Contact Youth Services Librarian Mary Claire O'Donnell (mcodonnell@ocln.org) for registration and more information.

A Note About Volunteering...

NOTE: To keep our awesome patrons and volunteers safe during the continuing COVID-19 crisis, there is no in-person teen volunteering at the library until further notice. But don't despair! This only means that we've gone VIRTUAL

Click here for a slide show about some of the virtual volunteer opportunities that were available this summer for an idea of your options. Please feel free to suggest projects of your own as well! 


 
Confronting Racism: A Tween/Teen Book List in Response to Recent Events

This list was created by some wonderful librarians from the Minuteman system and was This Book Is Anti-Racist - By Tiffany Jewell (Paperback) : Targetadapted by Sharon Youth Services to reflect OCLN collections. We’re sharing this list in light of the events surrounding the death of George Floyd. It is intended to help youth in grades 6-12 process the information and the protests. There are resources for all races and for those that wish to help. This is intended as an informational source; not all books have been read over by those who created it.


 
YA Reading/Watching/Listening Rec Lists
Created for Teens, by Teens

Check out teen volunteer Dana's list of books, movies, and TV shows around the theme "Imagine Your Story."

Check out teen volunteer Angel's Spring playlist and Rainy Day playlist on Spotify.

Have a book list to share? Recommendations for podcasts, songs, audiobooks, movies, games, apps & more? How about a season or emotion-themed playlist (or simply a list of songs getting you through this weird school year)? 

Share with your fellow teens (and earn volunteer hours) by contacting Youth Services Librarian Allison at ariendeau@ocln.org 

 


 
Keep checking back for new recs from Review Crew members! Older reviews may be found on our Archive page.
 
FICTION REVIEWS:

REALISTIC FICTION:

Erica Gorelik's Review of:
The After series by Anna Todd
Simon & Schuster. 2014. Realistic Fiction/Romance. 


The After series by Anna Todd is an incredible book series. I got addicted to this series and it made me feel all sorts of emotions. There were twists where you would least expect them Cover image for Afterand each book gave me no choice but to read the other. I spent my days, without break, reading these books and it will forever be my favorite series of books.
 

After:

 

After dragged me in and wouldn’t let me stop reading. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and you can never know what is going to happen next. 

 

Tessa is a girl who is just starting her freshman year of college. She has had her whole life planned out, but as soon as she is out of her mother’s control and living with a roommate who is quite the opposite of her, things start to get a little bumpy. Attending her first party ever, she meets Hardin Scott. He makes her question everything. She now has to figure out what is most important to her and if the life she had set in stone is really the one that she wants, or if it is just a script written by her mom to make her succeed. 

 

After We Collided:

 

After We Collided is the second book in Anna Todd’s After series. As you finish the first book, you find out a shocking twist. Tessa is conflicted about everything now. Having risked her future and her relationship with her mother and previous “love of her life,” she needs to figure out how to move past what Hardin has put her through. But she realizes that she can’t stay away. Tessa is stuck between what was real and what was fake. She was betrayed and she doesn’t know how she’ll ever trust Hardin again. She soon hears about someone that hasn’t been in her life in years, and she finds herself more confused and hopeless than ever.

 

After We Fell:

 

After We Fell is the third book in the After series. Once again, finding ourselves needing more after yet another unexpected twist at the end of After We Collided, we join Tessa and Hardin, and now even more people in their journey of betrayal and forgiveness. 

 

Tessa struggles to figure out what she wants with even more conflicts having entered her life. Her father begs to be a part of her life again and she doesn’t know what to do. Her battle between Zed and Hardin advances as things become more complicated. She seems to go back and forth between family, friends, relationships, and just about everything in this book. Hardin tries more and more to become a better person for Tessa, but is it too late? What will she do? Another book full of shocking twists, and you can never know what decisions will be made.

 

After Ever Happy:

 

After Ever Happy is the fourth and final book about Hardin and Tessa’s story. This book brings you on a journey of who will come together and how. Tessa makes amends with people she has fallen out with and ends toxic relationships. So many people vanish from her life, and she now knows nothing. She gets stuck in figuring out what she wants for the rest of her life and who will join her for the rest of her life. Join Tessa for the final part of life after it all, especially Hardin - or will he somehow earn her forgiveness for the last time? -EG 2/26/21




Jacob Bleecker's Review of:
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Bloomsbury. 2011. Realistic Fiction


In Louisiana, people are constantly hit by hurricanes, but it was Hurricane Katrina that stood out, especially for Esch. 
 

In this story, a fifteen year old girl, Esch, lives with her father and three brothers. Through Cover image for Salvage the bones : a novelthick and thin, the siblings stick up for each other and support each other through their personal endeavors, such as basketball, dog-fighting (despite it being illegal) and more. However, when Esch discovers that she is pregnant, she hides her secret from her family in fear of being outcast. As is, the family has struggled. They are poor, and have a father, who is handicapped, trying to support a family of five. Now, Esch is about to bring life into the world with her future uncertain. 

 

With Hurricane Katrina fast approaching, the family huddles inside, and it won’t be long before the storm reaches. Besides the real hurricane, Esch’s pregnancy is sure to cause chaos. 

 

I recommend Salvage the Bones to anybody who may want to learn more about Hurricane Katrina or to anybody who needs an engrossing book about the battle of a teenage girl and her family. -JB 2/26/21

 

 

 
Erica Gorelik's Review of:
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Dell Publishing. 2014. Realistic Fiction/Psychological.


E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars was a book recommended to me by many, but it was only once I read it that I understood why. This story is written very well and has plenty of hidden Cover image for We were liarsmessages throughout it leading up to the final plot twist.
 

