Wednesday, October 31, 2012

teens' top ten
Celebrate Teen Read Week with the great top ten list of teen books chosen by teens

13 Treasures, by Michelle Harrison

In the book 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison, a girl named Tanya is no ordinary person. Tanya can see fairies! Now, you may be thinking, oh great, another stupid story about fairies, well, you can stop there! Tanya doesn't see what you and I think of as fairies, she sees evil fairies. Fairies that steal from her, and cast evil spells on her. When Tanya's mother gets sick of Tanya's strange behaviors (because of the evil fairies), she sends Tanya to Elvesden Manor, her grandmother's deserted country estate.

The estate is right beside woods, where fifty years ago, a girl vanished in them, and never was found again. When Tanya learns about this mystery, she is determined to investigate further, even if that means going against thousands of evil fairies. But as Tanya learns more and more about the story, she finds herself dangerously close to vanishing into the fairy realm forever!

This book is a very captivating book full of mystery and adventure. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves reading mystery books, as well as fairy books, because this book is not any ordinary fairy story. I enjoyed reading this book with all my heart, and find myself looking around for fairies!

-Reviewed by Nellie, grade 9.

The Scorch Trails, by Thomas Dashner

The Scorch Trails, by James Dashner, is the second book in the breath taking Maze Runner trilogy. Everything was supposed to end after The Maze Runner. They were at least going to get their lives back, whatever those were. But once again, WICKED has fooled them. This time things are different, nothing is provided, unlike the Maze. The world is now a burnt wasteland, remaining governments have united, and there is a horrible disease, called the Flare, going around that slowly turns you insane. This time, they’re in the Scorch, the most burned out part in the world. They have two weeks to make it to the safe haven and WICKED has made sure the odds are against them. Thomas wonders why he is different, why has WICKED singled him out and taken extra good care of him?

James Dashner never disappoints. I am even willing to say that this was even more thrilling than the last. I love how Dashner seems to be mocking Thomas with the simple but horrible shocks and revelations. He has come up with an amazing trilogy and I am dying to get my hands on the next one! I would recommend this to teenage girls and boys who enjoy thrilling and any who enjoyed the first one cannot pass this up!

- Reviewed by Anonymous.

The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H.G. Wells

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells begins with Edward Prendick's ship, The Lady Vain, being wrecked at sea, leaving him stranded. He then finds a ship full of animals owned by a man named Montgomery. Seeing that Prendick has nowhere else to go, Montgomery reluctantly takes him along with him to a strange island, apparently inhabited by only Montgomery and his colleague, Dr. Moreau. However, it isn't long before Prendick finds out that Moreau is doing strange and horrific experiements on animals to give them humanoid traits... and that the experiments are about to go horribly wrong.

The Island of Dr. Moreau is an absorbing and suspenseful adventure that, like H.G. Wells' other works, still manages to interest and puzzle the reader over a hundred years after its original publication. Edward Prendick serves as a very believable main character, being equally fascinated by the wonders of the mysterious island and horrified by the abominations that Moreau had created. It is also very interesting to see how H.G. Wells displays the consequences of tampering with nature by giving the creatures conflicting primitive animal traits and human traits. While not as memorable as sont of Wells' other works, The Island of Dr. Moreau is still a great novel for classic literature readers or science fiction fans.

-Reviewed by Liam, grade 9.

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

Mark Mathabane's, Kaffir Boy , takes readers back to the 1940's in Alexandra, South Africa where apartheid laws took over the majority of the people's lives. Segregation and racial discrimination hang above the locals' heads. In Alexandra, guns and truncheons enforce rule and order. Mark vividly talks about his horrific childhood and some events that the human eyes are probably not suppose to witness. At a young age he has already known the full meaning of hunger, fear, violence, and hatred, especially towards the heartless whites. When he turns six years old, his mother forces him to go to school and he quickly enjoys learning how to read and write. Mark sees the beauty in learning, but isn't able to escape the face that he is still a kaffir (a derogatory word used to belittle the status of the natives in South Africa). His relationship with his father is not even close to getting better because he thinks Mark should be following tribal rules. As he gets older he realizes that not all whites are the same but forces himself not to fully trust the people that treated him and his people like property. With a hardened heart, Mark is determined to fight for a better life and future for himself and his family.

