Book Review: The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney

face_milk_cartonHow would you react if you found out that you were kidnapped because there is a picture of you as a toddler on an ordinary, everyday milk carton? 15-year-old Janie Johnson recognizes her photograph on the “Missing Child” side of a milk carton in the young-adult novel, The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney.

After identifying her picture on a milk carton at lunch, Janie is consumed by the notions of her kidnapping. As the story unravels, Janie discovers that “her parents” are actually her grandparents and her Mother was part of a cult when Janie was born. Temporarily relieved, Janie is still curious as to why her name on the milk carton said “Jennie Spring.”

Slowly unraveling the mystery of her past, Janie discovers that she was kidnapped by her “Mother” as a young girl and finds out that her real parents are in New Jersey. The end of the book leaves you with Janie talking to her real Mother. Does Janie leave her “adoptive” parents? Does she actually meet her biological parents? Does she ever find the women who abducted her? To find the answers to all these questions, one must read this book and the entire Janie Johnson series.

Reading this book for English, I was interested that it wasn’t mainstream like some other classical works. The storyline of the book is great, in my opinion. The execution could have been slightly improved. I liked how the first book ended in a cliffhanger and then you would have to read the next one and then the next one to find out what becomes of Janie. The last book did not have a very conclusive ending, but it was satisfactory enough. If you are interested in the mystery genre, then the Janie Johnson series is for you.

-Anmol K.,

Book Review: Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike

sleep_no_moreHave you ever wished you could have magical powers? What would you desire? The power to see the future? That’s exactly what Charlotte Westing can do. But that is also what gets her into trouble.

In an attempt to change the future when she was six years old, an accident killed her father and permanently injured her mother. She has spent the past ten years fighting every vision that comes to her, pulling an imaginary black curtain over the scene. No one else knows her secret, except for her Aunt Sierra. Charlotte has lived her life covering up this secret, claiming to suffer from sudden migraines. But one day, a vision stronger than ever before greets her, one that she doesn’t have the strength to fight: One of her classmates being murdered. Afraid to tell her aunt, the only other Oracle she knows, Charlotte keeps this to herself.

After the second such vision, she gets a message that someone can help her stop these murders from occurring. Eventually, she gives in and receives help from someone, who makes up his name as Smith.

Also during all of this, her crush since fourth grade, Linden, becomes more interested in her, claiming she helps distract him from the brutality of the murders.

And then, like every good book, everything becomes twisted.

I loved the creativity of this novel, and I found it excruciatingly hard to put down. I could not wait to find out what happens next. The novel has so much going on. It was interesting to learn that this novel was dedicated to the survivors of Newtown and the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.

-Leila S., 9th grade

Book Review: The Third Twin by C.J. Omololu

third_twinLexi and Ava are identical twins, but sometimes… they are triplets.

When they were little, they made up a third twin, Alicia. Alicia was blamed for everything like when things were broken or stolen. Now that they are seniors in high school, their little game has gotten more serious. They pretend to be Alicia when they go out with boys who are hot but not the dating type. The kind of guys they would never consider being with in real life. However, Lexi wants to put an end to Alicia for good when one guy Alicia dated turns up dead. Ava thinks that as long as they follow the rules for Alicia (always wear the diamond pendant; never sleep with any of the guys; and after five dates, they are gone), everything will go back to normal. Before that can happen, another boy is killed, and DNA tests and camera proof reveal that there is only one possible suspect: Alicia. The girl who doesn’t exist. Lexi is on the run, and she has to find the truth before another boy dies. Because either Ava is the real killer…or Alicia is real.

When I first heard about this book, I knew I just had to read it. I even thought the title was interesting. I mean who’s ever heard of a third twin? The story is very compelling and holds so many surprises. The biggest surprise, by far, is who the killer turns out to be. Right away, the story picks up. I just couldn’t stop reading it. This book is meant for ages 12 and up. There is some mature content and language present, but other than that, I suggest you go out and get this book when it comes out on February 24, 2015.

-Sabrina C., 9th grade

Book Review: Made For You, by Melissa Marr

made_for_youWhen Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she has no idea how she got there. She remembers everything that happened right before the accident but can’t put the pieces together, until her best friend, Grace, tells her that she was hit by a car. They soon figure out that it wasn’t just an accident.

Faced with the mystery of finding out who did it, Eva discovers a creepy new ability: she can see a person’s death when they touch her. She doesn’t know how or why she can do this, but she is determined to use it as a tool to find who the murderer is.

Meanwhile, her old friend, Nate, comes in and helps her and Grace. Nate hasn’t talked to Eva in years and is surprised when he suddenly shows an interest in her. However, she must put aside their troubled past in order for them to work together to find the maniac who tried to kill her.

