This book covers a lot of ground and it does it very well. Starr is a 16-year old African American girl living in a poor inner-city neighborhood while attending a private school for mostly white students about 45 minutes from her home. That alone could be a book as Starr describes the balancing act of straddling all her worlds — home, with her close-knit family (dad owns a grocery in the hood and mom is a RN, uncle is a cop); school, with her mostly white friends (who are sometimes inadvertently racist and often clueless), and in the neighborhood, where she tries to maintain relationships with her two oldest friends, Khalil and Kenya. Starr’s parents had enrolled her in private school after her best friend was gunned down in a drive-by shooting when they were ten. But that won’t be Starr’s only brush with violence. The bulk of the novel covers the aftermath of Khalil’s death, which Starr also witnesses. Angie Thomas has written a very balanced and well crafted story that should move to the top of your “To Read” pile. – Ms. Steiger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am struggling to write this review in the same way I struggled to read the book. I am torn between tremendous admiration for the author’s creativity and thorough research and my grudging admission that the novel failed to truly transport me the way a five-star novel should. Whitehead’s unflinching portrayal of the savage inhumanity of American slavery is an important if not entertaining read. He manages to pack it all in, from slave ships, to depraved plantation owners, to medical experimentation and sterilization, to sadistic slave catchers. His overlay of magical realism by employing an actual, physical underground railroad to transport slaves from the deep south to the free north is brilliant. The writing is well-crafted and the pace is swift. Despite all of this, I had to push my way through this book, and my hesitation wasn’t solely attributable to the harsh and violent realities it portrayed. I agree with other reviewers who felt they were kept at a remove from characters, either because they were underdeveloped or because the story was told in the third person. I felt the nonfiction objective of this book overpowered the fictional structure it was built upon. It was as though Whitehead wanted construct a complete litany of the abuses associated with this nation’s heritage of slavery more than he wanted to tell a compelling story. The story was a vehicle for the litany. A well crafted vehicle, for sure, but not really a five-star novel. ~ Ms Dimmick
This is a review of an ARC from NetGalley.
Five students walk into detention. Four walk out – and one leaves in a body bag.
The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars (with a little Gossip Girl thrown in) in this YA thriller. Everyone in detention that day had a reason to hate Simon, the creator of Bayview High’s gossip app. Was it the golden boy star pitcher? The drug-dealer? The popular girl? The brain? (see what I mean about The Breakfast Club?) The case soon gains the attention of the national media and the kids find them selves forming an uneasy friendship as they try to prove their innocence while wondering if one of them is lying. Things get even more uneasy when someone starts sending anonymous emails across the school claiming to have planned the murder and framed the group for it.
This one is definitely more the Agatha Christie puzzle mystery than a dark Swedish thriller. The twists and turns were in some cases predictable, especially when it came to the romance, but it was a fun ride to follow along with. The book drags a bit in the middle while you’re waiting for more clues to show up, but the end was a satisfying solution that tied up the loose ends nicely. Mystery lovers and fans of the movies and series mentioned above should enjoy it. — Ms Schoen
Having recently watched my own kids navigate the college admissions process and hearing about it every day in my high school library, I was really interested in reading this book. Reshma is a high school senior, the expected valedictorian of her class and desperate to get into Stanford. Her grades are good, but her SATs are weak by Stanford standards — Reshma needs a hook to pull her into Stanford. Reshma decides that her hook will be this book she’s writing (and you are reading), which will chronicle her senior year and her fight to retain her position as valedictorian — by any means necessary.
I didn’t love this book, but Ms. Schoen really did — so if it appeals to you, don’t be put off by my 3-star rating. ~ Ms. Steiger
Narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Do I really need to say any more? Set in Texas, Ari and Dante are two Mexican-American teens who strike up a friendship at the town pool over the summer. This was a great audio book, and probably just as great to read if you are a fan of YA realistic fiction. I listened to it on the Axis 360 App if you want the audio book. ~ Ms. Steiger
Finley and Betty were friends for years before Finley’s parents split up and she moved to NYC with her mom. They remained close because Finley returned to their small town in Maine every summer to live with her dad. But the fall of their senior year, when they were both supposed to be applying to NYU, Betty died under mysterious circumstances. Finley is convinced that Betty was killed by her boyfriend and sets out to prove it when she returns for the summer following graduation. This is a gritty mystery with lots of twists and turns. ~ Ms. Steiger
I listened to this book on the Axis 360 app available through the NSHS Library. Solomon is agoraphobic and hasn’t been seen by his peers since middle school. Lisa, a high school junior, decides she is going to “fix” Solomon in order to use him as fodder for her college application essay. This idea may seem far-fetched in some places, but I’ve heard crazier “getting into college schemes” in our area. Somehow Lisa’s boyfriend Clark gets pulled into the scheme — I don’t quite remember how. The three become fast friends until they’re not… This a quick, funny read that also speaks to more serious issues such as mental health. It is a great pick for fans of realistic fiction by John Green and Robyn Schneider. ~ Ms. Steiger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Such a clever premise! Budo is 6 year-old Max’s imaginary friend, and he has survived longer than most imaginary friends (who typically disappear in kindergarten, when children make their own, real friends) because Max is “on the spectrum” and doesn’t have any real friends. Budo helps Max navigate the confusing social environment of school, and protects him as best he can from bullies and from “getting stuck.” But there are limits to Budo’s power in the real world, and when Max faces some serious danger, Budo feels helpless and incapable of mounting a rescue effort. Budo is also in danger, but of a different kind. If he is successful at getting Max to be independent and help himself, will Budo cease to exist like so many other imaginary friends? The book gave me great insight into the thoughts and challenges faced by autistic children while at the same time telling a faced-paced and thrilling story of manipulation, deceit and derring-do. I could have done without the author’s obvious agenda when it comes to certain styles and strategies of teaching, but it didn’t detract too much from the good story. ~ Ms Dimmick
Positively delightful. Historical fiction at its best — tastes like fiction, imparts knowledge like nonfiction. Dolssa, a naive, noble young mystic, barely escapes being burned for heresy in late 13th century France, and is taken in and nursed back to health by Botille and her two peasant sisters in the seaside village of Baja. First repelled by the course sisters and their unfamiliar ways, Dolssa loses her passionate connection to Jhesus and fears that he has forsaken her forever. Circumstances force Dolssa to call upon her beloved to aid villagers in need, including the kindly but strange sisters, and she discovers a mystical ability to heal others. Word of Dolssa’s miracles quickly spread to the Christian inquisitors from whose grasp Dolssa narrowly escaped, and Botille fears that her act of charity toward the young mystic will bring tragedy upon the entire village. If you’re curious about domestic Crusades in Europe, the Inquisition, and you enjoy stories about strong women facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, then you’ll love The Passion of Dolssa. ~ Ms Dimmick
A perfect holiday read — stories you can chip away at during the margins of your day. Most are very sweet, heart warming romances. A few cross the border into syrupy and are almost offensive in their use of teenage romance tropes, but they’re easy to skip past in favor of the next. There’s a nice mix of contemporary realistic fiction, mystical realism and pure fantasy, and while they are holiday-themed, they do not focus exclusively in Christmas (though it does dominate). The authors, a veritable who’s who of YA fiction, seemed to genuinely enjoy crafting their contributions to this delightful collection. ~ Ms Dimmick