Teen ReviewFirecrackerDavid IsersonPub 5-2013, Razorbill
“My grandfather likes to to say, ‘The only time you are ever truly alone is when you are dead.’”  Thus begins the snarky, fast-paced novel Firecracker by David Iserson. The plot is like no other. The main character is a sassy billionaire. And the setting: posh Connecticut. From the beginning, this book is destined for success.

Astrid Kreiger always gets what she wants . She was raised a spoiled brat in an uber rich family whose business is making nuclear warheads. She lives in a rocketship in her backyard and is rich, sassy and snobby. She has never had friends, and always has a plan and an attitude to match it. But, what happens when money can’t buy her back into boarding school?

‘We think you should go to the public school,’ Dad said. This was just a horrible, mean thing to say. Just hearing the words ‘public school’ out loud made my mouth taste like urine (which not coincidentally is exactly how public school smells).

And so, Astrid goes to public school. At public school, nobody cares that she is a billionaire. She’s at the bottom of the food chain and sinking lower. Faced with the challenge of cheerleaders and the prospects of alliances with Lucy “Haireater” and “Gay” Noah, has Astrid finally met her match?

Not only that, Astrid is stuck in a heavy bet with her therapist. And the prize? A ticket back to boarding school. Her only requirement is to do three nice things for other people. Should be easy, right? Not as easy as Astrid thinks. Will she kindly win her way back to the elite, or will she be stuck in public school forever?

The first thing I have to say about this book is that David Iserson is a hysterical writer. Even though Firecracker is his first book (wow!), he is currently a screenwriter for the hit shows New Girl and Saturday Night Live. I think that some of the humor he uses writing for these shows comes through in his novel writing. It’s also clear that he’s a screenwriter because his style is very cinematic: intricate and modern, but at the same time thoughtful and well-written. Firecracker is written in a close third-person, and Astrid’s thoughts are funny and realistic.

Even though Astrid is my favorite character, Iserson makes the other characters just as funny as she is. Lucy, a girl Astrid has a reluctant alliance with, is kind of a naive character. She thinks she’s friends with the whole school, even though they laugh behind her back. She is so sweet she makes your teeth hurt, but you never see her teeth because she is always chomping on a piece of her hair. 

Pierre is from a very obscure European country and always wears Gucci tracksuits. He has an enormous crush on Astrid, so he follows her from her boarding school and enrolls in her public school. He thinks he’s her boyfriend, but Astrid is too busy to tell him to go away. So, he’s her fake boyfriend.

Noah? Well, the only way to describe him is “weird”. He wears tuxedos to school and gets bullied by other kids. He’s genius-smart, though, and Astrid takes him under her wing. But, is there more to Noah than nerd and tux?


The last significant character is Astrid’s grandfather. He’s the mastermind of their nuclear warhead company, and is rich and selfish. He only cares about himself and, maybe, Astrid. He teaches her to get in trouble, push the limits, and basically do whatever she wants because she’s rich. I want to say he’s evil, but really he’s not. He might use people and push everyone around, but he loves Astrid a lot, and I think that is what matters.

Astrid’s hysterical character, a complicated but enriched plot and a detailed, classy setting work together to snag you into to this fast-paced, sassy novel. I loved this book and I hope you do too.
Abby C., 14

Teen Review
Firecracker

David Iserson
Pub 5-2013, Razorbill

“My grandfather likes to to say, ‘The only time you are ever truly alone is when you are dead.’”  Thus begins the snarky, fast-paced novel Firecracker by David Iserson. The plot is like no other. The main character is a sassy billionaire. And the setting: posh Connecticut. From the beginning, this book is destined for success.

Astrid Kreiger always gets what she wants . She was raised a spoiled brat in an uber rich family whose business is making nuclear warheads. She lives in a rocketship in her backyard and is rich, sassy and snobby. She has never had friends, and always has a plan and an attitude to match it. But, what happens when money can’t buy her back into boarding school?

‘We think you should go to the public school,’ Dad said. This was just a horrible, mean thing to say. Just hearing the words ‘public school’ out loud made my mouth taste like urine (which not coincidentally is exactly how public school smells).

And so, Astrid goes to public school. At public school, nobody cares that she is a billionaire. She’s at the bottom of the food chain and sinking lower. Faced with the challenge of cheerleaders and the prospects of alliances with Lucy “Haireater” and “Gay” Noah, has Astrid finally met her match?

Not only that, Astrid is stuck in a heavy bet with her therapist. And the prize? A ticket back to boarding school. Her only requirement is to do three nice things for other people. Should be easy, right? Not as easy as Astrid thinks. Will she kindly win her way back to the elite, or will she be stuck in public school forever?

The first thing I have to say about this book is that David Iserson is a hysterical writer. Even though Firecracker is his first book (wow!), he is currently a screenwriter for the hit shows New Girl and Saturday Night Live. I think that some of the humor he uses writing for these shows comes through in his novel writing. It’s also clear that he’s a screenwriter because his style is very cinematic: intricate and modern, but at the same time thoughtful and well-written. Firecracker is written in a close third-person, and Astrid’s thoughts are funny and realistic.

