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Permanent Record by Edward Snowden (Review by Mikhail O.)
Permanent Record is a nonfiction autobiography written by whistle-blower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden, known for his leakage of confidential NSA documents relating to their global and domestic mass surveillance programs. The book is a reflection on his whistle-blowing activities and how he ultimately ended up in Russia, but it is also an autobiography about his childhood, adolescence and teenage years. He writes about his early adulthood and experiences working for the NSA domestically and abroad, as well as describing his familial and other intimate relationships. The autobiography also problematizes the increased surveillance that even democratic countries fall guilty of doing, and how governments around the world do so. 

Overall, Permanent Record is a very interesting and enjoyable read for all ages preteen and above. Its writing is clear, concise, and very easy to follow, but it also explains very serious and pressing issues in easy-to-understand terminology. Snowden's writing is laid-back, casual, and easily approachable for bookworms and non-readers alike. This is a great autobiography for teens and adults, especially for those who want an insider’s perspective of the Snowden leaks, those who are interested in the issues of digital privacy and surveillance, and those who just want an interesting and easy read. I found the book to be fantastic and extremely informative. I cannot recommend it enough, as it is simply brilliant.

The Art of War by Sunzi (Sun Tzu)
(Review by: Mikhail O.)
The Art of War, written by military general and strategist Sunzi (also known as Sun Tzu in old style Romanization), who was in the service of King He Lü of Wu during the Spring and Autumn Annuals Period of ancient Chinese history (~770-476 BCE). The Art of War discusses organization of troops and supplies, the different terrains one may expect to encounter on the battlefield, the psychology of the enemy and one’s own troops, and what signs one must be aware of that hints at danger or safety, among many more things. Even though The Art of War has a very acute focus on the military, the lessons on discipline, awareness of one’s self and environment, and patience can be implemented in many aspect of everyday modern civilian life, such as schooling, work, and relationships. The book’s references to certain aspects and figures of Chinese mythology also serve as informative bits to the reader, especially with the comments from translators. The Art of War is an ancient text, which means certain parts of it are missing and there is a general consensus that certain parts are corrupt, therefore no two translations are exactly the same.

The Art of War is a must-read for those interested in the history of warfare, but it is also a great book for teens who have an interest in ancient Chinese history or philosophy, if not ancient history in general. The lessons of the book can also be implemented in many parts of a teen’s life, especially with school. I found it to be an interesting read that grips the reader’s attention.


The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James (review by Heba H.)

This sci-fi novel packs sweet romance, a killer twist, and engrossing ethical dilemmas in one quick punch. Great for anyone interested in space, or just wants a shorter read.

Plot: In the not-so-far future, after a series of accidents, Romy Silvers is the only person left on a mission to find a new habitable planet for humans. However, she soon finds out NASA is sending another ship to join her, and Romy quickly finds herself developing feelings for its sole crewmember, J.

Okay, so 90% of this book is just Romy sitting in her ship, The Infinity, and somehow it doesn’t get boring. There’s just so much to uncover about Romy, her dead fellow astronauts, and strange happenings on Earth, that the book flies by--I finished the whole thing in one sitting! I can’t say too much without giving away the book’s biggest strength, its third act, but even if you do pick up some clues, the twist plays out in an unimaginable way. Personally, I’m not sure I even like the twist, but the writing was so dazzling, so clever, so slick, that when I put the book down, I was absolutely breathless. 

Romy is also entrenched in fandom culture, which felt like a shout out to readers. She writes fanfiction on a site that looks suspiciously like Ao3, and her fanfics actually serve a crucial role in setting up the twist--another genius aspect to the writing. 

Characters: Romy Silvers (and this book in general) reminds me a lot of Cress, if Cress was a few years younger, had no human interaction in the last few years, and was substantially more paranoid. Romy’s fears hold her like a vice throughout the novel, and it gets a lot worse before she gets better, but you want to cheer when she gathers up the courage to face her demons. The things she goes through are traumatic at best, and Romy’s thoughtfulness, bravery, and quick-thinking are genuine marvels when you realize she has to do everything completely alone.

