Teen Advisory Corp

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
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ISBN: 9780451480804
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.

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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
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: Backordered - ETA Unknown
Published: Philomel Books - September 3rd, 2019

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Marly B from our Teen Advisory Corps reviewed We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal. One of this summers buzzy titles heres whta Marly had to say. 

The only person who has ever been able to navigate the Arz is Zafira. Not only does she return from the magical forest, she returns with food and animal skins. Zafira has been feeding the villages closest to the Arz for years, becoming a hero to the locals and a legend beyond that, known widely as the Hunter. When returning from a successful hunt one day, she is stopped by a mystical witch who slips a letter into her bag. The letter invites her to help save all of Arawiya by venturing into the island of Sharr, known for being used as a prison and the last place besides the Arz that still holds magic. She is sent to retrieve the Jawarat, a book that will prevent the Arz from consuming Arawiya and return magic to the five caliphates. However, she quickly realizes that she isn’t alone on the island, and some of the people she shares the ground with aren’t unfamiliar with taking lives. 

    We Hunt the Flame is Hafsah Faizal’s debut novel, and there’s not a lot to complain about! The setting, characters, pacing and plot were all very well written. 

    We Hunt the Flame is a fantasy book based off of ancient Arabia. It adds elements I haven’t seen in many fantasy books before and makes it stand out against others. I personally enjoyed the incorporation of turbans into common garb and use of sandy settings, for no other reasons other than it was a nice change of scenery for a fantasy novel. The setup of the caliphates was also a nice bit of variety that I appreciated.

    This book also does a nice job of having characters with different personalities. Despite introducing tons of characters at the same time they were easy to keep track of because of how varied their traits were. They were described very consistently which was great for remembrance, but also helped to really be able to know and understand them. The only complaint I have in this area is Kifah. She didn’t seem distinct from the other characters, and I can’t remember anything important she did to advance the plot. I don’t think the book would have changed all that much if she wasn’t written into it. 

    The story itself moved at a reasonable pace. A large part of the book is traveling and camping out, and Faizal did a great job of keeping even mundane things readable. The characters were well written so even when nothing was happening it was entertaining. The interactions between the characters and learning more about the magic system and history of Arawiya was interesting. 

I actually didn’t mind the romantic subplot in this book, which shouldn’t be taken lightly because most of the time I would rather eat nails than subject myself to that sort of torture (that might be slightly dramatic but only slightly). First off, the relationship developed fairly naturally. Insta-love was avoided and the characters stayed true to how they were written even as they became more attached. Faizal also avoided pushing the main plot of the story to the side in favor of the romance. She didn’t slow down the plot to let the relationship develop and didn’t add in pointless scenes to progress the relationship. Basically, the romantic subplot was actually subplot and didn’t hinder the story which I don’t usually see in fantasy or YA. I don’t think I’ve read a book that does romantic subplot as well as We Hunt the Flame does. 

We Hunt the Flame is a pretty darn good book, I do have a couple minor complaints though. Faizal describes a plethora of magical creatures throughout the novel, but there were only three creatures I can remember the characters interacting with, and only one of those we heard of more than once. Faizal did an amazing job of creating interesting creatures, I just wish I was introduced to more of them. 

The magic in the book caused some issues for me. For a book centered around magic, we don’t actually see it used a whole lot. I would accept that if there was an explanation on why. Are some things harder to do than others? Is there time limits between uses? Does it sap energy from the user? More clear ideas of the limits of magic would have been nice. It was hard to be impressed with the idea of limitless magic when there really wasn’t any idea of what magic with limits would be like. 

    I would give We Hunt the Flame a 3.75/5. I don’t think I want to read the second book, but I would definitely read another book by Hafsah Faizal. Her writing style is already fantastic and I can only imagine it will get better in her future books. 

Books: 
We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya #1) Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780374311544
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) - May 14th, 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
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Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - March 3rd, 2020

Time of Our Lives by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Claire L from our Teen Advisory Corps is at it again, with another rave review for author duo Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka and their new release Time of Our Lives, due out in April 2020, so preorder your copy today! Claire says:

Fitz has already decided that he is going to stay in New Hampshire, near his mom, for college. Wanting him to explore his options, Fitz’ mom sends him on a tour of college campuses. Juniper, on the other hand, is greatly anticipating the adventure of college. She has been planning and researching her great college tour for quite a while, and is looking forward to being able to find herself away from her large family. It is while attending the 10 A.M. tour of Boston University that Juniper and Fitz see each other for the first time. However, Fitz’ greater interest in his book than for the tour does not match Juniper’s enthusiasm for learning about the campus. But as their tours continue, they find their itineraries overlap and realize it must mean something. 


