Monday, November 9, 2015

Hunger Games Book Review

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Teen Reviewer: Tim Bartlett
Rating: 4/5 stars

“May the odds be ever in your favor!” This is the famous quote of the notorious Hunger Games, used as punishment for a revolt of the thirteen districts of Panem, (formerly North America) in which one district was annihilated and the other twelve forced to submit under the iron fist of the Capitol. Existence is bleak, difficult, and dangerous.

This is the place that sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen finds herself in. The book is written in the first person, which is an interesting contrast to the third-person viewpoint of many other books. Katniss is an adventurous, spirited girl who mostly keeps to herself and finds solace in the woods of District 12. She's an excellent hunter and survival skills that won't just be used for food, for as events would turn out—it would be the key to life and death.

The finery and sophistication of the Capitol is a far cry from the hard and bleak existence that Katniss and Peeta find themselves in. If I was in their position, I would almost prefer a hard life rather than a brief time of luxury followed up by almost certain death. As their mentor, Haymitch is a perpetual drunk, but is the only victorious tribute from District 11 many years before. Despite his rather unsavory (and comedic) behaviors, Haymitch teaches the two teenagers how to stay alive in the arena.

After rigorous training with both weapons and survival skills, Katniss and Peeta officially enter the Hunger Games, against twenty-two other tributes. Strong, fast, cunning, and most with an insatiable desire to survive by killing everyone else. Katniss must use everything she's learned in the past several weeks if she's to have any hope of survival.

During the games, there is an announcement—if both the boy and girl from a district survive, they are champions. Katniss immediately starts searching for Peeta, and finds him camouflaged against a log, dying from wounds dealt by one of the Careers, teens who spend their time training for the Hunger Games in order to win honor and killing everyone else. Katniss nurses Peeta back to health, and the two of them fall in love. As the Games wind down, it's down to Katniss, Peeta, and Cato. Cato is slain, but Katniss and Peeta are champions...or so they thought. Suddenly, an announcement comes over the speakers, and Katniss and Peeta must make a choice, whether to conform to the government, or to defy their wishes.

The book was written by Suzanne Collins (born August 10th, 1962). She began her professional career in 1991 writing for children's television. Working with Nickelodeon, she helped produce shows such as Clarissa Explains it All and The Mysteries of Shelby Woo. For preschool viewers, she wrote multiple stories for Little Bear and Oswald. More recently, she was Head Writer for Scholastic Entertainment's Clifford Puppy Days, among other projects.

When she met children's author and illustrator James Proimos, he convinced her to give children's books a try. Suzanne thought about Alice and Wonderland one day, and realized how “pastoral” the setting must seem to kids who, like her own, lived in urban areas. For example, if you fell down a manhole in NYC, what would you find? That's the story of Gregor the Overlander, the first book in her five-part fantasy/war series, The Underland Chronicles, which became a New York Times bestseller and has been sold into 21 foreign territories.

Arguably her most famous work, The Hunger Games Trilogy, is an international bestseller and has spent over six years to date on The New York Times bestseller list since publication in 2008. It has been sold into 56 territories in 51 languages. In 2010 Collins was named to the TIME 100 list as well as the Entertainment Weekly Entertainers of the Year list. Lionsgate released a film adapation of The Hunger Games on March 23, 2012, directed by Gary Ross who also shared screenplay with Collins and Billy Ray. Breaking multiple box-office records, It went on the become the 14th highest-grossing North American release of all time—generating nearly $700 million at the worldwide box office. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 have been released on November 22nd, 2013 and November 21st 2014 respectively. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2 set to release on November 20, 2015.

In September 2013, Suzanne released a critically acclaimed autobiographical picture book, Year of the Jungle, illustrated by James Proimos, has been sold into 12 territories and in 11 languages. Overall, her books have sold over 87 million copies worldwide. Collins resides in Sandy Hook, Connecticut within Newtown, Connecticut, with her husband and their two children.

“The Hunger Games: would appeal to a mature teenage and young adult audience. Readers who enjoy action and suspense will appreciate the fast-paced narrative and suspenseful storyline, while those who enjoy romance and drama will enjoy the heartfelt decisions and love between Katniss and other characters in the story.

