UNDER the COVER
Book Reviews by Teens
Volume 6 - Number 1
You’re looking at Volume 6, Number 1 of UNDER the COVER, a partnership between Skokie Public Library, local junior high schools, and several book publishers who give us a sneak peek at the newest books for young readers. This is the first issue of 2011-2012 school year. We call it V6N1 for short.
Reviews in this issue were written by students from Fairview South School, McCracken Middle School, and our newest group of UTC reviewers from Chute Middle School. Most of the titles are available for checkout at Skokie Public Library or your school library.
You might find a few good books in this issue to put on your holiday list for giving or receiving. You can find more reviews in back issues of UNDER the COVER on our website.
- Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber
- Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
- Breath of Angel by Karyn Henley
- Countess Nobody by Lynn Kiele Bonasia
- Dark Eden by Patrick Carman
- Forgotten by Cat Patrick
- Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson
- The Orphan of Awkward Falls by Keith Graves
- Reaching Through Time by Lurlene McDaniel
- Reel Life Starring Us by Lisa Greenwald
- Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
- The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
- Sparrow Road by Shelia O’Connor
- Spinning Out by David Stahler, Jr.
- The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric
- Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice
Reviewed by Samantha A.
Fairview South School
In the book Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber there is a boy, Perry, whose mother takes in foreign exchange students and allows them to stay at her home. This next foreign exchange student, Gobi, was not like the others; she had a little secret of her own. When she says she’s going to prom night, she instead has another idea planned out for the evening. Later that night, there were dead bodies, threats, beatings, and lots and lots of blood. Where will Gobi take Perry? Will they survive the night? How will they get out of the situation? Find out when you read Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick.
If I were to scale this book from 1-10, this book would be a total 10! This book is realistic fiction, and you feel as if you are sucked into the book. Anyone who loves suspense, mystery, and action will just be drawn to this book and not be able to put it down! (Youth Junior High Fiction SCH)
Reviewed by Shandiin O.
McCracken Middle School
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is a heroic modern day fairytale in which the princess rescues the prince! Hazel Anderson is an adopted 10-year-old living with her divorced mother. Hazel’s best friend is Jack; they do everything together, but that changes when Hazel, in a fit of anger throws a snowball at him. Seemingly innocent, this snowball actually contains an enchanted piece of glass from a mirror that makes everything look horribly ugly. When that mirror breaks and lands in the snowball, it makes Jack see everything “as it really is.” This piece seeps into his heart, making everything seem bad even after the piece is removed.
After that, Jack starts to ignore Hazel and becomes stranger until finally, he just disappears one day with only a strange sighting of The Snow Witch taking him. Hazel then sets off into a mysterious forest full of fairytale creatures to find her friend. She meets some good and seemingly innocent people, but not everyone is as they seem! She must battle her way through the forest and possibly The Snow Witch. Will she survive this peril or will she fail to save Jack? To find out, you must read the book.
I liked this book a lot because it was very interesting and very adventure-orientated. I do think this would appeal a little more to a younger audience because of its fairytale style. However, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu was very enjoyable and had the type of quality writing that made you want to root for Hazel until the very end! (Youth Fiction URS)
Reviewed by Sean L.
McCracken Middle School
In the book, Breath of Angel by Karyn Henley, a young priestess named Melaia lives in the city of Navia. In the temple she lives with other priestesses. But one night, a traveler comes to the temple looking for shelter. Melaia was about to go get water for this traveler, but then a giant hawk came down from the dark sky and murders the traveler.
Melaia and the other priestesses Iona, Peron, and Nuri bring his body inside. But when his cloak fell away from his body, there is a blood stained white wing inside. The only angels Melaia has ever heard about were in stories. But soon after, a man wearing a cloak of black, brown, and blue feathers came into the room. Melaia knew something was wrong. Then she realized that this was the hawk that killed the angel traveler. Now she also knew that shape shifters were as real as angels.