Even though Astrid is my favorite character, Iserson makes the other characters just as funny as she is. Lucy, a girl Astrid has a reluctant alliance with, is kind of a naive character. She thinks she’s friends with the whole school, even though they laugh behind her back. She is so sweet she makes your teeth hurt, but you never see her teeth because she is always chomping on a piece of her hair.

Pierre is from a very obscure European country and always wears Gucci tracksuits. He has an enormous crush on Astrid, so he follows her from her boarding school and enrolls in her public school. He thinks he’s her boyfriend, but Astrid is too busy to tell him to go away. So, he’s her fake boyfriend.

Noah? Well, the only way to describe him is “weird”. He wears tuxedos to school and gets bullied by other kids. He’s genius-smart, though, and Astrid takes him under her wing. But, is there more to Noah than nerd and tux?

The last significant character is Astrid’s grandfather. He’s the mastermind of their nuclear warhead company, and is rich and selfish. He only cares about himself and, maybe, Astrid. He teaches her to get in trouble, push the limits, and basically do whatever she wants because she’s rich. I want to say he’s evil, but really he’s not. He might use people and push everyone around, but he loves Astrid a lot, and I think that is what matters.

Astrid’s hysterical character, a complicated but enriched plot and a detailed, classy setting work together to snag you into to this fast-paced, sassy novel. I loved this book and I hope you do too.

Abby C., 14

Teen ReviewStarry NightsDaisy WhitneyPub 9-2013, Bloomsbury
Sacrifice is necessary in love. What you hope and dream about never comes without letting go of things along the way. It could even be that the very thing you’re searching for is what you will ultimately have to give up. No one wants to imagine that. No one even wants to consider that maybe the love they’ve finally found isn’t beneficial to what’s right. This is the beauty of Daisy Whitney’s Starry Nights. It asks the question: Just how much are you willing to give up for the greater good? 
 Having lived in Paris his whole life, Julien is a romantic. He loves spending his time drawing and giving tours at the Musee d’Orsay. At night, he witnesses paintings come to life. One in particular catches his eye, a painting of a girl named Clio. Against all good sense, Julien and Clio fall in love. But as their love grows, paintings around the world begin to fade and fall apart. The two quickly realize that giving each other up is the only way to save the paintings. They are faced with the dilemma of whether or not they can make that choice. 
 Daisy Whitney has crafted an utterly enchanting story. She beautifully describes the Parisian setting, and when she talks about paintings coming to life, it’s like falling under a spell. Maybe it’s just the notion of paintings coming to life in Paris that makes the story beautiful, or maybe it’s the simple, elegant prose. Either way, the story is one of spellbinding beauty.
 However, the ending might leave some readers feeling cheated. I’ll be vague in order to not give away spoilers: the end of the novel is a bit of a cop-out. Sure, it’s the ending everyone probably wants, but it’s not the one that the story needs. There’s a way for the novel to end bittersweetly, and by not giving the story the kind of resolution it deserves, Whitney ends the book happily, but with a feeling of dissatisfaction for the reader.
 This is a genuinely good story, though, and Daisy Whitney is a rising force in the YA world. Starry Nights establishes her as someone to watch, and rightly so. A novel full of enchantment and mystery, this is an excellent piece of work, even if the ending might be a bit of a cheat.
- Rachel P., 18
 

Teen Review
Starry Nights
Daisy Whitney
Pub 9-2013, Bloomsbury

Sacrifice is necessary in love. What you hope and dream about never comes without letting go of things along the way. It could even be that the very thing you’re searching for is what you will ultimately have to give up. No one wants to imagine that. No one even wants to consider that maybe the love they’ve finally found isn’t beneficial to what’s right. This is the beauty of Daisy Whitney’s Starry Nights. It asks the question: Just how much are you willing to give up for the greater good?

Having lived in Paris his whole life, Julien is a romantic. He loves spending his time drawing and giving tours at the Musee d’Orsay. At night, he witnesses paintings come to life. One in particular catches his eye, a painting of a girl named Clio. Against all good sense, Julien and Clio fall in love. But as their love grows, paintings around the world begin to fade and fall apart. The two quickly realize that giving each other up is the only way to save the paintings. They are faced with the dilemma of whether or not they can make that choice.

Daisy Whitney has crafted an utterly enchanting story. She beautifully describes the Parisian setting, and when she talks about paintings coming to life, it’s like falling under a spell. Maybe it’s just the notion of paintings coming to life in Paris that makes the story beautiful, or maybe it’s the simple, elegant prose. Either way, the story is one of spellbinding beauty.

However, the ending might leave some readers feeling cheated. I’ll be vague in order to not give away spoilers: the end of the novel is a bit of a cop-out. Sure, it’s the ending everyone probably wants, but it’s not the one that the story needs. There’s a way for the novel to end bittersweetly, and by not giving the story the kind of resolution it deserves, Whitney ends the book happily, but with a feeling of dissatisfaction for the reader.

This is a genuinely good story, though, and Daisy Whitney is a rising force in the YA world. Starry Nights establishes her as someone to watch, and rightly so. A novel full of enchantment and mystery, this is an excellent piece of work, even if the ending might be a bit of a cheat.