Romy does end up making some silly choices, but you can’t really blame her. Most of her mistakes come down to her lack of social experience, and though it can get frustrating at times, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. 

J is fine. He serves his part in the narrative, there’s some complexity to him; he does what he has to do as a character, even if his existence requires some serious suspension of disbelief. J is totally a blank slate, and while usually that would annoy me, here it makes perfect sense.

A richly crafted sci-fi thriller, this book only loses points for its divisive twist. 4/5 stars

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (review by Heba H.)


With a wildly original premise, breathtaking writing, and compelling character design, A Darker Shade of Magic brought V.E Schwab firmly into the mainstream. Half a decade later, does it still hold up?

Plot: Kell is one of the last Antari--someone with extreme magical abilities, a completely blackened eye, and the ability to travel through parallel universes, known as the four Londons. Red London, where magic flows freely, White London, where impoverished citizens scavenge for the traces of magic, Grey London, where science reigns supreme and magic is for the mad, and Black London, where magic brought the world to ruin. 


Kell, however, has a habit of illegally smuggling items between worlds, something that drops immense powers into the wrong hands. The rest of the novel follows him and a plucky girl named Delilah as they travel between worlds in the search for one particularly powerful item, and try to bring it back to its origin, Black London.


Oh, how I wanted to like this book.


I think this is the perfect example of “amazing in theory, terrible in practice,” because the first few chapters are wonderful. They’re atmospheric, creative, and have some really fun character introductions. But outside of those few chapters, it feels like characters are waiting around for the plot to start. And when it does, it’s surprisingly formulaic, where Kell simply needs to take an object from Point A to Point B, defeating foes along the way. Sort of like a run-of-the-mill adventure video game. While there are interesting elements, Kell’s interactions with the other Londons’ leaders, the backstories of the other Londons, etc, most of these are briefly touched upon, enough to sort of make narrative sense, and then dropped. I also thought the last “boss fight” had a lot of potential, but that it was solved way too easily, especially on Lila’s side. There just needed to be more worldbuilding, more time for the world to breathe. I know there’s more in this series, but the way the first book panned out left me disappointed at best. (And put me in a book slump!!)


Characters: Kell, our main character, started off so strong. His interactions with King George, his brother, his exasperation with Lila, it all felt real and natural. However, I feel like a lot of his internal turmoil simply goes away. Kell spends most of the novel struggling to figure out his role within his family as an adopted child, and ends up turning to smuggling as an outlet. It’s some truly compelling stuff. But most of this seems to go away with a heart-to-heart with his brother about two-thirds of the way through. In the last third, he’s pretty bland, and I genuinely didn’t care about what happened to him (or Lila) in the last battle.


I don’t like Lila, and it’s not entirely Lila’s fault. She’s a street orphan in the Victorian era who dreams of becoming a pirate. She’s headstrong, stubborn, clever, and very good with weapons. Without the pirate schtick, she kind of feels like every other YA female main character written within the last decade. And again, she’s got so much potential. There’s moments where she shows compassion, moments where it’s clear she has no idea what she’s doing with her life, but there’s little done to flesh those traits out. She’s also a symptom of what I’ll call “girlboss feminism,” where female characters who don’t feel comfortable conforming to societal standards actively put down other women who do, and then the author expects us to cheer them on. If there was some acknowledgement that Lila is bitter, that she finds it unfair that society doesn’t let her coexist with these women regardless of the standards, then this would work. But as is, it’s a skewed view of femininity that detracts from Lila as a character. 


Creative premise but poor execution. 2.5/5 stars.


None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney (review by Heba H.)

Described as “YA Silence of the Lambs,” this thriller twists and turns through puzzling cases and horrifying crime scenes. It’s the perfect read for anyone who needs a break from fantasy, romance, orneeds a good dose of true crime.


Plot: Two teens, Emma and Travis, both with traumatic connections to serial killers, are hired by the FBI to interrogate juvenile offenders—the FBI’s euphemism for teenage murderers. However, the two end up tangled in the mystery of an active killer, and have to race against the clock and stop them before they strike again.


