by Laurie Halse Anderson

5 Stars

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Freshman year for Melinda Sordino is an absolute nightmare. After busting an end-of-the-summer party by calling the cops, she begins high school as an outcast. She finds herself being rejected by her friends, avoided by fellow students, and unable to reveal a terrible secret that is constantly haunting her. Melinda feels lonely and depressed during the school year, as she has no one to open up to, and she feels that no one truly cares about her. Melinda goes through months and months of school unable to speak up about the truth of what happened at the summer party, but when she finally builds up the courage to do so, everything changes. 

Speak is a very emotional novel that talks about sensitive topics. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as the overall message was very powerful. Not only does the novel touch on real-world issues, but the author also offers real solutions to Melinda’s pain, which can be very beneficial to readers that may be in a similar situation to her. The characters were undoubtedly realistic and relatable, and I felt connected to each of them while reading as they were all described so precisely. The storyline was very creative, and the ending was a phenomenal way to conclude the novel. Speak will surely grip teen readers and can open up several discussions regarding the themes and topics addressed in the novel. Overall, Speak was an excellent book to read, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys motivational coming-of-age novels. 

Emily K

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Directed by Jon M. Chu

5 Stars

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Crazy Rich Asians is a film directed by Jon M. Chu, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan. It is a romantic comedy film following Rachel Chu’s journey as she accompanies her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Rachel, an economics professor from New York, is excited to visit Asia for the very first time and meet Nick’s family. However, she has no clue what is in store for her. When they arrive in Singapore, Rachel is surprised to discover that Nick is considered one of the country’s most eligible bachelors and his family are among the richest in Singapore. Rachel is forced to contend with jealous socialites, and something far worse, Nick’s disapproving mother. 

I enjoyed this film very much as the storyline was very interesting and quite intriguing. I enjoyed all of the scenes between Rachel and Nick’s mother as it displays a lot of emotion. Additionally, the film consists of a range of stunning scenery and cinematography, which are very appealing to the eye. I feel that the music choices were excellent and went very well with the scenes that they were used in and the actors and actresses were incredible. Overall, I enjoyed the film very much, and I hope that there will be a sequel in the future. To conclude, I would highly recommend Crazy Rich Asians to others, as it is a spectacular and heartwarming romantic comedy that is sure to be loved by many. 

Emily K.

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by J.M Kelly

5 Stars

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This book follows twin sisters Crystal and Amber Robbins as they cope with the challenges of teen parenthood. At the beginning of the story, one of them gives birth to a baby girl (it is not revealed who), and they agree to raise her together. They must balance regular high school classes with their parenting classes and their part-time jobs. They manage—they’ll have to if they hope to graduate, get out of their small apartment, and get away from their irresponsible parents. The only thing stopping them is Crystal’s passion for antique cars. When she applies to a college that teaches just that, behind her sister’s back and making plans, knowing her sister won’t approve, she almost tears them apart.  

***

This book was not for me. With the exception of the baby, I didn’t really like any of the characters. I probably would have given it one star were it not for the fact that I appreciated how real and raw it was. The perspective is believable, and the author does not shy away from the not-so-glamorous details.  

However, as much as these not-so-glamorous details are important in understanding teen parents and the struggles they face, I think J.M. Kelly went a little overboard. She rambles on and on about conflicting work schedules, the college application process, and the spicy tamales the motel owner cooks, but she fails to deliver when it comes to climatic events. The “big reveals” were not at all what I was hoping for, executed so poorly I almost wanted to stop reading. I would leave this one on the shelf… 

Catey F.

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by C.S Lewis

3 Stars

In an effort to rid his kingdom of a tyrant and usurper (who happens to be his uncle), the young Prince Caspian (who happens to be the rightful heir to the throne) organizes an army of creatures-in-hiding.  

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Meanwhile, the Pevensie children are preparing to head back to school when they are suddenly whisked away to a deserted island. They have returned to Narnia, but it doesn’t look the same as it did when they left it. While only a year has passed in their time, the country, they once ruled as kings and queens, has aged hundreds. As they join Prince Caspian in his quest for power, they will make new friends—and a few enemies—and reconnect with old ones.  

*** 

I rated this book three stars. The first few chapters really pulled me in, but I quickly grew tired of C.S. Lewis’ lengthy descriptions of trees, rivers, and rocks. It could be pretty boring at times, and although things do pick up toward the end, I had to take away a star for lack of excitement. As for the other star, I didn’t find King Miraz to be as intriguing a villain as the White Witch. I think he had potential, he just didn’t get enough “page time.” I should also mention that I had mixed feelings about the time jump. While I missed some of the characters from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I liked getting to enter the world of Narnia as if for the first time

If you, like me, weren’t all that impressed with ‘Prince Caspian,’ I urge you to keep reading! The other books in the series (minus ‘The Last Battle’) are really good.  

Catey F.

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Aurora Rising

By: Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

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Get ready for a spaceship ride of a lifetime! Together, in Aurora Rising, Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman set the scene for an epic space adventure.

In the year 2380, the cadets at Aurora Academy are trained, pushed hard and expected to achieve greatness. Nothing less is expected of Tyler Jones and the crew he decides to choose on draft day. However, on the day of the draft, Tyler makes a decision that will change the course of his life, and of his career. This decision: rescusing a girl named Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, and she’s hundreds of years old. Now, Tyler is stuck with the dregs of Aurora Academy, the cadets no other team wanted. Tyler’s biggest problem is wrangling his team and forcing them to get along, until they realize that something much bigger is brewing in space. There is a war approaching and the answer may lie with Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, and once she joins their crew, everything changes. Can the crew find a way to overcome their differences? Together they must discover the secrets of the universe and unearth secrets bigger than any black hole.