Made For You was very interesting. I couldn’t put it down and ended up finishing it sooner than I thought. There are many surprises throughout the book, but the biggest surprise is definitely who the killer turns out to be! This book is meant for teens ages 13 and up. I would really stick to that suggestion, given the mature content in the book. This review is based on an advance reader copy– the book comes out next month. If you love suspense and mystery, I recommended you look for it.

-Sabrina C., 9th Grade

Book Review: The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

davinci_codeA book that became highly popular years ago, this is a title that many have heard of, but one that few teens from this generation have actually read.

The overall verdict: this is a book that either you will either fall in love with, or that you will hate. It’s rare to find an opinion in reviews that begs to differ.

In my opinion, it was a fast-paced page turner that kept me engaged and relatively entertained during the span of time that I was reading it, but there were still many holes that left me unsatisfied with the book as a whole with its completion.

The basic plot traces the story, both in a modern fictional account and in a “historical” context, of the search of the true holy grail-not only a treasure of time and religious history, but also one of deeper metaphorical symbolism. To provide a more in depth synopsis: a murder within the Louvre in tangent with clues hidden within the works of the great master Leonardo DaVinci (along with many other renowned thinkers and artists) leads to the discovery of a religious enigma hidden by a secret society for thousands of years, a secret that could cause catastrophic change in the base of worldwide religion.

Sounds a bit overdramatic with a dose of being formulaic, doesn’t it?

Brown weaves a fast-paced and entertaining read that leaves you with cliffhangers at every chapter’s conclusion, leaving you flipping the pages till the end. Read as a shallow summertime read is a good investment, however reading too deeply into the “historical facts” may prove dangerous. Taken as pure fiction many of the “historical facts” serve as fascinating concepts for future introspection on secrets societies, treasure, and religion as a whole-taken as fact; however, many prove to be a stretch. Brown treads a thin line in his historical accuracy, writing a story of fiction, but stating many of the facts as the complete truth when transferred over to our world. The main warning: read with a grain of salt.

The plot also leaves you with too many twists to count- one of the most entertaining aspects for me. One moment an ally seems like a foe, the next it is revealed who in fact the true enemy is, and the moment directly after it turns out that one of the main antagonists was actually good all along! (You get the point.) It serves to be highly entertaining, but by the third plot deception it leaves you wondering how much of a formula Brown had at his disposal, and if he really did intend to be so repetitive.

Another thing that particularly struck me was the fact that many of the plot occurrences seemed just too perfect to conspire in real life. Many aspects of the novel proved to be highly unrealistic, a romance where one would never take place in real life, the fact that one of the main emulated ideas in the story is that of a scared and empowered feminine-yet the main (and only) female protagonist is, although being portrayed as smart and beautiful, is forced to act powerless for large stretched in the plot, and that somehow the protagonists always end up where they were supposed to with the answer they needed in the end.

Overall, the writing isn’t terrible-it is just a story that one must read with the intent of entertainment, not fact.

-Sophia U., 12th grade

Book Review: The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

maze_runner_coverIn celebration of the upcoming movie adaption of this exciting novel, I thought I would review the first book in this trilogy.

This dsytopian adventure is full of mystery and suspense, set in a chilling sort of “captivity” where young boys (and boys only) live in the middle of a dangerous maze that no one’s escaped or survived. The protagonist, Thomas arrives one day in “The Box” with no memory of anything and is immediately puzzled and disturbed by this place.

The boys live a puzzling life of trying to survive and attempting to make it out of the maze, with no idea of anything at all or who they are. The maze, which several of the boys try to brave but never make it out alive, holds terrifying creatures called Grievers.

One day, the disturbing cycle of everyday life is interrupted by the shocking arrival of- a girl. She brings a strange cryptic message before passing out. With her arrival, everything is shaken up. What happens then… you’ll have to read the book to find out.

This novel, although a bit slow at times, was a generally thrilling book that will keep you on the edge of your seat with a thousand questions running through your mind. Unfortunately, these questions are barely or not even answered in the first book, but the second and third ones do address them, and let me tell you – they will shock and excite and are not to be missed.

If you are a fan of dystopian stories like The Hunger Games or Divergent, I highly recommend this book (as well as the rest of the trilogy) for an entertaining suspense-filled read. Plus, you’ll be prepared for the upcoming movie, in theaters everywhere this September!

-Rachel L.,10th grade

Book Review: Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer, by John Grisham

theodore_booneLawyers, lawyers, lawyers… paper, work, suits. Seems boring, right? Well, try reading Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer and your prospective of being a boring lawyer will change.

The story starts of as Theo is in school. He gets a grant from the judge to bring his class to the court to see a live session. Except… something is wrong. The side against Pete Duffy, the accused, has a very, very weak argument… Is there anything that anyone can do to help them?

