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The Rithmatist - YA Review by Greta H

Reader: Greta H.
Age: 16
Title: The Rithmatist
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pub Date:  05/14/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: One thing that I believe the book could have benefited from would have been more world building, as there was little to none of it. It is supposed to have a sort of steampunk atmosphere, yet there were not a whole lot of integration of this theme throughout the book, and I would find myself almost surprised when one of the few elements did come up ("Oh, mechanical grass cutter crab, right, this is steampunk. I almost forgot"). I feel like it would have brought another level to this book. There is a lot you can do with a steampunk world, and I do not think it was taken advantage of here.

Regardless, the plot held my interest to the point of finishing the book in a matter of a day or two; I think the aspect of mystery really helped with that. The characters were lovable and for the most part realistic, though not as vibrantly alive as others have been for me. Overall, it is worth a read.
Memorable or Forgettable: It has a unique world and plot that I am really interested in. Though the steampunk aspect was not as strong as I would have liked, it was still there in bits; steampunk universes in books have always been some of my favorite.
Cover: The cover of the book does reflect the contents of the book, and though it was not the original reason I picked up the book, it certainly wouldn't have turned me off from reading it.
Age Range: Under 12 through 17
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal

tags:  steampunk / fantasy / science fiction / The Rithmatist / ya lit

Eleanor and Park - YA Review by Hannah W

Reader: Hannah W.
Age: 17
Title: Eleanor and Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pub Date: 02/26/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: This book stood out because it had a strong central plot. The characters seemed very real which caused me to be more interested in their fate.
Memorable or Forgettable: The characters were what made this book memorable. There was strong character development and this development was also realistic.
Cover: The cover was simple yet it was this simplicity that drew me to the book. The cover very much reflected the plot of the book as well as the characters.
Age Range: 14 through 17
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal

tags:  contemporary / realistic fiction / romance / Printz / ya lit

Nil - YA Review by Simon DS

Reader: Simon DS
Age: 13
Title: Nil
Author: Lynne Matson
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Pub Date: 03/04/14
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: This book had kind of stereotypical survival cast, which was okay, but I felt like the characters weren't real. The plot was well done, with good pacing and a nice romance thrown into the mix, and portrayed time running out very well.
Memorable or Forgettable:  I will remember this book for the concept, because it was kind of a peaceful Hunger Games, if that makes any sense. There was the group of teens isolated, all trying to get off of the island. They have an order to their society however, with designated jobs and houses. I also liked the mixed reactions of new kids landing on the island. They ranged from super helpful to stir crazy.
Cover:  I liked the crowd of teens on a desert island, and the title also made me pick it up. Nil. That sounded so final and dramatic, I had to pick it up.
Age Range: 12 through 17
Quality: 3Q Readable
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation:  Charlie wakes up on a desert island with no memory of how she got there. As she explores the island, she meets a band of other teenagers also stranded on Nil. With them she finds her place and learns to survive on the island of Nil. After all, no one lasts more than 365 days on Nil...

tags:  dystopian romance / science fiction / adventure / survival / ya lit

Take Back the Skies - YA Review by Veronica K

Reader: Veronica K.
Age: 13
Title: Take Back the Skies
Author: Lucy Saxon
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Pub Date: 06/03/14
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book:  Element wise, this was an okay book. The characters were actual people. They had conversations that could actually happen. They showed true emotions. The plot made sense. It was paced well. It was just fast enough to keep things going. It was still slow enough to make sense.
Memorable or Forgettable: The most memorable thing in this book was its messages. That is a very bad thing, as its messages send the wrong picture to children. It sends "classic girls are too weak" stereotypes. So, yes the book is memorable. No, not in a good way.
Cover: I liked the cover. It was very Sci-Fi ish. It was not what I expected from the cover, but the cover still matched.
Age Range: 12 through 17
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal

tags:  science fiction / fantasy / Take Back the Skies / ya lit

Antigoddess- YA Review by Claire W

Reader: Claire W.
Age: 12
Title: Antigoddess (Goddess War #1)
Author: Kendare Blake
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pub Date: 09/10/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: The writing style was great and well done. The characters were fabulously multidimensional. They really seemed like real people that you might meet. I loved how everything was described so well and detailed.
Memorable or Forgettable: I have never read a book with the same plot. At first when I started to read it, I was like, "Great, another Greek mythology book," but it turned out to be great.
Cover: The cover was great as a hook and becomes even better after you read the book.
Age Range: 12 through 13
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal

Annotation: All the gods are in serious trouble. They could all die out. Athena and Odysseus are teaming together to try to save themselves and the other gods.

tags:  fantasy / Greek mythology / paranormal / romance / Goddess War / ya lit

Grasshopper Jungle - YA Review by Guanani

Reader: Guanani
Age: 18
Title: Grasshopper Jungle
Author: Andrew Smith
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pub Date: 02/11/14
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: This book blows my mind with its gritty grace and deeply flawed characters. It focuses on a few big themes (sexuality, history, science gone wrong) but at the same time feels like it’s about everything. Despite the mutant praying mantises and mad scientist bunker, this story feels extremely realistic and does an excellent job portraying a relatable teenage experience.
Memorable or Forgettable: Grasshopper Jungle is memorable because of how it blends science fiction with the realistic-fiction elements about Austin figuring out his sexuality and place in the world. I’m amazed by how seamless these sets of ideas were, especially since they are almost always explored separately. Austin’s character was developed with a lot of sensitivity, and I cared about him even though he did some very stupid things. The sci-fi aspect was original and scary in an almost absurdist way. Even though what’s going to happen is introduced early on, the way the events unfold and how various characters accidentally contribute to the end of the world drives the plot and makes the ending somehow inevitable and surprising at the same time. I recommend this highly, but this book does deal with considerable amounts of sex stuff and gore, so be prepared.
Cover:  I picked this up because of recommendations from friends. The cover is a great color, something unique and alarming that will stand out among all the black and pink covers. I also really like the subtle graphic. It hints at what the book is about without giving too much away or having a random picture of a teenage model on it, which is a pet peeve of mine.
Age Range: 16 through 18 and up
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation: Grasshopper Jungle is a coming of age epic told in layers, exploring the pitfalls and wisdom of history, complex issues of friendship and sexual confusion, and, of course, the story of how six-foot-tall man-eating praying mantises from Iowa brought on the end of the world.

tags:  realistic science fiction / coming of age / GLBT /ya lit

I Have A Bad Feeling About This - YA Review by Alexis F

Reader: Alexis F.
Age: 14
Title: I Have a Bad Feeling About This
Author: Jeff Strand
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pub Date: 03/01/14
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: The book had some funny parts, but it was a little childish at times.  Come on! What's not funny about a bunch of totally wimpy boys being sent to a "hard-core" summer camp?  It may sound a little boring at first, but after you start to read it, it's pretty good.  The plot was easy to follow and the characters had their own personalities (however, at times they talked exactly the same). I would probably rate it on a scale of one to five (one being the worst and five being the best) a three.  It wasn't the best read, but it was good enough.
Memorable or Forgettable: It's one of those books that you'll most likely forget the majority of the plot, but certain things stick out.  After each chapter there's a little "survival tip."  I do not recommend using them...
Cover: The cover did not tempt me to pick it up.  It's plain and I wasn't interested until someone told me that it was good.
Age Range: 12 through 13
Quality: 3Q Readable
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal

tags:  humor / realistic fiction / ya lit

Subway Love - YA Review by Claire W

Reader: Claire W.
Age: 12
Title: Subway Love
Author: Nora Raleigh Baskin
Publisher: Candlewick
Pub Date: 05/13/14
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: Well first the book is very confusing. It switches between two time periods and not very well. Also there wasn't really a plot for the first half of the book. Another thing is that it took me a very long time to figure out that Laura was living in the hippie era and the other main character was in present time. The character development was poor and not really there. The plot was introduced much too late and didn't really have an ending. It just stopped at the end of the book.
Memorable or Forgettable: The book was certainly not a very original topic. It was like Doctor Who but with a subway car instead of a police box. But it was done badly and didn't make much sense.
Cover: The cover was super cool and sorta reflected the contents of the book but not that well. But the blurb on the back was the worst. It was a section from the beginning, and the beginning had nothing to do with the plot. So I was expecting a completely different book than what I got and not in a good way.
Age Range: 12 through 13
Quality: 1Q How did it get published?
Popularity: 1P Yech! Forced to read it