None Shall Sleep definitely hits the ground running. The overall character introductions are pretty short; we get a quick grasp of who Emma is and it’s off to Quantico. Despite this, things really get interesting when the kids are simultaneously put on active killer “The Butcher’s” case and forced to contend with Simon Gutmonsson, the book’s YA Hannibal Lecter (minus the cannibalism). 


There are twists aplenty, and two really heart pounding moments of action. The book also constantly switches POVs, which either provide set-ups for some lovely dramatic irony, interesting character perspectives, or a wonderful mix of both. Certain scenes were genuinely horrifying; the main antagonist’s depravity is almost a sight to behold—if you can bear looking at it.


Characters: Emma and Travis are a breath of fresh air. Platonic het relationships are surprisingly rare in YA, and this is a brilliant example of two friends who understand/care for each other without romance. Plus they’re just as interesting on their own. None Shall Sleep explores Emma’s trauma with realism and care. Though normally blunt, observant, and witty, there are moments where she’s barely hanging on. Her character growth is a true highlight of the book.


Travis is a bit more of a stickler for the rules. He’s just as analytical, and steadfastly loyal to the FBI. He’s the less developed of the two, but he shines in scenes with the Gutmunssons, and his gradual distrust of the FBI is a fun arc.


However, the writing style holds back its characters. It’s clinical and detached without long paragraphs of flowery imagery, which makes sense for this genre, but comes at the expense of the characters. Instead of being in the midst of the action, it feels like you’re watching it play out on TV, which makes it hard to build a connection with Emma and Travis.


Final Rating: 4.75/5 stars. A fresh and fast-paced thriller perfect for the summer!


A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (review by Heba H.)

This YA fantasy is Naomi Novik’s dark-academia, multicultural take on Harry Potter. With fantastic characters and a unique magic system, this was one of my favorite reads of 2021. I’m dying for the sequel!


Plot: A Deadly Education is the “magical school” trope on steroids. Young magic-wielders attend the Scholomance, where monsters roam and death is an everyday occurance. Everyone’s fighting to survive, but none more than El Higgins, a prickly girl with few resources and fewer friends. The novel follows her as she tries to make it through junior year alive, while battling dangerous foes, both human and monster alike. 


(The plot summary kind of peters out at this point, because the story is almost solely fueled by its characters. Luckily enough, they’re absolute wonders, but more on that later.)


World building takes center stage in A Deadly Education. The Scholomance and magical society are intricate, vibrant worlds with their own rock-solid internal logic. Everything gets a detailed explanation, which, admittedly, leads to the occasional infodump. However, learning about the Scholomance was a joy, and it was all so engaging that I didn’t really notice. 


Characters: El, the main character, is sarcastic, cynical, and occasionally downright rude. As she doesn't come from an enclave, groups of wizards with gargantuan amounts of stored mana, quality spells, and privilege, she’s made it to junior year by sheer grit and wit. To make things worse, her magic skews towards mass destruction, so she’s often forced to take the long route for solutions, since she could end up killing thousands with a mere spell. El resents the world for the cards it’s dealt her, and though you can’t blame her, her growth throughout the novel is one of its best parts. (Found family trope anyone?)


But as much as I love El, Orion Lake steals the show. His character slams “the Chosen One” trope with a sledgehammer and then glues the pieces into a skinny kid from New York with an affinity for killing monsters. He’s been saving students’ lives like there’s no tomorrow, not because he wants fame, or glory, (though he gets plenty of it) but because it’s the only thing he knows how to do. Which has had the unintended consequence of starving the monsters and making them more desperate as a result, fueling the book’s main conflict. 


Orion’s relationship with El is genuinely heartwarming. They’ve got amazing chemistry, great banter (that improves as El’s sarcasm rubs off on Orion, which is super adorable), and have a deep understanding of each other that develops throughout the novel. I love how oblivious the two of them are, and I can’t wait to see more of them in the sequel.


Side Character Shout Out: Liu and Aadhya are queens, I love Liu’s character arc and Aadhya’s pragmatism, please stay alive in the sequel.


Final Rating: 5/5 - Creative world building and amazing characters!


