TeenLit Book Reviews

January 2005


Stephanie Spinner

Rating: 3 (1-4, 4 being the best) This book is appropriate for students in middle school. The vocabulary used in this book is not difficult and the storyline is easy to understand. Although this book is on a topic involving mythology, you don’t have to have an interest in ancient history to enjoy the story. Quiver is set in Ancient Greece around the year 200 B.C.E. Atalanta, the abandoned princess of Arcadia, has advanced warrior skills. She can shoot a bow better than Jason, the leader of the Argonauts. She can run faster than any mortal. How does all this good fortune come to Atalanta? The Greek goddess, Artemis, goddess of the hunt, wild animals, the moon, and pregnant women, gave Atalanta these skills. Meleager is the prince of Calydon and the leader the Great Hunt of Calydon. He is one of Atalanta’s only true friends. Castor is Atalanta’s mentor, and he is also a very skilled hunter. The final minor character is King Iasis, father of Atalanta. He abandoned her in the forest where she was raised by a bear. The story starts off during the hunt at Calydon. The giant boar is still loose, but Atalanta is close on its trail. Atalanta hits the boar with one of her arrows and lets Meleager kill it. Meleager gives the boar to Atalanta as a trophy, which causes havoc in the hunting party and ultimately leads to the death of three people, including Meleager. Upon the death of her closest friend, Atalanta returns home to her village in Arcadia. There she receives news that she is the daughter of King Iasus, and is escorted to the palace. Her father turns out to be a drunk. He is also very sickly and is going to die in the next couple of weeks, and he needs a male heir. He orders Atalanta to marry and provide him with an heir. This is all well, except for the fact athat Atalanta promised Artemis that she would never marry. I like this story- it is full of surprises. The author does a good job of telling a story in very few words, but it leaves the reader with many questions unanswered about the minor characters. Their stories aren’t as important as Atalanta’s, but I need more detail to understand what makes them act the way they do. The author also thought that having the gods conversing among themselves at the end of every chapter would add something to the story, but in my opinion it didn’t. Overall this book is still worth reading. By, Joseph Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
Reviewed by . Grade: ----- in , - Link directly to entry

Gossip Girl

Cecily von Ziegesar

Gossip Girl Review The first three books in the Gossip Girl series are Gossip Girl, You Know you Love Me, and All I Want is Everything, by Cecily von Ziegesar. They are "light" fiction, not meant to betaken seriously for plot or deeper meaning. I would rate these three books as a 2 on a scale of 1 to 4. These books should only be read by a mature teen who knows that irresponsible behavior, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, and bad values do not make one popular or cool. With that in mind, the first book starts with the beautiful, popular, rich girl, Serena returning to the Upper East Side of Manhattan from boarding school. Her best friend, Blair, has turned against her and has turned her other friends against Serena too; but that shouldn't be a problem for Serena. The second book is full of applying to colleges, that is Ivy League Colleges. Most of the girls do not try hard in school, but with all of the money in their families, they think daddy could easily make a big donation and secure his daughter's spot. The third book takes a different tone. Serena and Blair become best friends again and start planning awesome parties and getting into all sorts of trouble; after all, it is winter vacation. The strengths of these books are that they are fun to read, and once you start to read them, they are hard to put down. The weakness are that nothing meaningful actually happens in them. They are full of obnoxious teenagers who do obnoxious things, but they are well written. If the reader can understand that the characters are not doing the right thing, they may end up enjoying these books. By Julia, Menlo Park, CA
Reviewed by . Grade: ----- in , - Link directly to entry

