Book Review: Perfect Escape

perfect_escape_cover“We all knew what Grayson’s ‘difficulties’ were. Grayson’s difficulties dominated his life. And Mom’s and Dad’s. And mine” (4). Written by Jennifer Brown, Perfect Escape is a realistic-fiction novel that explores OCD, the pressure for perfection, and the ups-and-downs of a sibling relationship.

Her whole life, Kendra has felt restricted by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him and his family to live a very controlled life. Kendra has always been expected to be perfect, but when a cheating incident threatens her reputation, the pressure of perfection becomes too much. In her car, with Grayson asleep next to her, Kendra unexpectedly decides to run away from it all.

Kendra seems like a very likeable, intelligent, and strong-willed character, although she has some problems that become more noticeable as the plot develops. We see how hard she is on herself, as well as how OCD can affect one’s family. Grayson is a genius, but he has a severe mental illness, and I actually felt bad for him at some points. On their little road trip, Kendra and Grayson get a chance to bond together and see each other’s perspectives.

When I first started reading Perfect Escape, I was a little doubtful and didn’t know what to expect. However, it turned out to be a very intriguing book. It was different from most YA books because it really didn’t have a love story. In addition, the book was deep, with many underlying plots and themes.

Overall, I found this book to be very enjoyable, emotional, and humorous. I loved how it made me connect and sympathize with the characters right away. I thought this book was the perfect blend of happy and sad, and its heartfelt tone made me almost cry at the end. Perfect Escape was definitely a great read, and I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone over the age of thirteen!

-Kaylie W., 9th grade

Book Review: Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

wonder_coverThe book Wonder was truly beautiful, wonderous, and inspiring. It is a realistic fiction about a 5th grade boy going into real school for the first time. This boy has really severe facial deformities and he has had to have tons of surgery. He feels like a normal kid, but to everyone else he has the “Plague,” he looks like a zombie, and other cruel things. When the popular kids gang up on him and he hears his best friend talking about him behind his back, he just deals with it, because “the universe was not kind to [him]. He knows that he is “cool beans.”

Even if you think this book will be, as my friend put it, “another one of those depressing books about kids dealing with bullies in school,” or have something against 5th graders– read it. Everyone must read it. I swear, if you read this book, you will never, ever in your life, look at someone with a facial deformity, wince, and look away. Another good book to read that is more depressing is called Out Of My Mind. I would check Wonder out of the library immediately (I have it checked out right now at my school library). Wonder will change your whole life.

-Becka O., 9th grade

Book Review: Monster High, by Lisi Harrison

monster_high_coverFrankie Stein is not a average teenager. Aside from the fact that she’s only 15 days old and that she has bolts in her neck and a green tinge to her skin. Life does not seem hard for her,does it?
While she tries to be herself, Frankie’s parents send her off to `normie’ school (for regular, normal teenagers) to be like a normal human being. But Salem, Oregon is a monster-free zone, and Frankie soon finds other monster classmates, or RADs (Regular Attribute Disorder). There’s Lagoona Blue, Draculaura, Deuce Gorgon, D.J./Jackson Hyde, Cleo(patra) and Claudine (CLAWdeen, get it?).

Lisi Harrison’s book series is definitely aimed at the younger end of the teen market. `Monster High’ is a bit of unabashed pop-culture fun for tweens.

The monster kids rock out to Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas. They have freaky fabulous wardrobes and say things like `that’s VOLTAGE!’ But if you read beyond the cool, unique stuff that they have, they have to face the fear of there group getting shown.

I really liked the character of Frankie Stein. She looks different, she loves to be her self and wants to show her greenness and she desperately wants to fit in. But she never sacrifices who she is for how other’s will see her. It’s a hard lesson she has to learn, but Frankie has a great sense of self, bolts, green skin and all! I recommend this book to about twelve and up because it is a little bit on the mature side but it is a fun book to read!

-Kate B., 7th grade

Book Review: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

hunger_games_coverIn The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, you learn about friendship, courage, and much more.

This whole book is about a young girl named Katniss. Her country is divided into 12 districts, and then the capital. Each year, one girl and one boy are sent to the annual Hunger Games from each district. She has to go to her country’s annual Hunger Games. The Gunger Games is an event where 24 kids are put into an arena and are forced to fight to the death.

She makes many new friends along the way, but she also makes many new enemies. She has many tragedies along the way. For example, one of her closest friends in the games gets killed. Katniss helps unite the districts slowly throughout the story.

Her story consists of betrayal, love, hate, and friendship. Her journey has many ups and downs and it ends with an unforgettable event. I would recommend this book to anyone from the ages 12 and up. I believe that even adults will enjoy this book. Although you may not like the science fiction genre, I’m sure you will enjoy this book. This book will just make you want to pick up the next one!