Cadence spends every summer away with her family on a private island. She has a very strong friendship with her cousins, Johnny and Miren, and an outsider, Gat. They call themselves ‘The Liars’. This has become the single point that each of them look forward to during the year, until something changes. Cadence has an accident, but she doesn’t know the full story - and no one is willing to tell her a thing. 

 

We join Cadence on her journey of uncovering the truth embedded in lies. The answer is there, but it blends in so well. The Liars spend the whole summer untwisting every knot. Yet, they spend no time at all. Pay close attention and you might just figure it out. -EG 2/26/21

 
 
 

 

SCIENCE FICTION:

 

Victoria Kartashev's Review of:
Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

HarperCollins. 2017. Science Fiction


Carve The Mark tells the story of Thuve, a planet divided. On one side rule the cruel Shotet, ruled by the Noveak family, who had invaded the weaker city of Hessa numerous times.Cover image for Carve the Mark Hessa, despite being tired and torn, still cling to hope through prophecies told by their oracle, Sifa Kereseth. She is the mother of Akos Kereseth, whose prophecy is grim: a lifetime of servitude to the Noveak family. However, things change when Akos meets Cyra Noveak, the sister and weapon of the current Noveak head. As Akos delves deeper into the web of the Shotet, he spins truths and lies alike to stay alive, and will be forced to discover where his loyalties lie.

Carve the Mark is the picture of mystery and science fiction, defying fate and romance. The writing sucks the reader in from the first chapter with an electric style that can only be accredited to Veronica Roth. There is action, but even the scenes without are fast paces and immerse the reader entirely. 

Fans of Veronica Roth’s most popular series, Divergent, will find a great read in Carve the Mark. The Hunger Games and Cinder both contain some of the same tropes commonly used in YA Science Fiction, and viewers of The 100 will also enjoy this read. 

 

 


Alex Liu's Review of:
Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Tor. 2013. Paranormal/Science Fiction.

Vicious, the first book in the Villains duology, mashes the intrigue of ambiguous moral right and the thrill of supernatural abilities into an enticing package. The main character, Victor, and his friend turned enemy, Eli, engage in a complex cat and mouse chase as Victor tries to get revenge for Eli putting him in jail. Victor is getting rightful vengeance… right? V. E. Schwab expertly manages the dark storyline to keep the reader guessing exactly which of the primary characters is in the right, creating an incredibly intriguing dynamic.

I loved this book. The storyline of the book is darker than most sci-fi, especially since there is
Vicious by V. E. Schwab, Paperback | Barnes & NobleĀ®no clearly defined right or wrong. The way superpowers, the abilities ExtraOrdinarys (EOs) possess, are implemented into the novel is very interesting. Schwab uses a tried and true sci-fi trope in a unique manner to keep the story feeling fresh and interesting to its very conclusion. The payoff from fully realizing Victor’s plan is very satisfying, making the finale feel much more meaningful and gratifying as a fight between opposing ideologies instead of between two people. The story uses time very impressively, where the flashbacks Victor experiences do not distract from the main story, but complement it. 

Fans of sci-fi and of good storytelling in general will enjoy reading Vicious, as well as the other book in V. E. Schwab’s Villains duology. 

Available in e-book and audio formats through Libby/Overdrive.

 



Kendra Kodira's Review of:
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

HarperCollins. 2017. Science Fiction/Romance
(Listened to in audiobook format.)


What would you do if you found out that you were going to die today? Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio get an alert from DeathCast, a service that lets people know that sometime that day they will inevitably die. When Mateo, an anxious hermit, meets Rufus, a headstrong risk-taker, a love grows between the two and each of them is left forever changed by their day's adventures. Through the absorbing journey of their last day alive, they learn lessons on mortality, grief, and acceptance.

Despite They Both Die at the End’s title giving away the novel’s ending, the story of the two boys is captivating and a fairly quick read because of the unique, relatable characters showcased. Unfortunately, the switching between the perspectives of Mateo, Rufus, and few other side characters can be confusing at times, but the utter depth and personal growth the characters display outshines any structural issues within the book. The vivid description of characters, the world around them, and the struggles they face offer heartfelt authenticity that makes the story all the more heartbreaking. 

Fans of What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera will love They Both Die at the End as they both possess similar plots revolving around fate, intriguing protagonists, and further LGBT+ representation while being co-written by the same author. They Both Die at the End will appeal greatly to those who’ve enjoyed Nicola Yoon’s romance novel The Sun is Also a Star which follows a parallel story of two drastically different characters who fall in love despite the little time they have left together.

Available in e-book and audio formats through Libby/Overdrive.


 
MYSTERIES, THRILLERS & HORROR:

 

Karthik Shankar's Review of:
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Collins Crime Club. 1934. Mystery/Crime.


The renowned detective author strikes again! This novel begins with an introduction of Agatha Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot. The detective is going on vacation but, Cover image for Murder on the Orient Expresssuddenly, he gets called to solve another mystery case. So he boards the Orient Express to go to London. Monsieur Bouc, head of the Wagon, personally knows Poirot so he gives him a first class seat. However, as soon as he boards the train, he notices a lot of strange behavior from numerous passengers. In addition, he sees a person named Ratchett whom he knows to be an evil person. Ratchett calls him over, saying that he fears that someone is trying to kill him. He offers Poirot a large sum of money to protect him, but Poirot - knowing that Ratchett isn’t a nice person - refuses to take the money and protect him. The night goes regularly and everyone ends up eating and going to bed as they normally would. . . . .or so one would think. 
    The next morning, Hercule Poirot is informed that Ratchett has been murdered with numerous stab wounds. Unfortunately, the train also gets stuck on route due to heavy snowfall, causing the passengers to be left in the train for much longer than expected. Being a detective himself, Poirot goes to work solving the murder and interrogates all of the people. In the end, after gathering as much evidence as possible and a series of coincidental events occuring, Poirot comes to a conclusion. He gathers all of the passengers in first class to tell them what he believes happened... 