Define Normal

Julie Ann Peters

Genre- Fiction..Family Troubles/Relationships Rating- 3 1/2 I would recommend this book to Middle School kids and High School teenagers, both male and females. "Normal" Is there such a thing? Should someone be condemned because they are different as some people may say. Of course not! Antonia and "Jazz", so different in so many ways, and yet alike and others. Antonia who was always helping out, or taking part in things, she then decides to volunteer in the new "Peer Counseling" program at school, only to find out that her new person to counsel was Jasmine Luther. "Jazz" is anything but ordinary. While hating each other from the start of the counseling sessions, they never knew what exactly their relationship could turn into. Both thinking the total opposite of what actually happens. We would like to think that "Jazz" would be the one living in the slums, having no money or outlook on life ect. and we should also like to think Antonia, straight A student lives in a huge mansion, great parents, and a great life. But this book make's society's way of thinking very much so, wrong. As the story proceeds an amazing turn comes-about. Antonia lets down her barriers by letting "Jazz" become a part of her life. Define Normal is an extraordinary book about how someone so normal, and so differant as we would like to think, can actually be alot alike, just give the person the time of day and you will come to find out they aren't so different after all. This novel, was an all-around great book. It deals with conflicts many teens will go through. The book could have been written in a little better detail, but otherwise a wonderful book. I recommend this book to all! Jill Sturgis, SD
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A Corner of the Universe

Ann M. Martin

Hattie Owen is a 12- year old citizen of a small town called Millerton. Her father owns a boarding house in which he lives with his wife, Hattie, and a few friends. For instance, Angel Valentine is a friend that lives with them. One day Adam (a cousin that Hattie doesn’t even know exists) comes home because his school for the mentally retarded closed. Then, when the carnival comes to town, Hattie meets a friend named Leila. Together they think of a way in which to sneak Adam out of the house to go to the carnival with them. At the carnival Adam goes on the Ferris wheel, but it gets stuck! Adam throws a fit and, well…I don’t want to give away the ending. This book is about how Adam has to deal with disability. Adam is really pretty normal, but he can get really angry all the time. A great book in which the whole plot is as realistic as can be. The story has a sad ending. So, if you are looking for a "happily ever after" ending, I don't recommend it. This is a sad and realistic fiction book that I would rate 3 out of 4, with 4 being the best.
Reviewed by . Grade: ----- in , - Link directly to entry

Jingle Boy

Kieran Scott

Rating: 3.5 Genre: Fiction (But could happen to someone) This book was funny, sad, and happy all in one! It is definitely a great book. I would recommend this book to both boys and girls. The ages I would say this book is for is anyone in middle school or older. Have you ever had one of those days, where you think things can't get any worse. Well..try living Paul Nicholas's world for a week. Paul loves christmas, and to top of his love for christmas, he had the best girlfriend in the world, and he was getting the Jeep that he always wanted. Great, right?..that is, until things take a sudden turn for the worst when he and his best friend are in the mall and loose Paul's special santa hat. Paul looses his great girlfriend, to a MALL santa, gets framed for something he didn't even do, and his house almost burns down! Paul goes from high-spirted loving christmas type guy, to a hating christmas type guy. You can't blame him though. Paul's life is on a downward spiral, spinning out of control to fast. Can things ever get better for him...or will they continue to get worse? Well I'm not going to tell you- you are going to have to read and find out for yourself! I thought this book was great, even if you don't like stories about Christmas. I think everyone should read this story! Jill Sturgis, South Dakota, USA
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Graham McNamee

Rating: 3 (1-4, with 4 being the best) I would recommend this book to high school males because of the word choice, the plot, and because of the themes of the book. The book is about Duncan, a traumatized 17 year old boy, who lives in modern Toronto. Six months before Duncan starts his story, he is swimming in a lake when he heard a girl screaming. He thought it was typical for a girl to scream, so he paid no attention to her. Then he saw people running in to the water and he realized what was happening... the girl was drowning! Duncan swam over to the girl, but he just couldn't reach. The girl died and now Duncan, traumatized, can’t go near the water. Right now Duncan is working in the Toronto Subway Lost and Found, or as Duncan calls it, the tomb. He is monitored by Jacob, a former subway conductor. Duncan sits in the back of the lost and found on his lawn chair and reads books people left behind on the subway. One day he picks up a white leather book that looks like a diary. Inside that book Duncan reads about a man who drowns rats, starts fires, and is planning to kill three women. So, Duncan consults his friend Vinny, a crippled genius. They both do research on a murder’s acceleration, how a criminal evolves into a killer. The steps are: first they kill small animals, then they start fires, and finally they commit murder. Could this diary belong to a murderer? The only weakness of Acceleration was that the author added quite a few minor characters that did not help the story in any way. I thought the author did a good job explaining Duncan and Vinny's actions. The author also used good word choice in describing the dialog of inner city teens- it was very descriptive and true to life. Joseph M. Colorado Springs, CO
Reviewed by . Grade: ----- in , - Link directly to entry