The next night, Melaia is summoned to the lord of Navia. She takes her harp with her as she is told. But the lord wants the best harp they have. So, Melaia goes back to the temple and gets Benasin, an angel’s harp. The harp seems to know that it was taken out of place as leaves begin to form on the base of the harp. When Melaia returns, she plays a song for the lord, which soothes him.
The lord tells Melaia that she should go play for the king in Redcliff. Her natural instinct is to say no, but it was an order and to make matters worse, the king’s man, Trevin, is there to make sure she goes, but also to make sure that Melaia gets there safely. After a few days, a couple of run-ins with angels, and Melaia’s first encounter with draks, spy birds with human hands for feet, Melaia finally arrives in Redcliff with Trevin. But much has changed in how Melaia sees the world.
Although she’s homesick, Melaia wants to see more of the world. Also, Trevin gave her a dagger to protect herself, which is strange for a priestess since they are supposed to be peaceful. Melaia stays on the night she gets there in the temple at Redcliff. But the next morning, she gets a visit from Livia, a friend of Benasin’s, who advises her to leave. But Melaia has made a promise and plans to keep it. But when she gets to the castle, she is taken to meet the king’s doctor, Lord Rejius. He wears the same cloak as the man who killed the traveler. This shows her that the story of the wisdom tree is true. Rejius is the first born, an angel killer.
The story of the wisdom tree goes back a long time before Melaia was even alive. There is an angel guarding the tree. One day the first born goes to the tree looking for a gift for his father. The angel gives the son some juice from one of the fruits of the tree. This only made him want more. So, long story short, the sons, the first born and second born end up destroying the stairway to heaven.
Benasin soon arrives at the castle to confront Rejius. The two turn out to be brothers. Immortals even. The two are in a war now. The story is now given body. Benasin instructs Melaia to run, which is exactly what she does. She soon finds herself with a band of angels who are trying to restore the stairway which would make angels able to enter heaven again. But there is only one way to bring the stairway back. Unfortunately, it involves Melaia giving up her heart, soul, and destiny.
Will Melaia be able to carry this through? This question and many more will be answered in Breath of Angel, and the rest of the soon to be published Angeleon Circle series. (Teen Fiction HEN)
Reviewed by Sydney R.
Chute Middle School
Countess Nobody is a realistic fiction story set in the present about Sophie Delorme, an average 16-year-old girl living in Boston. Sophie apparently comes from a long line of French nobility. This might be her one shot to be visible to everyone, especially her crush, Spencer. There’s just one problem, the title of Count is only passed to the men, so that means her twin, Sam is a Count, and Sophie is still an average girl. Even though the family doesn’t use the title, Sophie wants the title badly. She even tried writing to the French consulate asking that the title be spread to the females, too. The interesting part to me was how she copes with the fact that her brother is nobility and she’s not.
I thought that Countess Nobody was a good book, with a few flaws. One problem was that there were some words that I didn’t know that didn’t have context clues to help me figure them out. For example, I found the word “elephantine” and had no idea what it meant. Another problem was that the book started off kind of slow. There was a lot of unnecessary dialogue, and at parts there was a little too much detail, and it felt like it was going on forever.
However, the further into it I got, the better the story became. For that reason I suggest not giving up on it if you don’t like the beginning.
I would recommend this book to girls 12 and up, because it has some older topics that are better for older kids. Overall, I thought this was a well written book with a nice twist.
(Teen Fiction BON)
Reviewed by Valerie R.
Chute Middle School
Dark Eden is a realistic fiction book by Patrick Carman. This book takes place in Fort Eden, a camp with ten different rooms that serve ten different purposes. The conflict is character vs. character, only because a lot of characters argue and viably fight, like Mrs. Goring and Dr. Stevens who get into an argument about consequences for Avery.
Will Besting, a 15-year-old boy, is sent to Fort Eden by Dr. Stevens, only to help six other strangers: Ben Dugan, Connor Bloom, Alex Chow, Marisa Sorrento, Kate Hollander, and Avery Varone. When they are at Fort Eden they have strange fears. Ben’s fear is insects, Connor’s fear is falling, Alex’s fear is dogs, Marisa’s fear is of being murdered, Kate’s fear is of hospitals, clinics, and doctors, Avery’s fear is of death, and Will’s fear is of people. Their fears come alive in the story, but you have to read the book to see what happens.