Read this page turning mystery novel by Agatha Christie to find out what really happened in the train and who murdered Ratchett. The well-written story allows the reader to feel like they are a part of the story itself. It remains suspenseful until the very end, and due to the plot twists, it is very hard to guess the murderer. If you want to have a great time reading, this is definitely a book to engulf yourself in. - KS 3/24/21




 

Kendra Kodira's Review of:
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Delacorte Press. 2020. Mystery.


Five years ago in the small town of Little Kilton, Andie Bell was brutally murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh. The case was closed, and everyone was convinced of Sal’s complicity -Cover image for A good girl's guide to murder everyone except Pippa. As her senior project, she is determined to truly solve the case and rid the Singh family of their cruel notoriety. Pippa’s journey drives her down dead ends and to unexpected findings, forcing her to struggle with the terrifying past she digs up. 


A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder incorporates various articles, transcripts, and project logs to truly immerse the audience in an authentic case. The unique framework of the novel highlights Pippa’s intriguing thought process, adding to the suspense as suspects and theories are searched through. Holly Jackson masterfully renders an absorbing, fast-paced plot with intricate surprises at every turn and a rewarding as well as completely shocking ending. Despite the complexity of the mystery, the novel fails to effectively address prominent themes of race, suicide, and abuse. Naturally, readers should be aware of mature themes heavily included because of the high school setting and older characters. 

 

With a similar plot centered on unraveling a murder intertwined with the protagonists’ personal life, those who’ve read The Naturals series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes will be drawn into Holly Jackson’s novel. Lovers of mystery classics such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series will savor the shared theme present in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder of uncovering the dark secrets of others at any cost. 



 
HISTORICAL FICTION:

Karthik Shankar's Review of:
April Morning by Howard Fast

Random House. 1961. Historical Fiction.

The novel begins with Adam Cooper living a normal life during the 18th century, drawing a bucket of water from a well to take to his mother. He has a premonition of evil spirits and Cover image for April morningdeath, thus he says spells to draw away all evil from him. He is constantly getting yelled at by his father and pampered by his mom, Sarah. One night, he gets into a debate with Moses Cooper, his father, and decides that he wants to meet up with his crush Ruth after dinner. So he finishes eating, and then they go on a walk during which they talk about their futures and various other topics. In the end, he kisses her and then goes back home to sleep; however, he doesn’t know what lies ahead of him. 

Early in the morning, he is awoken by his brother Levi saying that Paul Revere has gone around town telling everyone that the British are coming. He goes to the town meeting where they muster up a militia, and he signs up to fight. Soon they get arranged at the Lexington green and prepare for the redcoats to arrive. After a few minutes, the English troops arrive as expected...

You can read this great historical fiction text to find out what happens as soon as the battle begins. Taking place during the American Revolution, it portrays the fear and violence that was ingrained in the people that lived in the United States during the 18th century. The story is a great read overall and makes you want to finish the whole book once you begin. - KS 3/24/21




Kendra Kodira's Review of:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Scribner

Scribner. 2014. Historical Fiction.
Listened to in audiobook format.


Marie Laure, a blind girl living in Paris with her father, and Werner Pfenning, an orphan German boy, recount their lives as they endure hardships during World War II. Each narrator Cover image for All the light we cannot see : a novel
is on their own path of survival, struggling to accept the ghastly effects and destruction caused by their warring nations. As their lives become intertwined and a hunt for a precious stone ensues, Werner and Marie Laure’s morality is tested while their old sense of normalcy crumbles around them. 

Anthony Doerr’s use of imagery and vivid description molds a hyper-realistic universe for readers to eagerly explore alongside the protagonists. The novel provides insight into past affairs and details the sordid atmosphere during one of the most tragic genocides in history. The plot, however, can be a bit slow and confusing at times as extra perspectives and varying timings are embedded throughout the novel. With complex, three-dimensional characters, All the Light We Cannot See renders a beautiful story that captivates its audience with meaningful depth and showcases hopefulness for humanity. 

Readers of Johanna Reiss’ autobiographical memoir The Upstairs Room will appreciate the similar plot of undergoing the horrors of World War II through a child’s perspective in Anthony Doerr’s novel as well. From shared gripping storylines, harsh settings, and poignant themes of loyalty, lovers of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak will find that All the Light We Cannot See resonates greatly with them.




Clara Armon's Review of:
I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosain

Atheneum Books. 2014. Historical Fiction.

I Lived on Butterfly Hill tells Celeste Marconi’s story from the young age of eleven to fourteen. Through the three years, much happens, from being content to unimaginably terrified to Cover image for I lived on Butterfly Hillhopeful. Celeste, living on Butterfly Hill in the port city of Valparaiso, Chile, appreciates her education and loves writing - she always makes sure to jot down new words in her blue notebook. When a murder occurs, and disappearances begin to take place, it becomes hard for Celeste to write down words with such cruel and depressing meanings.

During this time in Chile's history, there was a violent coup, and the president was killed. The military took control, and Chile became a dictatorship. The military forces did everything against the former president’s beliefs. Violence from the military forced terrified Chileans to leave their homeland in exile or go into hiding if they were suspected to be against the dictator, Pinochet. For if they were, they would be taken and imprisoned in inhumane conditions and could be dropped into the sea to perish if not already dead.

