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Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

Twin brothers Emil and Brighton have grown up wanting to be Celestials, hoping to one day inherit magical powers. With a youtube channel dedicated to magic powers, Brighton hasn’t quite let go of their childhood fantasies, but Emil has changed his dreams to advocating for phoenixes and other mythical creatures. So when Emil is the one to discover fire powers in the middle of a subway fight, Brighton is a tiny bit jealous. While Brighton struggles to prove himself, Emil tries to cope with new powers and responsibilities, all while trying to stop a murderous gang leader from gaining immortality. 

Adam Silvera did not disappoint with Infinity Son. Taking place in modern day New York City, it’s a cross between a superhero novel and a fantasy novel, similar tropes to superheroes, but still has the mythical creatures and fantastical elements. 

To start off, I love the modern day element of Infinity Son. I thought the politics were particularly interesting, showing how magic might be treated in society today. It’s also fun to read about how normal people use their powers and what people who don’t have powers think about them. 

Silvera did a good job of writing realistic characters. The characters have powers, but aren't overpowered. Even the most powerful characters are beatable. The fight scenes are suspenseful because there is a possibility that the good side will lose, and they actually do frequently. Aside from the powers, he also gives the characters sensible emotions. Brighton especially, he gets jealous and upset when he feels he’s being overlooked or underestimated, but he isn’t portrayed as evil just because he feels negative emotions and is still a lovable character with good attributes. The other characters argue and get upset with each other unreasonably sometimes, giving more weaknesses to characters that could easily be overpowered.

The world building was very well thought out, but specifically the way that magic is viewed and the way that it’s handled by the police was a great touch to the world. Celestials are either vilified or glorified by people without powers, and the problems with each are shown. At some point in the story both sides give issues to the protagonists. Adding crime rings and other criminals into the magical realm felt very unique in the way that it was written. A black market for mythical creatures and making magical drugs added a very gritty element to the story, and gave more background for some of the villains. 

I don’t have any complaints about Infinity Son other than some of the writing during fight scenes. It was hard to tell what was going on in a couple of the scenes. There were a couple of times where there seemed to be pauses in battles for two characters to talk. I think there was supposed to still be things going on around the characters, or maybe the space where the fight was taking place was really big so they had space, but it felt a bit stilted.

I enjoyed Infinity Son, I’ll definitely be reading the next book. The characters and world building itself is worth sticking around for, but also I need some closure for the ending... I’d rate Infinity Son a 4.5/5, and I would recommend it to any fantasy lover.

Books: 
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$18.99
ISBN: 9780062457820
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Quill Tree Books - January 14th, 2020

Girls of July by Alex Flinn

Britta is a bubbly social butterfly, looking for a getaway from her life. Meradith is the overachiever who's only focus is college - she needs a break. Kate is the rich, Georgia debutante hiding from a family scandal. Spider is the film obsessed loner who's disabiliy has serparted her from her peers her whole life. So when spider and her grandmother post an ad for a month lopng vacation in the Adirondacks, the other girls jump at the chance. They don't know that one month in the mountains is exactly what they need. 

Britta, Meradith, Kate and Spider are all very different people. So when they end up spending the month in the mountains together, things don't go smoothly at first. But after a while the girls form a fierce bond and come out of it knowing themselves better than before. In the book the diverse collection of characters paint a beautiful picture of the worlds ups and downs. Girls of July shares a message about taking action when something goes wrong instead of sitting back and waiting it out. 

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$17.99
ISBN: 9780062447838
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Published: HarperTeen - June 4th, 2019

Loveboat Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Having just finished a stressful senior year, Ever Wong is looking forward to the summer months before college. But when her parents announce that she will be going to Taiwan for a Mandarin immersion program, her original plans are ruined. Ever’s parents have always had high standards for her, and she worries this camp will involve similar expectations. However, as soon as she arrives, she learns that while the program is full of successful teens, they too are looking for freedom from their parents’ watchful eye. Nicknamed Loveboat by the students, the immersion program doubles as an opportunity to meet people, and maybe even date them.

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen is a fun read that explores the excitement and thrill of freedom. The adventures of Ever and her fellow campers include intriguing glimpses of Taiwanese sights and experiences. In addition, the adrenaline rush of the characters’ joys and discoveries are shared with you so that you feel as if you are part of the adventure, too. Furthermore, the plot develops in a riveting way that keeps you on the edge of your seat; you never know what the group will get up to next. Another enjoyable aspect of the story was Ever’s growing self-confidence. Her character development encourages you to stick up for what matters most to you. Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen is the perfect combination of romance, adventure, and self-discovery.

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$18.99
ISBN: 9780062957276
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: HarperTeen - January 7th, 2020

We Walked the Sky by Lisa Fiedler

Callie VanDrexel thinks she knows exactly what her future holds, until her mom accepts a job at an animal santuary in Florida, forcing callie to leave the circus and put her high wire dreams on hold. She is still struggling with the recent death of her grandmother, Victoria, and the move is doing little to help her cope. Fifty years earlier Victoria runs away to the circus with a plan to make a new life for herself in Texas. But as time goes on she gets closer to the members of VanDrexels Circus, and findes her place on the highwire. After a while Texas seems less and less like the right path to take. Frustrated and confused Victoria writes down lessons she picks up from the circus on scraps of paper that she stores in her jewelry box. 

