“Here, she told me to give you this.” She passes me a folded note and walks away. What are we, in third grade? Still, the anticipation owns me.
He Said, She Said, by Kwame Alexander
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Some of you will be graduating from high school soon and you might be hearing your first commencement speech. Graduation speeches can range all across the board, from deadly boring to truly amazing and illuminating. Some graduation speeches have become famous and have been watched millions of times, like Steve Jobs’ speech to the 2005 class of Stanford — 15 minutes that are definitely worth a listen. National Public Radio (NPR) has created a database of 300 of the best commencement speeches given since 1774. You can search them by date, school, theme and name. Hear what President Kennedy said to the American University Class of 1963 and what J.K. Rowling said to the Harvard Class of 2008. They even have Kermit the Frog addressing the Southampton College Class of 1996! Many of these speeches are full of hope for what that graduating class might do with their futures and the world’s future, and some are just really, really funny. And remember to wear sunscreen.
After Julie’s Grandmother Mariam dies, Julie tries to reach her spirit using an Ouija Board. In doing so, instead of reaching Miriam, Julia releases a spirit named Grant. Grant is the twin brother of Clark who died in a car accident a year back, and he is now able to possess Clark’s body every now and then, having no intention of leaving. Now Julie and Clark must send Grant back to where he came from before Grant sends Clark there first.
I personally really liked how the characters acted. Julie was able to put the pieces together with just enough information, and she was determined to stop it so she could save herself, her family, and her friends. Every moment of the book I tried to predict what would happen next, like would the plan work, or would it only cause more danger? Thinking back, I was also surprised about how much effort and thinking it took to try and get rid of a spirit. I also really liked how Grant and Clark had very different personalities, because it made the story a lot more interesting.
One of the most memorable parts in my opinion is when Julie met Grant. It gave you a sense of his personality, and that allowed you to predict what he wanted. Seeing how much the characters differed, but also had their similarities was really interesting to me, giving a new look to the story.
Review by Aislinn, grade 6, Twin Hickory Area Library
This book is a love story about Eleanor and Park, as the name suggests. Although this book may seem shallow to some, it is anything but. It describes the life of two misfits, while discussing important issues in our society (such as body image, abuse, and race). Park is a biracial boy (Korean, White) and Eleanor is an overweight red-head. On their school bus, they fall in love over mix tapes and comic books. This insightful book has caused controversy in some school districts, but critical acclaim has been overwhelmingly positive, as the story remains true to the real life of a teenager.
I loved this book! I would definitely give it five stars. The writing style was so simple and strong, and it is rare to read books like that. The combinations of intriguing topics made for a great, thorough and well-written book. I found this to be a great read and I think this book was eloquent and meaningful, unlike the cheesy teenage love story people have come to expect.
All of the plot twists and turns made me gasp, and feel surprised in this great novel. I thought the book was wonderful, and I could not wait to read more. The most memorable thing about this book, in my opinion, is how these different characters bonded over the love of out-dated pop culture items. The connection created by Rainbow Rowell was powerful and real, a symbol of a great writer. These characters make insightful observations, which I noted and appreciated. Many famous authors, such as John Green, have given this great book great reviews. All in all, I think this book is one of my favorites.
Review by Yashodhara, grade 7, Gayton Library
This book is about three peoples’ summers in Long Island. It all started with the artistic, poetic main character named Claire. She was taking care of her younger sister, Izzy, because their mother was recovering from a stroke at a hospital. At first, everything is normal, but then she meets Brent and Max. These characters have complicated lives, and the book is narrated by all three of them. Max, the senator’s son, had been using pain-killers and is being helped by Barkley. Barkley suffers with schizophrenia. Over the summer, this book shows how one small move can change everything, like a see-saw swinging on a fulcrum.
Personally, I thought this book was a little slow in the beginning until I realized the background and details of all of the characters. I thought the plot line was very interesting, as it did not follow the typical plot structure of a typical teen book such as this. I thought that as the book progressed, it was a real page turner. It kept me on the edge as I was nervous and apprehensive to find out what would happen next.
One memorable thing in this book, “Before My Eyes,” was how the Senator’s son, Max, was using pain killers. Usually, we, as a society, think that being the child (son/daughter) of a politician is fun, as you get fame. This book shines light on the fact that this is not always true. Max’s parents were too preoccupied with preparing for reelection rather than focusing on their son. This was the reason Max was taking pain killers, and if it had not been for this, the story would’ve been entirely different.