This is simply a must-read. Marjorie Agosin, a Jewish Chilean and exile of Chile, emerges one in the story, not allowing the reader to put the book down. Her masterfully written words paint a picture in one’s mind and truly bring the characters to life. Agosin demonstrates the value of family and poetry, and how even when they must be apart or hidden, they will always be the most vital forces that bring strength to guide a country back to democracy and happiness. -CA 3/24/21



 
CLASSICS:

Nia John's Review of:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Bantam. 1813. Period Romance.
Audiobook.


Pride and Prejudice follows Elizabeth Bennet, the strong and independent daughter of an English countryman, and Mr.Darcy, an arrogant and socially awkward aristocrat, through a journey of love and acceptance. Jane Austen, the author of this beloved novel, creates a vast amount of tension and lust between these characters, so readers can’t help but become engrossed in their lives and root them on from the first encounter.

 

Set in the early 1800s where every young lady's purpose was to find a match, it is seen that a rebellious Elizabeth goes against this as she longs to find a match that will make her happy...even if it means turning down a handful of “perfectly” eligible suitors in the process. She isn’t like her other sisters or friends who are willing to accept society’s expectations to live a life that is deemed acceptable, but is ready to fight for what she believes in. This is the exact behavior that draws a certain Mr.Darcy to her, because he notices how different she is from all the women he has previously courted.

 

Throughout the novel,  the two learn to understand the meaning of what it is to have pride and prejudice towards the world, and the outcome it perceives. Themes of love, the importance of one’s reputation, social class/society, and integrity areshown with not only these two main characters but the all drama that ensues with the others.

 

If a reader enjoyed any of Austen's other works such as Sense and Sensibility or Emma, or even one of the Bronte sisters acclaimed novels Wuthering Heights and/or Jane Eyre, it is ensured that they will enjoy this novel. And if a reader has yet to experience a British romance novel, they don’t call this a classic love story for no reason. Be prepared to be sitting on the edge of your seat, as you devour the love story that is Pride and Prejudice. -NJ 2/26/21

 



Saketh Gosetty's Review of:
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Little, Brown & Company. 1951. Realistic fiction/Coming-of-age

Holden Caulfield, an angst-riddled teen, gets expelled from the private school Pencey Prep after failing four subjects. With one week left before being unable to return, Holden reflectsCover image for The catcher in the rye upon his negative feelings towards his peers at Pencey and addresses them as “phonies,” people who are disingenuous. All the while, Holden cannot help but remember his siblings and a girl named Jane Gallagher who he desperately wants to protect from further loss of innocence. After a violent altercation with his roommate Stradlater in regards to him taking Jane out for a date and pushing Holden’s buttons by hinting at lust for her, Holden realizes that he feels stuck at Pencey with people who demean his values. As a result, Holden decides to pack up and head home to New York earlier than he should have.

The novel focuses on Holden’s journey back home as he struggles with growing up as he despises many adults, losing his younger brother to cancer, and holding onto cherished memories with his younger sister and Jane. Along the way, he gets himself into adult situations that perpetuate his cynical essentialism that adulthood is filled with phonies. In addition, he meets people that reflect or defy his values of preserving youth, avoiding change, and remaining genuine. Will Holden be able to move forward with life or will he remain stuck in the past? -SG 2/26/21


 


Saketh Gosetty's Review of:
1984 by George Orwell

Secker & Warburg. 1949. Dystopian Science Fiction/Satire

Orwell’s nihilistic novel takes place in Airstrip One (Great Britain) which is a part of on Oceania, one of three totalitarian super-states that are at constant war with other superpowers, Eastasia and Eurasia, in order to gain more labor power and eventually absorb Cover image for 1984the other states into one massive entity. The novel follows working-class member Winston Smith who discreetly opposes the rituals of the totalitarian Party and their figure of power Big Brother, who reinforces the values of “War is peace/ Freedom is slavery/ Ignorance is strength.” One of the enemies of the Party is a man named Emmanuel Goldstein, a traitor to the Party who is rumored to be the organizer of an opposing group known as the Brotherhood. Goldstein appears on the telescreens during a weekly routine known as “Two Minutes of Hate” where he states ideas that anger the crowd listening and solidifies the Party’s values.

Despite Winston’s despair for a society that has cheated him out of the brighter life that he experienced when he was younger, he gains a sense of hope from the thought of the Brotherhood and a group dedicated towards ending the Party’s rule. In the process of finding the answers to his questions about the existence and goals of the Brotherhood, life before the revolution, and how to take down the Party - all while hiding his motivation from the Thought Police - Winston comes across an antique store with sentimental value of the past before the revolution. Winston later uses the spare room of the store as a rendezvous point for him and Julia, a lady who works in the Ministry of Truth but secretly opposes the Party as well. The two engage in a secret affair where they share their collective hatred for Big Brother in secrecy. Will Winston and Julia be able to learn more about the Brotherhood and take down the Party before the Thought Police catch them and bring them to the feared Ministry of Love to be “vaporized?” -SG 2/26/21



Clara Armon's Review of:
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Arrow Books. 1952.

Santiago, a Cuban fisherman, has not caught a decent fish for eighty-four days, and because of this run of bad luck, he is struggling to have food to eat and the necessities to sustain Cover image for The old man and the seahimself. The boy, who he loves deeply, helps him in any way he can. The boy, Manolin, and Santiago, more commonly known as the old man, fish the first forty days together, but then the boy is forced to transfer to another boat by his parents.

