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Reviews and Recommendations

Leah on the Offbeat Book Review

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertali

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Becky Albertalli, author of award-winning Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, returns with another addition to the Simonverse. This novel is told from the perspective of Leah Burke, Simon’s best friend as she comes to terms with her identity and life purpose during her senior year of high school. With huge milestones coming up, life is hectic. She always feels out of place as an overweight drummer who’s never been in a relationship and is bisexual. Not that many people know, not even her openly-gay best friend. Follow Leah on her coming-of-age quest to finding and embracing her true self. 

 

As a fan of Albertalli’s previous books, I can say that this newest book is just as good as its predecessors. Filled with drama and heartfelt moments, this LGBT+ novel is relatable for teens all over. This novel will leave readers with different feelings towards Leah as they will be on an emotional rollercoaster while she experiences the stresses of high school. I recommend this book for ages 13 and up.

-Vanassa Lafleur 

 
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Marley Dias Gets it Done and So Can You! Book Review

A Book Review by Vanassa LaFleur, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer

 

Image result for Marley Dias Gets it Done and So Can You! book coverMarley Dias Gets it Done and So Can You! is a nonfiction book by Marley Dias, addressing social activism and standing up against many of the issues facing contemporary society. Marley Dias is a 13 year old fighter for change and founder of #1000blackgirlbooks. In this book, Dias tells readers of her experience standing up for more black girl representation in literature while also teaching readers how to do so themselves. This book is an inspiring story of how change cannot only be made by adults. Kids have the capability to bring about change and make the world a better place too.
 

Personally, I think that this is one of the most influential books that I have ever read. Marley Dias’ fighting spirit and enthusiasm is shown through her diction throughout the entirety of the book. The colorful pages, pictures, and quote kept me fully engaged in reading. Although Dias is younger than I am, I look up to her and hope to be able to speak up against injustice in the world. Ultimately, this book would be a great read for middle school and high school students who are interested in taking action against today’s social issues.

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Buried Heart Book Review Book Review

A Book Review by Niyat Michael, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer

Buried Heart is the third book of the Court of Fives Series and is written by Kate Elliott. I would recommend you read the books in order, because the previous ones set the tone for everything. Otherwise you miss most of the important parts of the series. However, it’s still a great novel even if you start on the third book. I stayed with this series because of the strong characters that are in this novel. The strong feminine roles also helped me stay with this novel. It’s so appealing because of the main idea of the book. It’s a political revolution and that setting is really interesting to read as it develops.  My favorite character is Jessamay’s mother, she has gone through a lot like raising over three children by herself

The main character, Jessamy, is a young woman whose life is dangerously built on the whims of a society on the brinks of destruction and change. She is the daughter of an upper class Patron and his Commoner partner and is also mixed race of Sarose and Efean, the two main races in this universe. Jessamy has been training to compete in the multi-level athletic course of the Fives and she is really good at it. The course is usually for Patron males not females, and for her to not be a pure one is truly astonishing. Jessamy experiences conflict within herself, pulled apart by her love for her Patron father and her Patron lover Kalliarkos, just as she is dedicated to the cause of her Commoner side. Throughout this book, we see Jessamy find out who she truly is as a person and we watch her grow.  This book is a political revolution story, but it is also a test of relationships.

I really enjoyed this book. If you have read and liked A Court of Thorns and Roses, The Hunger Games, or The Throne of Glass Novellas you will enjoy it too.

 

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The Heartbeats of Wing Jones Book Review

A Book Review by Carlos Herbozo, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer   

The Heartbeats of Wing Jones is Katherine Webber's first novel and an enjoyable read. Wing Jones is a biracial 15-year-old girl from Atlanta. Wing has always lived in the shadow of her older brother Marcus, who has college football scouts observing him play. She doesn't mind this because she is happy for Marcus and admires him. Wing is also romantically interested in Aaron, Marcus's best friend. Then one day, Marcus ends up in a coma, and everything changes for his family, which now has to live with the emotional repercussions. Wing refers to her two grandmothers as the "stalwart forces of my life", demonstrating how much she values family. Wing finds a new consolation in running, and her late night runs are guided by her visions of two animals: a dragon and lioness. These entities have sporadically led her to safety and success since she was little. The day comes when Wing is presented with an opportunity that would be a huge help for her family. She is aware of the necessity and gives it her all during her training. 

