Princess Academy: Palace of Stone - YA Review By Grace

Reader: Grace O
Age: 17
Title: Princess Academy: Palace of Stone
Author: Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Pub Date: 09/01/12
Galley: No
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: Princess Academy : Palace of Stone's story is told in first person. The setting takes place in a make believe world. The make believe world is in a medieval time with kings, queens, and palaces. Dialogue is more modern day english without the slang. The plot had a few twists and turns but the element that stood out the most was character development. When Miri goes to school in the town's academy and is taught ethics, her own ethics start to change and through this whole book Miri is trying to find out what exactly her ethics are.
Memorable or Forgettable: The most memorable quality is the struggle between right and wrong. How others can view right and wrong so differently from someone else. Another quality that stood out was the confusion of where you belong. Miri has a lot of paths she can take. But the main two paths are,  learn what she can for one year and go back to teach that to her people and maybe be with the one she's always loved. Or travel the world with a new boy who she met in town and gain knowledge that will be cut off to her if she goes back to the mountain.
Cover:  I picked this book up because I read Princess Academy and really liked it. Yes the cover does reflect the contents of this book.
Age Range: 12 through 17
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation:  It's suppose to be a time of happiness and celebration, after all the Princess and the Prince are getting married. But when Miri gets a desperate letter from the Mountain's delegate begging for help on what to do about up coming plots, things take a turn for the worst.

tags:  fantasy / coming of age / ya lit

Courtship & Curses - YA Review by Bridget

Reader: Bridget
Age: 18
Title: Courtship & Curses
Author: Marissa Doyle
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Pub Date: 08/07/12
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: The most significant aspect of this book in my opinion is the character development. The main character Sophie goes through a fairly strong transformation throughout the novel. She starts out as a girl with a limp who seems almost helpless no matter how strong a front she puts up or how sharp her tongue is; however by the end she has transformed into a strong heroine. I also enjoyed the fact that the author made her so well-rounded and seem so human. Despite her own difficulties, she goes through life and enjoys the London Season much like any other girl her age. The author's voice was also quite engaging.
Memorable or Forgettable: The historical accuracy of the novel was excellent. Doyle really did her research, which made the book all the more enjoyable. It was also very easy to read as the suspense of the mystery as well as the activity of London kept the novel moving.
Cover:  The cover did make me inclined to pick up the book in the first place because I recognized the dress as nineteenth century and thus I assumed it was a historical novel. For once I am able to say that the cover reflects the contents if only because the illustration is from the correct period (1815). Many times it seems that when I pick up a historical novel the cover is some random girl in a flowing dress etc. without even an attempt at accuracy, which to me seems sloppy. I was glad that this book was different.
Age Range: 14 through 17
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal

tags:  historical fiction / regency romance / mystery / magic / ya lit

Struck - YA Review by Grace KL

Reader: Grace KL
Age: 13
Title: Struck
Author: Jennifer Bosworth
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Pub Date: 5/01/2012
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: The main idea of supernatural lighting strikes in this book hooked me from the beginning.  The otherworldly events felt believable and the character's reactions to them realistic.  I enjoyed learning the back story of many minor characters, which is something  I am always curious to find out in an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic novel.
Memorable or Forgettable: I just finished the book a few hours ago and cannot recall the main character's name, which is always a bad sign.  I felt detached from her experiences and the romance with Jeremy was not believable.
Cover:  The cover feels very similar to many others I have seen.  It did reflect the contents with ravaged buildings, but I would have liked to have the Tower (a place where pivotal events took place) in the background as well.
Age Range: 12 through 15
Quality: 3Q Readable
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal

tags:  post-apocalyptic / romance / supernatural / ya lit

The Raven Boys - YA Review by Elise S

Reader: Elise S
Age: 16
Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pub Date: 09/18/12
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: The sense of place built in the novel is fabulous. Through the quests in the forests of Henrietta, and discovering the latent magic on the ley line I was able to see everything they were experiencing. By the end of the book, Stiefvater pulled together the plot puzzle gracefully. There were a lot of pieces being balanced, especially for a mystery, but they were, for the most part, resolved. It would have been good as a stand alone book, but as it is, I'll be interested to see where she takes it in the following books.
Memorable or Forgettable: The Raven Boys is based on magic, but there was nothing supernatural about the characters. Every one of them was broken in one way or another, which makes them interesting to read about. I cared about their relationships, their well-being.
Without spoilers, there were several directions that Stiefvater took the book in (Blue's relationship with not Gansey, that Noah is a ___) that I wasn't expecting, but that worked. It felt like the author was listening to her characters, instead of just making up plot twists.
There is one thing I would like to see improved upon in Stiefvater's next books, that I have noticed as a trend in many of her novels so far. She has a tendency to build up to exciting plot, rather than diving straight into it. Once you get into the book it's fabulous, but I want more of the amazing right at the beginning, raise the stakes right away!