These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (review by Heba H.)

A fast-paced novel that’s equal parts YA mystery and clever social commentary, These Violent Delights has taken BookTok by storm. But is it worth the hype?

Plot: The book serves as a Romeo and Juliet retelling, revamping the classic play into a mystery set in 1920’s Shanghai. There’s no time wasted setting up the central conflict; people are ripping their own throats out at the drop of the hat, seemingly possessed by the need to do so. Ordinary folks report monster sightings in the sea. And so, the hunt to find the perpetrator begins. 

The city, and the story, is split between two rival gangs: the White Flowers helmed by the Montagovs and the Scarlet Gang led by the Cais. Naturally, both sides are embroiled in a relentless blood feud. But our star-crossed lovers, Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai, start the novel as detectives, holding their own investigations into the madness. The two eventually realize that the disease is bigger than their gangs’ rivalry and strike a deal to (covertly) work together, kicking off the plot in earnest. Meanwhile, British and French tradesmen are slowly infiltrating Shanghai, weakening the gangs, replacing Chinese culture with their own, and throwing the city on their growing pile of colonies, one sale at a time. 

Chloe Gong’s decision to alternate point of views allows for some wonderful instances of dramatic irony, along with terrific worldbuilding. However, while tension does build throughout the book, scenes that focus on supporting characters often slow that momentum. But her prose more than makes up for those dry spells, filled with lush descriptions of vibrant cityscapes and poignant metaphors for colonialism.

Characters: These Violent Delights has been touted as a pinnacle of the enemies-to-lovers trope. It functions as a lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers, which, personally, was sort of let down. But more importantly, enemies-to-lovers depends on strong characterization for the couple in play. Juliette has plenty. Newly returned from studying abroad in the U.S, she’s fighting to prove that she belongs in Shanghai and as the heir to the Scarlet Gang. Juliette is impulsive and calculating. She kills without a second thought, but she still has touching relationships with her cousins. Meanwhile, there aren’t nearly enough scenes that focus on Roma. He’s struggling to prove himself as his gang’s heir as well, yet unlike Juliette, there’s no confrontation with his parents, no plotting usurper. The narrative gives Roma less to work with, and personally, it leaves him and Juliette with little chemistry as a couple. 

Overall: 4/5 stars; minus one point for a disappointing romance


Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado (review by Heba H. )

A new, contemporary YA novel,
Fat Chance, Charlie Vega discusses issues facing plus-sized women, delivers an adorable romance, and a poignant coming-of-age story.

Plot: At its core, this novel is about a fat girl, living with a toxic, fatphobic mother, navigating the ins and outs, highschool, relationships, and her deep-rooted insecurities. It’s very character-driven, which makes for an overly simplistic plot on paper, but the characters and their relationships are fleshed out and realistic enough to make it work. 

The book’s final third does suffer from poor pacing; overly slow in the conflict’s build-up, far too quick in its resolution. I also feel that the book underutilized its setting, which is a small, mostly white suburban town, specifically in regards to Amelia. Her struggles as a black queer woman are only mentioned in passing. However, along with my general nitpicks for most books set in highschool, (where’s the homework/projects/finals/standardized testing!) these are my only real problems with this novel. The plot is simple, but effective, and makes for a quick but powerful read.

Characters: I absolutely adore Charlie! She’s smart, funny and very self-aware. Her insecurities cloud her thoughts, (making her into something of an unreliable narrator at times) her anxiety gets the better of her---Charlie is one of the most relatable characters I’ve read in a while. She has a tendency to bottle up her emotions for the sake of others, and she’s fully aware that she’s doing it, but goes ahead and does it anyway. Watching Charlie grow more self-assured is a fun ride filled with ups and downs and some pretty bad mistakes, but you end up rooting for her anyway.

    Her relationships are what propel the novel’s driving action. For one, the author doesn’t shy away from the realities of being the “fat friend.” Charlie and Amelia’s bond is nearly unbreakable, but that doesn’t make it perfect. Charlie and Brian are adorable, and though they are a smidge insta-lovey as a couple, Brian’s a complete sweetheart with awesome communication skills. 

