Sloane Sullivan has been nineteen different people in nineteen different places in the span of six years, so starting at a new high school nine weeks before the end of senior year shouldn’t be a problem… right? Except this time, it’s different. Ever since she entered WITSEC as a child after both her parents died, it has just been Sloane (at least, that’s what she’s called now) and Mark, her agent and might-as-well-be older brother, on the run from her past. No one really seems to know exactly what happened to trigger this turn of events, and even Sloane doesn’t remember it. All she knows are the countless survival and self-protection skills Mark has taught her over the years. Because all is not always as it seems, and Sloane may have to face the possibility that the life she’s been living for the past six years just might be a lie. As everything she thought she knew is questioned, Sloane must find a way to uncover the truth… and stay alive.
I picked this book up hoping for a good mystery, and it absolutely blew me away! The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan is Gia Cribbs’s first and only novel, and it is everything you’re expecting and more! The author has a fantastic writing style, with flawlessly executed twists and turns, a fast-paced story line, and just the right amount of description. The characters are all thoroughly developed, and she captures them well. Cribbs also writes with such emotion that we want to cry and laugh with the characters themselves! There were a number of \unexplained questions throughout the book, but the author did a nice job of rounding it all out in the resolution. Although, there was never a lack of heart-stopping surprises and bewildering discoveries.
I loved the way the author seamlessly intertwined a familiar high school coming-of-age story with a mystery of this magnitude. With just a touch of romance, humor, and more then a little excitement and danger, she delivered a realistic novel that surpasses any other thriller I’ve read!
Reviewed by Sanjana Murugavel, Grade 9, Twin Hickory Area Library
Through the eyes of Aurora Skye, a person’s first kiss is the most crucial moment of his or her life. It’s a momentous event that has Aurora avoiding any awkward lip contact on her front porch after a date. While waiting impatiently for her prince, Aurora assists her friends with meeting their own knights in shining armor. However, Hayden Paris, Aurora’s next-door neighbor and the bane of her life, constantly interferes with her friends’ love lives. What’s atrocious is that Aurora may have to share her first kiss with him because of their leading roles in the play Much Ado About Nothing. Aurora will go to great lengths to prevent Hayden from taking her first kiss, but it’s all in the hands of fate.
The mind of a sixteen-year-old teenager with impulsive behavior is depicted flawlessly by the author. Aurora’s audacious attitude and her chemistry with Hayden have people on the edge of their seats. Every page has comical and amusing moments, and the story balances out the humor with the drama induced by Aurora’s peers and family. How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You is a lighthearted read that highlights the twists and turns of high school and romance.
One memorable event in the book was Hayden standing up for Aurora despite the large percentage of the school pitted against her because of a false rumor. His loyalty and dedication to Aurora are endearing, and readers come to love their relationship even more because of his devotion.
Reviewed by Jessica Chau, Grade 10, Glen Allen Library
The Last Girl on Earth is a thrilling novel that follows the carefully constructed life of lies that Li’s father and sister have helped her maintain; Li is the last human on Earth. The Abdoloreans, creatures that look like humans but have exceptional intelligence, strength, and other abilities, took over the planet sixteen years ago. A human-sympathizer, Li’s father took her in and raised her as his own, training her in the woods behind their house so that Li could keep up with the effortless agility of her peers. The devotion of Li’s father and younger sister Zo, paired with her own determination and brilliance, has allowed for Li to become top of her class among the Abdoloreans. Li soon meets Ryn, a mesmerizingly mysterious Abdolorean from another planet. As Li’s relationship with Ryn deepens, she begins to feel the burden of living such a massive lie. She has to figure out how to balance Ryn, getting through Assessments so that she may earn the title of officer, protecting her sister from Braxon, and helping her best friend Mirabae, all while under the guise of being an Abdolorean. This is no small feat.
I really enjoyed the relationship between Li and Zo because the two girls are extremely close. They definitely have some disagreements, but this only makes their bond more authentic. The writing style is very concise, which fits the overall implication that things could go awry at any moment; it intensifies the plot. Additionally, I found it extremely interesting how Li’s father pays special attention to seemingly trivial details of crafting Li’s dissemblance. With that said, I would have liked to know more about the years leading up to Li’s current dilemma, as well as more about her father’s interactions with other members of their community.
