Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Author: Mattew Quick
Teen Reviewer: Julia Denaro
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

This book is about Leonard Peacock's 18th birthday, the day he will kill his ex-best-friend Asher Beal and himself. The story tells of Leonard’s four friends. To each one, Leonard gives a pink-wrapped present containing something to remember him by. After he gives out his last gift, he plans to end his life. 

This book is a masterpiece, written in a way that makes the reader think about everyday events and issues differently. This book beautifully tells a story of a teenager’s horrible life changed for the better. I would recommend this book to 10th graders and on because of the language and certain actions

I would give this book a 4 ½ out of 5 for the excellent detail and great plot.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Being Henry David Book Review

Book: Being Henry David
Author: Cal Armistead
Teen Reviewer: Shannon Finney
Rating: 2/5 Stars
Being Henry David by Cal Armistead tells the story of a teenage boy who wakes up in Penn station having no idea who he is. All he has with him is a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. He adopts the philosophy of the book and uses is to guide him on his journey to rediscovering himself, and confronting the dark past behind him that he won’t let himself remember.

The beginning of the novel is promising, at least as far as the plot goes, as everything about the main character is a mystery. However, the writing style immediately got old for me when I discovered that the sentence fragments are not just a way to convey the chaos and confusion going on in the protagonist’s mind as he awakes for the first time, but the way that the entire book is written. With unimpressive prose, the protagonist, who is dubbed “Hank” by a random street rat he meets in a bathroom, sets out on his journey of bad decision making and highly unrealistic, half-though-out scenarios.

The most annoying part of the book, for me, is that new mysterious and secrets are constantly introduced whose solutions are highly anticipated but rarely satisfactory. The entire plot savors of anti-climax. The utter dullness of the conflicts is mostly due to the setting where most of the story takes place: Concord, MA, a snobby suburban tow where everyone Hank meets is instantly friendly and accommodating despite knowing nothing about him. I find this an odd direction for the author to take the plot, even though this is the town that Thoreau is from. Here, although he has no recollection of his former life, Hank lives a basically normal life with a normal girlfriend and normal problems, with the exception of the unrealistic amount of coincidental meetings with former friends and foes, who always appear just at the right time.

On top of all this, the characterization is weak. We learn nothing about our main character except that he has a healthy interest in girls and athletic and musical skills. Likewise, each secondary character is assigned a few traits that are assigned to some societal stereotype. There is very little depth. The only glimmer if literary merit in the novel is its lesson of transcendentalism that can be taught to the reader who knows nothing about this movement in literature. 

Overall, I found Being Henry David to be extremely light reading, with an unrealistic plot and underdeveloped, shallow characterization. The novel leaves much to be desired, like more interesting “pieces to the puzzle” of the many mysteries that arise, and a more respectable and likable protagonist. If you’re into books about high school, boyfriend/girlfriend drama and cutesy romance, then you’d probably like this book. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: My Name is Parvana

Title: My Name is Parvana
Author: Deborah Ellis
Teen Reviewer: Shannon Finney
Rating: 4/5 Stars

In My Name is Parvana, Deborah Ellis tells a powerful story about a teenage girl in Afghanistan who never gives up her hopes and dreams for her future even as conditions in the war-torn nation make life more and more difficult and dangerous for her family. An average girl struggling with her own emotions like any other teenager, Parvana faces problems that most Americans her age could not imagine – being accused of terrorism and imprisoned by foreign troops. The events that she recalls that led up to her imprisonment, her family working to create a school for girls much to the disapproval of the public, keep her mind occupied and invulnerable to the American soldiers’ threats. The love that binds her family and friends together against every danger gives her the strength to keep her head and the willpower to withhold information from the foreign troops. 