tags:  romance / time travel / divorce / ya lit

The Children of the King - YA Review by Grace KL

Reader: Grace K.L.
Age: 15
Title: The Children of the King
Author: Sonya Hartnett
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pub Date: 03/25/2014
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: This book takes place in Britain during World War II, and does an overall good job of capturing the atmosphere of the War.  I felt disconnected to the protagonist, Cecily, who seemed terribly naive and foolish.  This could have worked; however, the third person narrative voice seemed rather high and mighty about Cecily's behavior.  Cecily's brother, Jem, however, was a wonderful character.  I identified with him, and though his actions were not excusable, they were understandable.
Memorable or Forgettable: I feel that I might not remember the plot of this book for very long, but if anything is going to stick with me, it is the character of Jem, for the reasons listed above.
Cover: When I picked up this book it did not yet have a cover.  After viewing the cover online I will say that it accurately reflected the contents if the book.
Age Range: Under 12 through 13
Quality: 2Q Needs more work
Popularity: 2P Only for special interest
Additional Comments: It appears that this is being marketed as middle grade.  I do not agree with this.  Though it is about children, I would say that the style of narration is more suitable for upper grades.

tags:  historical fiction / World War II / ya lit

Acid - YA Review by Alyissa S

Reader: Alyissa S.
Age: 13
Title: Acid
Author: Emma Pass
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pub Date: 03/11/14
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: Acid is an amazing book for many reasons. The first reason is the book shows a lot of girl power and determination from a strong female character. The second reason is the book applied the theme that it's not about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself, that played a big role in the book. The finally reason Acid is amazing book is because the book ended in a way that was satisfying and left me wanting more.
Memorable or Forgettable: The most memorable part of the book was when Jenna was at the prison and she beat up the new prisoner.
Cover:  The cover matches the story so perfectly because it expresses the book as a dangerous girl on the loose.
Age Range: 14 through 15
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Additional Comments: If i had 3 words for this book, they would be dangerous, awesome, and mysterious.
Annotation: What if someone stole your life away from you?

tags:  science fiction / dystopian romance / ya lit

Chasing Shadows - YA Review by Sophie D

Reader: Sophie D.
Age: 18
Title: Chasing Shadows
Author: Swati Avasthi
Publisher: Knopf Books For Young Readers
Pub Date: 09/24/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: This book was awesome. My favorite part was Holly's transformation over the course of the book. She slowly loses control, but because half of the book is from her point of view, it's not clear to the reader until close to the end what is really going on in her mind. The friendship between Holly and Savitri was also very real and relatable, which made it difficult for me to read at times. I very much appreciated that there wasn't a real storybook ending, their friendship was damaged by their choices and actions. It was not a satisfying ending, but that is realistic.
Memorable or Forgettable:  I loved the way it combined prose with drawings, it really made the rest of the book more like a graphic novel. I would have liked to see more segments of graphics, that would have made the transitions more smooth.
Cover: I'm not a fan of this cover. I would have loved to see some art from the book, instead of a photo. Also, it's only a photo of Holly, when the book is as much about Savitri as it is about her - arguably even more about Savitri. Picturing the white girl and not picturing the Indian girl is problematic when there is already so little diversity in YA literature.
Age Range: 14 through 18 and up
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation:  Dark and visual, Chasing Shadows follows Holly and Savitri's friendship as they try to survive the death of Holly's brother, Corey. When Holly becomes obsessed with getting him back, can Savitri save her from going too far?

tags:  graphic novel / contemporary / realistic fiction / mental illness / ya lit

To All the Boys I've Loved Before - YA Review by Emily L

Reader: Emily L.
Age: 16
Title: To All the Boys I've Loved Before 
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Pub Date: 04/15/14
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: The author made the main character, Lara Jean, seem like a normal teenage girl. The character's voice didn't sound too sophisticated but it also didn't seem too "dumbed" down. My favorite part of this novel is the development of Peter & Lara Jean's relationship because (SPOILER ALERT) you don't actually expect her to fall for him or for him to fall for her, because before they decided to "fake date" they were both completely hung up on other people. The unpredictability of their relationship is by far my favorite part.
Memorable or Forgettable: I liked how I didn't predict the ending of this book before it happened. It always kept me guessing. Yes, it's a sappy romance novel but it's not as annoying as most are.
Cover:  I didn't pick up the book because of the cover, someone had recommended the novel to me. The cover honestly didn't have either a positive nor negative impact on me. It's the kind of cover that's just there and not really distinguishable from other book covers.
Age Range: 14 through 18 and up
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 5P Everyone wants to read it

tags:  contemporary / realistic fiction / romance / To All The Boys I've Loved Before / ya lit

The Shadow Prince (Into The Dark #1) - YA Review by Claire W

Reader: Claire W.
Age: 12
Title: The Shadow Prince (Into The Dark #1)
Author: Bree Despain
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pub Date: 03/11/2014
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book:  First off, the the plot was very good since all of the mythology was correct and followed the same sort of story most myths do. And the plot moved along at a very nice pace. The dialogue was quite amusing since Haden was unaware of the new trends. The character development was really good since Daphne and Haden both came out of their skins throughout the book
Memorable or Forgettable: Well, currently books that tie realistic fiction and mythology are pretty common so that didn't make it very original, but the way it was written did make it memorable.
Cover: Not really. The cover was two dark and very hard to make out.
Age Range: 12 through 17
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation: Haden Lord lives in the underworld. Every year a group of people are sent into the mortal world to fetch a girl. This year Haden is chosen to go alone - except for his two companions - to get a girl named Daphne. Daphne has lived her whole life in a little town called Ellis Fields until her not involved dad shows up to ask her if she wants to go live with him in his glamorous life. She says yes to start off her singing career but her plan sorta backfires. In Olympus Hills she meets a mysterious guy named Haden Lord.

tags:  fantasy / mythology / romance / ya lit

The Fury - YA Review by Katie J

Reader: Katie J.
Age: 13
Title: The Fury (The Fury #1)
Author: Alexander Gordon Smith
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Pub Date: 07/23/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: This book was long. Like, really really 688 pages long.  I think that if it had been more exciting, then it wouldn't have been so, I don't know, LONG. It was a good concept, but the middle 400 pages didn't need to be in the book.

In this book, Daisy, Cal, Brick, Adam, Schiller, and Rilke are teenagers that get attacked once they get within 20 meters (most of this book takes place in England, and they use the metric system, which is a bit confusing) of other people.  It turns out that they have angels (yes I said angels) inside of them.  After 400 pages of getting attacked by the "ferals," they take down the bad guy,. And yes, plenty of people die.  One of them is a main character and the other 5 million or so are nameless.
Memorable or Forgettable:  I liked this book.  I might've liked it better if it wasn't 1 pound and if it didn't have 400 extra pages.
Cover: The cover was pretty good.  This is how I imagined the teens looking when the transformed into angels.
Age Range: 12 through 13
Quality: 3Q Readable
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal
Additional CommentsWARNING: If you don't like long books, like ones that are about 688 pages, don't read this book.

tags:  horror / dystopia / The Fury / science fiction / ya lit

TKB at the 26th Annual Minnesota Book Awards

April 5, 2014
St. Paul's Union Depot

Carrie Mesrobian's Sex & Violence wins the 26th Annual Minnesota Book Award for Young People's Literature.

Earlier in the day, several Teens Know Best members, interns, and parents volunteered as part of the awards gala set up crew.  We placed programs and donation cards, arranged centerpieces, and organized the volunteer's room.  Later that evening, dressed in our gala finest, we met authors, got books signed, and cheered the winners.

Teens Know Best is a teen book club sponsored by Metropolitan State University and St. Paul Public Library.  Our teens read books, blog about books, and participate in lively book discussions at monthly meetings.  Follow these links to read member reviews of Sex & Violence:

Guanani's Review

Sophie D's Review

Elise S's Review

During her acceptance speech, Ms. Mesrobian thanked librarians for having the courage to put a book titled Sex & Violence on their shelves.  Minnesota boasts a passionately engaged community that nurtures, advocates, educates, and celebrates all aspects of the book.  Teens Know Best would like to acknowledge that community, congratulate the finalists and winners of the 26th Annual Minnesota Book Awards, and thank The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library for the opportunity to volunteer and attend the gala event.