As expected from my favorite author duo, I absolutely loved Time of Our Lives by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka. The connection and relationship that develops between Fitz and Juniper is enjoyable to read. I especially appreciated the way they are able to help each other realize important qualities about themselves. In addition, the elements of family that were incorporated into the story helped to round the characters and reveal their true personalities, as well. I also enjoyed the travel-log of the various university campuses and exploration of the cities that house the universities. This inclusion allowed for me to feel as if I was touring the campuses right beside Juniper and Fitz. Time of Our Lives by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka was a delightful story to read that allowed me to be hopeful for the future of the characters.

Books: 
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$18.99
ISBN: 9781984835833
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Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - April 21st, 2020

Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco

Teen Advisory Corps member Claire R recently review Rin Chupeco's new fairy tale re-telling Wicked As You Wish. She says:

The beginning was an explosion of facts setting up the story. The book should have had a more gradual set up, because the reader could be confused for the first few chapters of the story. Although after that, the story flowed much better. The characters were lovable and the conflict within them was intense. It is hard to use fairy tales without being cliche, and this story was anything but. I look forward to the sequel, if there is one, and recommend this story for middle school fantasy lovers.

Books: 
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$17.99
ISBN: 9781492672661
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Published: Sourcebooks Fire - March 3rd, 2020

Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Zoe from Teen Advisory Corps loved Wilder Girls by Rory Power - check out what she thought!

Despite its summer release, Wilder Girls is a very dark novel. Rory Power’s story transports readers to shadowy forests where sickness runs rampant. On an isolated island, the surviving students of a girl’s boarding school struggle to survive as disease transforms their bodies. Suspicion runs high as the girls have to decide whether to trust each other, the two remaining adults, and even the government that promises an eventual cure. Here we find Hetty, who gets by with the help of her friends Byatt and Reese. 

If that premise doesn’t make it obvious enough, Wilder Girls is a very addicting read. It’s the type of book designed to be read past bedtimes, although that may not be the best idea considering its eery content. Power really transports readers to the dilapidated Raxter School for Girls, and there’s enough twists and turns that it’s difficult to leave. 

Still, what really draws the story together is the relationships between the girls. The friendship between the three main characters pushes the plot along, and each relationship has a unique and interesting dynamic. They’re not always the most likable people, but that doesn’t make them any less intriguing. 

Though I did enjoy reading about these characters, there were times when I had trouble understanding their decisions. Especially toward the end, I felt that Hetty’s actions and thought processes could have been better handled and explained. Plus, a few reveals felt a little too out of the blue. Even when the chaos was a bit over-the-top, however, it was very difficult to stop reading. 

Overall, I would definitely recommend Wilder Girls. Just be prepared for a lot of daydreaming about different ways to escape from a diseased island alongside your closest friends. Or maybe that was just me.

Books: 
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$18.99
ISBN: 9780525645580
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Published: Delacorte Press - July 9th, 2019

Review: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Zoe from our Teen Advisory Corps had this to say about Pet by Akwaeke Emezi:

Sometimes seeing the world through the lens of fiction is the only way to understand reality. Stories have the power of distorting facts in a way that makes them only truer, by exaggerating ideas and concepts in order for readers to understand. Despicable human beings are turned into actual monsters. and those who fight against them become angels. And so it is in Akwaeke Emezi’s novel Pet, set in a world that has seemingly eradicated those monsters that are all too human

Or so it seems. The main idea Emezi explores in Pet is the dangers of believing whole-heartedly in a utopian society, of being blind to unsettling truths even as they grow increasingly obvious. Our protagonist, Jam, is forced to confront this dilemma when a creature named Pet calls upon her to help hunt a monster. And though Jam desperately wants to protect others from this monster, whoever it may be, that means letting go of what she’d always held to be true. 

Along with its important theme, Pet is also significant for its diversity. In this world Jam is free to be herself, a transgender girl who prefers communicating through sign language. The discussion of these attributes helps readers better understand others in the real world and could give readers someone to relate to when characters like Jam are infrequently depicted in media. 

Pet isn’t your typical YA novel. It somehow manages to be one of the most relevant and realistic books I’ve ever read in the genre while still including enough fantasy to bring creatures out of paintings. Some may find the themes to be too obvious or even political, but I believe its lessons are extremely important and universal. Pet is a short novel, but its pages just might contain the power to change the world.

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Pet Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780525647072
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Published: Make Me a World - September 10th, 2019

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