 Kaffir Boy is truly a powerful and emotional novel. Mark Mathabane did an amazing job with details and I think he did this because he wanted others to really understand what he had to go through while growing up in a society where people were not treated as people anymore. Although, he often repeated how terrible life was under apartheid throughout the novel and it would get a bit boring reading it over and over again. It is an easy read novel and I would recommend it to all high school teens, because every now and then we forget that there are other people in the world that are not as fortunate.

- Rocen S., grade 11

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Olive's Ocean, by Kevin Henkes

In Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes, Martha Boyle is a twelve-year old girl who has a passion for writing and absolutely loves the ocean. She soon finds out that a girl that is the same age as she is, Olive, had been killed by a hit-and-run driver. Olive's mother gives her a page from Olive's journal and Martha finds out that this girl who is pretty much a stranger to her is so much like her. She learns that Olive dreamt of being a writer when she grew up and adored and wished to visit the ocean one day. The ultimate impact on Martha is that Olive wanted to be friends with her. For some odd reason, Martha can't stop thinking of Olive. When she and her family visit her grandmother, Godbee, in California, she makes an effort to get to know her grandmother even more. Because of what happened to Olive, Martha wishes that she will see Godbee the next summer because she doesn't know much about her grandmother. Before Martha and her family go back to Wisconsin, she now appreciates life and thinks of a way to acknowledge her dear friend, Olive.

It has been awhile since I've read Olive's Ocean and when I reread it again, it is as if I remembered an old memory. It is an emotional novel and it really helps readers realize how important life is and how it should not be taken for granted. I think that Olive had big goals in life unfortunately those goals were cut short, but Martha was there to continue where Olive had left off. I would recommend it to middle school students.

-Reviewed by Rocen, grade 11.

Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Maze Runner by James Dashner is an absolutely amazing book. It takes us through Thomas's journey in the Glade and the Trials. His memory is blank. He barely knows a thing about where he is. Tom must adjust to living in the Glade with several other boys trapped there, trying to solve a maze to get out. But things start to get weird, weirder than usual that is. The first ever girl arrives, but what she has to say is nothing good. What has she triggered?

I must say, this book is great! I loved all of the details we knew and discovered through simple events. I think James Dashner had a brilliant story and cannot wait for the next! I would recommend this book to teenage boys and girls because they will definitely enjoy it.

Reviewed by Kristine K., Grade 9

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a touching story of a boy named Amir who grows up with guilt, fear, honor, and redemption. The story begins in Afghanistan with Amir and Hassan both young boys growing up together in Amir's luxurious home. Amir is the son of the wealthy Baba and they have two servants, Ali and his son Hassan who are Hazaras, racial minorities at the time. Amir and Hassan are the best of friends and although they don't know yet, they are half brothers related from Baba. Even though Amir thinks of Hassan so dearly, he feels jealousy when he sees Baba show more affection to Hassan rather than himself. One day, while Amir and Hassan are playing, they run into three boys named Assef, Wali, and Kamal. They threaten Amir that they'll hurt him for playing around with a Hazara but Hassan throws a slingshot at Asset to stop him. The story skips to the winter time when the boys enter a kite-fighting tournament. Amir wins the tournament and Hassan runs for the losing kite but ends up cornered in an alley with Assef and his gang. Stuck in the alley alone, Hassan gets raped by the three boys and Amir just stands and watches, too scared and unable to help. When Hassan returns, Amir pretends like he didn't see anything. Amir, loaded with guilt tries to get ride of Hassan and his father, Ali, to cease his guilt. Soon after, Hassan and Ali move away. The story then forwards to present day and Amir and his father Baba are living in poverty in America. Amir gets married to Soraya and later he hears news about Hassan and his wife Farzana. He visits Kabul to bring Hassan's family to American but he received a call that Hassan and Farzana were killed and their son Sohrab was in an orphanage. The rest of the story leads us to Amir trying to redeem himself by risking his life for his long-lost brother's son, Sohrab.