We Walked the Sky telles the story of Callie and her grandmother, Victoria. Their journey shares a powerful message about love, change, and the difference between running from and running to. Throughout the book Victoria's many secrets unravel through a series of journal entries and random notes, leaving Callie to put the pieces together to reveal the shocking truth about her beloved grandmother. In the novel Callie and Victoria both learn to embrace change and deal with the hardships of life. 

Books: 
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$17.99
ISBN: 9780451480804
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Razorbill - July 2nd, 2019

The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

Jinghua has been exiled from her home and forced into slavery after her kingdom was conquored by the Mongolian empire. While stealing apples for her brothers ghost, she meets Khalaf, prince of Kipchak Khanate. Kind and smart, Jinghua is enamored by him. When Kipchak Khanate is attacked, Jinghua follows Khalaf and his father as they flee. Jinghua finds herself growing more deeply in love as the journey progresses, but Khalaf has other ideas. Turandokht, the Great Khans daughter, offers anyone who can answer three of her riddles her hand in marriage. Khalaf can save his Khanate and help his people if he is successful. But, if he fails to answer correctly, the consequence is death. 

    Based off the opera Turandot, The Bird and the Blade has a very play like style. It’s very character driven and there is a ton of dialog. Definitely my kind of book. 

    First of all, this book is hilarious. The way Jinghua describes her circumstances and basically everything Timur said made me smile. The humor also made it really easy to connect with the characters and sympathies with them. I don’t think Timur would have been likeable or even bearable without his amazing snarky comments. 

    It could be just because The Bird and the Blade is based on an opera, but all the characters were very well written. Every character had their own unique personality, even characters that only appears for one chapter. The characters react to different situations in ways that fit their personalities perfectly. It makes them seem more realistic, and again, easier to sympathies with. 

    The structure of the book was super cool. It skips through time, but in a very organized way. It makes the transition between timelines seamless and understandable. The riddles that Turandokht tells splits other more monotonous parts up and makes it more interesting as a whole. It also connects the riddles back to experiences that Khalaf had in the past which really tied everything together, and connected the past and present in an interesting way. 

    The ending of the book was full of plot twists that I didn’t see coming at all. They were the type of plot twists that make you want to reread the book to pick up on the clues that you overlooked. The twists aren’t revealed in an overly dramatic way either, they are revealed naturally through flashbacks and normal conversations. The ending of the book itself just felt like a giant plot twist, realistic, but still unexpected. It felt like a treat for finishing the book. 

    The only complaint I have is that it was a bit slow at some parts. Not unbearably so, because there were still things going on, just not for the plot. I think that’s to be expected of a book based off of an opera though. 

    Overall I would give The Bird and the Blade a 4.5/5. I really enjoyed this book, it was hilarious and entertaining. The characters were lovable but realistic and the plot was great. I really hope Megan Bannen continues to write because I would love to see more from her.

Books: 
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$9.99
ISBN: 9780062674166
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Published: Balzer + Bray - June 4th, 2019

Speak Easy, Speak Love by Mckelle George

Beatrice is studying to become a doctor, so when she was kicked out of her boarding school, she is unsure of what she will do next. Hearing of her expulsion, Beatrice’s uncle, Leo, invites her to come live with him. Little does she know, Leo runs a speakeasy, Hey Nonny Nonny, in their basement. As Beatrice is introduced to the other residents, she unravels more about Hey Nonny Nonny and the business of running a speakeasy. One resident, Benedick, a writer-hopeful, leaves his boarding school to get away from his father’s ideal future for him. Accepting bootlegging as a better destiny, he resorts to Hey Nonny Nonny, his second home. When they first meet, there is a curiosity sparked between the two, but each of Beatrice and Benedick’s conversations seem to end negatively. Despite this, there is an allure that draws the two towards each other.

Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George transports you to the roaring twenties. Following six residents of Hey Nonny Nonny, you see glimpses and exploration of the varying aspects of the 1920’s including prohibition, women’s rights, jazz, and gangs. I adored the dialogue and banter, especially between Beatrice and Benedick. Not only is the dialogue fitting for the time, but it also feels relevant today. In addition, I enjoyed the balance between light-hearted relationships to more serious issues pertaining to operating the speakeasy. Furthermore, the multiple themes contributed to the drama and intrigue of the story. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George is a fun and delightful story about the glamorous (and not so glamorous) 1920’s.