As the narrator and main protagonist, Wing is an enlivening character. Webber incorporated the diversity of many cultures and also the interactions between them. Wing developed noticeably in this book and it could be due to the sensation of feeling free when she was running. I found Wing's description of how she felt while running at night to be extremely relatable. Wing is an observant narrator, many times analyzing her current situation and circumstances, and her narration starts off passive but eventually is so full of voice. I feel her maturity stands out the most when she is at school. Although the story ends rather abruptly, with many sub-plot threads being left unanswered by the author, a major plot of the story, which is the self-imposed discipline and sacrifices that Wing's family has to endure, is resolved.  This is thanks to Wing's realization of running being a talent of hers. 

Recommended for fans of realistic fiction and athleticism (especially runners).

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Wonder Woman Warbringer Book Review

A Book Review by Arthi Sivendra, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer   

Princess Diana has always felt out of place among her immortal sisters on the island of Themyscira. Unlike the other Amazons, she was born there instead of earning her place through heroic acts in the World of Man leaving her desperate to prove herself.  At last, she is given the chance once she saves a drowning girl, however, helping an outsider is a crime worthy of banishment. Diana soon learns that the girl, Alia, is a Warbringer, a descendant of Helen of Troy and a catalyst for violence and destruction. While Alia is reluctant to believe her ancestry, the two travel back to the World of Man in search of a spring that is rumored to cleanse Alia and end the Warbringer line. However, those who do not believe in the spring aim to kill Alia before she can descend the world into bloodshed. With the help of Alia’s friends and brother, Diana and Alia travel to Greece in an attempt to survive and hopefully save the world.

As always, Leigh Bardugo creates an immersive world filled with diverse and relatable characters. The writing is engaging and witty as it switches from both Diana’s and Alia’s perspectives to keep the plot moving while developing both protagonists. The twists and turns will leave you shocked and eager for more. I would highly recommend this book is perfect for fans of adventure and the Percy Jackson series.

Arthi Sivendra, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer

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I Believe in a Thing Called Love Book Review

A Book Review by Arthi Sivendra, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer  

High school senior Desi Lee always has a plan, it’s what made her the valedictorian of her class and keeps her on track to go to Stanford. However, are all her lists and preparation enough to score her a boyfriend? After meeting the cute and artsy new kid, Luca, Desi decides to put this question to the test. Armed with the infinite wisdom of the Korean dramas she has watched with her father, Desi creates a foolproof plan to get the guy and her happily ever after…that is, if she can pull it off.

I Believe In a Thing Called Love was an enjoyable book to read, I found Desi to be an entertaining and witty protagonist and the story was never dull. This being said, the story was also very predictable, it starts out giving you a list outlining exactly what is going to happen, leaving very little room for surprise. Also, while Desi’s antics were wild and comedic, they seemed too much like a Korean drama rather than a realistic fiction novel. While this was the point, it made it difficult for me to understand how someone as smart and logical as Desi would continue with such an outrageous plan. All this aside, this was an easy read based on an interesting concept that would be great for any teen looking for a cute romance with plenty of swoon-worthy moments.

Arthi Sivendra, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer 

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Saints and Misfits Book Review

A Book Review by Carlos Herbozo, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer  

S.K. Ali's novel Saints and Misfits is a story about Muslim faith, identity, and social issues, which stars a Muslim teenage girl as the main character. Her name is Janna Yusuf and she is an Arab Indian-American hijabi, which means she wears an article of clothing known as a hijab on her head, for religious purposes. Janna is convinced that there are three types of people in her life: saints, misfits, and monsters. To her, saints are the people moving her world forward. For example, Mr. Ram, a senior citizen who Janna volunteers to spend hours with on Thursdays. Mr. Ram gives Janna inspirational verses from some of the finest poetry he can recall from memory. Janna considers herself a misfit, because she doesn't feel like she fits into her father's brand new family, or the one that was left over, which includes Janna's mother and engaged older brother, Muhammad, who is a university student. And then there are monsters, like the one person who everyone at the local mosque thinks is untouchable and holy but tried to assault Janna. This is a fact that only she knows about it and it plagues throughout the entire novel. At her high school, Janna spends part of her time crushing on Jeremy, a school athlete who is non-Muslim, for which Janna also considers him a misfit.