When they are at Fort Eden, Rainsford, a facilitator, serves as a guide to these kids. He helps them get cured. After they are cured, they discover strange aches and pains. What is happening to the kids? Will finds out, but only because Mrs. Goring, a strict lady, helps him out by giving him information. Read the book to find out what happens and why the aches and pains occur. I recommend this book to sixth graders and above only because this book has adult words in it.
(Teen Fiction CAR)
Reviewed by Jenna M.
Fairview South School
London Lane wasn’t always the popular one in her school in Forgotten by Cat Patrick. Throughout the book, she goes through many troubles and even loses her best friend! Also, London has one big problem; she can never remember the day before! Therefore, she writes little notes before she goes to bed, so that she doesn’t forget about her day. In the middle of the night, London will get up and even write down her dreams that happened that night. The scary thing is one of her dreams is at a funeral! Will London figure out why she is seeing this? It seems nothing has gone right for London this school year, until she meets Luke, the boy of her dreams. He was just the perfect guy for her - good looks, funny, and romantic. But, London just can’t seem to remember his name or what he looks like the next day! What is she supposed to do if she can’t even remember her own crush?
I would recommend this book to people who are interested in mystery, real life situations, romance, and a lot of drama. London always faces problems during her life. I find that cool because it shows how London’s life can be just like ours sometimes. I also like how the author just makes her an average girl in an everyday life. This book always left me with cliff hangers, and I like that because it makes me want to read even more. (Youth Junior High Fiction PAT and Teen Fiction PAT)
Reviewed by Justin D.
Fairview South School
Have you ever had an imaginary friend? Well, imagine having one in sixth grade that just gets you in trouble all the time.
I’m doing a review about a book called Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson, and it’s about a student, Rafe, just starting middle school with an imaginary friend and no other friend. Throughout the book Rafe takes on challenges from his “friend” by trying to break all of the rules in the school handbook. Throughout the book, he will confront his fears through standing up to bullies, facing family problems, and figuring out truths about his life.
I like this book, but it is just not best suited for those in middle school. Younger audiences would like this book better, because he has many fantasies that are a bit juvenile and then he tells the truth about them eventually. Overall, I would rate this book 7.5 out of 10 stars. (Youth Fiction PAT)
Reviewed by Isabelle B.
Chute Middle School
The Orphan of Awkward Falls by Keith Graves is a science fiction book. The plot is amazing and includes cannibals, but a story about cannibals is just not my thing. I’m sure people will like this book. It has a lot of good details about the main characters.
The book includes descriptive sentences like this, “The madman’s mouth snapped. As his yellow teeth bit at her skin, the girl’s eyes popped open.” The author’s words paint a crystal clear picture in my mind. After this sentence, the cannibal bites into Josephine’s shoulder. Disgusting! Details like that made me want to stop reading, but I kept reading because the book was just getting good.
The story takes place in Awkward Falls, Canada, some time in the future. The author introduces the character Mr. Fetid Stenchley, who is a hunchback. Mr. Stenchley is in the Asylum for the Dangerously Insane. He is a cannibal. In his “hump” there is a snake called Cynthia. Cynthia is always hungry for human flesh. Mr. Stenchley gets “treatments” to try to cure him from wanting human flesh. These “treatments” involve cutting his skull open and electrocuting his brain. The “treatments” didn’t work.
Another character I liked was Thaddeus. He is very unique because he is an inventor, and he is only twelve. Thaddeus lives with Norman. Norman keeps Thaddeus safe and together they invent things. Norman assists Thaddeus in many different activities. Fetid Stenchley, fetid means “offensive odor” and stench means “unpleasant odor,” is a super stinky character.