- Rachel P., 18

 

Teen ReviewThe Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-WongL. Tam HollandPub 7-2013, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Three tropes that clue a reader in to the fact that they’re reading a coming-of-age novel are: A lonely teenager confused about his or her past, a rebellious action that gets the attention of the main character’s parents, and a journey to discover who he or she really is. Coming-of-age novels tend to be written in a serious tone, but The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong by L. Tam Holland differs from the rest. Though it’s a coming-of-age tale, this book tackles teenage angst in a more lighthearted way than most.
Vee Crawford-Wong is a half-Chinese, half-white high school sophomore who has never really wondered about his past. That is, not until his history teacher assigns his students to each make an in-depth family tree. The project presents a problem for Vee, as his parents never talk about their parents and their lives growing up. So Vee makes his paper up entirely, thus beginning a mess he never imagined getting into.
The story follows Vee’s attempts to meet his grandparents in China, with a subplot of his time managing the girls’ basketball team. The two plots intertwine more than you’d think – the trip to China is a more literal representation of his journey to find himself, and his time as basketball team manager shows a more subtle transition from a hormonally-charged boy to a clear-thinking young man. Vee’s development is subtle along the way, but by the end of the story, it’s easy to see how far he’s come.
That being said, this isn’t a stellar novel. The prose is great, but the story itself lacks structure. At times, the book seems to divert onto points that add nothing to the story – useless moments that delay momentum and take away from the story as a whole. The ending is abrupt, not providing adequate information to satisfy the reader. (Who knows? Maybe this was intentional fodder for a sequel.) There was hope for this book to be really great, but minor details prevent it from achieving its potential.
As a whole, The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong is maybe slightly better than average. Holland’s style keeps the book going but serves as a disguise for a poorly put-together story. It’s not a novel that you’d regret reading, but then again, it’s not a first-choice novel, either.
 
- Rachel P., 18

Teen Review
The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong
L. Tam Holland
Pub 7-2013, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Three tropes that clue a reader in to the fact that they’re reading a coming-of-age novel are: A lonely teenager confused about his or her past, a rebellious action that gets the attention of the main character’s parents, and a journey to discover who he or she really is. Coming-of-age novels tend to be written in a serious tone, but The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong by L. Tam Holland differs from the rest. Though it’s a coming-of-age tale, this book tackles teenage angst in a more lighthearted way than most.

Vee Crawford-Wong is a half-Chinese, half-white high school sophomore who has never really wondered about his past. That is, not until his history teacher assigns his students to each make an in-depth family tree. The project presents a problem for Vee, as his parents never talk about their parents and their lives growing up. So Vee makes his paper up entirely, thus beginning a mess he never imagined getting into.

The story follows Vee’s attempts to meet his grandparents in China, with a subplot of his time managing the girls’ basketball team. The two plots intertwine more than you’d think – the trip to China is a more literal representation of his journey to find himself, and his time as basketball team manager shows a more subtle transition from a hormonally-charged boy to a clear-thinking young man. Vee’s development is subtle along the way, but by the end of the story, it’s easy to see how far he’s come.

That being said, this isn’t a stellar novel. The prose is great, but the story itself lacks structure. At times, the book seems to divert onto points that add nothing to the story – useless moments that delay momentum and take away from the story as a whole. The ending is abrupt, not providing adequate information to satisfy the reader. (Who knows? Maybe this was intentional fodder for a sequel.) There was hope for this book to be really great, but minor details prevent it from achieving its potential.

As a whole, The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong is maybe slightly better than average. Holland’s style keeps the book going but serves as a disguise for a poorly put-together story. It’s not a novel that you’d regret reading, but then again, it’s not a first-choice novel, either.

 

- Rachel P., 18

Kid ReviewerMy Big Fat Zombie GoldfishMo O’HaraPub 7-2013, Feiwel & Friends
My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish is Mo O’Hara’s first published novel.  Mo O’Hara lived in Pennsylvania but now lives in London.  
It is interesting that she chose a fish as the main focus. When she was young,  she brought her goldfish back to life when it was on the brink of death. This may have inspired the story of My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish.  
The book’s main character, Tom, is the little brother of his ‘mostly evil’ big brother, Mark. Tom’s best friend is Pradeep, who also has a big brother who is ‘mostly evil.’ His name is Sanj.  
Mark’s grandparents give him a chemistry set for his birthday. Little do they know, a chemistry set will turn Mark more evil — into an evil scientist! Mark brings home a goldfish from school. His first evil experiment is to dunk the goldfish, Frankie, into some toxic chemicals. Frankie dies, and in order to save him, Tom electrocutes him. Because of the chemicals, though, Frankie now possesses a Zombie stare, with hypnotic powers! That is one cool fish!
Tom and Pradeep bring Frankie the Goldfish to school to keep him safe from the toxic chemicals. At school, Frankie hypnotizes kids with his zombie stare and they start to listen to Mark and Sanj’s evil orders. Frankie clearly isn’t a normal fish, as well, because he can stay out of the water for a long time. 
Tom is a well-crafted narrator because he is on the good side, while his brother is mostly evil. While Mark is trying to take over the school, Tom is trying to stop this from happening. Tom’s perspective impacts the telling of the story because he makes the reader believe him, and not his brother Mark. Since Tom is good, and the narrator, hence in control of the story, you are motivated to be on the good side, too. He really pushes you to be on the good side.
In the beginning of the book, Mark and Sanj, the mostly evil big brothers, have power in the book because they are Evil. They call their little brothers Morons (according to Pradeep, a “big brother word”), and they try to use Frankie’s hypnotic powers to get the kids at school on their side, and take over the school. They remain really powerful until they find out that Frankie is against them.
The relationship between Tom and Mark is very important to the plot. Tom and Mark are brothers but they are really against each other. For example, Mark kills Frankie and Tom brings him back to life. Then Mark tries to take over the school while Tom tries to stop him. Tom and Mark have a strong sibling rivalry.
A lesson from this book would be: kindly don’t take over the school just because a big fat Zombie goldfish isn’t on your side! This book is a must-read for kids 7 - 10 who like hilarious books!
- Krish G., 8