October 2000

Girls in Love

Jacqueline Wilson

Readers Needed: This is a chick flick, no guys aloud. There also is some odd differents in the culture so 12 and up Preview: Well this is one book that every girl out there can relate too, even though it about a teenager in England and her two best friends. She has pretty bizarre taste, with a painfully and pitifully ordinary life. The book starts out in there holiday home in Wales where Ellie (the focal character) is introduced to a boy named Dan. Which afterwards in the story becomes the main focus of the entire account. Ellie doesn't even try to make friends with the pathetic Dan who was twelve and going into 9th grade. Ellie is absolutely uninterested in Dan, so to get him off her back she gives Dan her address to write her sometimes since he lived in London. Ellie hoping he had misplaced her address gets back home and goes back into her unpopular, typical English existence. Her best friends equally seemed to meet up someone over the summer holiday so Ellie begins to tell some serious tales about her dream Dan, which is a concoction of genuine Dan and a hottie she walks by to go to school. All simultaneously this is one interesting book that will have you thinking your just discovered yourself a new best friend named Ellie! Rating 4+
Reviewed by Candace. Grade: ----- in Brooks, - Link directly to entry

Christmas with Anne and other Holiday Stories

Penny Colman

Christmas with Anne and other holiday stories was a terrific book . This book was written by L. M. Montgomery . I think this book is more for kids in the ages group of 13-15 . Anne is a very lively spirited girl. She has adventures and troubles that she works through. this book is very interesting. I think pretty much anyone would enjoy this book. You meet a lot of funny and enjoyable characters. From family members to friends . And the stories always keep you Guessing What will happen next. From reading the 16 stories you can learn many valuable lessons of life. I recommend this book to every one .
Reviewed by Jessica. Grade: ----- in , - Link directly to entry

Stoner and Spaz

Ron Koertge

I would rate this book as a 3. Ben is your average 16 yr. old whose parents are dead, lives with his grandmother, and has cerebral palsy. Normal right? Absolutely! Expecially compared to Colleen, a girl who is completly strung out on drugs and doesn't have many trustworthy friends. But these two find something in eachother they never thought they would - someone who sees them for who they really are. I really liked this book because it delt with many issues many teens face, such as drugs, embarrassment, and peer preasure. I liked how it was told from a guys point of view. I haven't read many books that are like that.
Reviewed by Hailey. Grade: ----- in Fremont, - Link directly to entry

The Quigley’s

Simon Mason

The Quigley’s by Simon Mason is a story about atypical family and all the crazy memories they have acquired throughout the years. I would rate this book a two on a scale of four mostly because it isn’t targeted at my age group. It is an easy read and I would recommend it to older elementary aged children. The book focuses around the Quigley family, Mum, Dad, Lucy, and Will. The book is divided into four sections in which each family member shares a specific memory dealing with themselves and how the family reacts. Dad tells of a crazy babysitting mishap with the potential to end very badly, Mom shares a special birthday memory, Lucy reveals her bridesmaid dilemma, and Will tells of his best Christmas. All of the stories leave the reader in suspense until the very end, but my personal favorite was Lucy’s. This book shows the strong bonds of healthy families and the ability they have to work together and compromise. You’ll be able to relate it to family memories of your own. The downfall of the book is that it was more a collection of short stories pieced together to make a larger story and never really concluded with an actual message or point. If you’re looking for an easy read this book is it, but I personally needed more substance in a book.
Reviewed by Amanda. Grade: ----- in Fort Wayne, - Link directly to entry

Island Boyz

Graham Salisbury

Graham Salisbury was an island boy himself, and this collection of short stories--ISLAND BOYZ will give the most land-locked reader an intimate look at being a teenaged boy on a Hawaiian island. Teenaged boys AND girls will hear the surf and taste the saltiness of the sea as they meet the inhabitants of the eleven stories, told in the island language of the teller. Readers will share Henry's reluctance to ignore the soldier's offer of friendship, and his ultimate decision to name his horse for that young man. Readers will feel Johnny Smythe's guilt-filled regret for the torment a classmate received from the other guys. Readers will know Joey's panic as wild hurricane waters try to steal Joey's life. The stories themselves are like a rainbow, each with its own hue and intensity, but part of the whole wonder of island life. Even though some contain dark and painful plots, each ending shines with the conviction expressed in the introductory poem, "I would not have traded places with anyone not even God." I would rate this book a 4. After reading ISLAND BOYZ, I feel like I've spent time in Hawaii with Henry, Johnny, Joey, and others teens experiencing life and the changes that life inevitably brings to all who grow. Graham Salisbury creates very real characters, and the story endings don't always turn in the direction expected. The first story in the book, "The Ravine," will demonstrate that.
Reviewed by Carol. Grade: ----- in Cortland, - Link directly to entry

Star Wars Packet

The packet of “Star Wars, Attack of the Clones” includes four books: An Attack of the Clones Movie Storybook, The Stars of Star Wars book, a children’s book on the adventures of Anakin, and a Jedi training and trials book ( which also includes a lightasber pen). The Movie Storybook, written by Jane Mason and Sarah Hines- Stephens, is based on the story by George Lucas. It starts by the reunion of Padmé, the former Queen of Naboo, and Anakin, the future Darth Vader. This book concentrates mainly on the love story between Anakin and Padmé, and it is meant for a young audience, having a simple plot and story. It is appropriate for only Star Wars fans. From a scale of 1-4 (4 being the best), this book would fall under the category of 2. The book on the stars of Star Wars might appeal to someone who takes an interest on actors and actresses. This book includes information of Hayden Christensen (actor who plays Anakin), Natalie Portman (actress who plays Padmé) and Ewan McGregor (actor who plays Obi- Wan) and other stars of Star Wars. It also includes information on the costumes in Star Wars. The other two books (Anakin Apprentice, and Jedi Training and Trials Quiz book) are relatively simple books meant for children 6-8. These two books include pictures and text. Overall, I recommend that only Star Wars fans read this book.
Reviewed by Christine. Grade: ----- in Palo Alto, - Link directly to entry

Where the Action Was: Women War Correspondents in World War II

Penny Colman

This book chronicles the women who reported news live as it ocurred during World War II. Before the United States entered the war, women were permitted to report on all aspects of the war. After 1941, women had to be approved by the U.S. military and were assigned a rank within the Armed Services. This was not easily gotten, in fact it was incredibly difficult. Individual women are depicted here with photographs. Colman starts at the beginning of the 1930s and proceeds through to the end of the war - as it was for the correspondents. This book is not only very interesting and very well-written, but exposes most of us to an area of knowledge previously unexplored and unknown. It is exciting. I would only wish that all of the women named could have been been put together with their photo in order to easily match a face with the reporter been talked about.
Reviewed by Katrina. Grade: ----- in Jaffrey, - Link directly to entry