-Melika R., 8th grade

Book Review: Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz

stormbreakerImagine what it would be like to work for a top-secret spy agency, let alone only being a teenager! This is the life of one unfortunate schoolboy, who is left orphaned at an early age. Written by Anthony Horowitz, Stormbreaker is an action-packed novel filled with adventure. Set in present-day England, a fourteen year old boy named Alex Rider is suddenly thrown into a deadly situation.

When Alex’s uncle mysteriously dies in a car accident, he is forced to take his uncle’s place as a spy in MI6, Britain’s top-secret spy organization. Little does he know that he is being tossed into a dangerous mission to spy on Herod Sayle, the mastermind behind the newest computer, Stormbreaker. Using pure instinct and his intelligence, Alex must fight for his life, as well as save the people of the Britain.

Anthony Horowitz writes Stormbreaker in a very unique way. He builds suspense in every inch of the book, is very descriptive in detail, and is very creative. From Alex being recruited as a spy to dodging bullets, this book makes your heart constantly race with anxiety. I thought Alex is a very brave and likable boy and if he were actually real, I would have liked to have met him. However, I thought Horowitz made this book a little too unrealistic. It is quite impossible for me to imagine Alex being able to escape from circumstances that most fourteen-year-old boys (let alone adults) cannot survive from. For example, how can Alex get caught in a fifteen feet deep and 30 feet long tank with a giant jellyfish and still manage to survive?

I would rate this book nine out of ten because it was fast paced and kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I recommend this book for kids ages ten to sixteen who love action, suspense, and mystery all mixed together in one book. I absolutely enjoyed Stormbreaker and will certainly read the rest of the Alex Rider series!

-Riley W., 6th grade

Book Review: Etiquette and Espionage, by Gail Carriger

etiquette_espionage_coverSophronia Angelina Temminnick does not act at all like a lady should. While her other sisters were acting grown up when they had company, Sophronia climbs into a dumb waiter to eavesdrop on her mother’s conversation. When she falls out and rips her skirt, she wreaks havoc on all occupants of the room. Immediately after this unfortunate event, her mother decides that it is time for Sophronia to go to finishing school and be presentable at her sister’s coming-out ball. This is not exactly Sophronia’s first choice… but she goes along with it.

When she gets into the carriage with Mademoiselle Geraldine, the headmistress of Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, she learns this woman is not who she says she is. In fact, she is actually only a member of the finishing school herself, sent to get the three children currently in the carriage. And also to retrieve a mysterious prototype, which happened to be the cause of a flywaymen attack.

After safely reaching the roaming blimp, which served as the school, Sophronia and the other students are escorted to a platform hanging under the school by a handsome werewolf. That is not the only non-human inhabitant of the school: one of the teachers is a vampire.

Once on the school premises, she gains a better understanding of the school’s purpose, which is apparently not as innocent as it appears. That purpose is not only to teach young ladies proper etiquette, but also to secretly instruct them on the subject of espionage…

If you like mystery and spies, you will enjoy Gail Carriger’s book. I would rate it a 9.5 out of 10, because it was such a captivating novel. I can’t wait until its sequel, Curtsies and Conspiracies, comes out on November 5th.

-Leila S., 8th gade

Book Review: Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, by Julie Andrews Edwards

home_memoir_coverJulie Andrews’ autobiography, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, shares with the reader the hardships and rewards of becoming a famous Broadway and Hollywood star. This book is fascinating to me, because like Andrews, I love to sing, dance, and read. Although I do not dream of becoming a famous icon, I find those who follow the road to becoming one interesting and undeniably courageous.

Julie Andrews’ story begins in London, England during World War II. Julie Andrews spends her childhood constantly in voice lessons and traveling to perform with her parents, and she describes despising her voice lessons as a child. Little did she know that later- in her teen years- she would come to appreciate and use her voice as her ticket to stardom. Despite her parents’ painful divorce and her mother’s flighty behavior, Julie Andrews succeeds in becoming a well-respected performer in her home country.

Andrews writes that although she thoroughly enjoyed traveling with a company and performing, she always felt responsible for her family, and she hated to be away from them. Julie Andrews is admirable because when she is offered a two year contract to perform as Eliza Doolittle from “My Fair Lady,” she insists on making it one year so that she can come home to care for her siblings. Most girls looking to make it on Broadway would snatch up the offer and leave their family to fend for themselves.

Julie Andrews was a talented, compassionate, responsible, composed young lady; respected by many as one of America’s greatest icons. With the help of the much-loved Walt Disney, Julie Andrews became a star on-screen as well as on-stage. One might say Julie Andrews is best known for her perfect role as Mary Poppins, the beloved nanny; but I love her most for her role as Maria in The Sound of Music for her carefree attitude and loving heart.

I recommend this book to all who love Julie Andrews’ work, and find themselves, like me, in awe at those who take such risks to discover themselves.

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

fahrenheit451_coverIn Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, the main character, Guy Montag, is a firefighter. However, he is not a firefighter in the traditional sense of the word.  Instead of putting out fires, his job is to set them.