Kid Reviewer
My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish
Mo O’Hara
Pub 7-2013, Feiwel & Friends

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish is Mo O’Hara’s first published novel.  Mo O’Hara lived in Pennsylvania but now lives in London.  

It is interesting that she chose a fish as the main focus. When she was young,  she brought her goldfish back to life when it was on the brink of death. This may have inspired the story of My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish.  

The book’s main character, Tom, is the little brother of his ‘mostly evil’ big brother, Mark. Tom’s best friend is Pradeep, who also has a big brother who is ‘mostly evil.’ His name is Sanj.  

Mark’s grandparents give him a chemistry set for his birthday. Little do they know, a chemistry set will turn Mark more evil — into an evil scientist! Mark brings home a goldfish from school. His first evil experiment is to dunk the goldfish, Frankie, into some toxic chemicals. Frankie dies, and in order to save him, Tom electrocutes him. Because of the chemicals, though, Frankie now possesses a Zombie stare, with hypnotic powers! That is one cool fish!

Tom and Pradeep bring Frankie the Goldfish to school to keep him safe from the toxic chemicals. At school, Frankie hypnotizes kids with his zombie stare and they start to listen to Mark and Sanj’s evil orders. Frankie clearly isn’t a normal fish, as well, because he can stay out of the water for a long time.

Tom is a well-crafted narrator because he is on the good side, while his brother is mostly evil. While Mark is trying to take over the school, Tom is trying to stop this from happening. Tom’s perspective impacts the telling of the story because he makes the reader believe him, and not his brother Mark. Since Tom is good, and the narrator, hence in control of the story, you are motivated to be on the good side, too. He really pushes you to be on the good side.

In the beginning of the book, Mark and Sanj, the mostly evil big brothers, have power in the book because they are Evil. They call their little brothers Morons (according to Pradeep, a “big brother word”), and they try to use Frankie’s hypnotic powers to get the kids at school on their side, and take over the school. They remain really powerful until they find out that Frankie is against them.

The relationship between Tom and Mark is very important to the plot. Tom and Mark are brothers but they are really against each other. For example, Mark kills Frankie and Tom brings him back to life. Then Mark tries to take over the school while Tom tries to stop him. Tom and Mark have a strong sibling rivalry.

A lesson from this book would be: kindly don’t take over the school just because a big fat Zombie goldfish isn’t on your side! This book is a must-read for kids 7 - 10 who like hilarious books!

