Long Way Down - Jason Reynolds
Imagine your brother was just shot and killed. What would you do? For 15-year old Will, that involves pointing his brother’s gun at his killer. But on the elevator ride down, Will gets visited by 7 ghosts from his past. I won’t say anything further to avoid spoilers, but just know that things get weird. Very weird. I liked the way Jason Reynolds used a free-verse poem format, which he used to convey expression in a way that standard writing couldn’t. The book mainly focuses on the idea that revenge and killing people isn’t the solution to your problems, which is a theme I’m sure we’ve all seen before, but it was refreshing to see a more grounded approach. Every part of the book made you feel like you were really there, as if this could have really happened. Well, except for the whole Christmas Carol part. Jason Reynolds has always said his mission was to make stories that people could see themselves in, and in this case, he did. Long Way Down is a short read, but what it does contain will make you want more.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man - Jason Reynolds
Before Miles Morales became a household name, he was fairly unknown, which was pretty disappointing. Fortunately, long before Sony’s Into the Spider-Verse came into theaters, fans found their fix in Jason Reynolds’s YA novel. When I first read it, I didn’t know what to expect, other than Spider-Man in a climactic battle for the city, with chaos and destruction ensuing all around him. That was not what I got. What was in the book was much better. In this story, Miles Morales is struggling. He just lost his scholarship at his school, his racist teacher humiliates him and makes him do things no person should, and, worst of all, he’s starting to think he might turn into a criminal. The book has a solid story and themes that are more important today than ever, such as how Miles takes part in a protest against his teacher, pointing out that he’s human, too. Towards the end of the book, it becomes pretty obvious who the villain is, though it’s pretty easy to figure it out from the beginning, too. The battle was interesting, but it left me with more questions than answers. Other than that, however, I’d give this book a 9/10.
Ghost - Jason Reynolds
The first time I heard of Ghost, I’ll admit that I wasn’t that interested in it. A story about a kid on a track team? I’m not much of a sports guy, but now, after reading Ghost, I kinda want to be. Ghost features a boy named Castle Cranshaw, who calls himself Ghost. He is, for the most part, a pretty normal dude. He lives in a not-so-great part of town, but that’s ok, because he and his mom don’t really have to worry about crime. Except for when his alcoholic dad pulled a gun on them. Ghost’s life stays mostly the same afterward - well, as same as you can get after your dad gets arrested for trying to shoot you. His life’s pretty uneventful until he decides to crash a track meet and one-up their star athlete. Then, the track coach offers him a spot on the team. From there, things really kick off. Ghost is, more than anything, a coming of age story. This is a story about a kid who makes mistakes, a kid who doesn’t come from the best background, someone that young black men can see themselves in, and I think that’s why this book is so great: it’s relatable. If you haven’t read Ghost, I highly suggest that you do, because this might be the most down-to-earth a book can get.
Captain America by Ta-Nehisi Coates Vol. 1
I think that graphic novels are underrated. Sure, Amulet and a few others get some glory, but there are some real undiscovered gems when it comes to graphic novels. Captain America by Ta-Nehisi Coates is the perfect example of this. Imagine Captain America, the answer to what happens when you cross George Washington superpowers, getting brainwashed into becoming a fascist dictator. Ok, now imagine him being un-brainwashed, but no one believes that, and newer threats are forming, but the nation can’t support the Captain anymore. This story is great, not only because of the whole “Cap was evil but I don’t think he is anymore” idea, but because how relevant it is to today’s world. Through Captain America’s eyes, we see an America that willingly works with known criminals, claiming to have been “reformed,” all through the veil of politics. This isn’t just a story about a symbol of hope being tarnished; this is a story about politics and corruption. So, essentially, it’s the story of the current US government, but in a comic book. Once again, this is the perfect example of why graphic novels are underrated. Believe it or not, this is not the deepest the rabbit hole goes, with graphic novels like Kingdom Come expressing the generational divide, Secret Empire showcasing themes like hope and how not everyone’s the way that they seem, and the list goes on. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: this book is a masterpiece.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows Vol. 1: Brawl In The Family - Gerry Conway
For the Parkers, life’s pretty good. They’re making ends meet, their young daughter is a saint, and their jobs are getting better and better. Did I mention that they all have spider powers? That’s right, Spider-Man is now a trio act. This story is a cross between The Incredibles and Spider-Man, and is just a lot of fun. I didn’t think too much of this at first, mainly because I didn’t read a lot of Spider-Man, but this story was surprisingly good. It was pretty cool to see a crime-fighting family, which we’ve only seen once before with Superman and his son. All in all, this story is a great read with a lot of laughs and a lot of heart.
Google Doc Link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rBDPfhirbyIBY7h_5WoHoBfTKse7yEFGRik5LNIrd1s/edit?usp=sharing
Book: Flawless (2nd Book in Pretty Little Liars Series)
Author: Sara Shepard
Flawless picks up right where Pretty Little Liars left us. In this book our main characters Hanna, Emily, Spencer, and Aria keep trying to figure out the identity of their anonymous message sender “A”, who knows all of their deepest, darkest secrets. But the most horrible secret of all is something that they share. It is also so scandalous it could possibly destroy their perfect lives. And of course “A” is threatening to do just that. At first the girls thought “A” was Alison, their friend who vanished three years ago. But, it turns out that Alison really was dead. So who could “A” be now? Maybe Toby, the mysterious guy who left town right after Alison went missing?
This story, just like Pretty Little Liars, was a very interesting and suspenseful read. The author created extremely realistic characters that although seemed great on the surface, had their own problems to deal with. This novel dug deeper into all the character’s flaws and issues they faced, whether it was a family issue or a moral dilemma. I also loved seeing how their problem with “A” releasing their secrets connected to their own personal life and the impact they faced when some of their secrets were released. I loved the flashbacks throughout the story that show the reader how the main characters have changed because of certain situations and decisions they have made in the past. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and can’t wait to read the next one.
Book: The False Prince (1st Book in The Ascendance Series)
Author: Jennifer Nielsen
Many years ago, the king of Carthya’s ship was attacked and his youngest son was never to be seen again. Now with Carthya on the brink of a war, Conner, a nobleman of the king’s court, wants to devise a plan. He intends to find an impersonator of the king’s lost son and install him as a puppet prince, which would ease the tension in the kingdom. In order to do this, Conner recruits four orphans to compete for the role of the prince and trains them over two weeks. One of the boys there is a defiant boy named Sage. At the end of the two weeks, Sage must be chosen to play the prince over the others or else he will certainly be killed.
One of the things that makes this novel so memorable is the writing style, especially when it comes to the main character. Sage is not at all interested in becoming the prince, which makes the reader even more compelled to read about him and root for him. Also, this book is written in the limited third person with insight only to Sage’s thoughts, which helps the reader understand his actions. Also, all of the plot twists and the way everything connects at the end was done brilliantly. The biggest twist of the book was something no one would ever suspect, although there were subtle clues throughout the novel. Overall, this book was very cleverly written and I can’t wait to read the next one.
Book: When (Standalone Novel)
Author: Victoria Laurie
When follows the story of Maddie Fynn, who has the ability to see people’s death dates. One day, she identifies the quickly approaching death date of a young boy, but unfortunately she does not know how to save him because her ability only allows her to see when people die, not how. But, when the boy goes missing on the exact date that Maddie predicted, law enforcement turns to her. Also, as more and more people disappear and are later found murdered, Maddie becomes entangled in a homicide investigation. Now, not only is she a suspect in this investigation because of her ability, but she also may be the murderer’s next target. Can she find out the identity of the murderer before things get even worse?
Firstly, the character of Maddie as well as the supporting characters that appear throughout the book were well-written. All of them were multidimensional and there were many traits the reader could relate to in multiple characters as they were very unique from one another. The pace of the story was great as well as it was engaging throughout. Also, the author also did a great job with keeping the suspense throughout the book all the way up to the climax. However, the story line of being accused of murder, the discrimination, dealing with the law and policing organisations had moments where it felt far-fetched. Overall, this was a great and engaging standalone novel and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a mystery.
Book: The Hunger Games (1st Book in The Hunger Games Series)
Author: Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games takes place in a futuristic society named Panem which is controlled by the Capitol and surrounded by twelve other districts. The Capitol is very cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them to send one boy and one girl to participate in their annual Hunger Games, which is essentially a broadcasted fight to the death. One day, Katniss Everdeen’s sister is chosen to take part in the Hunger Games but Katniss takes her place instead because she regards the Games as a death sentence. Now, as a contestant, Katniss must use her survival skills and fight for her life in order to survive in the Hunger Games.
One of the things that I liked about this book was the character of Katniss. She’s a very independent character with strong moral values. Her character also grows throughout the story as she faces certain situations. Throughout this book there are various symbolic meanings and political themes. For example, this novel shows how people with money are more powerful and the poor don’t have any option but to obey their commands. Also, just like the Capitol pretends to care about their people in order to get what they want, power hungry politicians have the same mindsets in our real world. Overall, I loved how I was able to connect to this book in a deeper way and relate it to our society and what could become of it in the future. Can't wait to see what happens next!
Book: The Burning Maze (1st Book in The Trials of Apollo Series)
Author: Rick Riordan
The Burning Maze picks up right where The Dark Prophecy left us. So far, with the help of some friends, Apollo has managed to survive his first two trials. Now, he must pass his third trial which means that he needs to travel through the Labyrinth and find the third emperor as well as an Oracle who speaks in word puzzles. Also, while Apollo and his companion Meg are on their quest, Leo must warn the Roman camp that they will soon be attacked by multiple evil Roman emperors. However, the one glimmer of hope that’s seen in this quest is that their satyr companion will return to help, since he is the only one who knows the way.
Firstly, compared to the previous novel, I found this book to be much more fast paced as this time not only does Apollo have to pass the trial with the time limit provided, but there are others whose lives hang in the balance. When it comes to the villains of the previous book, I found that Commodus was a powerful but somewhat silly villain. Also, Nero was cunning and manipulative, but his attachment to Meg gave him an air of humanity. However, the final emperor that is introduced in this novel is more terrifying than the other two put together. He is the one that reminds us how imperative it is that Apollo succeeds. Overall, I would recommend this series to anyone who likes reading mythological as well as suspenseful books.