    What interests me most is Charlie’s relationship with her mother. She clearly suffers from an unhealthy relationship with food. Charlie’s mother is constantly belittling Charlie’s weight, overlooking her daughter, and invalidating her emotions. It’s a highly toxic environment that several characters point out as abnormal. But there’s no reckoning. There’s a quick conversation towards the end, and that’s it, for someone who has been neglectful at best and abusive at worst, a problem that’s compounded by poor pacing.


Overall Rating: 4.75/5 stars, loses points for pacing, but genuinely one of my favorite reads of the year!


An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley (review by Heba H.)

A quick standalone brimming with interesting concepts, this novel is perfect if you’re looking for a dark YA historical fantasy. 

Plot: It’s revolutionary Paris, but with a poisonous twist. Louis XIV is loathed by his people, so in steps the Shadow Society, a group of alchemists and sorcerers that secretly work to help the peasant class, supplying them with curative, healing magic. Led by Madame Monvoisin, the group gains power, and eventually, the French throne.

Mirabelle Monvoisin wanted nothing to do with the coup. Tricked into poisoning the king with her alchemy, she flees her mother’s ever constricting clutches. Undercover, Mirabelle aids Paris’ poor, and earns herself ardent supporters in the process, along with a title: La Vie.

Josse de Bourbon, the king’s bastard, cares only for his half-sisters. Caught in the midst of the Shadow Society’s coup, his sisters are dying after being infected with a strange, magical disease. But after stumbling upon Madame Monvoisin’s daughter, chance hands them a lifeline. The two eventually team up, as main characters often do, to defeat Madame Monvoisin’s dictatorship, place Prince Louie on the throne (who Josse managed to smuggle out of the madness along with his sisters), and bring justice to France. 

An Affair of Poisons has a character-driven plot, and not necessarily in a good way. Several plot points depend on characters “forgetting” or “not realizing” things that should be obvious, such as never considering the possibility of spies within their vast base of supporters. Nevertheless, watching Mirabelle and Josse rise from nothing to leaders of the people is genuinely engaging, and fuels the plot’s momentum. However, the climax does away with most of this earned goodwill; it’s a magical power struggle that feels ill suited to the intricate political power plays from earlier in the novel. Similarly, while the resolution does nicely tie up loose plot points, one can’t help but mourn missed opportunities and squandered ideas.

Characters: Mirabelle is by far the novel’s strongest character. Her dynamic relationship with her mother, desperately wanting to please her while being disgusted to be her daughter---is an exceptional exercise in internal conflict. This extends to her testy relationship with her sister, another relationship that erodes to dust. On her own, Mirabelle is an expert alchemist with a passion for her craft, constantly tinkering and inventing cures to Madame Monvoisin’s poisons. She’s snarky and empathic, but prone to making some breathtakingly bad choices. 

Josse’s internal conflict is somewhat similar. After spending his life convincing himself he didn’t need his father’s attention, Josse is forced to come to terms with the fact that his father did love him, and that his rebellious behavior estranged them. But, after two quick mental breakdowns, he’s ready to rejoin the rebellion. Unfortunately, Josse’s character development is often sidelined by the plot. Though his devotion to his little sisters is a valid motivation, it also leaves him kind of one-dimensional. The backstory with his father had the potential to lead to a nuanced character arc, yet was poorly paced due to plot constraints.

The romance between these two should work; there are some lovely moments between Josse and Mirabelle, especially during the second act. Personally, I just didn’t buy Mirabelle forgiving and trusting Josse so quickly after he quite literally kidnapped her. Ultimately, like many other instances in this book, my issue with it comes down to pacing. 

Also, shout out to Prince Louie, who had a mini-character arc that I absolutely adored. Transforming an annoying character into a sympathetic one is difficult to pull off, but the author did it wonderfully.

Three and a half stars out of five. Loses points for inconsistent pacing and questionable decision-making, but a solid read overall.


The Plastic Magician by Charlie Holmberg (review by Heba H.)
A light, quick read, The Plastic Magician is perfect for anyone who’s looking for a cute romance, an interesting magic system, and a strong, practical main characte


Note: This novel is a spin-off of the Paper Magician series, but you don’t need to read it to understand the story.