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by C.S Lewis

5 Stars

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During the Second World War, four children go to live with an old professor in the English countryside. They find many strange things in their new home, but the strangest of all is a wardrobe. This unsuspecting piece of furniture transports them to the land of Narnia: where talking animals roam, where mythical creatures dwell, and which suffers from a terrible curse. So begins the Pevensies’ quest to defeat the curse’s caster, the White Witch, and put an end to a never-ending winter. They might have Aslan on their side, but when one of their own betrays them, they will have to prepare for a great battle—and an even greater sacrifice.   

***  

Whether because this is a children’s book or the fact that I’ve been reading too much Shakespeare, I found C.S. Lewis’ writing very refreshing. He doesn’t try to be poetic or quote-worthy, and he doesn’t use words you have to remind yourself to look up later. He tells a story in its purest form, stripped of all unnecessary baggage.   

Of course, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is full of references to Christianity. I certainly didn’t pick up on them all, but I don’t think my reading experience was any less enjoyable. And I don’t think non-Christians should be discouraged. This book is packed with vibrant characters, humour, just the right amounts of action and drama, and some beautiful illustrations! I would definitely recommend it. 

P.S. If you decide to read the Chronicles of Narnia, read them in the order they were published. Chronological order puts The Magician’s Nephew first, but I think this one offers much better introductions to Narnia and Aslan. 

Catey F.

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The Rise of Kyoshi

By F.C Yee

Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender rejoice, a prequel is here! In this gripping story, F.C Yee takes readers on an extraordinary adventure through the Avatar universe.

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Kyoshi’s world is about to change, but is it for the better? Deserted in the Earth Kingdom by her parents at a young age, Kyoshi is taken in by a generous man and given a job at the manor of the Avatar. As Kyoshi ages and becomes close friends with the Avatar, she will learn that life is not always as it seems. Through horrible circumstances Kyoshi discovers that she is the Avatar. This discovery puts Kyoshi’s life in danger, forcing her to flee. Follow Kyoshi as she makes new friends, new enemies, and discovers what her destiny truly is.

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By Daniel Keyes

5 Stars

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Flowers for Algernon is an amazing novel written by Daniel Keyes. It’s about a man named Charlie who has been chosen by researchers to be used as a subject for an experimental surgery to increase the intelligence on a human with a lower IQ. Before researchers could do the experimental surgery on Charlie, they first had to test it on a mouse by the name of Algernon. Throughout the process, researchers had many tests done on both Charlie and Algernon to see if they would be good candidates for the surgery. Along the way, Charlie became very fond of Algernon, and they quickly became friends. Algernon had the surgery; first, it seemed to have gone very well, which gave everyone hope that Charlie’s surgery would be just as successful. After Charlie’s surgery, his intelligence and IQ increased at a large rate, so much so that Charlie’s IQ had surpassed his doctor’s IQ. With Charlie not remembering much about his family, he was overwhelmed when he started getting his memories back after the surgery and decided that he wanted to learn more about his childhood.  

Flowers for Algernon is a great novel that I believe everyone should read at least once. This novel shows you that you should never judge a book by its cover, and that anyone can surprise you. Charlie is a man that shows great interest in anything and everything. He’s very eager to learn new things and work hard to get to where he wants to be. With Algernon by Charlie’s side, he feels he can accomplish anything.   

Ashleigh O.

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Little White Lies

Jennifer Lynn Barnes

In this witty page turner, Jennifer Lynn Barnes opens up a world usually only viewed from the inside. Sawyer Taft thinks her life is the small town where she lives with her mother, but soon everything is turned upside down when her estranged, high society grandmother presents her with an offer she cannot refuse, half a million dollars. Although her main goal is to find out who her father is, Sawyer is quickly swept up in the dangerous scandals of the Debutantes. Will Sawyer successfully navigate the glittering world of the upper class, or will she get lost in the labyrinth of big dresses and even bigger secrets?

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By Yūsei Matsui

Assassination Classroom is a slice of life/action manga. The story follows the idea that on modern day earth, 70% of the moon is mysteriously blown up by an unknown force or entity. Hours later the government would come to see the arrival of a mysterious, octopus-like creature. He would tell the world government that the moon event was his doing and in exactly one year from now, the earth will suffer the same fate. However, the creature, mysteriously enough, decides to provide a compromise to the government. In exchange for getting rid of the creature, he would be allowed to become a teacher at a school. Specifically, a teacher at Class 3-E, a class comprised of supposed “failures” of Kunugigaoka Junior High School. The government complies with his request, as they see it as the only way to be rid of the creature, and the rest of the year, this strange octopus-like creature will teach a class full of “failures.” But the class is also tasked with another job, kill the creature by the end of the year and if successful they will be rewarded a sum of 100 million USD. So the race is on to kill this creature by the end of the year, while it teaches them, and before it destroys the world.  

Despite the odd and dark premise of assassination classroom, it manages to be a fun and enjoyable read with many gags added in. A lot of the characters in the manga do feel somewhat real. As well, Koro Sensei, the creature in the manga, has a great balance of mentor, antagonist, and gag character.  My one critique for this manga is that its side cast is less than developed. But considering it is only the first volume, that is forgivable.  

-Tashkin A. 

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