Once Upon a Space-Time! - Jeffrey Brown
Once Upon a Space-Time! has everything a good sci-fi story needs: robots, space, and aliens. This slice-of-life graphic novel by the author of the Jedi Academy series follows the adventures of Petra and Jide, two space cadets sent to Mars as part of an exploration program, co-run by an alien species that are all clones of an alien named Tobey. Along they way, they meet other alien explorers also here for the same purpose. The book is a fun and short read full of laughs, but also explains space concepts, like a space elevator and dangerous Mars dust (it’s scarier than it sounds). If you like space, you’ll like Once Upon a Space-Time.
Word Count: 113
Iron Man: The Gauntlet - Eoin Colfer
Eoin Colfer’s written a lot of great books. Iron Man: The Gauntlet, however, is not one of them. This book sees Tony Stark on a secret mission. Well, as secret as a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist/superhero can be. Tony, on his way to a eco-summit in Dublin, decides to check out an anomaly near the coast. However, he probably should’ve chosen a better time, because at that moment, he was wearing the Party Pack, an Iron Man suit made for showing off to the public, not the heat of battle. The book’s plot seems enticing enough, but the development of the story doesn’t live up to what it could be. The characters in the book are as unique as a slice of toast. The (spoiler), the main villain of the story, is faithful to the comics unlike his movie adaptation, yes, but his goals are still that of a generic movie villain. Iron Man: The Gauntlet has the beginnings of a strong story that unfortunately, doesn’t deliver.
Word count: 168
Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
Spoiler warning! Read at your own risk :)
Reading Mockingjay blew my mind. If I hadn’t seen the movie a year ago, I never would have seen any of it coming, from Finnick dying, Peeta being brainwashed, to Coin’s hand in the bombing that killed Prim and the future president’s death. Hiding the grand scale might have been the smartest decision Collins made. The self-contained tasks that held a larger narrative beneath the surface made it feel like Katniss was just fighting single enemies in the arena of the Hunger Games. Not only was the action great, but the emotion of every character gave the book even more value. At the very end of the book, Katniss was as broken as District 12, having lost so much - Rue, her friend during her first Hunger Games, Cinna, her friend and costume designer at the Capitol, Finnick, her wisecracking ally from the Quarter Quell, and Prim, her loving sister, and the person she did everything she could to protect her from the dangerous world that is Panem. Everything she faces in her life cuts scars deeper and deeper, creating everlasting horrors that no one should have to suffer through. Even through all of that, however, Katniss endures, and eventually overcomes ever obstacle in her life to help bring both Panem and herself to peace.
Word Count: 214
The Trials of Apollo: The Tyrant’s Tomb - Rick Riordan
From Greek to Roman to Egyptian to Norse Mythology, Rick Riordan’s really done it all. With the Trials of Apollo, Riordan turns a god into a normal human, stripped of his power, with the only way to get back being liberating his Oracles and putting an end to the most diabolical emperors in history, who have resurfaced and are about to wreak havoc. In the Tyrant’s Tomb, Apollo finds himself in Camp Jupiter, the “camp” where Roman demigods live. Now, he has to fight off against emperor Tarquin, but that’s not all. Very soon, two emperors, Caligula and Commodus, will wage war on Camp Jupiter. Yikes. The whole series has mainly been about Apollo hilariously coming to terms with leaving his pampered immortal life and embarking on his journey as a mortal. In this volume of his story, Apollo started to understand the absurd and terrible things he had done to people. His realizing and apologizing for his mistakes had been explored earlier, but not in as much detail. This time around, his conscience and regret made him more human, and learned from the error of his ways. All in all, The Tyrant’s Tomb is a must-read for any fan of Rick Riordan.
Word count: 203
Thunderhead - Neil Schusterman
The only person who could craft a story as well as J.K Rowling is Neil Shusterman. This is evident with Thunderhead, the sequel to Scythe. In the book, Rowan, now a fugitive of the Scythedom, spends his days killing corrupt scythes. Citra, now called Scythe Anastasia, lives as a scythe, honorably taking life. Things seem to be doing relatively ok, but that’s until the conspiracy begins. When Citra’s life is put in jeopardy, a bigger plot unfolds, which leads to shocking discoveries, familiar faces, and one event that leads to severe repercussions. In many ways, this is the Scythe trilogy’s Catching Fire. In both books, the main characters are shaken after the events of the last book. They both try to do what they can bring some sense of normalcy to their lives, but to no avail. There is also word of an uprising gaining traction. The main characters hear about this and try to suppress it, also to no avail. Eventually, they are summoned to a far away place, in which everything changes. At the end of the book, one singular event shatters the world to the core, and that’s when the characters know that there’s no going back. Thunderhead delves deeper into the world created in Scythe, and jumps deeper into the rabbit hole of morality created by the scythedom, it’s limits, and those who would yearn to break them. All in all, Thunderhead is a masterpiece of dystopian fiction, which could only be crafted by an author as talented as Neil Shusterman.
Word Count: 256