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Reviews and Recommendations

Pushing Perfect

Pushing Perfect by Michelle Falkoff

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

Kara Snow has always been known for being perfect in every aspect of her life. From being at the top of her class and having a seemingly picturesque family, no one could imagine Kara as anything other that perfect. Unfortunately, Kara is not as perfect as she seems. Inside, she is crumbling under all of the pressure, whether it comes in the form of her social life or academic woes. Having gotten used to throwing up as many walls as possible to avoid people finding out the truth, Kara is terrified at the prospect of anyone seeing that she is anything but perfect.

The problem with everyone thinking you’re perfect is that it becomes so much harder to keep up the act. Soon, Kara gives in to her overwhelming anxiety and does the unthinkable: she breaks the law. Her out-of-character actions land her in a completely new and exciting world with unlikely friends. However, Kara finds out this new world comes at a price. Kara is surprised to find herself being blackmailed by an anonymous person who somehow knows all of her secrets. Scared and confused, Kara and her new friends grow closer as they work together to uncover an intricate drug-plot lying under the surface of their pristine city streets all while trying to keep their own wrongdoings under wraps.

The high-stakes atmosphere of the novel will keep the readers intrigued as to what happens next and the mysterious blackmailer will leave them wondering who they can trust. The pacing is fast enough to be interesting, especially when the main conflict of the story arises. In addition to the text’s action-driven plot, fellow teens will be able to identify with Kara’s insecurities and stress associated with being a high school student. Kara learns to deal with these relatable feelings through the strong bonds she creates with her friends, which is an important lesson for any young reader. Pushing Perfect by Michelle Falkoff takes its reader on a fun adventure as Kara learns that maybe being perfect is not all it is cracked up to be. 

This book is recommended for any teen who enjoys realistic fiction with some added suspense and adventure. 

 
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The Sun is Also a Star

 

Review written by Emma, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer

Review of: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

   The Sun is Also a Star is a deeply inspiring book that is absolutely breathtaking. Nicola Yoon, the author, takes the reader into what seems like an ordinary day in New York City. Although, this day is anything but ordinary. To be more precise, this day consists of 12 hours filled with intense emotion. What heightens the book to another level is that the author tells the story from two different points of view. The first is told from a girl, Natasha, whose life revolves around logic and facts. Her life takes a dramatic turn because she finds out that she is hours away from being deported to Jamaica. The second point of view is from Daniel, a guy whose life is filled with passion for poetry and love. He’s grown up to be the son that makes his parents proud, after all, his parents do hold high expectations. When the two bump into each other on the crowded streets of New York City, Natasha never expects to fall in love with Daniel, a person who seems like he has grown up in a completely different world.

Nicola Yoon has easily become my new favorite author because of this unforgettable book. I can promise you, this book will be extremely hard to put down, as I know from completing it within a couple of days. This book is for those who are the looking for a spectacular book that seems like it is based on reality, not a sappy romance novel with a predictable ending.

Emma

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Delirum by Lauren Oliver Book Review

Delirium Book Cover

Review written by Emma, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer

Review of: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

In a dystopian society, love has been classified as a serious disease, so serious that it took 43 years to find a cure. In Lauren Oliver’s outstanding book filled with great passion, she presents the story of 17-year old Magdalena Haloway who is growing up in a society in which love is a crime. The day she turns 18, she will be forced to undergo a procedure that supposedly cures her of a disease that is within every person: Love. She saw first-hand the way love dismantled her mother and is determined not to go down the same road. In fact, she is eager to get the procedure over with so she can be normal and fit in with everybody else. But what happens when emotions are threatening to get the best of her and Magdalena meets an exotic boy from the other side of the tracks? With only a matter of days before her surgery, what will she do?

Delirium is a book for anyone who has ever wanted to take a risk in life and follow your heart. It is for people who are looking for that one book that makes you think, “Wow, that was really good!” Delirium was nearly impossible for me to put down, and I know the same thing will happen to you.

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My Seventh Grade Life in Tights Book Review

Review written by Cynthia Makachi, Teen Advisory Group Member

Review of: My Second Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin

Hey everyone! This is Cynthia from the library's Teen Advisory Group. A book that has recently released that I would like to recommend is My Seventh Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin. I was able to read an advanced copy of it and I just have to say it is an amazing book. It really brought me into the world of dance and the complications it can bring to someone. It also was an extremely funny book alongside true friendship and finding one's self. For any reader, especially realistic-fiction readers, I highly recommend reading My Seventh Grade Life in Tights.

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Crenshaw Book Review

Review written by Kristen Julia Anderson, Teen Librarian

Review of: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

I finally got around to reading Katherine Applegate’s novel Crenshaw.  The book is about a young boy whose imaginary friend, Crenshaw a giant Black and White cat who enjoys bubble baths and purple jelly beans, returns unexpectedly and just when he is needed most.

