Student Review: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson (reviewed by Tajea B)

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No NormalMs. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first female Muslim superhero is finally here, and she’s not afraid to kick some butt. G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel successfully caught my eyes with its amazing illustrations and storyline. Reading Ms. Marvel is almost like going on an adventure through your imagination. The plot in this adventure breaks a new ground. When we meet Kamala in her non-super state she’s a 16 year-old geek, who’s loyal to her close friend and disinclined to rebel against her observant family. Don’t get me started on her “sad nerd obsession with the Avengers” (3). She writes elaborate fanfictions about them and tries to get her parents to understand, but of course they don’t. Kamala seems out of place, even in her diverse high school. She can’t seem to “fit in” with the other teens. Throughout the comic we see how it is a struggle to not only learn new superpowers, but also live a double life. I will say this book is a big deal to American Muslims, and the children of Muslim immigrants, to see themselves represented in an amazing book like this. It also shows how wonderful teenage Muslim minds think and how they cherish their faith. If I could, I would give every single student in high schools everywhere a copy of this comic. I recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about Muslim culture or who loves a good laugh and superheros. ~ Student: Tajea B

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Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the EndBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is such an important book, for anyone with aging parents, or a terminally ill loved one, or anyone who expects to be fortunate enough to age and die some day themselves. I wish it offered more solutions to the many challenges of our nascent assisted living and hospice systems, but nonetheless this book is more about hope than hopelessness. Gawande is a compassionate soul who writes intelligently about the things no one wants to talk about, and why that’s a real problem. He delivers a critically important message for all of us, and most especially the medical community. Thank you Dr. Gawande, for your compassion and your honesty. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Americanah, by Chimandanda Ngozi Adichie

AmericanahAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a very well written story, and thought provoking, but in the end I almost resented the time investment required to get through it. I appreciated the insight into race in America as observed through the lens of a young, accomplished African immigrant woman, and I especially enjoyed the contrast with Nigerian culture, but I never really warmed to the protagonist. Ifem struck me as judgmental and superior without adequate empathy for the people who loved her. I found myself wondering why she inspired such deep devotion from at least three wonderful men, each of whom she needlessly and thoughtlessly wounded. They deserved better. Then again, perhaps that was what I was supposed to feel. Perhaps the author was also conflicted about Ifem? A worthy read for those exploring race in America, but prepare yourself for a significant commitment. ~Ms Dimmick

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Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy

Dumplin'Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Willowdean is the overweight teenaged daughter of a former beauty queen living in North Texas. You might think that would give her a bit of an insecurity complex, but Dumplin’, as her disappointed mom calls her, is actually quite content, and even confident, in her own skin. It’s that confidence that draws other girls who don’t fit the typical teenage beauty standards to Willowdean for friendship and guidance. It also attracts Bo, the hot private school boy who works with her at a fast-food restaurant and surprises her with his undeterred admiration. When Willowdean and her gang of atypical friends decide to enter their small town’s beauty pageant, a series of amusing and endearing escapades ensue. This book is pleasant read filled with the predictable teenage drama that romance, friendship and high school can bring, but stamped with its own brand of uniqueness in its small town North Texas setting (I had to Google pictures of homecoming mums to see what on earth they were!), its Dolly Parton sound track, and of course, its challenge to the American ideal of female beauty. Read this if you’re looking for some light, breezy, young adult romantic fiction. This is not the book for you if you’re seeking genuine depth or high literary quality. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Challenger Deep, by Neal Shusterman

Challenger DeepChallenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Challenger Deep is a perfect example of why reading fiction is so valuable. Studies show that reading fiction builds empathy, and in this case a reader’s empathy is developed by inhabiting the troubled mind of Caden, a promising teenaged boy who is descending into severe mental illness. No matter how much nonfiction I read about schizophrenia and related psychotic diseases, I would never grow to appreciate the terrorizing experience of losing touch with reality, increasing paranoia and compelling hallucinations the way that I did by reading this book. The author’s son helped to illustrate the book, and provided the insight necessary to bring it to life, based on his personal experience as a teen with mental illness. This was at times difficult to read, not only due to the nature of the topic, but also because of the way in which the narrative switched sporadically between Caden’s real life and his hallucinated one. The latter was disturbing and filled with symbolic connections to reality that kept me guessing and hoping for a pathway back to normalcy. This is an important book, and I’m grateful that the author and his son had the strength to write it. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Student Review: Penelope, by Rebecca Harrington (reviewed by Katie D.)

PenelopePenelope by Rebecca Harrington

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Penelope is a humorous and amusing book written by Rebecca Harrington, about a socially awkward girl named Penelope who is starting her freshman year at Harvard. When starting her time at Harvard, Penelope is faced with the challenge of making new friends, a task which turns out to be more difficult than she had expected. When she first arrives at Harvard, Penelope discovers that she is rooming with two other girls, Emma Green and Lan Wu, and expects that the two of them will end up being her good friends. However, she could not have been more wrong. Emma is snobby and over-privileged, and admits that the only reason she managed to get into Harvard was because her New York socialite parents had ‘connections’. On the other side of the spectrum, Lan is an eccentric ‘loner’, who’s only friend is the cat that she brought with her to Harvard. Penelope does not feel any connection with either of these people, in fact, she hates Lan and is hated by Emma. The book describes Penelope’s journey through her freshman year, and her struggle fit in. What makes it even harder for Penelope to find her way, aside from her social incompetence, are the challenges that she is faced with along the way. From boy problems, lecturers who loathe her, and a mother trying to live her dreams through her daughter, Penelope faces it all. The book touches on the topic of coming of age, as we watch Penelope grow throughout her first year of college, into a more confident and self-assured character. I would really recommend this book to anyone who likes to read modern books which have topics that are relatable to them, however if you are looking for a thriller or a plot with lots of action, I would not recommend his book, as it there is not a lot of drama in it, just descriptions of Penelope’s hilarious encounters as she navigates her way around Harvard. ~ Student: Katie D.

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Student Review:Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee (reviewed by Joseph S.)

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, taking place while civil rights and political tension changed the South, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returns to Maycomb and sees her old home in a new light. At the age of 26, Scout has been living in New York City, trying to become more independent from her family. On her annual visit to see Atticus, her aging father, Scout sees something that makes her question everything she knows about her beloved home. Go Set a Watchman covers the differences in beliefs on racial equality between New York City, Scout’s new home, and Maycomb, Scout’s old home.

Go Set a Watchman was a highly anticipated book when it first came out. Many people loved To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s previous novel, and wanted more of it. Although To Kill a Mockingbird was an amazing book and you should read it (you have probably read it by now if you are looking at this review), Lee’s new novel is not worth the read for the most part. Not only was it incredibly boring, but the narrative clumsily switched between first and third person. Recommending this book to anyone is difficult because even though it was bad, it could interest someone. Those who are curious to know why it was so bad should read the book and decide for themselves. However, anyone who did not enjoy To Kill a Mockingbird, and those who absolutely loved To Kill a Mockingbird will most likely be disappointed. Student: Joseph S.

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Student Review: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan (reviewed by Brandon L.)

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The thriller of Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief exhibits the adventures of Percy Jackson. Zeus’ lightning bolt is stolen and Poseidon, his brother, is blamed for the theft. Zeus demands his weapon is to be returned by the summer solstice. As Percy and his mother leave for vacation, an unlikely event occurs and the two are separated; Percy enters Camp Half-Blood and Sally, his mother, is held captive. In Camp Half-Blood, a very important topic is covered. Percy learns more about who he actually is; he learns about his identity. When the demigods discover that he is the son of Poseidon, they set him, along with his friends Grover and Annabeth, out on a quest to retrieve Zeus’ lightning bolt. If they don’t before the summer solstice, a war will break out between the gods. Out in the real world, all of the monsters are set out wanting to kill Percy. But during these adventures of fighting these creatures and reaching places of dismay, Grover, Percy’s protector, and Annabeth, daughter of Athena, ultimately help Percy get to the Underworld, where they believe the bolt is, and bring it back to Olympus. Though this is his main goal to others, the topic of love overthrows this goal. Percy’s love for his mom makes the retrieval of Zeus’ lightning bolt seem small. Percy’s ultimate goal is to be with his mother again. Whether he chooses to risk his life to stay with his mom, or to stay safe and live with his kind in Camp Half-Blood, it ultimately shapes who he is meant to be.

Readers of all different kinds of genres will enjoy Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief. Whether comedy, or mythololgy is interesting to the reader, it has a little bit of both. The personality of Percy and his friends will make a reader laugh out loud. At the same time, the adventures they take down relate directly to ancient Greek stories. It also exhibits the love between friends as well as love between family members. A reader that is into the explicit fight scenes that are present in violent books, this one might disappoint as the fight scenes do not go deep into the blood and gore. But whether the reader believes it will definitely not be interesting, or it will be the greatest ever, everyone should read this book. ~ Student: Brandon L.

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Student Review: Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver (reviewed by Jessica A.)

Before I FallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In term two, I read the novel, Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver. It starts off with Sam Kingston, and she is at a party with her friends, Lindsey, Ally, and Elody. During the party, Sam and her friends are particularly rude and obnoxious to Juliet Sykes, as they also bully her at school. Throughout the party, the girls eventually get everyone to turn on Juliet and they all physically and mentally harass her. As they finally decide to leave, Sam gets into a car with a drunk driver and crashes and dies. Over the course of the next seven days, Sam realizes that she is reliving the day of her death, and starts to control the situation to prevent her death. Even though Sam successfully keeps herself alive, Juliet dies instead of her. Sam then discovers that Juliet’s life connects to hers, and she attempts to save them both. I think that all students, especially in high school, will enjoy reading this book. I recommend it because it has suspense and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, especially with the shocking ending Oliver leaves us. Also, even though some parts of the novel are very unrealistic, it takes place at a high school with some very practical issues of teenagers, that we can relate to. If you like books with anticipation and excitement, then I would highly suggest this, but if you like books that get straight to the point that doesn’t drag on the story for too long, then I would avoid this book.~ Student: Jessica A.

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Student Review: All I Know Now, by Carrie Hope Fletcher (reviewed by Tess G.)

All I Know Now: Wonderings and Reflections on Growing Up GracefullyAll I Know Now: Wonderings and Reflections on Growing Up Gracefully by Carrie Hope Fletcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The self-help book, All I Know Now; Wonderings and Advise on Making Friends, Making Mistakes, Falling in (and Out of) Love, and Other Adventures in Growing Up Hopefully by Carrie Hope Fletcher is like a mug of hot chocolate after coming in from the snow. It’s like an all-knowing older sister who doesn’t judge you. Carrie talks about her experiences with bullying as a child (I know, sounds boring- she tells it really well), how to get over the terrible Teen Age, her social media conflicts, how to live with yourself, how to and how not to get over relationships, and really, how to become your own best friend. I definitely think most people should read this book! It has some really great advice- it puts a lot of your problems in perspective. It truly feels like an older sister and best friend in a book. If you’ve never read a self-help book before (this is my first one, actually) and you’re looking for one, this is definitely the one. Especially if you’re in high school. I don’t think anyone should avoid this book, as it can be useful to a wide range of people- although, it is targeted to young girls. If you need help, if you don’t need help, if you like books that make you feel warm and content inside- go for it.
~ Student: Tess G.

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Filed under *Student Review, Biography/memoir, Comedy