Tag: Read + Review

Read + Review: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

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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.

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Reviewed by Ainsley Kreiser, Grade 7, Twin Hickory Area Library

Read + Review: The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

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This book introduces the readers to an overlook of the Periodic Table as it recounts many interesting stories of how the elements came to be and how they affected mankind throughout history. The Disappearing Spoon connects elements with politics, currency, mythology, medicine, lives, and more while reciting the making of Mendeleev’s periodic table. The book is made up of many different stories, each with its own separate setting. Some are about how the elements were made while others are about humans bicker about who discovered which elements and other chemical reactions. The book greatly portrays how humans learn more of their world as time goes on. The space for future scientific discoveries is vast.

The Disappearing Spoon is one of the funniest book I have ever read. It is impossible to put the book down when mad scientists are fighting for radioactive elements that people are consuming for pleasure. Although there is not a main character and a plot in this book, I quite enjoyed it. This book is like the little books that I read as a child, filled with many different stories. It is also filled with traits of humanity, like kindness and greed, hate and obsession, all for the elements and the scientific glory that comes with it. The Disappearing Spoon is very rewarding in many different ways, no matter if the reader is a nerd or not.

Non-fiction books are mostly boring, but Sam Kean manages to make the elements come to life by giving mind-blowing accounts of the history of science ever since the Big Bang. As the reader is enjoying the mini-stories of the past and progress through the book, they, without realizing it, can learn scientific knowledge, which they normally would not want to learn about. I can finally get smarter just by reading!

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Reviewed by Eric Hu, Grade 7, Twin Hickory Area Library

Read + Review: The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer Nielsen

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In this non-stop, fantastical thriller, Jennifer A. Nielsen delivers yet another page-turner following the highly intriguing life of a young woman named Kestra Dallisor. This chapter of Kestra’s life finds her in exile in the barren lava fields of her kingdom, Antora. However, this dull landscape is soon behind her as she is unexpectedly summoned back home to the lush life she never liked or appreciated. Her trip back is far from enjoyable, therefore, but for many more reasons than she imagined. Her life is suddenly flipped on its head and she is plunged into a quest she never wanted, for people she never supported, and a goal she never wished to reach. However, multiple lives hang in the balance, so she must use her wits to battle around her ever nearing deadline, plot her escape, and retrieve a legendary artifact that has been lost for decades. In addition, her two companions on the quest are not who they seem to be, and she must also stifle her feelings for one and her hatred for the other. In the end, Kestra uncovers more than she ever bargained for, and the novel ends with her leaving everything she’s ever known to fulfill her perilous future alone.

This novel had me on edge constantly, and provided perfect portions of action, plot twists, and intrigue. Something I liked better in this novel than in Jennifer A. Nielsen’s most popular book The False Prince, was that Kestra’s story also included some very complicated relationships. With her father, mentor, handmaiden, and two Corack accomplices, she faced an enormous number of emotional trials. In addition, Kestra and one of her Corack accomplices, Simon, had quite the character history, and had many subtle flaws that other characters do not often have. While this book might have lacked the background explanations that The False Prince was able to provide so early on, I was not at all disappointed by the new and interesting plot line Ms. Nielsen produced so well.

A highly memorable, uniquely harnessed structural trait of this novel was the switching of points of view between characters. Because there was a romantic relationship in this story, obtaining both perspectives helped the reader understand the situation far better than reading just one opinion. Kestra is a very stubborn character, and while her true motives were often shared openly from her perspective, the frustration she caused others only became clear from a second point of view. While I have read a few other books that have used this technique, none of them were as well executed and memorable as this one.

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Reviewed by Isabella Kenney, Grade 7, Twin Hickory Area Library

Read + Review: The Troublemakers by Catherine Barter

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Alena does not remember her mom who had passed away, and she wants to know more about her mom. However, her guardian, her own brother, does not want her to do so. She secretly performs many troublesome acts that puts her remaining family and friends in jeopardy. She is determined to find out the story of her mother, no matter what is takes. At the end of the book, she completes the story by learning about the unacceptable truth of what had happened to her mom from her brother, who has given up trying to stop her.

I loved how Troublemakers was a funny yet melancholy book. The author did a great job of creating a broken family as well as the characters’ emotions, especially the main character. Unlike other realistic fictions, Troublemakers contains two different stories. One being what happened to Alena’s mom, and the later being how Alena got to know about the previous. The book is fast-paced and easy to visualize, which I liked. However, there were some pointless elements of the book which were not needed for the plot to continue. Overall, Troublemakers is a satisfying read, especially if the reader is looking for some trouble.

Unlike most books that I have heard of, Troublemakers show the love that a child has for its mother, and what the child would do to achieve it. Alena, with her mom passing away at a young age, and not having a mother’s love and care, does what a normal child would do, trying to get maternal love. The mom-daughter relationship is presented strongly in this book and is the most memorable piece of the book.

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Reviewed by Eric Hu, Grade 7, Twin Hickory Area Library

Read + Review: What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

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In What I Leave Behind, all of the characters have to face and deal with a problem. Will’s dad’s suicide has caused Will to blame himself for all the trouble his friends and family are facing: his mother’s night job; sexual assault of his best friend; the loneliness of a chained up dog on the streets; his pain for his father’s death. While he blames himself, he is tormented heavily by his and the others’ troubles and he sees pain in everyone, even if they are perfectly fine. He refuses to remember and be reminded of the misery of the past in any way, even if that means trying to avoid it. However, he soon has to face the agony and wounds directly that has tortured him for so long.

I am a fairly pessimistic person, so this book was fitting for me, but I can’t say that the pain some of the characters endured would be easy to get over. However, a disappointing part of this book is that it seems that the only memory Will has of his father is cornbread his father made for him before he died. He should have fonder memories of his father other than that, but maybe the author did it to help Will make the impression of trying to forget. Also, there was barely a plot, and the story wasn’t too interesting at the beginning, and hard to understand as well. Otherwise, the book is great, expressing emotions with good imagery and description.

What I Leave Behind is one of the few books that have many troubling issues present that come up in society often at once. The book provides the answers to these problems for people who need it. It can turn people from depression to happiness.

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Reviewed by Eric Hu, Grade 7, Twin Hickory Area Library