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by: 
Caitlin, Teen Contributor

Book Basics: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken 

Published: January 2016, Disney- Hyperion 

Genre: YA, adventure, historical fiction

Page Count: 

Star Rating: ★★★★ 

Recommended For/If You Liked: PJO fans or fans of historical fiction and adventure

Favorite Quote: “...it matters not who you love, but only the quality of such a love… a flower is no less beautiful because it does not bloom in the expected form. Because it lasts an hour and not days.” 

 It’s been a long time since I’ve read an adventure novel. And Passenger is just that- a good, wholesome adventure story, with a healthy helping of romance and history on the side. Passenger follows the story of 17-year-old Etta Spencer,  a violin prodigy whose only concern is her upcoming debut and what to do with her future. But then a mysterious sound leads her to a passage that takes her to a ship headed towards 1776 New York City. There, Etta is thrown into a family of time travelers, ruled by a power-hungry old man named Cyrus Ironwood and discovers that she too possess the ability to time travel. Ironwood blackmails Etta into finding a special device called an astrolabe, which Etta must find using clues her mother left her and the help of Nicholas Carter, an 18th century privateer. 

It took a couple chapters for the book to get going, but once Etta woke up on the ship the plot picked up quickly. The pacing was a little off throughout the entire book, but it wasn’t a major problem. There were some parts that I had to power through because I knew that the story would get better. Other than the pacing, the plot was nicely developed, with a good balance between romance and adventure. (If you don’t like romance interfering with your adventure then this book isn’t for you. The romance wasn’t overpowering, but it did take up a fair chunk of the story.) 

Nicholas and Etta’s romance was very nicely written and I really liked the added complexity of race as an issue within their relationship (Nicholas is black, and Etta is white). It’s obviously a major issue during Nicholas’s time, but Etta does acknowledge that while people would be much more accepting of an interracial relationship in our time, the present day is still far from free of racism. Sexism was also an issue dealt with in the novel, but wasn’t as heavy as racism. I loved how these issues were repeated and dealt with across the various time periods that Nicholas and Etta traveled to. 

The character development was great and Etta was absolutely perfect as an independent, badass heroine. 

Aside from some minor issues, I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun, adventurous story with complex characters and relationships. And after the ending (spoiler alert: it’s a major cliffhanger) I’m definitely going to read the next book. Anyone who’s a fan of adventure, historical fiction, or both will enjoy this story. 

Don't forget to check out my blog for more YA book reviews and recommendations and follow me on Instagram (@thebookishbookworm) for bookish photography and updates every time I post! 

by: 
Lydia, Teen Contributor

Curley’s Wife and Mayella Ewell from the books Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird may seem like different characters at first, but share more commonalities than meets the eye. While one speaks at the trial of a black man and the other dies at the hands of a mentally handicapped man, these characters play essential roles in bringing about the authors’ purposes in addressing social standpoints. Both young ladies portray the objectifying and stereotyping of women through their physical appearances, isolation, and interactions with other characters.