Cover:  Super cool cover - the style of artwork reminded me of a flow-ier Neil Gaiman. The lines of the raven drew the eye in, and it most definitely stands out on the shelf. Without being too obvious, it still reflects the books.
Age Range: Under 12 through 17
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation:   As as psychic's daughter, Blue is no virgin to the supernatural.  But even she could not imagine the danger, intensity, and scale of the magic she encounters when questing with the alluring boys of the Raven Academy.

tags:  supernatural / mystery / magic / ya lit

The Obsidian Blade - YA Review by Ada B

Reader: Ada B
Age: 18
Title: The Obsidian Blade
Author: Pete Hautman
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pub Date: 04/10/12
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: There were elements of the plot that I liked, the sci-fi take on events and the concept of time in the book. I liked the characters, but I wished there had been more between Lahlia and Tuck. There was a dynamic there that I wished had been flushed out more. I felt that I was as lost as Tuck in this book which is good I guess that I can relate to the main character that way. However, I would have liked a little more direction in the book instead of just feeling like I was drifting along in a boat in the ocean with no oars. I did like the twist at the end of the book, involving the Reverend and the Chosen Ones. However, I felt that this book was really a foundation for the next book, and I would have liked a bit more flesh or something in this one. I feel like whatever momentum this book had just completely went dry by the last page and I don't know if others would be motivated to read the next one.
Memorable or Forgettable: This book, while being a good book, was not memorable in anyway. To me, there's a difference between a good book and a great book and that difference is whether or not the book is memorable. The Great Books, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, those books you were sure to remember when you flipped that last page. You remembered the characters and the plot; you knew exactly who Harry was and what he did and how Ron and Hermoine always were fighting but really it was because they loved each other. You remembered all of the details and quirks of the book, like how you thought JK was so clever for naming her characters after constellations that fit their character perfectly (i.e. Draco and Sirius). And when you were done with the book you wanted to dive into the next book or go back and reread it all over because you didn't want to miss out on this great world and adventure. And this book didn't have that for me. There wasn't anything that really turned me off from this book - the characters and plot were fine. I think it was more just the style of writing which I feel guilty saying since it's Pete Hautman who has such a great style in The Big Crunch. Maybe it was the pacing, or maybe it's just me, but the words were almost stale. There would be a conflict and I would feel nothing, no racing heart, no pounding in my ears. The words weren't flying off the page for me. Overall, I would say the words were dry and uninteresting. I just felt completely lost and while I like a book that's unpredictable I don't want to be cast off into an ocean with no map. Maybe once the sequel comes out, the book will seem better and clearer... I just feel that as a stand alone book this left a lot to be desired.
Cover:  I liked the cover very much. It was very intriguing and it definitely did justice to the setting of the plot (Minnesota YAY!) It was the cover that first attracted me to this book.
Age Range: 14-15
Quality: 3Q Readable
Popularity: 3P Some Teen Appeal

tags:  science fiction / adventure / mystery / time travel / ya lit

Pandemonium - YA Review by Grant D

Reader: Grant D
Age: 13
Title: Pandemonium
Author: Chris Wooding and Cassandra Diaz
Publisher: Scholastic
Pub Date: 02/01/12
Galley: No
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: Pandemonium is an interesting book. The authors' humor shows through in the pictures and dialogue and the book is perfectly set up for a sequel. The problem was that the plot was predictable. I thought the characters were very well thought out and you could see them develop and grow.
Memorable or Forgettable: I enjoyed this book because the sinister characters are shrouded in mystery and I hope that there is an interesting back story that goes with them.
Cover: I love the cover, adventure is my drug and the cover captured me right away. The picture might be a tad bit dark for the over all story.
Age Range: Not provided
Quality: 3Q Readable
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal

tags:  graphic novel / fantasy / adventure / ya lit

Ask the Passengers - YA Review by Elise

Reader: Elise S
Age: 16
Title: Ask the Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pub Date: 10/23/12
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: There are many reasons I read books, but the biggest one is that sometimes I find stories like this one.  So many people ask us, as teens, to define what's hot for teens, what's next, what do TEENS want to read?  Answer: teens want to read about people.  Not all the same person, but real, live people who ask questions about themselves and the world, who think about issues, who breathe and eat and yell and laugh.  People like Astrid Jones, and wildly different than Astrid Jones.  Vampires?  Sure.  Wizards?  Why not.  Girls sending love to airplanes and figuring out who they are?  Absolutely.  A.S. King's secret is that she captures a whole human in all of the crazy, messed up glory in her book.  How could you not read a book about yourself?
Memorable or Forgettable: Needless to say, I am a huge fan.  Besides her sparkling and vivid characters, King weaves in rich background, setting, and a well paced plot.  Characters were created and interacted with such ease that I was convinced.  There were a lot of characters too.  Some we only knew for a paragraph, but for that paragraph we knew their story and their worries.  The characters that stuck around really showed themselves, too.  There were no static people in the story, they changed and developed as events unfolded, until the person at the end was not the same person we started with.
     I have one more thing to commend the author on, and this is important.  There are not a huge wealth of books out there about GLBTQ teens.  The ones that I have read have overwhelmingly fit a thin genre.  Realistic fiction, teens struggle to tell parents and friends and find self.  This is an important storyline, but the characters so often fall flat, or stereotype to extremes.  Ask the Passengers did neither.  King told a story about a person who was a person.  This person was working through who they are, like all of us.  And she was lesbian.  But I never felt that King sat down to write a "gay book," and that is an enormous distinction.
Cover: This was a beautiful cover that related to the book just enough.  It caught my attention, and the lines of the photo were very aesthetically arranged.  The one thing I will say is that, as a teen who carries her novels around between school, theater and home in a filthy backpack, the amount of white shows an awful lot of dirt.
Age Range: 12 through 18 and up
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 5P Everyone wants to read it
Annotation: The airplane passengers Astrid Jones sends love to don't know who she is, or that she needs someone to talk to.  They don't know that she lives in a small, prejudiced town, or that she is falling in love with girl, or that she can't tell anybody, or that her family is falling apart.  But there you have it.

tags:  GLBTQ / coming of age / ya lit

Smart Girls Get What They Want - YA Review by Grace KL

Reader: Grace KL
Age: 13
Title: Smart Girls Get What They Want
Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Pub Date: 6/26/12
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book:  I was worried about smart girl stereotypes and lack of character development when I began this book, but the main character was complex and had more characteristics than just always doing her homework.  Gigi's voice as a smart girl felt authentic because she compares life to physics and books she reads for English class without making it feel forced.
Memorable or Forgettable: One memorable quality in this book is that it is directed very plainly towards smart girls which is something you don't see every day.  Also, I consider myself a "smart girl" and like the idea of getting what I want.  Although the characters are well developed, this book lacks solid meat and is more of a humorous brain candy sort of book.
Cover: The cover annoyed me because of the glasses, which are very stereotypical of smart people.  The main character doesn't even have glasses.  But making the title big is definitely a good choice because it is very unique.
Age Range: 12 through 17
Quality: 3Q Readable
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal

tags:  high school / humor / debut teen novel / ya lit

The Last Princess - YA Review by Marie W

Reader: Marie W
Age: 14
Title: The Last Princess
Author: Galaxy Craze
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Pub Date: 05/01/12
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: Have you ever wondered what it would be like in the future after major disasters had struck? Have you ever wanted to read another book relatable to the Hunger Games? Well if you said yes, then this might just be a perfect fit for you. In this book a princess has to face the challenges of surviving without any of her royal family and without being recognized by anybody to be avoid death. She has become an outcast and decides to scheme up some plans to kill the rouge who has killed her family. She ends up meeting a handsome officer but is he who he seems to be? Galaxy Craze weaves everything together and leaves you cliffhanging for more.
Memorable or Forgettable: The writing style was unique in which Galaxy Craze was able to sew everything together in a way that made sense.
Cover: The cover was tempting to me and made me decide to read what it was about. The cover did reflect the contents of this boook and was pretty accurate.
Age Range: 12 through 15
Quality: 3Q Readable
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal
Additional Comments: It was a pretty good book overall and I would read the second book which is to be published sometime in the spring.

tags: adventure / dystopia / ya lit