Plot: After impressing at her boarding school in the U.S, Alvie Brechenmacher goes to London to learn Polymaking, enchanting plastics. There, she studies under the greatest Polymaker in the world, Magician Marion Praff, and the two soon come up with an invention that will revolutionize Polymaking, medicine, and push the boundaries of magic. But Praff’s rival will stop at nothing to steal it, and all the credit. Alvie races against the clock to finish the project, keep Praff’s rivals at bay, and adjust to the new country she’s been thrown into.


Not the most thrilling plot, but that isn’t this book’s goal. It’s a fun, uncomplicated journey through Belle Epoque-era London, with an interesting magic system to boot. The characters live in a world bursting with change and possibility---new disciplines of magic, automobiles, women wearing pants---which injects the story that sense of excitement. While the climax of the book is a little far-fetched, there are plenty of clues that lead up to Alvie’s final reckoning, and the climax doesn’t overstay its welcome. 


Characters: Alvie is a character that’s intensely devoted to science. She works sleepless days and nights for her projects, is often lost in her thoughts about innovations, and does quick mathematical calculations when she’s nervous. It’s a rare thing to see in YA fantasy, and it’s nice to see the people around her take her seriously, because Alvie is highly intelligent. She does occasionally veer into not-like-other-girls territory, (she hates dresses and getting her hair done, which the author feels the need to constantly reference) but otherwise, Alvie’s an interesting contrast to the folks around her. However, Bennet, Alvie’s love interest, isn’t nearly as fleshed out. He’s a paper magician, a nice guy, and drives a car. While he’s a kind person, and great with Alvie, on his own, Bennet falls flat as a character. Nevertheless, his devotion to her was pretty admirable (and adorable). Magician Praff is also somewhat uninteresting. It’s enjoyable to see him in invention-mode, but other than that, he mainly serves as the mentor archetype. 


The novel’s main antagonist is nothing short of the classic, mustache-twirling villain. His motivations are shallow at best, and his actions during the climax are almost comically evil. Due to this, you could see the twist from miles away; the characters (apart from Alvie) should’ve seen it coming too. Still, it’s fun to see Alvie use nothing but her skills, along with a bit of luck, to think her way out of a nearly impossible situation. 


3 out of 5 stars. Loses points for low stakes and flat characterization, but an overall fun read.


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (review by Claire O.)51901147. sy475

Many people didn't want to read this book because they were afraid that President Snow would get a redemption. He does not. Yes, he is young (only eighteen) when this takes place. But right from the beginning of the book, he thinks only of how he can gain status and power, and when the concept of the Hunger Games is introduced, he doesn't seem to have many problems with it. Throughout the book, we can see Snow grow into the person we see in the original three Hunger Games books, laying the foundations of his ideas that we come to see in Katniss' time.
This is a villain backstory unlike many others I've read, because the villain isn't redeemed: you can't look back and think "the things they did were terrible, but they had a reason," because Snow's reasons aren't ones that we would agree with. It was very well done, I enjoyed the insight into his mind without feeling sorry for him.
Another thing that I likedwas seeing how different the first several Hunger Games were from the elaborate production that it is in the original three books. It was interesting to see how they became the way they were in Katniss' day and it made a lot of sense because when you're first introduced to the concept of the Hunger Games in the first book, you can't help but wonder how the people supported them.

    All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book, much more than I had expected to, and enjoyed the expansion upon the world of Panem!

Overall rating: 4/5 stars

40275288. sy475 The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (review by Claire O.)