A Stone in my Hand

Cathryn Clinton

Rating- 3 Ages 11-15 Characters: The two main characters in “A Stone In My Hand” are Malaak and her brother Hamid. Malaak is an eleven-year old girl growing up during the first intifada. Despite her young age, she is able to see through the violence and sadness that she is subjected to everyday, and manages to find strength inside of herself. Hamid, her older brother is very opinionated about what he thinks is right and wrong, and isn’t afraid to stand up for his beliefs. Despite his mother and sister’s urging, he does what he believes is right in the fight for Palestine’s freedom. Setting: “A Stone In My Hand” takes place in Gaza City during the first intifada. Preview of the Plot: “A Stone in My Hand’ is about an eleven year old girl’s life during the first intifada, and how she manages to cope with the sadness and violence that surrounds her. Her father disappeared because of it and her brother becomes a possible victim to it due to his involvement with a group of young radicals. After her father’s disappearance, Malaak deals with her sadness by refraining from talking to everyone. Everyone that is, except the dove, whom she named Abdou, that she found on the roof the night her father left As Malaak’s brother becomes more and more involved in a radical group, Malak’s starts see beyond just what surrounds her, and becomes aware of a connection she shares with hr father and brother- strength. My Thoughts on the Book: The author of “A Stone in My Hand” managed to portray the feeling of a young girl growing up in the hardships of the intifada very realistically, in a way that made me feel the violence and sadness that Malaak dealt with everyday. Although Malaak, is but a child, if she were living in Palestine today, she would be fighting alongside her brother, despite her fears. Her mother and sister, Hend, would be upset about Hamid’s involvemnt with radical groups (for fear of his safety), yet would be proud of him for standing up for himself, his beliefs, his rights, but mainly for his country… for Palestine. My favorite part of the book is the nursery rhyme that is translated at the beginning of it. It is what affected me the most, and actually convinced me to read the book. I was a little disappointed that Malaak didn’t share the same feeling as the girl who sang the nursery rhyme, although I can see and understand Malaak’s reactions and feelings to what was going on around her. If I were the author of this book, I would show more of Malaak’s strength and make her love for Palestine more apparent to the readers. I also would have written this book for older readers who can fully understand the effects of war on young innocent children. I liked the fact that Malaak was finding out where she stood in all this on her own, but I would have portrayed more of a conflict between her fear, her love for her country, and her belief in what she thinks is right and wrong. Overall, “A Stone in My Hand’ is a good book to read to learn more about the suffering of young children, because it provokes strong feelings in it’s readers, but I would recommend this book to younger readers, because I do not think it has much to offer an older reader, in terms of an accurate and in-depth description of the feelings that the intifada has seeded in Palestinians, especially adults, and of the basic Arab pride and the loyalty towards one’s country and the determination to defend it until the end. I am not saying that “A Stone in My hand” isn’t a good book, I just trying to make more apparent the differences it would have if a Palestinian or even an Arab wrote it. I think you would enjoy it more if you were in, or reaching your early teens, but it’ll still be worthwhile if you carefully take the time to fully understand what Malaak was going through.
Reviewed by Amirah. Grade: ----- in Kuwait, - Link directly to entry

Fresh Girl

Jaïra Placide

Fresh Girl, by Jaïra Placide is a fiction novel with a rating of 3 (on a scale of 1-4, 4 being the best). The most appropriate reader is a mature young adult, male or female, ages 14-18. I would recommend an older reader because of the political and personal violence seen by the main character. Mardi, the main character, is a fourteen- year old Haitian girl who is born in New York, but at age four moves to Haiti to be raised by her father's mother because of her own parent's financial difficulties. Her life in Haiti is filled with disturbing experiences of political violence, and mistreatment of women and children. When she finally returns to New York, at age 12 she is scarred by the haunting memories of her last days in Haiti. A major strength of the book is the vivid imagery of Mardi's daily life, and the fast, flowing, realistic dialogue. One weakness is the lack of details in the development of the other characters besides Mardi. The book is still eye-opening about the 1991 coup in Haiti and the people affected by those changes.
Reviewed by Katie. Grade: ----- in San Francisco, - Link directly to entry
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