Review by Yashodhara, grade 7, Gayton Library
The Perks of Being a Wallflower consists of numerous letters that the main character, Charlie, is writing to an anonymous stranger whom he addresses as “friend.” The letters detail stories and specific instances and events throughout Charlie’s freshman year of high school, during which he befriends two seniors, Sam and Patrick. The novel tracks Charlie through his trials and triumphs, relationships and social awkwardness, and the harsh realities that many teenagers actually face today. The book is relateable in this sense. The conflict and pressures that Charlie faces could happen to anyone, though his circumstances are slightly unique, as the reader finds out by the novel’s end. There are various references to drugs and sex, internal struggles and topics such as homosexuality. While many might know this book for the famous quote, “And in that moment, we were infinite,” it is so much more than that; however, in short, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is about a boy trying to fit in and finding where he belongs.
This is one of my favorite books, and I am not someone who labels a book as such easily. The Perks of Being a Wallflower combines so many different elements in such a short span of space, and every time I see the novel lying around on a table or shelf, I marvel at the depth and development such a short story contains. At the same time, however, Chbosky doesn’t leave anything out and, at least for me, answered any and all questions I may have had about the plot and characters. Even with the plot twists and sudden turns that arise throughout the novel, Chbosky follows through with every detail, and his descriptions and insight into Charlie’s mind are incredible.
To me, the ending is the most memorable part, because of the climactic plot twist and all of the story elements coming together. Besides that, however, I love all the details and the dynamics between the characters and friend group. One specific part I love is Charlie’s Christmas present from his friends: a typewriter. The entire book has a sort of old-fashioned feel to it, and this moment really sums up the general mood as well as Charlie’s character. I also really loved how real the characters are. At times they seem confident and content, but at other instances in the story, the reader sees deeper into the characters, into a darker, bitter place; they have a lot of substance.
Review by Anna, grade 11, Tuckahoe Area Library
Eleanor and Park centers around the story of Eleanor, an imperfect teenager who comes from a harsh, degrading background. She is forced to attend a new school where she is the chubby redhead, or “Big Red” as some students call her. Her life seems hopeless and miserable until she meets Park. At first, they are silent toward one another, gradually moving towards non-verbal communication and eventually a relationship so sweet and innocent and wrought with the secrets of Eleanor’s family situation. Eleanor and Park, in the end, is a love story. It is two strangers becoming best friends, falling in love, and disregarding all barriers and social expectations.
I really enjoyed reading this book! It is not one’s typical love story, nor is it some cheesy teen romance or insincere fling. I loved how this novel tracks the relationship from its nonexistence to its tiny seed to its beautiful bloom. The plot is so unique, and I never knew what to expect. It kept me wanting to read, wanting to know more, wanting for everything to work out between Eleanor and Park. I especially love the end, because Rowell literally leaves the reader hanging until the last page!
I really just loved the simplicity and innocence of the relationship. The writing is so beautiful and sweet. The characters develop really well and in such a way that the reader grows with them. I love how they share a love of music and comics. I think my favorite part of the book was how their relationship first began, with Park reading a comic on the school bus and Eleanor reading over his shoulder. Then, one day, Park begins to take more time on each page because Eleanor reads slower than he, and then it all continues from there.
Review by Anna, grade 11, Tuckahoe Area Library
It is a novel about cancer, but this isn’t just your average story about a girl with some terminal disease. This novel is a surprising story about life, death, immortality, oblivion, and coping with it all. You will feel for the characters, laugh with the characters, and sob for the characters. This book will make you feel emotions about life and yourself that you haven’t even dreamed of feeling, and will probably rarely encounter ever again. Hazel Grace Lancaster, a teenage girl who is diagnosed with lung cancer was about to meet her fate that would change her boring life into an awaiting path full of adventures, love, and mysteries yet unraveled. One day, when Hazel Grace was at the Support Group for teenagers who are diagnosed with cancer she catches the eye of a new boy (Augustus Waters). They became the best of friends. The spent time texting and talking about their passions. Hazel suggests Augustus read An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. Augustus and Hazel manage to contact the author and are invited to Amsterdam to discuss the untold mysterious ending of the novel which they both have fallen in love with. Their incredible journey through life, fighting cancer, and love is something every teenager should read and be inspired by.
This book is a source of inspiration for all teenagers around the world. The story of these two diagnosed teenagers helped me gain a different perspective for all the children who suffer from cancer. John Green uses a mixture of strong imagery and emotions to keep the reader interested in the plot. The author incorporated a very deep understanding of life and also used vivid vocabulary. The book created humor along with heartbreak due to some tragedies that were involved. Honestly, your teenagehood cannot be complete without reading this novel.
Although the entire book was absolutely perfect, the most memorable event was when Peter Van Houten (the author of their favorite book) replied to them inviting them to the beautiful city of Amsterdam to discuss the untold ending of the book. The two main characters were elated, and the reader could feel the happiness jumping out of the pages of the book due to John Green’s amazing writing style. This event changed the story into both positive and negative manners – which created rising tensions along with moments of pure happiness. The book was simply “perfect”.
Review by Zainab, grade 7, Twin Hickory Area Library