First, let me tell you the story of Pete Duffy. Pete has an $1,000,000 price on his wife so that if she “accidentally” dies, he will get all the money. And then coincidentally, she is found strangled to death in their own house, the prime subject is Pete. But why would he kill his own wife… possibly for the money?

Now you know the story, but during the course of the book a twist occurs. A man saw something… this would change the whole game, the whole story. It will affect everyone, including Theo……It will be big.

I won’t spoil it for you guys but this is a great book to read, hopefully you can read it. They are also more stories, because this is a series.

-Satej B., 7th grade

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

Book Review: Russian Roulette, by Anthony Horowitz

russian_roulette_coverFor the fans of the famous Alex Rider series, Anthony Horowitz has come out with a new thriller, Russian Roulette– which is perhaps even better.

For those who haven’t heard of the Alex Rider series, Alex is a teen spy who works for M-16, the British FBI. He is sent on numerous missions to help stop plots of Scorpia, a group of illegal weapons and drug dealers, as well as assassins. If one has read the Alex Rider series, they know of the infamous paid assassin working for Scorpia, Yassen Gregorvich, who has appeared in many of the Alex Rider books. Yassen is a very complex man, and acts in strange ways, such as saving Alex’s life when he is supposed to kill him.

Russian Roulette is about Yassen’s background, and how he comes to Scorpia. The book begins with Yassen as a young child, living in a small Russian village. One day, he is forced to escape alone after he learns that his parents made nuclear weapons, and that they are now being hunted down. Yassen has to go to Moscow, to find a “friend” of his parents’ who will look after him.

Unfortunately, Yassen discovers that nobody is really what they seem. After many twists and turns in the plot, Yassen escapes from Russia with members of Scorpia, and ends up in Italy. Yassen then learns not only how to shoot a gun, but about using polite manners, conversing in current events, and appreciating top brands, all in the interest of blending in to the crowd. In the final stages of the story, the plot twists once again.

For anyone who loves action novels, this is a must-read. Even though it is not a new Alex Rider book, it maintains Horowitz’s reputation as a top-notch author of thrillers. I would give Russian Roulette a 9.5 out of ten. Because of some minimal violence, I would recommend this book for ages 13 and up. Anthony Horowitz and his novels are never a disappointment.

-Will R., 9th grade

Book Review: Confessions of A Murder Suspect, by James Patterson

confessions_murder_suspectJames Patterson is one of my favorite authors, and since he’s also one of the world’s highest paid authors, clearly others share this opinion.  When I saw his latest collaboration with Maxine Paetro, Confessions of A Murder Suspect, I knew I had to read it.

The basic premise of the story is the investigation of the apparent murders of Malcolm and Maud Angel. The Angels are a very powerful family, heading up a huge pharmaceutical company and hedge funds, and it would seem that the list of suspects would be huge. The cops however, narrow the list done to one of the couple’s children given that their deaths occurred in a locked, extremely secure and exclusive apparent complex. Tandy Angel, one of the couple’s children, is not going to sit around and wait for the cops to conduct their investigation so she starts one of her own. Throughout the book family secrets and conspiracies arise and nothing is as it first seems. “Confession” chapters break up the main story and give us more insight into the lives of the Angels.

I personally have mixed feelings about this book. When I was reading it, I was fully engrossed and it kept me turning pages… after I had finished, however, I wasn’t quite so sure anymore. A lot of what makes the story so interesting is the many mysteries that the plot centers on, and once the secrets are revealed, the story loses something. It’s not that the answers to the many questions are underwhelming or unbelievable exactly– they just weren’t what I thought, and a lot of it wasn’t really justified in my mind.

The thing that I had the biggest problem with in this book was the final “who done it” explanation. Without giving anything away, suffice it to say that knowing all of the information about Malcom and Maud that is revealed by that point in the book, it doesn’t seem well justified that their deaths occurred in the way that they did. It was mainly the way that Malcom’s death occurred that bothered me- Maud’s was fairly well explained- but I just can’t fathom why Malcom’s death occurred the way that it did, knowing all of the information about Maud.

On the flip side, I think that the book’s strongest point is the careful balancing of several plots lines. While the main focus is the murder investigation, there are several other mysterious that are expertly tied into the main plot. I loved the many family secrets that the Angel family contained and never felt bored.

Another of the book’s strong features are the “Confession” chapters. They’re a unique way to add more information to the story that wouldn’t have necessarily been easily tied into the story if it was written in the traditional chapter format. There are just enough of these to add something extra to the plot without drowning it out.

When the book ended I was mostly satisfied with the way that things were wrapped up and most of my questions had been put to rest. That being said, room was left open for a sequel, which will hopefully fill in any reaming gaps and extend the story of the Angel family.

-Angela J., 12th grade