I was actually surprised at myself when I finished reading this book and when I knew I really enjoyed it because I'm not really a fan of slightly historical, violent kinds of stories but this one was very powerful and unforgettable. I really liked reading about Amir's character development and how he started off as a young boy, confused of his decisions and blinded by guilt and later developed into a mature person who can learn to take responsibility of his choices. This book showed the powerful bonds between friends, family, and love. I think the intimate account of love, betrayal and redemption won the hearts of many readers of this book. I would gladly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about character development and strong ties between family and friends. Overall, I felt warmth from this book and I'd like to recommend this book to everyone out there.

-Reviewed by Deborah, grade 9.

Holes, by Louis Sachar

Holes was an exciting book written by Louis Sachar. It was a story of an innocent young teen boy, Stanley Yelnats, that gets blamed for stealing shoes. In the court, he was given the choice to serve in jail or go to a camp for bad boys. Stanley chooses to go to the camp because he had never got to go to camp due to his financial issues. But when he gets there, he is required to dig a hole, 5 feet in width and length, everyday. Then, Stanley finds out the truth behind all the hole digging. Stanley's friend, Zero, runs away from the camp into the desert. Stanley has to make a decision, to either stay in the camp, or run into the endless desert to find his friend.

This book has been one of my favorites. It is filled with exciting moments. Some teens may also be able to connect with the main character, Stanley Yelnats. I had very much fun reading this book, and I recommend this book to everyone.

-Reviewed by Josh, grade 9.

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley wrote one of modern literature's most popular novels, Frankenstein, a science-fiction thriller exploring the human quest for technological advancement and innovation. Victor Frankenstein, a young college student, attempts to build his own live person by putting together bits and pieces of corpses and whatever other material he could find. After successfully creating a living being, Victor is horrified with the montrosity of a creature he has brought to life, and struggles with his sanity as he tries to escape the reality of the monster. The monster, who possesses nothing but good intentions, soon is faced with the truth of his character. Outcast from society due to his beastly appearance, the creature turns vengeful and soon starts to take the lives of many innocent victims, including the loved ones in Voctor's life. A reluctant Victor is faced with the responsibility of the monster he has created and must accept the situation for what it truly is. Read Mary Shelley's thriller to discover the fate of Victor Frankenstein and his infamous monster.

I really admired this novel by Mary Shelley. Even though it was written almost two centuries ago, in 1818, it has a lot of relevance to the modern world, especially with its significant warning on the dangers of experimentation with science in the natural world. I thought the plot was also really interesting, and it kept me turning the pages. The novel definitely holds a different perspective of the famous 'Frankenstein' monster that pop culture has made so popular, and it is really fascinating to read the actual root of the green-skinned monster we so often see today. Frankenstein was a great novel to read and is definitely worth a shot by anyone looking for a science-fiction classic!

-Reviewed by P.P., grade 11.

A Girl Like Moi: The Fashion-Forward Adventures of Imogene, by Lisa Barham

In A Girl Like Moi: The Fashion-Forward Adventures of Imogene, by Lisa Barham, Imogene is a young seventeen year-old who dreams of leaving her life at home in Greenwich, Connecticut to experience the luxurious life of fashion and fortune. Eager for a trip to the fashion capital of the world, Paris, France, Imogene is faced with sudden disappointment as her dreams are shattered. Now, the ambitious fashionista must find an alternate, but just as fabulous, plan for her summer vacation. She lands herself a small position at a fashion forecasting agency in New York, and suddely, she is thrown into the demanding world of high fashion and all its accessories. Attempting to handle the new business, Imogene must face competition from every angle in order to reach new heights in one of the most cut-throat industries in the entire world. Read the novel to explore how Imogene discovers her true identity in the pursuit of her goals and aspirations in the world of fashion and fabulosity.