My Name is Parvana is real, heart-wrenching, and compelling. Before reading this book, I, like most Americans, had a vague idea of what is going on overseas in Afghanistan, and had become numb and desensitized to the occasional report of another roadside bombing there, or a group of children being shot by the Taliban. What we rarely, if ever, hear about are the emaciated children in refugee camps, the young girls forced into marriages with older men, the activists who are assassinated for trying to make a better life for women – or the senseless violence and damage done by our own American troops. My Name is Parvana made me aware of these tragedies. The strength with which Parvana faces all of these dangers is absolutely inspiring, and empowering to all young girls and women. Deborah Ellis, with simplistic yet powerful prose, conveys a message that all American teenagers should hear – that there are people their age who have to break laws to get themselves an education, to feed their family, and even to dress and speak the way they want to.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Review: Seraphina

Title: Seraphina
Author: Rachel Hartman
Teen Reviewer: Kinsey Manchester
Rating: 4/5

Seraphina Dombegh lives in a world of tense peace between humans and dragons. The dragons of her world are shape shifters but despite their ability to communicate with humans, they are looked down upon. Her kingdom of Goredd is under a lot of pressure as the 40th anniversary of the peace treaty between humans and dragons approaches. This time, Seraphina witnesses it firsthand as a new member of the court, the musician’s assistant. She finds herself in a lot of drama in Castle Orison as a member of the Royal Family has just been found dead in the woods. The way he died is mysteriously similar to the way that dragons eat humans, which only worsens the situations of the dragons living in their human forms in Goredd. Seraphina is interested in trying to solve the crime and is paired up with the Captain of the Queen’s Guard, Prince Lucian Kiggs. Kiggs is dangerously observant, which becomes a problem for Seraphina, as she has secrets of her own to hide. Kiggs and Seraphina become friends, but soon he starts to question her past and her teacher, the dragon Orma. As secrets unravel, feelings get hurt and people get in trouble. Seraphina has to deal with a lot of overwhelming responsibilities that her job requires, as well as help out Kiggs, and keep up her own mental health. When the leader of the dragons, Ardmagar Comonot, finally visits Goredd for the 40th anniversary, it is questionable whether or not he is actually safe. Seraphina works to protect herself, the ones she love, and her kingdom’s royals as she tries to solve the Prince’s death.

This book was classified as fantasy, but I think it also had an element of mystery. I liked the secret side of this book and that it kept you guessing until the end about some things. I also liked the relationship between Seraphina and Kiggs, which was a really good friendship. I liked that they knew their boundaries, since Kiggs is engaged to his cousin, Princess Glisselda. I think they work so well together because they are not afraid to just say what they are thinking. I loved all of the supporting roles in this book, such as Lars, Seraphina’s father, and Abdo. I think they really added another layer of depth to the book and complemented the major roles well. Glisselda surprised me with her poise because at first she seemed like just another glamorous Princess. However, she turned out to be very mature in the end and I liked her. Seraphina was a really enjoyable main character and was relatable, despite the fact that she is clearly different. I must admit that when reading this book, the author goes right into using the idioms and slang language of the Goreddis, so it was a little hard to understand at first. Once I got into the swing of things and noticed the helpful dictionary at the back, I was fine though. I would not suggest this book to anyone who can’t handle a little bit of dragons, kings, and dueling, because you can find all of these in here. Although, I think this book surprised me with how good it is and I would recommend it to most people! It’s not a short book, but it is definitely worth the time!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Book Review: The Namesake

The Namesake

Title: The Namesake
Author: Stephen Parlato
Teen Reviewer: Timothy Wood
Rating: 4/5 stars

The Namesake, by Stephen Parlato, is the story of a teenager, Evan Galloway, whose father has just committed suicide. Evan is an extremely gifted student and artist, and everyone expects the best of him. Wanting to be able to understand why his father ended his life, he tries to find the answers. But as he does this he is opposed by a number of different people who try to stop him from getting to the truth of his father's death, and he has his own social life, or lack thereof, to worry about as well. Will Evan solve the mystery of his father's murder and be able to heal from it, or will he never know the full story and have to live with that fact?

This book was an interesting read for me. At first I was suprised at the book's bluntness and did not think that it depicted a teenage boy's life very well. But then, about in the middle of the book, I realized that this is what life is like for someone his age. It can be difficult and confusing. Told from Evan's point of view and from his mind's eye, the book does a great job of thinking like a teenage boy would, though at times it seems a bit random. One thing I did not like about the writing was that on multiple occasions, when the book begins a new section, it starts off after something important happened, then jumps back to what actually happened. This was a bit frustrating, but I got somewhat used to it. Also, the book still seems a bit unrealistic in some ways, but very realistic in others. Despite these shortcomings and even though I did not enjoy the book as a whole, it had a lot of plot twists and fantastic character development, making the book very exciting and enjoyable in spots. Because I found some parts frustrating, I would not read it again, but I am sure a lot of people will enjoy it. I rate this book a 4 out of 5.