Li and Ryn’s first time meeting is definitely memorable. That initial encounter foreshadows the inexplicable energy between the pair that draws them together again. Also, the situation in which they are introduced is awfully dangerous for Li, which just goes to prove how she’s willing to risk nearly everything for Ryn from the get-go.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Celentano, 10th Grade, Varina Area Library
Jesobel Jones is fat. Yes, she’s a perfect straight-A student, never gets in trouble, and has two amazing best friends, Hannah and Izzie. But Jesobel has always been labeled as the fat girl. Being bigger than those around her has never made Jesobel feel lesser than, but a spiteful confrontation from some mean girls has her rethinking her positive connotation of “fatness.” Struggling to understand what to do, Jesobel soon meets Matt, the guy she’s been falling head over heels for. With her rebellious attitude starting to come to light, will Jesobel still give in to societal beauty standards to be with her dream guy? Or will the power of love overcome her desire to love her body?
I originally thought that this novel’s plot would be about Jesobel finding love; however, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it also focuses on her identity and self-worth. In a world where larger people are shamed for their bodies, Jesobel Jones is the epitome of rising above the hate and proving that success comes in all sizes. I enjoyed that Jesobel seemed out of place among her “perfect” family members; these foil characters brought out the qualities of Jesobel even more. However, I wasn’t fond of the fact that her sister, Cat, barely ate any food throughout most of the novel. On the brighter side, food seemed to be the catalyst for Jesobel’s growth throughout the novel, and that was interesting because it’s different from similar books I have read. All in all, I would recommend this book, as I gained quite a few life lessons from this story.
There are definitely some underlying hints of body positivity throughout the plot, which is an important topic that needs to be spread to a wider range of audiences. I think Anna Mainwaring did a great job of showing that healthiness is important, but healthiness does not always equate to the size of your body. You can be skinny and unhealthy, bigger and healthy, or vice versa. Yet, she also shows that, not only is it important to be healthy, but you must also be happy in life.
Reviewed by Mitali Barik, Grade 11, Twin Hickory Area Library
Leah on the Offbeat is a squeal to the novel “Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda”, that shifts the main focus onto supporting character Leah Burke, who the audience was introduced to in the prior book. The group of friends that readers got to know in “Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda” are now seniors in high school. They are applying for colleges and planning out what their futures are going to look like, while also worrying about maintaining their friendships and relationships through the shift from high school to college. In this novel, we get to know more about Leah’s character, including her family dynamics and her emotions toward aspects of her own and other’s lives. Through this, the author is able to effectively write about topics such as body confidence and single parent households. With prom and graduation quickly arriving, relationships within her friend group are tested. Leah is left not knowing what to do when her closest friends start to fight and grow apart. Among these new challenges, she finds herself developing feelings for one of her friends, which only serves to further complicate the many events going on in her life.
I deeply enjoyed the book’s plot, romantic story lines, and characters. All of the characters are done justice with effective character development and a compelling way of having the readers get to know the inner workings of each character. Though the main focus of the book is on Leah’s sexuality, I specifically enjoyed Leah’s story lines regarding her mother and her weight. The book shows a refreshing parent-child relationship with Leah and her mom, giving them a sweet and supportive, yet realistic dynamic throughout the novel. They aren’t perfect, but the two generally get along and are always very close and trusting with one another. The book also has a great approach to the topic of Leah’s weight. It is not the central part of her story, but it is mentioned throughout the book and we get to see how Leah feels about it and deals with it. The way other characters react to the fact that she is overweight is also represented in a realistic and convincing way. The book is emotional, comedic, realistic, and romantic all at once, and this keeps readers interested through the whole story.
The author wrote the book in a way that doesn’t over-dramatize any of the plot points, and allows the readers to connect more with the characters, due to the fact that the story is realistic. For example, no overdone or overt homophobia is pushed upon LGBT characters, and the way people treat them withing their high school environment is represented in a realistic way. Also, though the friend group does go through some ups and downs, there is never any kind of dramatic backstabbing or betrayal. The friends are kind to each other and defend one another the way true good friends would.
Reviewed by Ainsley Kreiser, Grade 7, Twin Hickory Area Library