- Krish G., 8

Teen Review
Teardrop
Lauren Kate
Pub 10-2013, Delacorte Press
“Just before the wave exploded above them, Ander grabbed her hand. Eureka.”
Teardrop, by Lauren Kate, is an immensely enjoyable book by the bestselling author of the Fallen series. It’s a mythological, mysterious read that keeps the reader hanging on for a much-awaited sequel — a new, haunting story that brings Atlantis even more to life. 
Eureka is sixteen years old, living in southern Louisiana and mourning the death of her mother. The one rule that Eureka’s carefree, traveling, archeologist mother had was never, ever to cry. Eureka has never broken the rule, but when a record-breaking wave knocks their car off a bridge and kills her mother, she wants nothing more than to cry. Struggling to understand why the world is so unfair, her only relief, in a life filled with sympathizing therapists assigned by her stepmother, and crashing thunderstorms, are her boy-crazy best friend Cat, her sweet twin step-siblings, and a guy named Brooks who might just be something more than a friend.
 But Brooks starts being mean and going wacky on her. Then, an albino boy named Ander, who is irritatingly cute, tells her that she is in mortal peril and might be the key to bringing Atlantis out of the ocean. Eureka wonders if she’s taking a dive off the deep end. 
Eureka’s mother left her some strange inheritances: a locket that no one can open, a rock that resists water, and a book written in a language that no one can read. Remembering Ander’s words, Eureka jumps at the chance to decipher the code, even if it means that Cat has to tag along. As they embark on this adventure, Eureka starts to think more and more that Ander might be right, and that a forgotten, sunken, magical island might be coming back as a result of her tears.  
 This book is probably one of the best books I have ever read. Eureka’s best friend, Cat, is definitely my favorite character. While Eureka is always zoning out, down in the dumps with self-pity, denying her feelings for Ander, or fighting with her possessed friend Brooks, Cat is oblivious to Eureka’s bad mood. Always upbeat, cheerful, supportive, and practicing the self-made religion of a “5 minute boyfriend,” Cat is definitely a prototype for a hero’s best friend. In all good books, the (usually ugly or wallowing-in-her-pitifully-low-self-esteem) heroine has a best friend who dresses her up for the big dance, or helps pull her out of her misery by partying until midnight. This is exactly the type of girl Cat is, except that in Teardrop, she’s a lot funnier because they both go to Catholic school, giving Cat an edgier feel by comparison.
While Cat was my favorite character, I also really liked Eureka. First of all, how awesome is the name “Eureka”? And even though she was in a bad mood in the beginning of the book, the author makes it understandable why she is so sad. Eureka and her mom were really close and it’s implied that this is the reason why Eureka dyes her hair and tries to attempt suicide. Nonetheless, Eureka’s interior monologue is humorous, like when she describes her past three therapists and their tendency to take their shoes off at the beginning of a session, and put them back on at the end. 
Ander is also a very interesting character. The prologue is told in third person, from his point of view. The author describes him as kind of an albino, with blond hair, pale skin, and a haughty, rich-boy look to him. Eureka is always going on about Ander’s eyes, which she says are the color of the ocean. Ander is very mysterious, and has supposedly been stalking her since birth. Eureka finds herself entranced by his spell as she desperately tries to translate the book her mother left her. (I, personally, think that if someone were stalking me, I would freak out.) You’ll have to read the book to know what Ander’s secret is. 
I also really liked the subtle humor that Lauren Kate included in the book, although most of it comes from Cat. For example, the words that best describe Cat are, “For such a smart, tough girl — Cat had a blue belt in karate, spoke non-Cajun French with an enviable accent, got a scholarship last summer to a molecular biology camp at LSU — Eureka’s best friend was also a horn-dog romantic.” These words really describe Cat as a person. Even though she’s super smart (she listens to talk radio, but swears it’s only to know what college guys are talking about), she takes the cover of a stereotypical “dumb blonde.” I think Kate did this because she wanted Eureka to have a good, smart friend, but also a funny, pretty one. So she combined two friends into one.
I also really liked the vivid verbs and great descriptive words in this book. Lauren Kate really paints a picture (actually, more like a movie) of all the scenes. This book takes place in a town in Louisiana controlled by Catholic, baking mothers, cheerleaders, LSU-loving football players, and a boy who has a tendency to stab her in the back when Eureka needs him most. I am looking forward to the next book in the series, and am hoping that the sequel has language as descriptive as this one. Teardrop is a highly-recommended read. 
 
- Abby C, 13 

Teen Review

Teardrop

Lauren Kate

Pub 10-2013, Delacorte Press

Just before the wave exploded above them, Ander grabbed her hand. Eureka.”

Teardrop, by Lauren Kate, is an immensely enjoyable book by the bestselling author of the Fallen series. It’s a mythological, mysterious read that keeps the reader hanging on for a much-awaited sequel — a new, haunting story that brings Atlantis even more to life.

Eureka is sixteen years old, living in southern Louisiana and mourning the death of her mother. The one rule that Eureka’s carefree, traveling, archeologist mother had was never, ever to cry. Eureka has never broken the rule, but when a record-breaking wave knocks their car off a bridge and kills her mother, she wants nothing more than to cry. Struggling to understand why the world is so unfair, her only relief, in a life filled with sympathizing therapists assigned by her stepmother, and crashing thunderstorms, are her boy-crazy best friend Cat, her sweet twin step-siblings, and a guy named Brooks who might just be something more than a friend.

But Brooks starts being mean and going wacky on her. Then, an albino boy named Ander, who is irritatingly cute, tells her that she is in mortal peril and might be the key to bringing Atlantis out of the ocean. Eureka wonders if she’s taking a dive off the deep end.

Eureka’s mother left her some strange inheritances: a locket that no one can open, a rock that resists water, and a book written in a language that no one can read. Remembering Ander’s words, Eureka jumps at the chance to decipher the code, even if it means that Cat has to tag along. As they embark on this adventure, Eureka starts to think more and more that Ander might be right, and that a forgotten, sunken, magical island might be coming back as a result of her tears.  

This book is probably one of the best books I have ever read. Eureka’s best friend, Cat, is definitely my favorite character. While Eureka is always zoning out, down in the dumps with self-pity, denying her feelings for Ander, or fighting with her possessed friend Brooks, Cat is oblivious to Eureka’s bad mood. Always upbeat, cheerful, supportive, and practicing the self-made religion of a “5 minute boyfriend,” Cat is definitely a prototype for a hero’s best friend. In all good books, the (usually ugly or wallowing-in-her-pitifully-low-self-esteem) heroine has a best friend who dresses her up for the big dance, or helps pull her out of her misery by partying until midnight. This is exactly the type of girl Cat is, except that in Teardrop, she’s a lot funnier because they both go to Catholic school, giving Cat an edgier feel by comparison.