On the eighty-fifth morning, the old man decides to go far out into the ocean, hoping for a big fish to take his bait. Finally, he feels the tug of a powerful fish. And with this, his journey begins. All alone far out in the ocean, the old man goes days battling with the great fish and surviving off raw seafood and one bottle of water. However, only after completing his first grand mission, a greater one commences. The voyage back.

Through this short novel, the themes of man versus nature - plus of failure versus success - are very prominent. The old man finally gets lucky, but then loses it all by the end of the story, lying in bed, exhausted, with ripped up hands, terribly sore muscles, and no prize from the trip.

The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway’s last major work of fiction, is seen as an American classic. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was a factor in Hemingway winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. The old man revolves around the thought that, “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” From this read, one can learn about the mindset needed to have the ability to accomplish anything, even when unluckiness hits.

 



Clara Armon's Review of:
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Scribner. 1926. Historical Fiction.

The Sun Also Rises is a story of American and British expatriates who travel from Paris to Spain to enjoy fishing and watch the bullfights. The trip was originally supposed to be Jake Cover image for The sun also risesBarnes, a newspaper correspondent, and Robert Cohn, a professional boxer and ventured writer, taking a trip to Spain for pleasure and for experiences for Cohn to incorporate into a novel. But others join and make the trip miserable for Cohn, who feels like an outsider.

Hemingway uses many metaphors in this work. Over the course of the novel, Jake and Brett, the “sun” the rest orbit around, have a stable relationship and both love each other, but cannot be together due to, essentially, the war. The war, and fundamentally the death of true love, parallels the bullfights they attend. And the fishing trip expresses the freeness the men feel when fishing - freeness from all their problems, from women to wounds to wealth.

This writing by Hemingway is a strong display of the lost generation. The lost generation consists of those who walk the world directionless in the post World War I age. Within this reading, the characters’ struggles and the lostness they feel are prevalent. If you are interested in the life of the lost generation and expatriates attempting to find love and themselves, this is a read for you. It will make readers ponder how they may be dealing with circumstances in their life and how wounds from the past hurt individuals in the present and future. -CA 3/24/21

 
 

 

FANTASY:

Victoria Kartashev's Review of:
The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Penguin Random House. 2020. Historical Fantasy.

Everyone knows about the musical legend of Amadeus Mozart, the prodigy, the genius, the artist. However, few know about his equally talented sister, Nannerl. The Kingdom of Back is Cover image for The Kingdom of BackMarie Lu’s fantastical take on the life of Nannerl Mozart and how her life was lived, both on the stage and in her brother's shadow. However, her father has made it abundantly clear: Nannerl will play until she is of age to be married, and no longer. When a mysterious stranger from another world presents a magical solution, hope seems to appear for Nannerl.The Kingdom of Back spins a thrilling tale about a young girl warring between her ambitions and her morals.

The Kingdom of Back blends historical fantasy with thrilling mystery, wonderful adventures coupled with a side of action. As Nannerl discovers her own fantasy world, the reader breathes and fights by her side. Marie Lu’s immersive writing delivers yet another YA masterpiece in the form of The Kingdom of Back

The elements of history swirled in with a unique perspective are similar to those in books such as The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab, or Bridgerton. - VK 4/14/2021




Carly Pinnix's Review of:
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Disney Publishing. 2010. Fantasy/Mythology/Adventure.

After Jason’s memory is taken, his life is flipped upside down. With just little fragments coming back to him here and there and in his dreams, he struggles with reality. He struggles Cover image for The lost herowith his identity. When Jason wakes up on a bus next to Piper, his so called girlfriend, and Leo, his so called best friend, he can’t remember them at all. Soon he is taken to an unfamiliar place called Camp Half-Blood with his two friends. He quickly learns that Olympus is in great turmoil and that he is needed in order to save Olympus. A quest is ordered and a goddess tells Jason that if he is successful he will get his memory back. Jason, Piper, and Leo all set off on a quest to help save Olympus.

Overall, I think this book was intriguing and would recommend it to others. Additionally, for people interested in Greek mythology, I would highly recommend this book because it is focused around the ideas of Greek mythology. This book had just the right amount of adventure, fantasy, and romance. It always kept me on the end of my seat and at some points got so tense I had to hold my breath. At some points the book seems a little cheesy and childish, but overall it was quite enjoyable. -CP 2/26/21



Noelle Pinnix's Review of:
Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull

Aladdin. 2014. Fantasy/Adventure/Tween.


Sixth-grader Cole Randolph only wanted to impress his friends and the girl he likes by taking them to a haunted house on Halloween. Instead, his friends are captured and brought into a Cover image for Sky Raidersnew world, the Outskirts, a land far away from his home in Mesa, Arizona. In fact, it's in a whole new dimension! Cole, being the loyal friend he is, follows his friends into this foreign place, but is quickly captured and sold as a slave to raid floating castles and bring the back treasure to his new owner.

 

In this new world, the impossible is possible. The Outskirts consists of five kingdoms, each one more different than the last. Magic exists, but it isn't called magic. Instead, it is considered shaping, the art of taking something and shaping it with power from within into something new and better.

 

Enduring rough missions and a few too many close calls, Cole forms an unlikely friendship with a peculiar girl named Mira, another slave. They make a plan to escape their owner and run away to freedom. All Cole wants to do is find and free his friends from their enslavers. But when a monster, a legion of soldiers, and a closely guarded secret that could threaten the power of this new world get in the way of his plans, will Cole be able to save his friends? Find out in the magical works of Brandon Mull’s five-book series Five Kingdoms now! -NP 2/26/21

 
 

 


Kendra Kodira's Review of:
Circe by Madeline Miller
Little, Brown & Company. 2018. Fantasy/Mythology.
E-book.