The book deals with many social topics, having to do with both the Islamic community and other topics. Janna's uncle writes an advice column where he responds to people's submissions with witty and insightful feedback every week, using the rules of Islam as his guidelines. S.K. Ali finds a good balance between time in the book spent at home with either family, time spent outside at either the mosque or Seniors Game Club, and time spent at high school with Tats, a close friend of Janna's, all of which helps make sure the story never gets bland or boring. This can make some events feel heavy when you first read them and in contrast others can feel rushed but meaningful. Regardless, the story is about a self-empowered young woman who simply needed a nudge in the right direction, and despite the amount of temptation and a few unrealistic expectations, managed to channel her anger, receive support, and stand up for herself, all while preserving the standards of her faith. Patient readers will enjoy this book and its many tough topics, as well as the humor sprinkled here and there by the author, often revealed through the intriguing thoughts Janna has as she lives her life.

Recommended for fans of realistic fiction and juvenile humor.

 

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The Unlikelies Book Review

A Book Review by Vanassa Lafluer, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer  

The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone 

What do a mixed Iranian-Irish girl, a rich and extremely intelligent white boy, a Haitian artist with a full grown beard, a Hispanic girl who donates school supplies, and a rebellious puppy photographer have in common? They all share the common mission of making the world a better place, one good deed at a time. Sadie, Gordie, Jean, Val, and Alice are The Unlikelies, a group of anonymous cyber vigilantes working to stop online bullying and trolling. Together, they faced countless problems head on. However, this never would have happened if Sadie never had her tragic “incident” that summer. “In a summer where nothing was supposed to happen...everything did.”

The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone is a realistic fiction novel following Sadie Sullivan’s summer after junior year, one that was due to be lonely due to her college-bound friends. Nevertheless, it ended up being one of the most eventful summers she had ever experienced. This book was a blend of multiple genres like mystery, drama, and romance. It is a definite page turner, leaving readers intrigued as they follow the actions of Sadie and the rest of The Unlikelies as they become just the thing the internet (and the world) needed. I recommend this novel for ages 13 and older as it deals with some mature subject matter. For those who do read it, it is sure to be an interesting one.

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A Season of Daring Greatly Book Review

A Season of Daring Greatly by Jill Cafferty

A Book Review by Josh Baker, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer

Baseball stands as one of the most culturally diverse sports in America. It includes players from countries all over the world, but ever since its creation, one aspect has never changed; not a single woman has played Major League Baseball. However, in Ellen Emerson White’s new novel A Season of Daring Greatly, Jill Cafferty becomes the first female drafted into the MLB. Cafferty’s journey strongly resembles (some might even say duplicates) that of Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the baseball color barrier in 1947. If you enjoy stories about huge changes in society or standing up against the norm, then you may enjoy this book. You may also enjoy books about Jackie Robinson, particularly Jackie & Me by Dan Gutman. If you are looking for a book on baseball in general, check out novels by Mike Lupica and Tim Green (featuring Derek Jeter in his latest publication Baseball Genius).

Personally, I found this story pretty bland. Since I know the story of Jackie Robinson, and I’ve read plenty of other stories like it, I correctly predicted all the motions that Jill Cafferty was going to go through. She’s verbally assaulted, people tell her to quit, she’s harassed by teammates, etc. Her father is dead too, but White does manage to have it somewhat contribute to the plot. There are not many surprises in the story, but in all honesty, it would be pretty hard to put surprises in a story that has been done several times already. Although the book was well written with good intentions, I feel the story was a bit cliche.

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Be True to Me Book Review

Be True to Me by Adele Griffin

A Book Review by Mariana Simpson, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer

Adele’s Griffin’s Book Be True To Me is an intriguing story of young romance. In Sunken Haven, Jean meets Gil first and instantly falls in love with Gil. Since Jean had the advantage of meeting Gil first in New York, they went out for dinner and dancing, and at the end of the night, Jean receives a kiss from Gil.  Of course, Jean thinks that there is an instant connection between the two. But, when Gil comes to Sunken Haven and is introduced as Carpies, Sunken Haven’s own town celebrity nephew, everyone thinks he is cute and would kill to date him.

Out of all the girls, Gil could've chosen, he chose Fritz, Jean’s very own arch nemesis. Fritz, is worried that something is going on between Fritz and Gil. Could it be that Gil would turn his back on Fritz and secretly date Jean? Or is Fritz just worrying over nothing? This book is all about love and rivalries and filled with a lot of drama. It is well detailed and very fast paced.

I would recommend Be True to Me for people who love drama and romance books. 

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