While Cat was my favorite character, I also really liked Eureka. First of all, how awesome is the name “Eureka”? And even though she was in a bad mood in the beginning of the book, the author makes it understandable why she is so sad. Eureka and her mom were really close and it’s implied that this is the reason why Eureka dyes her hair and tries to attempt suicide. Nonetheless, Eureka’s interior monologue is humorous, like when she describes her past three therapists and their tendency to take their shoes off at the beginning of a session, and put them back on at the end.

Ander is also a very interesting character. The prologue is told in third person, from his point of view. The author describes him as kind of an albino, with blond hair, pale skin, and a haughty, rich-boy look to him. Eureka is always going on about Ander’s eyes, which she says are the color of the ocean. Ander is very mysterious, and has supposedly been stalking her since birth. Eureka finds herself entranced by his spell as she desperately tries to translate the book her mother left her. (I, personally, think that if someone were stalking me, I would freak out.) You’ll have to read the book to know what Ander’s secret is.

I also really liked the subtle humor that Lauren Kate included in the book, although most of it comes from Cat. For example, the words that best describe Cat are, “For such a smart, tough girl — Cat had a blue belt in karate, spoke non-Cajun French with an enviable accent, got a scholarship last summer to a molecular biology camp at LSU — Eureka’s best friend was also a horn-dog romantic.” These words really describe Cat as a person. Even though she’s super smart (she listens to talk radio, but swears it’s only to know what college guys are talking about), she takes the cover of a stereotypical “dumb blonde.” I think Kate did this because she wanted Eureka to have a good, smart friend, but also a funny, pretty one. So she combined two friends into one.

I also really liked the vivid verbs and great descriptive words in this book. Lauren Kate really paints a picture (actually, more like a movie) of all the scenes. This book takes place in a town in Louisiana controlled by Catholic, baking mothers, cheerleaders, LSU-loving football players, and a boy who has a tendency to stab her in the back when Eureka needs him most. I am looking forward to the next book in the series, and am hoping that the sequel has language as descriptive as this one. Teardrop is a highly-recommended read.

 

- Abby C, 13 

Teen Review
Kiss Me Again
Rachel Vail
Pub 12-2012, HarperTeen

He closed the distance I’d opened up between us and kissed me lightly on the lips. “Maybe we can just be,” Kevin whispered.

Rachel Vail is the author of over sixteen young adult novels and countless other books for children. Her latest novel, Kiss Me Again, the sequel to If We Kiss, is a contemporary teen story that pushes boundaries both romantic and familial. This isn’t a story that you hear all the time, but it  found a way into my heart with its twists and turns.
Kiss Me Again picks up where If We Kiss ended. Charlie Collins explains how much has changed since last year: Her mother is now married to the father of her crush, Kevin Lazarus, so Kevin is now her stepbrother. Charlie is making all kinds of mistakes — especially with her best friend, whose trust she has to earn back after dating Kevin when Tess was dating him. To make things more odd, Charlie and Kevin are still in love, but their parents don’t know about it.
 
Vail uses this scenario to show how complicated romance can be for  teenagers. Charlie and Kevin have to live under the same roof, and they don’t want to upset the balance. Maybe it’s better sometimes for parents not to know things! But keeping things from parents can also make them more difficult. Because, even though their love is so complicated, Charlie and Kevin aren’t willing to let it go. 
 
When, in If We Kiss, Tess noticed Charlie and Kevin together all the time, she wasn’t happy about it. But even though Charlie didn’t want to hurt her friends’ feelings, she realized she couldn’t make everyone happy. She was faced with a very difficult choice: What did she want the most? She learned that her real friends would stick around despite her choice of boyfriend, even if they weren’t as close as they were before. 
 
Charlie is faced with a similar problem in Kiss Me Again: What does she want most? Does she want to be with Kevin or does she want to keep the peace at home? If she’s with Kevin, their parents will find out and they might break up. Charlie couldn’t live with the guilt. At the same time, she and Kevin can’t keep their love a secret forever. What will Charlie do? 
 
Like my favorite  love stories, this one has a happy ending. We don’t find out what happens with Charlie and Kevin, suggesting that there may be a third book (hopefully!) in the series. But Kiss Me Again shows us how to forgive and just love what we have for the moment. It also leaves curiosity in the reader’s  head with the last chapter. Kiss Me Again is a great book for all teens still learning about the ins and outs of romance.
 
- Nisi S., 17
 

Teen Review

Kiss Me Again

Rachel Vail

Pub 12-2012, HarperTeen

He closed the distance I’d opened up between us and kissed me lightly on the lips. “Maybe we can just be,” Kevin whispered.

Rachel Vail is the author of over sixteen young adult novels and countless other books for children. Her latest novel, Kiss Me Again, the sequel to If We Kiss, is a contemporary teen story that pushes boundaries both romantic and familial. This isn’t a story that you hear all the time, but it  found a way into my heart with its twists and turns.

Kiss Me Again picks up where If We Kiss ended. Charlie Collins explains how much has changed since last year: Her mother is now married to the father of her crush, Kevin Lazarus, so Kevin is now her stepbrother. Charlie is making all kinds of mistakes — especially with her best friend, whose trust she has to earn back after dating Kevin when Tess was dating him. To make things more odd, Charlie and Kevin are still in love, but their parents don’t know about it.