 

As the daughter of the sun god, Helios, and a nymph, Perses, Circe is constantly tormented by her family. Years pass and Circe— still an outcast — discovers the power of witchcraft Cover image for Circe : a novelthrough magical acts of love and revenge. For her dark spells, Circe is eternally exiled, where she harnesses her powers and hosts many traveling heroes. On the remote island of Aiaia, Circe battles fierce beasts, grief, and harrowing decisions over the millennia.  

 

The vivid imagery in Circe elevates and brings every aspect of the story to life. Throughout the novel, many Greek myths elegantly weave together to set a constant, invigorating mood. The spellbinding plot charms and holds the attention of readers, making Circe almost impossible to put down. As a protagonist, Circe offers the voice of a resilient, independent woman, who evolves as she passes through hardships, and offers a unique perspective. By far, Madeline Miller creates a captivating novel that, although including frequent mature scenes, will take readers on a voyage of self-discovery alongside Circe. 

 

Those who’ve enjoyed other novels of Madeline Miller such as Song of Achilles will revel in Circe’s similar themes of Greek mythology and conflicted, determined protagonists. Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End also shares parallels to Circe with its melancholic ending, complex characters, and an enthralling plot that readers will love just as much. - KK 2/26/21

 

 

 
NONFICTION REVIEWS:

NONFICTION:
Jazzi Ben-Joseph's Review of:
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Viking Press. 1998. Self-help/Personal growth/Power

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is a step-by-step guide on Machiavelli-style manipulation and at times morally dubious tutorials on how to gauge and exploit one’s Cover image for The 48 laws of powersurroundings. However, the merit of this book lies not in its capabilities to make its reader a tyrannical dictator, but rather in its ability to give the user tools to make small improvements to their everyday life. Critical thinking skills are essential for readers of this book; one must read without the goal of manipulating others, knowing not to take certain laws to heart and instead be aware when the techniques are being used against them. 

While certain laws may not be applicable to one’s daily life (see Law 15: Crush your enemy totally), other laws have practical uses in business, education, and social interaction. I find myself often using various laws, such as Law 13: When asking for help, appeal to people’s self interest, never to their mercy. The laws in this book help the reader understand the dynamics of social situations and how to use them to their advantage. The laws give the reader a better understanding of their social environment and allow them to gain power in whatever area they choose. -JBJ 3/24/21




Jacob Bleecker's Review of:
Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld

Simon & Schuster. 2020. Comedy.

Over the course of the last 45 years, comedian Jerry Seinfeld compiled his best jokes from his stand-up sessions across the country. His material will yank laughs from you, even if Cover image for Is This Anything?you’re in a bad mood. Each chapter is dedicated to his best content from each decade, starting in the seventies. Furthermore, portions of the book share his journey to becoming an extraordinary comedian, and readers can understand the grit it takes to be the only speaker in a room and the relatability needed to garner laughs from strangers.
 

The book is a fairly easy read, as it touches on most ages. Also, it isn’t necessary to read chronologically, making it easy to skip around from joke to joke.

 

I recommend this book for all ages, especially if you need a laugh. But, if you’re not convinced, take a look at this excerpt from the book:

 

BIOGRAPHIES:

Clara Armon's Review of:
My Invented Country by Isabel Allende

HarperCollins. 2003. Memoir/History.

Isabel Allende was born in Peru but grew up in Santiago, Chile with her mother, grandfather, siblings, and Uncle Pablo - then later with her step-father Ramon, never speaking of her Cover image for My invented country : a nostalgic journey through Chilefather. Isabel indulges in deep detail describing Chileans’ mindset and how life is lived in the southwestern strip of Latin America where Chile lies.
 

She was an enthusiastic reader as a child and is still to this day, reading everything she gets her hands on and appreciating her education. When her stepfather got a job offer, they - her mother, siblings, stepfather, and herself - picked up and went to a different part of Latin America and then to a different continent as he got another job. Isabel returned to Santiago, Chile at fifteen, her mother staying in Europe with Ramon. She lived with her grandfather, who home-schooled her, and this created a lasting bond between them. She finished high school at the age of sixteen, quickly got a job, married her first husband and boyfriend in 1962, then had her first child, Paola, the following year and three years later her first son.

 

Meanwhile, in Chile, there were divides of political parties. After Salvador Allende, the previous president (the cousin of Isabel Allende’s father) died in Pinochet’s coup on September 11th, 1973, a day that would change all Chileans’ lives forever.

 

Pinochet will dictate Chile for over sixteen years and create complete terror in the country with extreme military violence, causing anyone with leftist beliefs to be in danger. Many had to escape the country or go into hiding, for if not, they would be tortured in one of the detention centers that had replaced the sports stadiums and some schools when Pinochet took over.

 

Through this novel, (one of Isabel Allende’s many, as she writes a new one about her life every year) one feels as if they experienced what Allende went through. One will learn about Chile’s culture and land, and will leave the book with a new view of the world, or at least understand Chile and its people better.

 


Michael Wang's Review of:
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

Farrar, Strous & Giroux. 2007. Memoir.

A Long Way Gone, written by Ishmael Beah, tells the true story of himself, going from a young, innocent child to an almost ruthless and emotionless boy soldier. This story takes Cover image for A long way gone : memoirs of a boy soldier /.place in the 1990s, when Beah was a child and lived in Sierra Leone. During this time, there was a terrible civil war that devastated thousands of normal people, especially children, as they tried to live their lives. Some people get lucky and were able to get out of this dark period alive, some didn’t make it out alive, and some, like Beah, come back alive, but they lose something that may be more important than their life.