In the future that this novel is set in, millions of books are banned and the only way people are allowed to learn is through television and radio programs, comics, and other forms of entertainment that make people “happy.” In this society, making people happy and equal to one another intellectually is the main goal. It is believed that higher forms of learning, such as the knowledge gained from most books, would be detrimental to this objective. In order to keep this objective, books are banned and burned when found in people’s possessions.  That is where Guy Montag’s job comes in. However, when he meets a curious girl named Clarisse, who, unlike the rest of society, likes asking questions, he begins to ask some questions of his own.

The tone of this novel is a dark one. It deals with the main character discovering a new, not necessarily good outlook on the world he accepted before. It also features many issues that could occur if society could not advance due to lack of knowledge. The idea of censorship that is addressed in this novel is a difficult one, and that is proven when the main character himself goes against his societal rules, his job, and his family values to experience what it is like to read books.

Ray Bradbury seems to want the reader to feel like a world without books would be unexceptional and monotonous. Without the knowledge and expertise that can be gained from reading, society could never advance and people would be stuck in the same rut that Guy Montag realizes he is in when he talks to Clarisse.  At one point in the book, Clarisse says to Guy “It’s a lot of funnels and a lot of water poured down the spout and out the bottom, and them telling us it’s wine when it’s not” (33).  This quote shows how their society is full of dreariness and lies in order for them to feel “happy” and “equal”. In reading this book, I have fully realized that I never want to experience a life without books. Overall, I think that Ray Bradbury was successful in making his readers feel a connection to Fahrenheit 451’s world that is lacking knowledge and advancement.

While this book was a bit tedious to read due to the author’s style of writing, which is so unlike current writing styles, I still am walking away from this novel with a new understanding of how important books are to society. Readers definitely need to read between the lines in order to fully understand both the underlying meaning and what is occurring. It reads more like rambling thoughts, which in a way tells the story better than any structured writing style would. Bradbury started and completed this novel in nine days on a rented typewriter that he payed for per half hour, which I personally find extremely impressive. While I was not the biggest fan of this book, I still feel like I have learned a lot from Fahrenheit 451 and I recommend it to both teens and adults alike.

-Kaelyn L., 10th grade

Book Review: Unbreakable, by Kami Garcia

Kami Garcia/UnbreakableDo you believe in ghosts? Do they float around your room or take human form? Did you ever think they could hurt you? These are questions Kennedy Waters never thought she would ask herself, but that was before a spirit tried to kill her.

When Kennedy finds her mother dead in their own house, her future reveals itself. When her mother is pronounced dead of a heart attack, she is forced to go to a boarding school. She knows something is wrong. She thinks her mom was murdered, but she can’t prove it. Before she leaves, she wants to stay in her house for one last night. It holds all her memories, precious or not.

She soon finds it was a horrible mistake when identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into her room to kill an evil spirit sent to kill her. They tell her that her mom was part of an ancient secret society that protects our world from a vengeful demon. They also say the society’s five members were murdered on the same night.

Kennedy has to take her mom’s place in the society and join the Legion, if she wants to uncover the truth and survive. She meets new Legion members, Priest and Alara, on the way. The teens race to find the only weapon that can destroy the demon. With challenges along the way, they can only hope for the best.

Kami Garcia, co-author of the Beautiful Creatures series, has done it again. This book is an amazing thriller! I couldn’t put it down. I truly think it could be the next Hunger Games. It has everything: suspense, romance, and the paranormal! I would definitely want to see the movie. But because of some scary scenes, I would recommend this book for 12 and up. Look for Unbreakable in bookstores everywhere on October 1st.

-Sabrina C., 8th grade

Thank to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing an advance readers’ copy of Unbreakable for review.

Books that Inspire


photo by flickr user derya

I figured that this month I wanted to write about something different than a book review. This month, I’m going to write about a book that I’m writing, and about the books which inspired my story ideas.I haven’t come up with a decent title yet, but I just finished the thirteenth chapter a few days ago. I started writing this story when I was in third grade because of a school assignment, but then I got carried away and my story was more than 500 words. Ever since then I wanted to finish the book, so I would work on it whenever I could in between my busy schedule.

Basically, this story has an action-packed, adventurous story line: An evil villain wants to take over the world and only a team of military special ops guys can stop him. They go on epic adventures including fighting ninjas next to a bottomless pit, and escaping a scout’s old military commander in a broken down, deserted city.

After I started writing and got a bunch of ideas out of my head, I realized that in most of the books that I read I always wanted to add something from my own imagination. Books have inspired me to continue writing my own story.

For example, I read a Marvel comic book that talked about invasions of aliens and super human powers. I thought these ideas would be cool to put into my story. When I read a Hardy Boys mystery book, I was inspired to put some mystery into my story. An Indiana Jones book inspired me to put some high-flying action into my book, too. I think that a little bit of everything in a story creates an amazing plot!

To sum it all up, when you mix different types of books with your own imagination, you can make anything come to life on the page. If you have ever been inspired to write because of a book you read, make a post in the comments about that inspiration.

-Kyle H., 7th grade