 

Vail uses this scenario to show how complicated romance can be for  teenagers. Charlie and Kevin have to live under the same roof, and they don’t want to upset the balance. Maybe it’s better sometimes for parents not to know things! But keeping things from parents can also make them more difficult. Because, even though their love is so complicated, Charlie and Kevin aren’t willing to let it go.

 

When, in If We Kiss, Tess noticed Charlie and Kevin together all the time, she wasn’t happy about it. But even though Charlie didn’t want to hurt her friends’ feelings, she realized she couldn’t make everyone happy. She was faced with a very difficult choice: What did she want the most? She learned that her real friends would stick around despite her choice of boyfriend, even if they weren’t as close as they were before.

 

Charlie is faced with a similar problem in Kiss Me Again: What does she want most? Does she want to be with Kevin or does she want to keep the peace at home? If she’s with Kevin, their parents will find out and they might break up. Charlie couldn’t live with the guilt. At the same time, she and Kevin can’t keep their love a secret forever. What will Charlie do?

 

Like my favorite  love stories, this one has a happy ending. We don’t find out what happens with Charlie and Kevin, suggesting that there may be a third book (hopefully!) in the series. But Kiss Me Again shows us how to forgive and just love what we have for the moment. It also leaves curiosity in the reader’s  head with the last chapter. Kiss Me Again is a great book for all teens still learning about the ins and outs of romance.

 

- Nisi S., 17

 

Young Reviewer
The Sasquatch Escape
Suzanne Selfors
Pub 4-2013, Little, Brown for Young Readers
Suzanne Selfors is known for writing books with magic—just a little, though. The Sasquatch Escape is the first book of a new series: “The Imaginary Veterinary”. Selfors takes her readers on a magical journey through Buttonville, and what seems to be a boring town at first is not boring anymore.
Ben is a ten year-old California kid who visits his grandpa in Buttonville for the summer. Soon enough, he makes friends with a girl named Pearl. Ben and Pearl find an injured dragon that Ben’s grandpa’s cat had bitten. It is not everyday that you find an injured dragon! They take it to the hospital, but once there, they find it’s no ordinary hospital. It’s a hospital for worms! But not just worms—magical creatures. They are scattered around the hospital. Meanwhile, Ben and Pearl get into trouble because a sasquatch—a big, brown hairy beast—escapes from the WORM hospital. And it’s Ben’s fault! He didn’t lock the door.
I like the setting because Buttonville is a boring town but soon comes to feel like a very suspenseful Olympic Final. Ben is a city boy from Los Angeles, where there is a lot more things to do than in Buttonville. Compared to L.A., Buttonville is a speck of dust! This setting affects Ben because, where at first, he predicted it would be the most boring summer, now he discovers it is the best summer ever!  
My favorite character in the book was the Sasquatch because he is a very funny magical creature. The Sasquatch is my favorite because it is not a normal creature, but is a very important character in the book. My favorite part was when Ben accidentally trapped Ms. Mulbery and her daughter, Victoria in a net! The net was from the “Sasquatch catching kit”. I like this scene because it is very funny and unusual. It’s not every day that people get trapped in a net by a ten-year-old boy!
At first, when I read the beginning of The Sasquatch Escape, it seemed like it would be uneventful because nothing happens in a place where nothing happens. But progressing through the story, I became more and more interested. This book is one that everyone should read. And if you read this book and like it, you can get the second book! Read the whole series! Soon you will read a lot of Suzanne Selfors’ books!
By Krish G., 8

Young Reviewer

The Sasquatch Escape

Suzanne Selfors

Pub 4-2013, Little, Brown for Young Readers

Suzanne Selfors is known for writing books with magic—just a little, though. The Sasquatch Escape is the first book of a new series: “The Imaginary Veterinary”. Selfors takes her readers on a magical journey through Buttonville, and what seems to be a boring town at first is not boring anymore.

Ben is a ten year-old California kid who visits his grandpa in Buttonville for the summer. Soon enough, he makes friends with a girl named Pearl. Ben and Pearl find an injured dragon that Ben’s grandpa’s cat had bitten. It is not everyday that you find an injured dragon! They take it to the hospital, but once there, they find it’s no ordinary hospital. It’s a hospital for worms! But not just worms—magical creatures. They are scattered around the hospital. Meanwhile, Ben and Pearl get into trouble because a sasquatch—a big, brown hairy beast—escapes from the WORM hospital. And it’s Ben’s fault! He didn’t lock the door.

I like the setting because Buttonville is a boring town but soon comes to feel like a very suspenseful Olympic Final. Ben is a city boy from Los Angeles, where there is a lot more things to do than in Buttonville. Compared to L.A., Buttonville is a speck of dust! This setting affects Ben because, where at first, he predicted it would be the most boring summer, now he discovers it is the best summer ever!  

My favorite character in the book was the Sasquatch because he is a very funny magical creature. The Sasquatch is my favorite because it is not a normal creature, but is a very important character in the book. My favorite part was when Ben accidentally trapped Ms. Mulbery and her daughter, Victoria in a net! The net was from the “Sasquatch catching kit”. I like this scene because it is very funny and unusual. It’s not every day that people get trapped in a net by a ten-year-old boy!