Some of the things that these children went through, and may still be going through, seem almost unrealistic. This book taught me to be grateful for what I have and never take anything for granted. Disclaimer: This memoir is not meant to be enjoyable as in a happy story where everything is nice. This is a dark, sad, and eye-opening memoir that you will never forget. There are some parts of the book that I still think about even after I had finished reading it for weeks. With that being said, I still recommend this book to all people who would like to broaden their knowledge about the lives of children and people in general who may not be as fortunate as them. Just be aware that this book can get gruesome and hard to read at some points. But being able to learn about Beah and people like him and their journeys is a tradeoff that is worth making.

 

 

 

Check back now and then for more awesome reviews and other content for teens, by teens!
 

Review Crew Film Reviews

Danielle Gao's Review of:
My Spy (PG-13) 
Comedy/Action
Amazon Original. 2020.
Run time: 99 minutes


JJ (Dave Bautista) is an ex-soldier working for the CIA who is tasked with surveilling a 9-year old Sophie and her mother. After Sophie easily discovers JJ and his partner, she blackmails him into accompanying her to an open house, or a “Parents and Special Friends Day.” Without JJ knowing it, this sets off a series of events that brings him closer to his target’s family and into a precarious position.

The movie mainly focuses on JJ gradually forming a bond with his target and being forced to open up like a normal civilian again, but it also has an overarching story with the usual villain-after-the-nuclear-codes trope. In fact, I did like how My Spy melded the two genres seamlessly. One scene would make me laugh at how JJ once again gets himself into an awkward situation, and the next would have me on the edge of my seat while the protagonists scrambled for the USB stick loaded with secret files. It’s only a little out-dated, as there were a few questionable scenes involving several adults doing viral dance moves all of a sudden like a flash-mob. But I loved how each loose end was wrapped up in the finale where it calls back to specific moments planted earlier in the movie. 

Overall, it’s a hilarious comedy/action movie that’s worth a watch if you liked other goofy spy movies like Johnny English or Charlie’s Angels.
 

Angel Liang's Review of:
Howl's Moving Castle (PG)
Anime/Fantasy
Studio Ghibli. 2005.
Run time: 2 hours


Just a normal, human girl living an every-day life. That was the story of Sophie. Running her parents’ shop by herself, a quaint hat shop, everyday to fulfill their dreams, but never able to live her own life. That is, until she meets the wizard, Howl. Sophie first meets Howl in a harmless encounter, but after being cursed by the Witch of the Waste, Sophie realizes that she needs his help to break the curse. As an old grandma, cursed to be the age that her mind is, Sophie works as a cleaning lady in Howl’s moving castle, but their relationship soon becomes much more than that. As war starts to brew between countries, and wizards and witches are being called to fight, what can Sophie do to help the love of her life?
 Okay, a disclaimer out there: yes, this is a romance, but it is a Studio Ghibli romance, which means that even if you aren’t a fan of romance, you will absolutely adore this story. I love the fantasy elements, and, of course, the art is beautiful. This movie is based on a book, so without researching some things online, it was hard to understand, but the romance and art made up for that. The character development and profiles are incredible in this movie. It makes you fall in love with them over and over again. My two favorite characters are Markl and Calcifer; I would definitely recommend it and watch it again. 
 A Ghibli fan? You’ve probably already heard of this one. But anyone, who’s into fantasy, romances, animation...come and join us in Howl’s Moving Castle.
 


Angel Liang's Review of:
Kiki's Delivery Service (G)
Anime/Fantasy
Studio Ghibli. 1989.
Run time: 1 hour, 43 minutes


A heartwarming coming-of-age story about a young witch, Kiki. As a Studio Ghibli film, the art, as always, is beautiful and the story is beautiful. It’s one of Ghibli’s shorter films, but that doesn’t mean that the ending is cut off or rushed! If you are a Ghibli fan, you’ve most likely already heard this name floating around, and it is a must-see Ghibli classic. 
As a teen watching this, it reminds me a lot about the idea of “burn-out,” especially academic burnout. I loved the art and cute characters, but it’s not one of the most interesting storylines. It’s like “Whisper of the Heart” in the slice-of-life style, but I still really enjoyed the fantasy setting every Ghibli film has.
 


Jacob Bleecker's Review of:
Playing With Fire (PG) 
Family/Comedy
Paramount Pictures. 2019.
Run time: 1 hour, 36 minutes


In this comedy and action filled movie, John Cena and Keegan Michael-Key star as smokejumpers, also known as firefighters from the sky. One day, Cena, who plays Jake Carson, saves a trio of little kids stuck in a burning fire. Focused on his job and reaching a promotion, Jake Carson rarely lets his guard down and rarely loses focus on being a great smokejumper. However, when the kids must stay overnight at the fire station, Carson must accept them into his fire fighting family. Soon, he learns that they are orphans without a real family of their own. Carson is tasked with the decision to follow his career passions or adopt the children and begin a real family. This family friendly movie is a great watch that everybody can enjoy and it is definitely recommendable.



Danielle Gao's Review of:
The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (PG) 
Drama
Anchor Bay. 2015.
Run time: 105 minutes


Set in a secluded ranch in Montana, a 10-year old genius who goes by T.S. Spivet tries to cultivate his intelligence in a dry and apathetic environment. He spends his time recording the various events in his life, complete with detailed diagrams and data he carefully observes with his set of scientific instruments. When one of T.S.'s inventions piques the interest of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., the boy embarks on a life-changing journey halfway across America to receive his award.