Curley’s Wife plays the role of a woman who focuses almost entirely on her physical appearance, how unfair it is that she must remain cooped up all day, and how everybody simply views her as a tart. First off, the appearance of this character displays her as very child-like, as shown with “She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers” (Steinbeck, pg 31). Wearing excessive amounts of makeup certainly reminds the reader of how little girls often play with their mother’s makeup, covering themselves with it. As well as this, the clothing choices of Curley’s Wife also reflect her child-like qualities, making her appear to be much like a child’s doll toy. Her curled sausages of hair also seem reminiscent of the locks of an innocent little girl. Moving on to the position of isolation that Curley’s Wife finds herself in, “‘I get lonely,’ she said. ‘You can talk to people, but I can’t talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad. How’d you like not to talk to anybody?’” (Steinbeck, pg 87) paints a scene of Curley’s Wife showing some emotion to another character, Lennie. Due to being a married woman, Curley’s Wife, as per the standards of society, has limitations on what she can do with her time. Speaking with men other than her husband certainly does not abide with the rules laid out for her to follow. However, as she said, loneliness often overtakes Curley’s Wife, which explains her reasoning for visiting the bunkhouses to speak with other men. The basis of this dilemma can simply be accounted for by the isolation of becoming the wife of a working man. As such, Curley’s Wife can no longer have a good time with her life without being looked down upon. Lastly, discrimination of gender and self presentation also plays a role when “But Candy said excitedly, ‘We oughtta let ‘im get away. You don’t know that Curley. Curley gon’ta wanta get ‘im lynched. Curley’ll get ‘im killed.’” (Steinbeck, pg 94) takes place after Lennie accidentally ends the life of Curley’s Wife. Thanks to her flirtatious ways, Curley’s Wife became known as a tart. Needless to say, her value didn’t match that of any of the other characters. However, Lennie’s murder of her brings up the idea that, even though she had the flirty qualities of a tart and nobody liked her much, the blame for her murder still landed on Lennie. This incident shows that her position as the wife of Curley accounted for Lennie’s conviction of her murder. Henceforth, despite being a woman and a tart, Curley’s Wife stands superior to Lennie, entirely thanks to her position as the wife of Curley. A child-like appearance, the quality of being isolated, and only an aspect of marriage account for the entirety of Curley’s Wife, yet this character still brings forth social issues of discrimination from gender and behavior.

Mayella Ewell of  To Kill a Mockingbird plays a very similar role to Curley’s Wife in terms of objectifying women, such as having certain physical characteristics that change the way other view her, being isolated from the rest of society, and interacting with other characters in ways that determine how she appears to other members of the story. Starting off with physical appearance, “Mayella stared at him and burst into tears. She covered her mouth with her hands and sobbed,” (Lee, pg 205) shows Mayella as child-like and weak. Although it would be natural to be anxious or nervous when on stand, the act of out-right crying makes Mayella appear to be a weak child. Much like Curley’s Wife, Mayella portrays herself as sensitive or weak, making her seem much like a young child with emotional qualities. Moving on to Mayella’s own personal form of social isolation, “Mayella looked as if she tried to keep clean, and I was reminded of the row of red geraniums in the Ewell yard,” (Lee, pg 204) refers to how Mayella tries to grow geraniums in order to seem more cleanly than her family. Throughout this novel, the fact that the Ewell family represents social outcasts sings out loud and clear. However, since Scout states that Mayella attempted to make herself look good, it can be inferred that although she may be isolated from the rest of society due to family and economic status, Mayella Ewell still tries very hard to fit in. Geraniums, a pretty red flower that grow fairly easily, fit in well with the same red tone of the lips and shoes of Curley’s Wife. Bringing up the ideas of social discrimination, “‘Guilty… guilty… guilty… guilty…’” (Lee, pg 241) refers to how Tom Robinson, a black man, “lost” in his trial. Despite being a dirty, child-like, and generally disliked social outcast, Mayella Ewell’s value outweighed that of Tom for the sole reasoning of her being white and him being black. This incident goes to show that, at the root of it all, Harper Lee managed to cram it into her masterpiece that racial discrimination will always outweigh social segregation. Much like how John Steinbeck imposed that Curley’s Wife’s position as the wife of the boss’s son held her above Lennie. A run-down, unliked white woman who behaves more like a child than not, Mayella Ewell certainly brings out the segregation and discrimination found within society.

Both of these ladies come from the masterpieces of John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men and Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. Although these characters may have some subtle differences, it cannot be denied that each show their child-like habits and isolation from the rest of their community, yet play vital roles in laying out social implications of female objectifying and the stereotyping of women.

by: 
Caitlin, Teen Contributor

Real talk: it’s Valentine’s Day, and I still like books more than people. I have unrealistically high expectations because I’ve read so many romance novels. I’m waiting for my Park Sheridan, Augustus Waters, Étienne St. Clair… *sighs* Anyway, in honor of Single Awareness Day (a.k.a. Valentine’s Day), I’ve compiled a list of my favorite romance novels. Don't forget to check out my blog for more YA book reviews and recommendations and follow me on Instagram for updates every time I post! 