 First of all, this book seems like a mix between Eragon, Seraphina, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and Throne of Glass. Those are some of my favorite books/series, so I had high expectations for The Priory of the Orange Tree. However, it didn't exactly live up to my expectations. It wasn't as good as the other series that it seemed to resemble, but I did still enjoy it.
 In the beginning, it was a little slow before the action began, but after that, I didn't think that it was boring or slow at all. It was also a little confusing at the very beginning of the story, because there were so many different names and histories and religions and places but it did get a little bit better after a while (although by the end of the book I was still a little bit confused about some things).
 I enjoyed the worldbuilding (although, as I said above, it was a little bit confusing) and I especially liked how there were so many different cultures and religions in the story, which made it more exciting and interesting. I also liked the different personalities of the characters, and how there were a number of gay relationships and it was just a casual thing instead of a big deal.
  One of the things I didn't like was that there seemed to be several "main conflicts" within the book and a lot of them seemed built up to be this big climax and a big deal and then it was resolved really easily and I just kind of felt like I had been let down by the conflicts being resolved much too simply.
    Overall though, I did really enjoy this book. I think that it's a great read for teens, but it is long (over 800 pages) so you should only pick it up if you enjoy reading longer books. I don't know if I would reread it, but I certainly liked the time I spent reading it.

Overall rating: 4/5 stars

16068905Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (review by Claire O.)

I absolutely love this book. It's not often that I see myself: a nerdy, introverted girl who'd rather stay at home and write on a Friday night than go to a party, represented in a YA novel as the protagonist. And if I do see that, it's normally her journey to becoming a social butterfly. Cath grew, of course, but by the end of the book she was still introverted, still nerdy, but she was working on overcoming her social anxiety.

   Not only that, but everything was relatable, especially the fandom. Yes, I had never read a Simon Snow book (although I did read "Carry On" afterward but that's beside the point) but Cath's love of the books was very familiar. Plus, the characters were all fleshed-out and I enjoyed reading about them. There were also many subplots, which gave the feeling of an actual life, which doesn't just have one or two conflicts or problems.

    But again, the biggest reason I love Fangirl is that I see myself in Cath. I could very easily become her: she's too socially anxious to go to the dining hall until October, she isn't sure how to date, and she finds it hard to speak up. She also struggles with her roommate, and she doesn't go out and instead reads or writes. I also liked how it was college but she never went drinking and in fact was kind of like "I don't understand the point of it" because it allowed me to relate to her even more.

    All in all I loved Fangirl and I really wish there were more books like it: ones where the introverted, nerdy girl stays introverted and nerdy and it isn't a character flaw!
Overall rating: 5/5 stars

Geekerella by Ashley Poston (review by Claire O.)

I love books focused on fandom culture, and this book was no exception! I loved the characters of Elle and Darien, and even though it was harder to appreciate what Darien was going through, seeing as I'm not a famous movie star, I was still able to empathize with and relate to him. This is a retelling of Cinderella, and I knew this, but the book still surprised me with the directions it took and the way it followed the original fairy tale. I've never been to a con, but I would love to after reading this book! I also wish Starfield was a real thing so that I could watch it, because the way Elle and Darien describe the show it seems amazing. 

    The romance was very cute and I really enjoyed it! I especially liked how, even though it was a Cinderella retelling, Elle and Darien had developed a relationship before the "ball" part of the story so that the romance was more believable and when they finally met face to face and recognized each other it made the moment that much sweeter.

   Geekerella is cliched, but it's the good kind of cliched, and the book really felt like a feel-good novel to me, which is exactly what I was looking for in this book!
Overall rating: 4/5 stars


Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy (review by Claire O.)31449227. sy475

  This book was absolutely amazing! I tore through it in twenty-four hours and was blown away by how much I enjoyed it. First of all, the characters were all flawed and real, and even though I’m not going through what they are, it was very easy to relate to and empathize with them, and to see where everyone was coming from even if they weren’t the main character. I loved the friendship between Ramona and Saul, Ruth, Freddie, and Hattie, and how close everyone was to each other. I loved the side characters, like Agnes. The descriptions were amazing, and I did not see the ending coming at all!

    Another thing that I really enjoyed was the accurate representation of how it feels to question your sexuality. Ramona starts the book by being certain that she’s a lesbian, but as the book goes on she begins to realize that she’s actually bisexual. I haven’t read many books where this happens, as usually it’s about someone thinking they’re straight and then realizing that they’re bi and so this book was different and I really liked that! Also, Ramona’s journey to admitting that she's bi feels very realistic and accurately portrays how confused you can be. 

