Review

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Here's Claire L from our Teen Advisory Corps with some backlist love for Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson.

Emily was looking forward to spending the summer with her best friend, Sloane, until she realizes that Sloane has completely disappeared and only left behind a list for Emily. Though it is not the first list she has received, this one is different because it contains all the things that Emily had been afraid to do before. Usually not one to complete these lists, Emily convinces herself that the only she will see Sloane again is if she can complete each item. In the process, she meets Frank, Dawn, and Collins, who help her to find her courage and support her endeavors. With her new friends, Emily is able to discover new sides of herself in an unforgettable summer.

 

A story of friendship, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson is an enjoyable read that I was unable to put down. I loved the whole premise of Sloane’s list for Emily. Though each item was a challenge, I admire the consideration that Sloane put into the list. Furthermore, I enjoyed seeing Emily become more confident with herself as she checked off items. I also loved the friendship that Frank and Emily have. Frank is such a charismatic and kind character who never failed to warm my heart. Moreover, all of the relationships featured in this story feel genuine and real—I would love to be apart of this friend group—and I appreciate Matson’s focus on friendship. Plus, Matson’s writing is wonderful as she is able to make you smile, laugh, and cry all at the same time (in the best way possible). Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson is a heartwarming story about friendship and newly discovered confidence.

Books: 
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ISBN: 9781442435018
Availability: Backordered
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - May 5th, 2015

The Black Bull of Norroway by Cat Seaton

Here's Marley from our Teen Advisory Corps charging in with a review of the graphic novel Norroway: The Black Bull of Norroway

Sibylla has always been prophesied to marry the black bull of Norroway, a knight so bloodthirsty he was cursed to live as a bull. When he shows up, claiming her as his wife and telling her to prepare for a long journey, she isn’t surprised. She is however, surprised to learn that there is more to his curse than is told. 

 The Black Bull of Norroway is the first graphic novel in the Norroway series. The plot is based on a Scottish fairy tale, and reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast. Short but very sweet, it was a very fun read, both through the art and the writing.

The art style alone is worth the read, it aided in making the entire book feel wonderfully whimsical. This could just be because Beauty and the Beast was on my mind, but the art definitely reminded me of Disney. The clothing looked very flowy and light, and every movement felt fluid. The characters were drawn amazingly, each design unique and detailed. The buildings were especially well drawn. There were a couple of drawings that I spent a couple minutes looking at the architecture and details of the buildings instead of actually reading the book. 

Adding to the great art, the storytelling is great. It’s a retelling, but it adds its own flavor and spice to the original. The characters were fleshed out in a new way and it felt like a completely new story. The personality of every character is thoroughly developed and explored. It doesn’t just retell the story, it adds much more to it.

I do have a very minor critiqu. The characters physical design was unique, but some of the characters felt cliche. They didn’t really offer anything unique from other books’ characters. Sibylla has a bit of a flat personality, which is kind of expected because there wasn’t much time to develop her character but I do hope that in the next book we will see that more. 

I really liked this one, and I definitely want more of it. It’s short, but still manages to progress the plot enough to invest readers. I think the next book has a lot to offer and I’m interested to see how it turns out. I’d give The Black Bull of Norroway a ⅘ and will be looking out for the second book.

Books: 
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By Cat Seaton, Kit Seaton (Artist)
$14.99
ISBN: 9781534308558
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Image Comics - November 13th, 2018

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 Now
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
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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 Now
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

Somewhere Only We Know by Maureen Goo

Claire says Somewhere Only We Know by Maureen Goo is tops! 