Books: 
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ISBN: 9780062560926
Availability: Not Currently Available to Order
Published: Greenwillow Books - September 19th, 2017

We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund

On October 7th, 1961, a tornado touched down at the drive in theatre in tiny Mercer, Illinois, killing dozens of teens. Almost fifty years later, on the anniversary of the tragedy a tornado tears through the exact same spot. Soon after the shocking event, three teens' paths start to cross. With everyone on high alert from the recent tornado the three of them start to notice some mysterious occurances, all while their own lives are spiraling out of control. We Speak In Storms is a rich and insightful book with a lot of emphasis on the characters's journeys as friends and as individuals. The story is told from the perspective of three teens; Callie, Joshua, and Brenna. Sprinkled through the book you get a couple mysterious and resonating paragraphs from the kids who were killed by the tornado fifty years prior. These short chapters are really enjoyable because they add some contrast to the style of the book. Over all the aspect of the novel that stood out the most was the unique voices and journeys of the characters. 

Books: 
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$17.99
ISBN: 9780525518006
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Philomel Books - September 3rd, 2019

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Liu

Teen Advisory Corps member Claire R was entranced by Marie Liu's forthcoming The Kingdom of Back about Mozart's mysterious and largely forgotten sister.

The Kingdom of Back was an inspiring story that will make you want to learn about Wolfgang Mozart's sister, who quite clearly was almost forgotten. Marie Lu brings her into the picture, and displays her struggles as a female composer in the 18th century. But there was also a magical part of the story, the Kingdom of Back. There is another plot line intertwined in real life, involving her desire for fame, and toying with the ideas of imagination and reality. The Kingdom of Back is a perfect story for music and fantasy lovers, and you just might learn something as well.

Books: 
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$18.99
ISBN: 9781524739010
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - March 3rd, 2020

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite, and Mirtza Moulite

Claire enjoyed Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika and Mirtza Moulite, She says:

Alaine, an aspiring journalist, has always looked up to her mom, the host of the popular news show Sunday Politicos. Tuning in to watch every episode from her home in Miami with her father, Alaine is able to “connect” with her mom. Being a feminist and believer of justice, her mom is not afraid to call out guests for saying the wrong things, but on one episode, her response seems uncharacteristic. Due to backlash, she travels home to Haiti to stay with her sister. When Alaine goes to school the days following, she faces a lot of reminders of her mom’s behavior in a not-s0-nice manner. Outraged by her peers reaction, Alaine takes a class assignment too far and ends up getting into a lot of trouble. Disappointed by Alaine’s actions, her father sends her to Haiti to volunteer at her aunt’s organization. It is then that Alaine learns some surprising information regarding her mom. Though it is not under the best circumstances, Alaine is glad to finally visit “the Homeland” and be able to spend time with her mom. And while she’s there, she learns more about her family’s past and what it could mean for the future. 

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite is an intriguing story that unravels through journal entries, letters, postcards, emails, and text messages. In addition to uncovering Alaine’s family history, you are immersed in Haitian culture. The glimpses of Haiti that are sprinkled throughout the book add to Alaine’s discoveries, and further immerses you. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite is an endearing story emphasizing the importance of family and leaves you thinking about the chances you would take for the people you love.

Books: 
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781335777096
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Inkyard Press - September 3rd, 2019

Review: What Makes Us by Rafi Mittelfeldt

Teen Advisory Corps member Marley enjoyed What Makes Us by Rafi Mittelfeldt. Pre-order your copy today!

"Eran Sharon is passionate, maybe a little too passionate. He is quick to anger and always seems to escalate any situation he’s in. After a video of him pushing a man at a protest goes viral, the press is quick to discover that the father Eran has never met was a terrorist. While news vans and reporters pile up at his door, Eran is left wondering if extremism is hereditary or if he has a chance to be different from his father.

    What Makes Us is the type of book that will make you think. It brings up the classic nurture/nature debate, asks if violent protest is different from terrorism, shows how media twists reality, etc. It definitely added an extra layer to the book, making the reader wonder alongside the characters about where they stand on these issues. 

    Rafi Mittlefehldt sometimes shifts into second person in his writing, which also added a level of connection to the characters. He makes the reader look through the eyes of his characters and see their perspective on issues. It made it easy to empathize with the characters.

    Eran’s character development felt very realistic. His development doesn’t start out of nowhere, there are a couple of triggers that spurr him forward along the way. Mittlefehldt shows him thinking about how he acts and how he wants to act as he works to control his anger. I appreciated how Eran slips up a couple of times before he starts to improve and still isn’t perfect by the end of the book. Sometimes it feels like YA books either have no character development or the character develops out of nowhere and is suddenly perfect by the end of the book, so having a book that actually had realistic development was a pleasant surprise. 

    To nitpick, some points in the book that were written to be giant shocking moments fell a bit flat. I think it might be because there were so many moments that were supposed to feel surprising that it wasn’t anymore. Some of the less important points were a tiny bit overwritten too, which might have contributed to that. 

    Overall, I really enjoyed What Makes Us. It was easy to get into, and the characters were likeable. The beginning reminded me of Anger is a Gift and the rest—especially Mittlefehldt’s writing style—reminded me of Picture Us In the Light. I’d give What Makes Us a solid ⅘ and I would recommend it to people who want a realistic book that deals with difficult issues without being too sad. 

Books: 
What Makes Us Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780763697501
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Candlewick - October 15th, 2019

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