A Separate Peace by John Knowles

a separate peace

Gene is a hardworking, lonely intellectual. Phineas is an outgoing, confident, handsome athlete. The two best friends board at the Devon School in New England during the early years of World War II. Gene begins to envy Phineas and his glowing way of being, until one summer day where his envy takes over him. What happens completely destroys the innocence of these two best friends and turns their worlds upside down. This novel is appropriate for high school students, and it does a great job of capturing the essence of war versus peace while illustrating the story of two best friends and all of the obstacles and changes they face in their lives. While this was a book I had to read for school, I actually enjoyed it and I would encourage others to read it, as it conveys many powerful messages about friendship and jealousy that are worth learning.

-Freya (Teen Reviewer)

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish

Kiko Himura is a half-Japanese teen who struggles with social anxiety and living with her narcissistic, racist mother. When she doesn’t get into her dream art school, Prism, she feels like she will be stuck with her mother forever. However, when her childhood best friend, Jamie, comes to town and gives her a new opportunity to explore the California coast, she jumps at the chance to be free from her family, despite her social anxieties and fears that seem to always hold her back. Now that she is free to be her own person away from her mom, she learns shocking truths about her past and present that could change her future. This book is appropriate for teenagers who can handle mature topics such as racism and social anxiety.

-Freya, Teen Reviewer

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater

The 57 bus

Sasha and Richard are both high school students living in Oakland, California. Because of their hometown’s vast diversity, their worlds could not be more different. Sasha is a genderqueer, middle-class student attending a private high school. Richard lives in the lower class area and attends a large public school. Every day, their paths overlap while they ride the 57 bus. One afternoon, Richard commits a reckless act that leaves Sasha severely burned, and him charged with two hate crimes and possible life in prison. The simple matter of right and wrong becomes so much more complicated as both teenagers are thrust into the international spotlight. This true story is appropriate for high school students, as it contains some mature and possibly triggering topics. Slater does a great job of portraying the average life for a gender nonconforming student while still describing the different struggles that both teens face.

-Freya (Teen Reviewer)

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles all the Way down

Aza Holmes is a sixteen-year-old girl who has struggled with various anxiety disorders, mainly Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, for her whole life. She often contemplates whether or not she is actually real, which causes most of her “thought spirals”. Then her energetic and fearless best friend, Daisy, suggests pursuing the mystery of a missing billionaire whose son, Davis, Aza actually knew from summer camp. Throughout the book, Aza struggles with her developing feelings for Davis, her friendship with Daisy, and her schoolwork, all while being controlled by the tightening spiral of her thoughts. This novel is appropriate for high school students, as it does touch on some more mature topics, like mental illness. Green illustrates activities that a “normal” teenager would do, but within those normalities, he does not shy away from showing how mental illness really takes over one’s brain.

-Freya (Teen Reviewer)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Huck Finn 

Huck Finn is a young boy living in southern Antebellum society. He runs away from his home and his abusive, alcoholic father and travels along the Mississippi River, where he meets Jim, a runaway slave whom he used to live with. The two travel the river to try to reach Cairo, a free state. The novel follows their adventures together, and also notes Huck’s moral progression; at first he is leery of helping a runaway slave, as society has defined anyone who does so as a sinner, but through their adventures, Huck connects with Jim and starts to think of him as a friend. Although this novel has been widely criticized because of its perceived use of racial stereotypes, I believe that the message of the story as a whole overpowers the criticism. This book is a little difficult to understand, so I would recommend it for readers over age 13 who are interested in a satirical story about racism and morality in southern Antebellum society.

-Freya (Teen Reviewer)

 

Everlost by Neal Shusterman

Everlost

 

Book #1 of the Skinjacker Trilogy

This book begins with a car crash. Allie is suddenly rushing down a tunnel when Nick slams into her and they both come tumbling out. They find themselves completely unscathed in the middle of a forest. They meet a boy and he tells them that they have been dead for nine months. They travel throughout the world of the “almost dead”. In this realm of the “Everlost”, objects that have been loved and cared for and have died tragically (such as a birthday cake that was lovingly prepared by a mother and has fallen off a table) earn a “share of eternity”. However the kids in this world remember themselves in life, that is how they appear in the Everlost. Nick and Allie have quarrels with bands of thugs made up of almost dead kids that try to harm them. They defeat a monster named “The McGill”, then they take a ride in the Hindenburg, and they even jump into random living people’s skins and control them (this is called being a Skinjacker). It sounds quite morbid, and the cover of the book looks scary, but it really is not. Are you looking for a quirky adventure? Everlost is the right book for you!

 

Bodhi (Teen Reviewer)

IVY ABERDEEN’S LETTER TO THE WORLD by Ashley Herring Blake

Ivy Aberdeen

Since the birth of her twin brothers, twelve year-old Ivy feels increasingly invisible and things get only worse after a devastating tornado rips through her town, completely destroying her home. Not only does Ivy try to make sense her living situation, her distant family, and her love life, she desperately needs to find her misplaced journal filled with all of her secret poems and drawings, like the one where she is holding another girls hand. This lyrically told story of first love, community resilience, and finding ones voice is perfect for fans of Erin Entrada Kelly or Jason Reynolds.

-KC