted and illustrated by Fred Fordham

Jane (based on Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë), written by Aline Brosh McKenna ; illustrated by Ramón K. Pérez 

Poe : Stories and Poems, original content by Edgar Allan Poe ; adapted by Gareth Hinds

A Wrinkle in Time, original story by Madeleine L’Engle ; adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson

The Giver, original story by Lois Lowry ; adapted by P. Craig Russell ; illustrated by P. Craig Russell, Galen Showman, Scott Hampton

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson ; artwork by Emily Carroll

FOR MIDDLE GRADE READERS:

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (based on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott) ; adapted by Rey Terciero ; pencils by Bre Indigo

Anne Frank’s Diary ; adapted by Ari Folman ; illustrations by David Polonsky

The Graveyard Book, original story by Neil Gaiman ; adapted by: P. Craig Russell ; illustrated by: Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, Stephen B. Scott

Anne of Green Gables, original story by L. M. Montgomery ; adapted by Mariah Marsden & Brenna Thummler

The Secret Garden on 81st Street (based on The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett) ; adapted by Ivy Noelle Weir ; illustrated by Amber Padilla

The Witches, original story by Roald Dahl ; adapted and illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu

Oz : the manga, original story by L. Frank Baum ; adapted by David Hutchison

Teen Book Reviews: We Are the Ants and Zen and Gone

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 a teen who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

We are the Ants by Shaun Hutchinson reviewed by Ali A.

We Are the Ants is a book about a 16-year old boy named Henry Denton. Henry Denton suffers from depression because his friend Jesse committed suicide. It doesn’t help that Henry gets bullied at school and gets periodically abducted by aliens. Although it might be a delusion, Henry absolutely believes he gets abducted by them while aliens run experiments on him. In one of the abduction sessions, the aliens try communicating with him. They show him a button and say that the Earth will end in 144 days unless he presses the button. Henry at first decides he will never press the button because there’s nothing on Earth to live for. He argues that no matter what humans do they will die anyway and their lives would have been useless, so Henry might as well end everyone’s lives quicker. Henry asks everyone he knows about whether they would press the button or not. At school Henry gets bullied more than usual until one day a new kid shows up to class, Diego Vega. Diego and Henry instantly become friends, but Diego never talks about his mysterious past or why he lives with his sister rather than his parents. One day Henry is in the locker room when 3 bullies assault him and beat him up. Henry wants to kill himself and share the same fate with Jesse, but Diego is the only thing Henry looks forward to in life. Later in the book Henry and Diego are at a fair when one of the bullies tries to hurt Marcus. Diego gets mad and punches the bully, which sends Diego to court. I’d rate this book 2/5 stars because of the terrible plot and ending. The author never says if the alien abductions are real or mere hallucinations, and the author never tells us if Henry pressed the button or not.

2 Stars.

Zen and Gone by Emily France reviewed by Ali A.

Zen and Gone is one of my all-time favorite young adult books. The novel takes place in Boulder, Colorado, and revolves around the lives of Essence and Oliver. Essence, a buddhist, is trying to take care of her little sister, Puck. Her mother works at a pot shop selling legalized intoxicants so she’s high and irresponsible most of the time and can’t give the care her children need. Oliver on the other hand is a kid with a mysterious past in Chicago. He was sent out to Boulder because of an incident involving his sister. Olliver rarely speaks about his past and feels sadness everytime he thinks of it. Essa and Olliver both take part-time jobs at a kite shop and become friends. Essa then invites Olliver to come with her other friends, Micah and Anish, to a hiking trip in the Rocky Mountains. Things start to go wrong when Essa and her friends realize that Puck stowed away on the trip to join them. Essa decides to bring Puck back home and cancel the dangerous expedition through the woods, especially when she finds a creepy guy roaming the woods in the dark, but it starts to thunder so they have to find shelter. Things go EVEN MORE wrong when Essa wakes up at 3:00 AM and discovers that Puck and Oliver are missing. However, Oliver comes back a few minutes later claiming that he was using the bathroom. Essa and her friends search everywhere in the woods, but can’t find Puck. Did this have anything to do with the strange man they saw earlier? Or did it have to do with Oliver, who she had just met a month ago? Plus, she barely knew anything about his life in Chicago, or his sister’s incident. Brilliant, touching, and spooky, Zen and Gone is the perfect book for readers who love adventure books and mysteries.

5 Stars.

Teen Book Reviews: Anger is a Gift and The Hate U Give

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 a teen who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro, reviewed by Ali A.

Anger Is a Gift is about the life of Moss Jeffries, a black teen living in Oakland. When Moss was 10, his father was shot down by police officers because the police told him to put his hands up but he had earbuds in and couldn’t hear them. Since then, Moss and his mother have been quiet and haven’t attended protests for other black people dying due to police brutality. However in Moss’s sophmore year his school turns into a prison. Police officers roam the hallways and make random locker inspections for no reason. Although Moss and his classmates don’t like it, they still tolerate it.

One day the police order one of Moss’s friends, Shawna Meyers to come for a locker inspection. The officer ravenously searches through her locker until he finds a large bag of white pills in the back. The officer violently assaulted her so bad that she couldn’t explain why she had the pills in her locker. Finally after she could speak she said the bag was for her prescription medicine. The officer who assaulted her didn’t get in trouble though. Soon after that incident, the school added in metal detectors. Moss’s friend Reg is in crutches and says it’s too dangerous for him to go through the machine. He said he’d rather have a pat-down but when Reg told the officer this the officer picked up Reg and threw him through the detectors. The damage on Reg’s leg was so bad that he was told by doctors he might never be able to walk normally again.

After all this, Moss and his classmates feel like this is enough. They decide to make a peaceful walk-out protest where all students walk out of the school at a specific time. However the school is notified about this mini-protest so they order officers in full riot gear to prevent the students from walking out of the school. The officers used tear gas, portable grenades, and batons. One of the officers, James Daley, pulled out a gun and shoots at Moss’s best friend Javier. James Daley then runs off and hides from society. Moss is depressed and decides to chain himself to a pole until James Daley is persecuted. What happens next is beyond Moss’s imagination. Anger Is a Gift shows the cruel reality and harshness that black people have to face in their daily lives. If you enjoy this book, you should also check out The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (reviewed below).

4 Stars.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, reviewed by Ali A.

The Hate U Give is perhaps the best book regarding racism for teenagers. The story revolves around the life of Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old who witnesses the death of her childhood best friend. Starr attends a predominantly white school to escape the threats of her black neighborhood. Because of this, Starr is always switching between her two worlds, the white world and the black world. In the white world, everything is peaceful and Starr can be happy and safe. However in the black world, Starr is constantly facing violence, gangbangers, and drugs.

Starr never gets high but finally attends her first party in her black neighborhood. At the party, Starr spots Khalil, her childhood best friend. Starr hadn’t seen him in six months but Khalil and Starr start chatting. However the party is cut short when a shootout occurs outside the party site. Khalil drives Starr home to be safe but as Khalil is driving home a racist white cop pulls them over. Starr is silent and looks down as the officer demands to see Khalil’s license, registration, and insurance just because Khalil is black. Instead of Khalil showing the officer his papers right away, he asks the officer why he pulled them over. The officer didn’t respond as the officer became more frustrated he shot Khalil for not listening. Khalil’s death becomes news across the country and the officer who shot Khalil is put under trial. Starr wants to get justice for her friend, but doesn’t know if she should raise her voice because of the danger and threats she may receive.

Angie Thomas did a marvelous job crafting this book because The Hate U Give shows readers how many black people get mistreated throughout America and why it is important to speak up for racial justice.

5 Stars