  This book was one of my favorite reads this year and I’m so glad that I read it!

Overall rating: 5/5 stars

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (review by Claire O.)30653853

I have read nearly every book by Becky Albertalli and they all have one thing in common: they’re so relatable! In this book I particularly related to Molly, but there were other characters that I was able to relate to as well. I enjoyed the plotline: going into this I thought it was going to be a love triangle, but it’s really not. The characters were all fleshed-out completely and felt like real people with real struggles. 

    Another thing that I really liked was how it tied into Becky Albertalli’s other books, with Molly and her siblings being cousins to Abby from Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and how Simon and Nick made small appearances in addition to Abby texting Molly throughout the book. I didn’t know that I needed the story of Abby’s cousins until now, but this book really seemed to complete the series, as well as to give life to some new characters that were either briefly mentioned or not mentioned at all in the other books!

Overall rating: 5/5 stars 
34726469Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young (review by Claire O.)

  I've never read a Viking-inspired fantasy book before, but this book makes me want to read more! I liked the development of the blood feud between the Aska and the Riki, and Eelyn’s growth as she spends more time among the Riki and realizes that the blood feud was pointless. I also enjoyed the complex familial relationships in this book, and the “found family” trope, which I always love. The romance in this book also was well done, and wasn’t too big a part of the book but was still developed enough that I really enjoyed reading about it. This book got a bit slow in the middle, which is why I rated it 4 stars instead of 5, but overall I really liked it!
Overall rating: 4/5 stars


The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young (review by Claire O.)
42867937 I really enjoyed reading Sky in the Deep and was excited to start The Girl the Sea Gave Back, as it takes place ten years after Sky in the Deep and follows Halvard, who was a child in the first book and is now a young adult. However, this book wasn’t as good as the first book, although I did still like it. I really liked how more clans were introduced and their cultures were built upon and how we got a glimpse into the lives of the main characters from Sky in the Deep even though they weren’t the main focus anymore. The introduction of the other gods was also something I really enjoyed, but I felt like the romance came out of nowhere and wasn’t developed enough for me to be invested in it. Overall, I felt like this didn’t live up to Sky in the Deep but was still a fairly good book despite that.
Overall rating: 3.5/5 stars

28243032We Are Okay by Nina LaCouer (review by Claire O.)

  We Are Okay is the type of book that is incredibly heartbreaking to read, but that is also incredibly good. This book skipped back and forth between the present time and times in Marin’s past, so that when the book starts you know she’s left everything she knew behind and cut off contact with everyone but you have no idea why, and as the story progresses and you get more glimpses into Marin’s past and her relationships with the people that used to be in her life. I haven’t read many books that have timelines like this, and I feel like it would be very hard for an author to pull this off correctly, but Nina LaCour does this masterfully. The book doesn’t end with your storybook happy ending, but it ends with hope, and I think I preferred this to if everything had been wrapped up happily, because it gave a realistic feel to the book. We Are Okay was raw and realistic and filled with sadness, but it was also filled with hope and healing, and it was the type of book that is hard to read but so worth it when you do!
Overall rating: 5/5 stars

31123244. sy475 Fatal Throne by Candace Fleming (review by Claire O.)

    This book is told through six perspectives: each of Henry VIII’s wives get a chapter to talk about what they lived through, and it was very interesting. Mostly history tends to brush his wives aside and create representations of them and I loved being able to read about them through their eyes. It was interesting to see what they thought of each other: for example, both Katharine of Aragon and Jane Seymour absolutely hated Anne Boleyn, but when I read Anne Boleyn’s chapter, she absolutely hated Katharine of Aragon and Jane Seymour, so I ended up getting perspective on their actions besides their own or Henry’s.

    I also really liked how at the end of every perspective there is a shorter chapter from Henry VIII talking about his wife. A lot of the time it’s full of lies (such as Anne Boleyn’s) and what he thought of the wife. It was infuriating to read but provided a nice insight into King Henry VIII. 

    This book was very interesting to read and gave me a window into the lives of King Henry VIII’s wives. 

Overall rating: 4/5 stars