Lucky, one of Korea’s most popular k-pop stars, is about to make her American debut on The Later Tonight Show. But after watching her last performance from her tour, she realizes that her heart may not be in it the way it once was. Hungry for a hamburger,—as her strict diet has not allowed her to indulge in one—Lucky runs away from her hotel to find one. Jack, a destined-to-be banker, has been forced to intern at his father’s bank during his gap year. Bored at one of the banquets, Jack makes an excuse to leave early. Soon after, he receives a text from the editor of the celebrity gossip magazine he secretly works for and heads off to the hotel where the magazine’s next scoop is staying. Both running away from their realities, Lucky and Jack cross paths in the elevator and end up meeting again later that night.

Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo follows a cute romance that develops between two teens who take a break from their life for one day. From its announcement, I have been looking forward to reading this book because like many other people on the planet, I love k-pop. I was excited to read about a k-pop idol, and I especially enjoyed the way Goo developed Lucky’s character by discussing the various struggles that an idol goes through—it felt very real. In addition, the relationship between Lucky and Jack developed nicely—I loved reading their dialogue and their thoughts about each other. I also thought that the characters’ self-discovery was a nice inclusion in the story to add an extra element to the character’s relationship. Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo is a summer-y read that will inspire you to follow your dreams.

Books: 
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$17.99
ISBN: 9780374310578
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) - May 7th, 2019

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Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum

Teen Advisory Corps member Claire has this to say about Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum

Abbi Hope, nicknamed Baby Hope, has been well-known her whole life since she was captured in a famous photo taken on 9/11. Recognized wherever she goes, she has heard many peoples’ stories and remains a symbol of hope for them. But wanting to escape from her life-long legacy for a little while, she takes a job at a local day-camp and spends the day with four-year-olds, her senior counselor, and Josh, the other junior counselor. Meeting for the first time, Josh instantly recognizes Abbi and wants her help on a mission to track down the other members of the Baby Hope picture. Not having much of a choice, Abbi agrees, and together they set out to hear from the other survivors.


Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum is a hopeful story about two teens whose lives are significantly tied to 9/11. As someone who was born after 9/11, I know the devastation of the day, but I will never be able to understand it the same way. Buxbaum’s story allowed me to learn about the true impact of this day and how it still resonates years later. Abbi and Josh’s stories work cohesively to provide different perspectives on 9/11 and are accessible to readers who may not remember 9/11 or who were not alive yet. Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum is certainly not an easy book to read, but definitely an important one.

 

Books: 
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$18.99
ISBN: 9781524766771
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Delacorte Press - May 7th, 2019

Stolen Time by Danielle Rollins

Teen Advisory Corps member Zoe had this to say about Stolen Time by Danielle Rollins. 

Stolen Time isn’t so much about time travel as it is about why you really do not want to be living in Seattle in the future. Seriously, Danielle Rollins’ depiction of the year 2077 showcases a city devastated by an earthquake and tsunami that permanently flooded the area. And then, of course, there’s the rumored cannibal who leads a gang to terrorize Seattle at night. This apocalyptic state awaits our heroine Dorothy, who stows away on board what turns out to be a time machine in 1913. In the future, the pilot must accept Dorothy into his gang of teenage time travelers as they search for their missing leader.

The novel’s concept is tantalizing, but don’t expect a major focus on travel to different time periods. Instead, the dystopian themes take prominence, and a major portion of the book is actually more of a heist story involving breaking into a 1980s military base. Of course, that has an appeal of its own, but the reading experience would have been more enjoyable had I not gone into it expecting a wide variety of time travel. Readers do get introduced to historical elements as the teens discuss when and where they lived before being picked for the team, though these characters do not play major roles.

Ironically, my main complaint about Stolen Time is the pacing. The story takes place in what felt like about one day, which is not nearly enough time to develop the relationships central to the story. Plus, Dorothy seemed to adjust to 2077 life just a bit too fast for someone abruptly ripped from Victorian life. However, the more scientific aspects of Rollins’ work were very interesting, and the last section of the book made for a very exciting read. Overall, the future (sequels) is ripe with possibility.

Books: 
Stolen Time (Dark Stars #1) Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062679949
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperTeen - February 5th, 2019

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