 

My Favorite YA Romance Novels (In No Particular Order): 

1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell 

2. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green 

3. Anna and the French Kiss (series) by Stephanie Perkins 

4. If I Stay by Gayle Forman 

5. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga 

6. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson 

7. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough 

8. The Selection (series) by Kierra Cass 

9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

10. Delirium (trilogy) by Lauren Oliver 

 

by: 
Caitlin, Teen Contributor

Book Basics: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough  

Published: April 2015, Arthur A. Levine Books 

Genre: YA, romance, historical fiction  

Page Count: 336 (hardcover) 

Star Rating: ★★★★ 

Recommended For/If You Liked: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

This review is basically going to be me freaking out about how much I loved this book. You’ve been warned. 

Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra… the fate of any pair of star-crossed lovers you can think of throughout history has been influenced by Love and Death as they play their Game, one that inevitably ends with Death taking both players. Now, in 1927 Seattle, the players are Henry, a white orphan with a talent for music and Flora, a black orphan, talented jazz singer, and pilot. Can Henry and Flora beat the odds and let Love claim a victory, or will Death win, as per usual? Only the strength of their love will determine the winner.

I loved how Martha Brockenbrough wrote the characters of Love and Death. There was this excellent mix of human emotions that they showed and their seemingly divine interventions in the Game that made them not quite human, but not quite gods either. (This element is what makes the book similar to The Book Thief or The Night Circus, but though the idea wasn’t original, the author took the idea in an entirely new direction).  Also, Love was written as male and Death as female, so their characters destroyed gender stereotypes, which made them even more awesome. The other characters were also stunningly written, but I enjoyed the development of Love and Death the most. 

The book’s setting (rainy Seattle, 1927) contributed beautifully to the plot and mood as the characters struggled with issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, and poverty. These external struggles further complicated the characters’ internal struggles of love and loyalty and staying true to oneself. Martha Brockenbrough did a fantastic job writing these tough issues in a way that made the reader thoughtful and reflective. The writing in the book was very good and it flowed nicely and was very suspenseful: I read the book in one weekend and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days on end. There were, however, some scenes that felt unnecessary and the romance wasn’t written quite as well as it could have been- I didn’t love Henry and Flora’s romance as much as I wanted to. (Honestly, I enjoyed the romance between two of the supporting characters ((no spoilers!)) more than that of Henry and Flora.)

In the end, this was a fantastic book- one that I would definitely reread and am absolutely going to buy at my next trip to the bookstore. Despite a few minor complaints, this book was heart-achingly written and I would absolutely recommend it. 

Follow my blog for more reviews and recommendations and follow my Instagram for updates every time I post. 

by: 
Emily, Teen Contributor

Chris Crutcher's Staying Fat for Sarah Bynes was dedicated to "All those who finally stand up for themselves," and is an incredible story of pain, fear, trying to do your best, and friendship. 

Eric "Moby" Calhoune and Sarah Byrnes have been friends for a long time, and are bonded by their deformities: Sarah has horrible burn scars over her face, neck, arms, and hands from a childhood incident involving boiling water, and Moby is incredibly overweight. They are inseparable as friends, so when Moby joins the school's swim team and begins to shed some pounds, he frantically tries to eat more to maintain the friendship he treasures and Sarah's respect. However, as soon as Sarah gets wind of this, she demands he stop. 

When Sarah is hospitalized and stops speaking entirely, Moby stays by her side to help her recover and get back on her feet. When she reveals to him the horrible secrets of her past, he sticks with her. With the aide of his swim coach, he even manages to get her back to a safe place. 