Those who enjoyed My Neighbor Totoro may draw parallels between the two tales, after all Crenshaw is first described as a giant cat carrying an umbrella on a surfboard and one of the most well-known images of Totoro (a sort of cat-like creature) is of him holding a tiny umbrella in the rain waiting for the cat bus.

Also like My Neighbor Totoro, Crenshaw depicts an imaginary friend who may or not be a child’s way of coping with a highly stressful situation. Crenshaw depicts a family’s struggle with homelessness as shared through their son’s, Jackson’s, point of view. Whether or not Jackson fabricates Crenshaw to deal with his family’s situation, the loss of home and stability, or if Crenshaw appears because Jackson needs him is hinted at but never explained, but that only adds to the wonder of the book.

While I can see older readers enjoying this book as well, I especially recommend it for middle grade reader’s 4th-6th grade.

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Counting Thyme Book Review

counting thyme book cover

Review written by Kristen Julia Anderson, Teen Librarian

Review of: Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin

Recommended Age/Grade:  Middle School, 5th-8th grade

This review is based on an Advanced Reader’s Copy.

Expected Release Date April 12, 2016

Life sometimes takes us places we never dreamed of going only to leave us right where we belong.  In Melanie Conklin’s debut novel, Counting Thyme, she shares the story of middle school student and middle sister Thyme Owens. Thyme’s family moves from San Diego to NYC because her younger brother, Val, who has a rare form of cancer, is part of a drug trial taking place in the city.  Her parents’ main focus is her brother; her older sister, Cori, quick to make new friends, is hardly ever around, leaving Thyme mostly on her own. Despite her “middle-child” syndrome position, Thyme proves to be brave and mature, though she does have her, understandable, moments of jealousy and loneliness. 

Thyme loves her family, especially her brother, but she misses her best friend and Grandmother, so at first all she wants to do is get back to the place she still calls home,  San Diego.  However, when Thyme starts to make new friends at her new school and even meets a boy (a first crush!) she starts to have mixed feelings over her initial wish to move. 

Counting Thyme is for anyone who has ever been (or felt like) the new kid, an outsider or felt caught in a life s/he doesn’t quite understand or easily fit. Conklin shows how sometimes the very changes we fear the most are the very ones that will help us grow the most.   

Highly recommended for fans of realistic fiction! 

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T.A.G. Video Book Review 2

Review by Sophia Raines 

(Book Reviewed: Part of Me:  Stories of a Louisiana Family by Kimberly Willis Holt)

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T.A.G. Video Book Review 1

 Review by Thania Piercin

(Book Reviewed: Twilight Zone : The Monsters are Due on Maple Street by Mark Kneece)  

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Review of The Rest of Us Just Live Here

The Rest of Us Just Live Here  Book Review By Sophia Raines            

The Rest of Us Just Live Here Book Cover

Calling all fangirls! And fanboys.

It’s the brutal truth that we, as book readers, must face. We are not special like the heroes and heroines in our favorite novels. We will never be the chosen wizard, son or daughter of a god/goddess, beholder of the all-powerful gift, defender of the light, be loved by a vampire, the one true king, and etc. The list goes on and on and on about the endless possibilities of what we cannot be. We read about these people and their exciting lives and we adore their strength and courage, and most of all how special they are. As much as we love these heroes and their thrilling lives, we also envy them; we all long to be the special one needed to save the world. You can cosplay and make-believe that you are the centerpiece of the magical world in which you long to live in, but you know deep down that you are not.

That is the concept for bestselling author Patrick Ness in his latest book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here. It follows four friends (Henna, Jared, Mikey, and his sister Mel) in their senior year of high school, through the lens of Mikey. All they want is simple, to have fun, and graduate, so long as the indie kids manage to not blow up the school. Who are the indie kids you ask? Well, you are already quite familiar with them. They are those smart aleck, hipsters, with those fifties names, and thrift shop clothes, and are so antisocial and against anything popular. Those chosen few, the ones that become the wizards or protectors of the light and all that jazz. Sure, they might go on cool adventures, but they have this tendency to die pretty often and cause a lot of collateral damage.           

What I love personally about this book is the refreshing perspective it brings to our favorite plucky young heroes. We often get swept up in their escapades and bravery that we overlook their faults. How destructive and selfish they really are. The craziest thing is that the protagonist in this novel are more captivating in their average lives because they are not the heroes. They are not special and they know that. Just like us.

            It is wonderfully clever, and heartbreakingly realistic. It is impossible not to get attached to these characters and fear for them. If you are a fan of YA adventure novels, a teenager in high school, and have a sense of humor, you will take extreme pleasure at poking fun at some of your favorite books. It is a must read, and a great gift for the season.

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Classic Books Every Teen Should Read

Recommendation List by Teen Advisory Group member Clare Kelly

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

1984 by George Orwell

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Sun Also Rises By Ernest Hemmingway

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes