Book Review: Shelter, by Harlan Coben

shelter_coverShelter is the first novel in Harlan Coben’s first young adult series, “Mickey Bolitar.”  Mickey, the main character in this novel and the series’ namesake, is featured in some of Coben’s adult crime novels as the main character’s nephew.  After these adult books became such a hit, the author then began writing this series in order to tell Mickey’s story.

Mickey Bolitar witnessed his father’s death and sent his mother to rehab.  He is then forced to move in with his uncle Myron and switch schools.  To top off a great year, the sweet girl he meets at his new school, Ashley, goes missing.  He makes it his mission to find her, no matter the risks.  After looking for clues, though, he begins to realize that the risks are much higher than he realized.

Mickey follows Ashley’s trail, which leads him into a seedy underworld.  The more he uncovers about Ashley, the more he realizes that she is not the sweet, innocent girl he thought she was.  In the process, he also uncovers things about his father that he never expected to find, as well as a conspiracy that makes him question everything he thought he knew.

This novel will leave your heart pounding and your anxiety level sky-rocketing.  It is fantastically written, with characters that are relatable and a storyline that makes readers beg for more.  It is a good read for both pre-teens and teens alike, as it contains little questionable material.  Some parts are a little intense, however, which might not be suitable for younger readers.  Overall, Shelter by Harlan Coben is a must read for anyone with a taste for riveting mysteries and unforgettable adventures.

-Kaelyn L., 10th grade

Genre Introduction: Paranormal Romance

Paranormal romance novels seem to be all the rage in the teenage reading world right now and, in this case, I am no exception to the norm.  I mean, seriously, what isn’t awesome about paranormal romance?  You get adventure, action, romance, fantasy, mystery, mythology, realistic fiction; pretty much all of the genres rolled into one!  Some series of this genre that have joined my ever-growing bookshelf are Born at Midnight (Shadow Falls series) by C.C. Hunter, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, and City of Bones (Mortal Instruments series) by Cassandra Clare.  All of these series are, as I like to refer to it, realistic fantasy.

born_at_midnightBorn at Midnight is the first novel in the Shadow Falls series.  If you can look past all of the grammatical and spelling errors, (and there are A LOT – she should seriously fire her editor) this series is a gem.  You’ll love the characters from the start and there definitely is a Team Edward, Team Jacob situation going on.  In this case, Team Lucas, Team Derek is the ongoing debate.  I consider these books to be a mix between The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan due to the supernatural camp setting and Twilight by Stephanie Meyer because of the romance triangle and similar paranormal creatures.  If you enjoyed either of these books or any of the books listed above, I am betting you will appreciate this series.

vampire_academyVampires.  These supernatural beasts seem to be filling the shelves and theaters everywhere.  From Twilight to Marked to Vampire Academy, vampires are everywhere.  Vampire Academy is the first in a series of six novels, all centering around Rose Hathaway, a Dhampir who is training to be her Moroi best friend’s bodyguard.  Dhampirs are half-vampire, half-human and walk the earth for one purpose; to protect the Moroi royalty from Strigoi and other evils.  Moroi are full vampires who are living.  Each Moroi develops their own form of an elemental magic while in their teens, with a few exceptions.  Strigoi are the evil form of vampires.  Dead, inhuman, impossible to kill, and willing to kill to survive, these vamps are made when a Strigoi drinks blood from a human, Dhampir, or Moroi and the human, Dhampir, or Moroi, in turn, drinks Strigoi blood.  A Moroi can also turn by choice if he or she kills a victim while drinking their blood.  These books take place at St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for training young Moroi and their Dhampir counterparts.

city_of_bonesThe Mortal Instruments series is one of my absolute favorites.  I have read all of the books four times and am psyched that they are making a movie out of it (though I’m not so sure about Lily Collins as Clary.  I mean, COME ON, she is supposed to have flaming read hair! Not black).  The first book takes place in New York and at the Institute, an old, dilapidated church that was converted, to the oblivion of the mundanes (humans), to a Shadowhunter stomping ground.  Shadowhunters, also called Nephilim, are half-human, half-angel and are, like their name hints at, demon hunters.  They still bleed and die like humans, so they use a stele to draw runes on their bodies.  Runes are markings, some temporary, some permanent, that are somewhat similar to tattoos and give powers based off of the rune that was drawn.  This series centers around Clary Fray who was hidden from the Shadowhunter world by her mother and, until she has to get her mother back, knows nothing about supernatural creatures or demons.  When her mother disappears and she is attacked by a Ravener demon, Clary is thrust into the world of the Nephilium where she finds she should have been all along.  With the help of Jace Wayland, Isabella and Alec Lightwood, and Simon Lewis, she begins to study the Shadowhunter ways and searches for her mother, all while encountering what her life could have been like, as well as some romance along the way.

-Kaelyn L., 10th grade

Book Review: Gone and Divergent

I recently have discovered multiple new series that I have enjoyed, as well as great books that stand alone on the bookshelves. I have been trying to read all 100 books on NPR’s list of top teen books.

Some of my recently discovered favorite series are Gone by Michael Grant and Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I have only read the first book in the Gone series, coincidentally also called Gone, because some other library-goer is taking forever to read the only copy of the next book and is, rudely interrupting my reading schedule.  Ranting aside, this book is seriously ah-mazing.  I have grown to love the end of the world, apocalyptic type books like The Hunger Games and this is at the top of my list.

gone_coverIn the blink of an eye,  everyone disappears.  Gone.  Everyone except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not a single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Gone, too, are the phones, internet, and television. There is no way to get help.  Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.  It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen and war is imminent.  The first in a breathtaking saga about teens battling each other and their darkest selves, Gone is a page-turning thriller that will make you look at the world in a whole new way.