This book is extremely suspenseful, and encompasses fierce religious debates, attempted suicide, buried secrets, shady characters, intense dialogue, and knife wounds. Though the language gets a bit confusing at times, this novel is a must read. Not only a touching story of friendship, it also addresses a lot of issues that teens wrestle with today, about their beliefs and trying to do what is right, when you don't know what that looks like. This book really makes you look at what you believe, what kind of person you are, and what you would do stuck in the character's shoes. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes should definitely be added to your reading list!

by: 
Sophia, Teen Contributor

Genre: Sci-Fi

Would I Recommend: Yes

Series Number: 3 books

A book whose post-apocalypse plot is not only detailed and descriptive, but a distinct twist on the end of the world as we know it, Partials, by Dan Wells, gives a hectic glimpse into our future. Well written with a unique plot, though slow and dry in portions, this novel passes the time and offers an alternate reality whose characteristics are not far from improbable. If patient, reading the novel pays off with unseen changes and an ending that leaves you asking unanswered questions and running to the sequel.

If your into an action-packed sci-fi novel with a hint of romance and mystery, try Partials.

Check out the Partials Series.

by: 
Caitlin, Teen Contributor

Book Basics: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell  

Published: 2015, St. Martin’s Griffin 

Genre: YA, fantasy, romance 

Page Count: 528 (hardcover) 

Star Rating: ★★★★★ Your New Favorite Book 

Recommended For/If You Liked: Fans of Rainbow Rowell & Fangirl, as well as readers suffering from PPD (Post Potter Depression) and Drarry shippers. 

Short Summary: Simon Snow (who is, according to a prophecy, “the Chosen One”) is in his final year at the Watford School of Magicks. But his roommate and arch nemesis, Baz has mysteriously disappeared; the sinister Insidious Humdrum is growing stronger; magic is rapidly disappearing from certain spots across the UK; and the Old Families and the Mage’s supporters are at each other’s throats. Simon’s last year won’t be anything he expected. 

What I Liked: First off, I want to clarify a few things. If you’ve read Fangirl, then you know that the main character, Cath, writes fanfiction about a character named Simon Snow who’s penned by fictional author Gemma T. Leslie. Carry On is the full story of the characters that we meet in Fangirl. So, who exactly is writing Carry On? Is it written from Cath’s perspective, or Gemma T. Leslie’s?  As Rainbow Rowell says on her website, “I’m writing as me”.  I’ve heard Carry On described as Harry Potter fanfiction, but while there are parallels to the Potter universe, the characters are completely new and reimagined (and you don’t need to read Harry Potter to understand this story.)  One more thing: you don’t need to read Fangirl to read this book, but I highly recommend Fangirl. Okay, now for the review.

There are so many things that I loved about this book I don’t even know where to start. I almost like the development of this magical world more than the development of the Potter magical world- and that’s coming from a diehard Potterhead. This world was much more simple, and I liked that a lot; it left the reader to focus on the main plot line rather than trying to figure out how the World of Mages works. The character development was exceptional, and though they live in a fantastical universe, they were so, so real. The romance was perfectly written (as in all Rainbow Rowell novels) so folks, prepare yourselves for another addition to your OTP collection. I loved how Rainbow Rowell also included an interesting take on social classes, ethnic classes, sexuality, and self-discovery as they were all subtly incorporated into the story.  

What I Didn’t Like: Literally nothing. I’ve seen some complaints from other readers that the romance distracted from the main plot line, but it’s a Rainbow Rowell novel. What’d you expect? 

In Conclusion: I haven’t read a book I loved this much in a long time. The writing, the romance, the magic...this book was magic. READ IT. You’ll love it. 

Don't forget to check out my blog for more YA book reviews! 

by: 
Caitlin, Teen Contributor

Genre: mystery, romance

Star Rating: ★★★½ Borrow It 

Recommended For/If You Liked: 13 Reasons Why, If I Stay. For fans of romance and Gayle Forman.  