At first, when I read the beginning of The Sasquatch Escape, it seemed like it would be uneventful because nothing happens in a place where nothing happens. But progressing through the story, I became more and more interested. This book is one that everyone should read. And if you read this book and like it, you can get the second book! Read the whole series! Soon you will read a lot of Suzanne Selfors’ books!

By Krish G., 8

Kid Review
Sky High
Patricia Reilly Giff
Pub 10-2012, Wendy Lamb Books

Patricia Reilly Giff’s book Sky High is about Charlie, who really likes inventing things. I think he’s very smart, and he’s also very funny. He does this very funny thing. There is this piece of food that he splashes in the soup and goes all over the apron of the cafeteria lady, and his punishment is to help the lady for an entire week. What Charlie really wants to invent is something that goes sky high.
The first thing he invents is called a Zinger-Winger, but it crashes. He was also going to invent a thing that can water plants very fast. He would call it the Sink-to-Drink. And he also makes another Zinger-Winger that can go in the hall where it won’t crash. He also does nice things: when he smashes a potato because he steps in the garden, he invents some stick with a string with bells on it so that if you were to step in the garden it would ring and everyone would know.
The thing I like about this book is that it gave me ideas about things to invent when I grow up and become an inventor. There are a lot of really good ideas in this book. I recommend this book for people who like inventing stuff. It doesn’t matter if you’re scared of things, because it doesn’t have scary stuff at all, so you can read it. There’s just one thing that is kind of creepy, how they make Mr. Redfern look on page 27.
It’s only 68 pages long, so if you like short books and you don’t like taking like a year to read a book, you should pick this book. I wonder if Charlie is going to invent more things, like something that can transform dragons with a box where you put the dragon inside and with an arrow that you turn you get something else than a dragon after saying some words or something. You have to use your imagination when you invent something!
- Manu B., 6

Kid Review

Sky High

Patricia Reilly Giff

Pub 10-2012, Wendy Lamb Books

Patricia Reilly Giff’s book Sky High is about Charlie, who really likes inventing things. I think he’s very smart, and he’s also very funny. He does this very funny thing. There is this piece of food that he splashes in the soup and goes all over the apron of the cafeteria lady, and his punishment is to help the lady for an entire week. What Charlie really wants to invent is something that goes sky high.

The first thing he invents is called a Zinger-Winger, but it crashes. He was also going to invent a thing that can water plants very fast. He would call it the Sink-to-Drink. And he also makes another Zinger-Winger that can go in the hall where it won’t crash. He also does nice things: when he smashes a potato because he steps in the garden, he invents some stick with a string with bells on it so that if you were to step in the garden it would ring and everyone would know.

The thing I like about this book is that it gave me ideas about things to invent when I grow up and become an inventor. There are a lot of really good ideas in this book. I recommend this book for people who like inventing stuff. It doesn’t matter if you’re scared of things, because it doesn’t have scary stuff at all, so you can read it. There’s just one thing that is kind of creepy, how they make Mr. Redfern look on page 27.

It’s only 68 pages long, so if you like short books and you don’t like taking like a year to read a book, you should pick this book. I wonder if Charlie is going to invent more things, like something that can transform dragons with a box where you put the dragon inside and with an arrow that you turn you get something else than a dragon after saying some words or something. You have to use your imagination when you invent something!

- Manu B., 6

Hark! Teenage litfiends!
We request your intellectual prowess in reviewing multitudinous books for our site. 
500 words, or the best you can do. Smart. Witty. Deep. Honest.
Payment: as many free books as you want.
Email reviews@mcnallyjackson.com immediately.

Hark! Teenage litfiends!

We request your intellectual prowess in reviewing multitudinous books for our site. 

500 words, or the best you can do. Smart. Witty. Deep. Honest.

Payment: as many free books as you want.

Email reviews@mcnallyjackson.com immediately.

This is late news, but we just want to congratulate our friend Natalie Standiford, author of the wonderful new novel The Secret Tree, for her glowing Times review. The Secret Tree is one of our absolute favorite books of the year and we hope it will be yours, too. Well done, Natalie. 

Here’s our favorite excerpt from the review:

Natalie Standiford (“How to Say Goodbye in Robot”) harks back to the time when helicopter parents didn’t exist and free-range children didn’t return home until dusk. Is there a middle-class neighborhood in America where parents fling open the back door and 10-year-olds roam free until supper? Yet “The Secret Tree” is also a very contemporary tale, one that deals with changing friendships, sibling relations, betrayal and neglectful parenting — while still imbuing childhood with a sense of mystery.

It reminds us of what our very sharp teen reviewer, Diana R., said about the book just the other day:

I think that one of the reasons it was good was that some of the elements of the book are definitely from the present, but other aspects would definitely be from a long time ago. I think it’s great that she combines all these elements and makes them from her own time period. I think that the book has a pretty good moral: everybody has flaws. I think the writer really shows that even the people who seem flawless aren’t always.

Our thoughts exactly. Buy this book. Read it on the grass. Read it in your backyard (or fire escape, New Yorkers) while the fireflies are out. It is imbued with simple, neighborhood magic. And it won’t let you down.