Personally, I enjoyed the action, and found the first-person narrative extremely interesting; because I'm used to reading books in the third-person. The book had a driving storyline, but was interesting and deep enough to extrapolate meaning from. I didn't particularly enjoy the gladiatorial aspect of the Hunger Games—and I thought the government was far too extreme in their punishment of the districts. However, it was an entertaining read, and I'd definitely recommend it. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Teen Book Review: Hold Me Closer

Title: Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story
Author: David Levithan
Teen Reviewer: Mikaela Palandra
Rating: 4/5 Stars

The story is in a script form, although the stage directions are more detailed and are used as the way to give better insight into the story and the character’s thoughts. The first act goes through Tiny’s basic journey of self-discovery as he grew up until he was able to confidently accept that he’s gay. The second act takes a different route; now that he’s come out, he feels ready to act on his sexuality and find love. The rest of the script shows what Tiny learns from his many, many ex-boyfriends and keeps a hopeful ending for the future.

 The big confidence of Tiny--that he showed throughout almost the whole story--wasn’t super relatable for some people who still have doubts, but it was refreshing to see. i.e It’s uplifting to see proud gay characters. The script format isn’t one of my favorites but that’s of course up to opinion. I came into this with some knowledge of Will Grayson, Will Grayson but not a ton. I think it stood well on its own and made sense, cohesively. I liked the way the character dealt with issues outside of his sexuality, and while it wasn’t incredibly in depth due to short length and the format, it had really positive messages and was, generally, just a lighthearted quick read.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly Teen Book Review

Title: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
Author: Stephanie Oakes
Teen Reviewer: Mikaela Palandra
Rating: 5/5 Stars

The scene starts with Minnow, a 17-year-old girl who’s never seen outside her isolated world in a religious cult, finally escaping to society and assaulting a man in a lapse of rationality.  The rest of the novel alternates between her life in prison and flashbacks to her life in the forest and how she ended up in her situation. Throughout the novel, Minnow keeps secrets from authorities and friends, as well as the reader. We only discover her secrets when she is ready to share them with others. The nightmare that the Prophet brought to her life and the crimes of herself and others that led to its destruction are slowly exposed. Minnow comes to terms with her past and creates her own ideas to replace the lies she was taught by the Prophet in order to grow and find passion for life again.

            Overall, I rated this book really high because the author managed to handle a lot of dramatic themes without making them overly cheesy and cliché. The religious cult that Minnow was a part of was described in a way that brought the wild and dramatic ideas and occurrences down to earth, so it was seen in a realistic rather than absurd way. Minnow had a relationship with a boy Jude she met in the woods, who was outside her religion. While she did place a lot of importance in him, by the end of the novel, the two did show differences and flaws; again, realistically displaying the troubles even with someone you love.  Also, Minnow’s thoughts while in prison reflecting on her past brought her many questions. She learns to be independent and create her own decisions and ideas about life. As a character, she is incredibly strong and thought provoking. As she questions what she once believed about life and the world, she asks herself questions that force you into your own self-reflection. I would recommend this book because its over the top enough to be something different than other YA novels while still being relatable.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Teen Book Review: Prom Dates From Hell

Title:  Prom  Dates From Hell
Author: Rosemary Clement-Moore
Rating: 5/5 stars
Teen Reviewer: Emily St. Louis

Teen Reviewer: 
At first glance, I didn't really think I would like this book. But I never was so wrong. Rosemary Clement-Moore wrote that this was her first Young Adult novel; but her humor was outstanding. From movie/book references, to normal feelings that a senior in high school would feel. This was a girl who had to face supernatural forces (something you don't really expect the book to have) and she also was dead against Prom. But, in the end; I love a book with just a touch of romance. This book was just purely wonderful.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Darkness Strange and Lovely Book Review

Book: A Darkness Strange and Lovely
Author: Susan Dennard
Teen Reviewer: Elisha Cutter
Rating: 2/5
A Darkness Strange and Lovely is about Eleanor who is part of an organization known as the spirit hunters and when her brother gets killed she preforms a ritual, but instead of bringing back her brother it brings back something else. Due to all the havoc the spirit is reeking, Eleanor must find a way to send the spirit back where it came from and return her brother's seamless reputation that has now been lost. 

Honestly, I was not a fan of this book. I made several attempts to finish the novel, but was unsuccessful. The story lacked any creativity and could barely keep my attention. Maybe, other readers will find it interesting and a good read, but I cannot say I enjoyed the overall read.