Short Summary: Cody and Meg have been best friends since kindergarten. But when Meg goes off to college, leaving Cody stuck in their small town in Washington, and drinks a bottle of industrial poison, it shocks everyone, including Cody. So Cody decides to embark on a quest to find out why Meg, of all people, would kill herself. Along the way, she finds new people, love, and answers about Meg’s death that aren’t at all what she (or anyone else) expected. 

What I Liked: The writing and descriptions were excellent, as they are in all Gayle Forman books.The romance (if a little cliché) is perfectly timed, another thing that Forman excels at in her other books. But here, Forman outdoes herself with Cody’s self-discovery. Cody’s changes over the course of the book are astounding, and these make her seem even more real as a character. That was another thing I liked: Cody is very real. She doesn’t come from a big city, her job (cleaning houses) isn’t glitzy, and she calls her mother by her first name and has never met her father. The relationships in this book were also very complex, and not just the romantic ones; Cody’s relationship with her mom, Meg’s parents, and Meg’s former roommates were all developed beautifully. 

What I Didn’t Like: Despite all this raving, there were a few major things that brought down the rating of this book. First off, the plot was a little dry and it often felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. Secondly, the romance, while well written, felt like an unnecessary sideshow, detracting attention from the main story. Lastly, Meg’s character seemed all-too-familiar, and the fact that Cody was always overshadowed by Meg made their friendship too much like the one in Since You’ve Been Gone, a book I read this summer.   

In Conclusion: Though this book was very well written, the three things I mentioned above were its fatal flaws. In the end, I liked it and it had a good lesson, but it could have been better written. Nevertheless, Forman’s fans will like it, and though it’s not all it could have been, it’s still a good book. 

 

Don’t forget to check out my blog for more YA book reviews & recommendations!

Find more titles by Gayle Forman here.

by: 
Jasmine, Teen Contributor

At 17 years old, S.E. Hinton managed to write one of the most memorable and accurate novelistic depictions of what it’s like wanting acceptance and belonging as a teenager. The Outsiders, Hinton’s first novel, remains as one of the best-selling young-adult novels of all time. 

Written for teenagers, about teenagers, and by a teenager, The Outsiders captivates its audience with memorable characters (who are memorable for more than their obscure names) and climactic drama, and it leaves the reader with the message of what a blessing it is to be naive, innocent, and young (or, as the book puts it, staying “gold”).

The story centers around the aftermath of a “rumble” between two opposing gangs: the Socs, who are the “rich kids,” and the Greasers, the kids on the wrong side of the tracks. The two gangs are comparable to the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story (1957). Ponyboy Curtis, a 14-year old member of the Greasers gang, gets tossed into a fast-paced whirlwind of events when one of his friends causes an uproar in the Greaser-Soc rivalry.

This book is extremely well written. The gripping plot progresses fluidly, and the scenes are skillfully sketched out with important and illustrative details before any event unfolds; this helps the reader grasp onto any component the author conveys. The characters are thoroughly represented with flaws and interests, which causes the reader to imagine them as real people dealing with real problems. 

The Outsiders still sings a similar song about the trials, violence, and difficult decisions in a youth’s everyday life, despite the differences between 1965 and today.  This book makes us realize how important it is to “stay gold” and preserve innocence. The Outsiders is a must-read for teenagers and adults alike.

Check out The Outsiders here

 

by: 
Allison, Teen Contributor

Last  book I read: Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh

What is it: A book with pictures and stories, like a graphic novel. It is a collection of funny stories and observations from the author. 

Why I read it: I wanted something funny, and this one looked funny on the cover and was in the area with other comedy. 

What I thought of it: I thought the illustrations were really funny and added a lot to the book. It was a fast read but I thought it made me laugh a lot. I looked up her blog later.

Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes. I think some of my other friends would think this is funny too.

Find Hyperbole and a Half here

Submit your own quick review to melissa.taylor@jeffcolibrary.org

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