I definitely enjoyed reading A Girl Like Moi by Lisa Barham. I liked the multiple references to pop culture and real fashion icons, and any fashion-conscious readers would surely appreciate the humor in Barham's analogies tied in to the plot of the story. Also, Imogene's awkward, yet cute character gains the sympathy of the reader, as she is pretty relatable to any young woman hoping to make an impact on the world around her. A simple, yet entertaining book to read, I would honestly recommend this book and all of the following books in the series to readers!

-Reviewed by P.P., grade 11.

The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

The Illustrated Man is one of acclaimed author Ray Bradbury's many literary accomplishments. It is a complilation of eighteen short stories set in dystopian plots that serve to dig deeper in human elements such as power, authority, psychology, and much more. These stories are all connected as being the tattoos on an illustrated man's body, who apparently possesses multiple pieces of body art that symbolize tales and stories with different lessons and values. In "The Highway", Bradbury explores how people react to a nuclear war allegedly ending the world. "Marionettes, Inc." puts a wicked twist on a sticky situation in a married couple in which one spouse tries to escape the other spouse, but this time meets a detrimental surprise. "The Man" delves into the human tendency to find religious purpose and comfort in life. All in all, each and every short story in The Illustrated Man explores a new topic in humanity in the most creative, unexpected manner. Undoubtedly, this book is entertaining, eery, and sure to make you think!

As a fan of Ray Bradbury's literature, I definitely enjoyed The Illustrated Man. His short stories are written in such a simple manner but convey so much food for thought that they truly require some consideration and reflection. I love the creativity behind each and every story in this compilation of works, as they are all so different but similar in the fact that they wake you up and lead you to realize certain aspects of human nature. My favorite short story would have to be "The Man", as well as "The City". The best part of this book is that it is written as multiple short stories, the pages fly by fast and before you know it, you have finished explored the tales of The Illustrated Man!

-Reviewed by P.P., grade 11.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by Eric Schlosser

In today's day and age, do we really know what goes into our bodies in the form of 'food'? Do farms still consist of red barns with acres of grass and livestock, or are hormone-fed animals crammed into cages inside of windowless, steel-walled factories? Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal thoroughly investigates the fast food system of America, ranging from its history to its current standing with the public. Not only are shockingly gruesome details revealed about the food industry in our country, but the 'why' and 'how' are discussed as well. Schlosser identifies the corporate motives behind America's fast-food industry, linking companies like McDonald's and Burger King to Disney and other gargantuan foundations. Furthermore, he writes about the greed of these huge food companies and how they are completely devastating small-business owners with family farms and less industrialized means of food production. In a time when the concern for food safety and production is every important, Fast Food Nation is an essential novel for all.

I can truly say that reading this book has completely changed my total outlook on the food industry and the way I eat. I can no longer pass by a large-name franchise without contemplating all of the points discussed by Schlosser in the novel. Not to mention, some of the details revealed in the novel do not exactly encourage the fast food supplied to the masses in America, ranging from health reasons to quality of nourishment. As a health-conscious individual, I am grateful for Schlosser's valid investigation into the food industry and I encourage everyone to read this novel!