I repeat; AH-MAZING.  Makes me want to re-read it.

divergent_coverAnother post-apocalyptic book, as mentioned above, is Divergent by Veronica Roth.  In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives.

For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.  During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Both of these series are must-reads.  And, if you have a lot of time on your hands, go through the 100 book list from NPR and pick out what sounds good.  I promise, all of these are worth reading.

– Kaelyn L., 10th grade

Really Good Books About Real Life

Stephen Chbosky.  Ned Vizzini.  Sarah Dessen.  John Green.  What do all of these have in common, you ask?  Aside from being some of the best Young Adult book authors of all time, these four authors all write novels that deal with real teen lives.  I personally love books that deal with real life.  At the top of my teen novel list are The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, which is now a movie, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, also a movie, all Sarah Dessen books, three of which were adapted into a movie called How to Deal, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green- the movie version comes out this June.

perks_coverThe Perks of Being a Wallflower is officially my favorite book and movie.  I may be a bit biased because of this, but, I am telling you, anyone who reads this book will fall in love.  Extremely well written, containing characters you feel connected to, and ending with a surprising plot twist, I recommend this book a thousand times over to anyone who will listen.

kind_of_a_funny_story_coverIt’s Kind of a Funny Story is an excellent showcase of problems teens face everyday that really should be pointed out.  I watched the movie before realized there was a book (I know, shame on me) and, surprisingly, the movie does the book justice.  I know this is rarely the case with all of the “artistic” changes that take place when a movie is made that is based off of a book, but, with this cast, I don’t think anyone can complain.  Anyways, this book perfectly showcases the ups and downs of a teens life.  The downs include depression, suicide, and mental wards while love and friendship fill the ups.

truth_about_foreverEvery single Sarah Dessen book I have read has left me wanting to read another.  Unlike some authors, Dessen does not write series, but single books that stand by themselves.  And, for a little fun fact, there is always at least one small detail that connects one of the books with another.  For example, she often has a main character run into a minor character from a different book or includes a location that is the main setting of another book, but is just a shop that is passed by and commented on by the character in your book.  It may just be me, but whenever I realize she is connecting her books, it makes me feel like an ultra-fan for noticing.  Some of my favorite books by her are Keeping the MoonThis Lullaby, The Truth About Forever, Just Listen, Lock and Key, Along for the Ride, and What Happened to Goodbye.  

fault_in_our_stars_coverAnd finally, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  This is the only John Green book I have read so far, though I want to read more.  Once again, stupid library-goers are hogging books.  Anyways, this book is definitely a  tear-jerker.  I was sobbing alone in my room when I finished this book.  Now that I have warned you, I can get to describing the amazingness of the novel.  First of all, it is the most well-written book I have ever read.  Green seems to seamlessly weave together teenage “language” (if it can even be considered a language) and eloquent phrases.  Second, you begin to love the characters the moment you meet them.  Lastly, who doesn’t love a good romance?  Overall, this is one of my favorite teen romance novels to date.

I don’t mean Hollywood “real life.”  I mean REAL life problems that are not glorified or made unrealistic because they become too nitty-gritty.  That could be the reasoning behind why I enjoy these books so much.  I feel like too many authors make a happy ending just so they don’t have to go too deep.  But that is what makes these so great.  You can connect with these characters because they are going through the same things you may be experiencing.  Besides, life isn’t always a happy ending, so why should books always have to have one?

– Kaelyn L., 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: Legend, by Marie Lu

legend_coverLegend by Marie Lu is a young adult fiction novel about two fifteen year olds who inadvertently uncover military and government secrets in their dystopian society.

For me, there is nothing better than a book with a little bit of romance, a drop of mystery, and a whole lot of adventure. The author fulfills all of these expectations to the utmost and provides a great escape into a different world. With fantastic, realistic characters and a constant pace that keeps you on your toes, this book is filled with plot twists and unexpected revelations that ensure a reader’s enjoyment.

One thing that makes this book different from your average teen novel is the way Lu marvelously crafts the two main characters. Though they come from opposite sides of the “food chain,” they are not all that different when it comes down to wits and street smarts. In addition, this book is an excellent stepping stone between Young Adult and Adult books. This is due to the mature writing style of the author and the way it deals with government issues in a fictional society.

Legend is set in a city that used to be known as Los Angeles. It is now part of the Republic, one of the two warring nations in North America. This young adult dystopian novel is narrated by the two main characters June and Day. June was born into the upper class society and becomes the Republic’s prodigy after she receives a perfect score on her trial. Every twelve year old in the Republic is required to take this trial, a test that determines their future depending on their score. Children like June, who score high in their trials, are usually groomed for the military, one of the highest honors in the Republic. Day was raised on the other side of the tracks, in the poor sectors of the Republic, and scored poorly on his trial.  Now known as one of the most wanted criminals in the Republic, Day’s motives may be misunderstood.

Due to their social ranks, the two main characters are unlikely to ever meet. However, their paths cross when Day is accused of killing June’s brother, the only family she has left in the world. June, under the military’s guidance, promises that she’ll hunt him down and won’t stop until he is brought to justice. She goes undercover in the poor sectors of the Republic to find him. When she does, she uncovers a lot more about the government and her life than she ever would have imagined.

I highly recommend this book for teen through adult readers.

-Kaelyn L., 10th grade