I thought this film was really refreshing to watch. I liked each eccentric family member and their odd interactions with each other. The gradual reveal of a tragic accident in the past and its effects on everyone was also intriguing. I thought the storytelling was creative especially when the audience sees pockets of another characters perspective.

Recommended for anyone looking for a sad but sweet and heartwarming adventure with an emphasis on family.



Jacob Bleecker's Review of:
Charlie's Angels (PG-13) 
Action/Comedy
Sony Pictures. 2019.
Run time: 1 hour, 58 minutes


In this movie geared towards teens and young adults, Charlie’s Angels are a group of superheroes and spy women. When Elena, a member of a unit of high-tech scientists located in Britain, realizes that their new device, Calisto, is unsafe and can harm and kill thousands of people. She meets with one of the male agents from Charlie’s Angels, and they uncover that the company Elena works for plans to sell Calisto to villainous people hoping to use Calisto for evil. Quickly, Elena becomes a traitor to her company and is thrust into a mission with three of Charlie’s Angels known as Jane, Sabina and Bosley to return Calisto to its rightful place and protect the world from the harm it can cause. It's up to the Angels and the newly recruited Elena to retrieve Calisto before it can be transformed into a weapon of mass destruction, but will they be successful? Watch this movie to find out.
 

Alex Yang's Review of:
Life of Pi (PG)
Adventure/Drama. 
20th Century Fox. 2012.
Run time: 2 hours, 7 minutes


Life of Pi is the story of the real Piscine “Pi” Molitor Patel recounted within the frame of life-size cinema. Adrift at sea following a shipwreck and accompanied only by Richard Parker, an unconditioned and unruly bengal tiger, Pi’s story as narrated, in retrospect, seeks to tackle the tall order of imparting the belief of God to its viewer.

First to note is the method of storytelling, the choice which speaks to the heart of the film’s genre; plot narration itself in a storytelling medium might appear redundant as opposed to a first person, present-time setting, if not for the doors opened to unorthodox editing guises to capture the in-betweening of real time versus flashback. The added intermediary of the narrator reinforces the genre or rather answers the question of why the genre is not instead nonfiction, because by all appearances through the midpoint of  the film could very easily pass as a visual rendition of Pi’s autobiography. And with that decision the film is grounded to the ramifications of any anecdotal retelling as a sort of tacit disclaimer from the get-go that the following feature may be subject to the whims of its author—with exaggerations here, injections there, and shameless omissions every so often. This establishment is dual-purpose in that it deflects any gripes that may come up against the storytelling, on the contrary enabling praise for the producer’s keen eye to source detail and creative effects stemming appropriately; and secondly, it sanctions free-form and elements of fiction to the plot, doing naught to detract from Pi’s incredible story. 

Life of Pi showcases some of the best visuals in any movie I have ever seen, demonstrating control as much as spectacularity, topped off with a memorably moving soundtrack to accompany its more than literal, psychological story. Its production, pacing, and minimal plot alterations for the most part do justice to the original to elevate its contents off the paper and into a worthy, standalone film. Though personally a few storylines seemed to die off before the resolution, and the ending felt jumbled in its catering of thematic exposition, the bulk of the outset into the main story earned from me a confident recommendation for its brilliance.



 

Teen Health & Stress Management Resources

Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Young Adult Resource Guide 

Poynter Institute's Teen Fact-Checking Network on the Coronavirus

A Teen Support Guide to Navigating Coronavirus, created by JewishBoston 
17 Highly Effective Stress Relievers

How Teenagers Can Protect their Mental Health During Coronavirus (COVID-19)

P.E. With Joe - Gym Class at Home

YMCA of Greater Boston: Stronger Together
3 Tips for Teen Stress Relief

YMCA 360: Virtual YMCA

Stress & Coping Center

 

 

Teen Educational Resources

Virtual College Tours


WGBH Distance Learning Center - All Subjects, Grades 9-12


Crash Course with DFTBA - All Subjects Tool Finder on SciStarter


Bunk History
Explore multi-dimensional connections between past and present in America through articles, maps, videos, conversations, visualizations, and podcasts.


ChemMatters Online


SciStarter Citizen Science
Participate in projects that help real scientists, and track your contributions online.


Zooniverse - Help Researchers
The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. Join in - anyone can be a researcher!

 

Free Audiobooks from Audible
https://stories.audible.com/start-listen 
Image result for audible
Free access to a curated collection of Audible audiobooks for kids and teens. Some titles available in Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Chinese.

 



NASA's Media Library Collection
Browse NASA's incredible images and videos of galaxies and more - & maybe even get inspiration for an art or research project.       


The New York Times' Free Daily Online Writing Prompts

 
 

Recommended Reading
If You Liked the Hunger Games...
Get Lost in a Series
Adult Books with Teen Appeal
General Fiction
Fantasy
Science Fiction
For Guys Who Can’t Find a Book…
Chick Lit
Historical Fiction
Multicultural Fiction
War Novels



 
COOL SITES FOR TEENS

Alex Award Winners & Nominees
Printz Award Winners & Nominees
YALSA Nonfiction Award
Great Graphic Novels






 
Some Popular YA Authors To Watch
Get in Touch with Your Favorites or Discover a New Fave!

Elizabeth Acevedo

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Becky Albertalli

Leigh Bardugo

Holly Black

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Cassandra Clare

Tiffany D. Jackson

Mackenzi Lee

Marie Lu

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Marieke Nijkamp

Jason Reynolds

Maggie Stiefvater

Nic Stone

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Jeff Zentner

Ibi Zoboi