-Reviewed by P.P., grade 11.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian novel by George Orwell covering the story of Winston Smith, a citizen of the nation of Oceania. Oceania is ultimately ruled by Big Brother, an individual so often praised and honored but with no proof of existence. However, one thing is certain; Big Brother is everywhere and anywhere at all times. Every member of Oceania must follow the strict guidelines set by the divine dictator, and there is no way around him. The heavy propaganda provided by the authorities of Oceania work to keep the public blindly in worship of the tyrant, and any opposition to his rule is immediately shut down. However, Winston soon starts to wake up and realize that something is incredibly wrong with his society, and he inches his way into becoming a rebel of the society. In addition, his growing relationship with a young woman, Julia, adds to his list of threats to the power of Big Brother. Read the novel to find out what happens to Winston Smith. Will he be able to outsmart the tyrannical authority known as Big Brother, or will he ultimately be doomed to defeat and destruction?

I have a great fondness of George Orwell's dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. In fact, I often find myself quoting it in essays, freelance writing, and even everyday conversations. There are so many valuable lessons to be learned from this novel, whether from its statement on the growing power of authorities through technology to its questions on life and love. Although the year of 1984 has come and long gone, this novel remains a timeless classic that would be just as significant in the old societies of the Romans as it would be in a social democracy thirty years from now. Pick up this novel, I promise you won't regret it!

-Reviewed by P.P., grade 11.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Perfect, by Natasha Friend

In Perfect by Natasha Friend, Isabelle Lee has a problem. She has a broken family and so, she lets her emotions out by throwing up. Her father had died, her mother is depressed, and she is forced to attend "group" because her sister had caught her with her fist in her mouth and told on her. Eating Disorder and Body Image Therapy Group becomes interesting when she runs into Ashley Barnum: Miss Popularity. Isabelle wonders why Ashley would ever be in "group" when she is already perfect in every way. They become very good friends and they eat and vomit together, every chance they get. Soon, Isabelle discovers the secrets of being able to stop and think about how she feels and what throwing up does for her.

I could relate to this book because I have a single mother and I am very conscious towards my weight and body like Isabelle. I enjoyed this book because of the truth and real scenarios that most teens would be able to recognize in an instant. There are real problems and families out there with heart-breaking situations who deal with a lot, and still manage to go through each day as if they are 'fine' when inside, they are dying. You would change your perspective on how you deal with problems and judge people.

-Reviewed by J.P., grade 8.

The Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare

The Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare, is about a 16 year old Tessa Gray who travels overseas to England to find her missing brother, Nathaniel who hasn't come back from his trip. On her journey to find her brother, Tessa Gray discovers an extraordinary world of downworlders. There were all kinds of creatures. Vampires, Warlocks, and other strange figures were roaming around the streets. This place was totally different than the casual England itself. Tessa is suddenly captured by the Dark Sisters, the evil machines from the Magister of the downworlders. She demands them to tell her where her brother was. The Dark Sisters would not tell her and she was trapped. Finally, a handsome 17 year old her, Will busted inside with Jem by his side to save Tessa. Will used his dark magic to defeat the Dark Sisters. They were defeated at the moment, but weren't gone for good. They appeared everywhere looking for Tessa. The Magister wanted Tessa's amazing power: the ability to change her physical form to another person. About halfway through the book, Tessa found out that the Magister possessed her brother and that he was not her brother anymore. He was part of the evil downworlders. After finding out the harsh reality, Tessa went on to bring her brother back. Will she succeed in rescuing her brother?

This book has brought me to a whole different world and perspective of unknown magic. I recommend this book because it contains a mixture of romance, comedy, suspence, action, and mystery. Once you open this book, it will be very hard to put down. I got so glued to this book I couldn't do anything else. This book should definitley be a part of a teen's reading list. I love how Cassandra Clare added in the fact that Tessa had her own powers which has a big effect on the story. Tessa's power is what draws the Magister towards her. Her powers create the conflict of the whole story. The language that the characters use really tell the readers that they are really from England. The charm that Will has is described so detailed, I could almost picture him in my head. The way the author introduces characters is very rare and unique. Just by reading the descriptions she gives, readers will know the characters really well throughout the story, as if they knew them since a long time ago. The Clockwork Angel is a combination of many of the literature genres that can catch anyone's attention at any age.

-Reviewed by Rikki C., grade 9.