The main conflict was Stenchley is out to kill innocent people for his actions. There is also a super small love story involving the professor and Sally Twittington. They were going to get married, but Sally called it off because the professor told her a secret she did not like. If I tell the secret it will ruin the book.
In the end, just like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I think most people will like Keith Graves’ book. It is suspenseful and has a great ending. I liked the ending involving Thaddeus, Josephine, and a surprise. (Youth Fiction GRA)
Reviewed by Rubab H.
McCracken Middle School
The book Reaching Through Time by Lurlene McDaniel is three romantic stories in one book. The first part called “What’s happened to me?” is about a young girl who goes into a coma. During her coma, things occur that surprised and intrigued the reader. The second part is called “When the clock chimes.” This is about a scrawny boy named Drake who falls in love with a girl named Gina. Gina is unique and soon, Drake finds out the truth about Gina. Lastly, the third romantic story is called “The Mystery Of Chance.” A girl named Maura figures out how to travel through time, she meets a guy named Dylan. Dylan falls in love with Maura. Their love is dangerous because Dylan hasn’t loved anyone for two years since the death of his old girlfriend. Maura is saddened and goes back into time to fix their past.
I strongly recommend this book for ages 13 and up. This book is amazing, sad, romantic and full of surprises. You will literally be at the edge of your seat reading up all night trying to put the pieces together. This book taught me to be careful for what you have and be grateful for it. This book was definitely a 5 out of 5, the suspense was thrilling. (Youth Junior High Fiction MCD)
Reviewed by Kacie-Marie K.
Fairview South School
In Reel Life Starring Us by Lisa Greenwald there is a new girl named Dina who goes to a school that is very different from her old school where there weren’t any cliques, everyone got along, and no one was mean to one another. In the new school, there is a popular girl named Chelsea who thinks Dina is weird, especially after she sees her take out a video camera and start videotaping everything in the halls. After they get assigned to work together on a project together, they learn things about each other that even their closest friends don’t know. It’s surprising how it turns out, who they meet, who they become, and how they end up. Why would Dina be videotaping in the halls? What do they learn about each other? How does their relationship turn out? Who do they meet? Read it today to find out!
I would highly recommend this book because it was entertaining and it had me wanting to just keep reading on and on. It is an amazing story of how one little project can get you so far in life. This project surpasses their expectations as they get to meet someone famous, make a great video for a school event, and help their families. This is one of the best books I have ever read, and if you are into drama and realistic fiction this would be a great book. I would recommend this book for girls ages ten through fourteen, because it was a book about girls, the situations girls go through, and it relates to how girls think and react to situations. This was an amazing book about friendship, and I hope you choose to read it and like it as much as I do. (Youth Junior High Chick Lit GRE)
Reviewed by Emma M.
Chute Middle School
In a world of time travel, Gwyneth and Gideon try to complete a mission without letting their personality types get in the way of their work. In the book Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier, Gwyneth and Gideon are two of several intriguing characters. Gwyneth thinks that she is an average everyday teenager, but she is completely wrong. Gideon is a stuck up snob who travels back in time with her.
The story takes place in present day England, most of the time. Gwyneth’s cousin Charlotte is expected to travel back in time due to a gene passed down in their family, and some predictions made by Sir Isaac Newton. Unfortunately, Gwyneth gets the gene instead. All of a sudden Gwyneth is pulled into a secret club and Charlotte is pushed out. Charlotte and Charlotte’s mom are not pleased that their attention has been taken away. Gwyneth faces many problems from that point on throughout the book; one of the biggest problems she has to deal with is Gideon. Gwyneth and Gideon have to complete the chronograph, which is a device used to keep time travel controlled.
I loved this book for many reasons. This book was very intriguing. There are a lot of points where you are left hanging. One chapter ends with the text stating, “My stomach flip-flopped, and before my eyes the street blurred into a gray river.” Each chapter of the book ended in such a way that left you hanging and wanting to read more. At the end of each chapter there is a map or family tree or little bits of information on what is going on. To me, this was very helpful because it helped me understand the chapters better.
I recommend this book to both genders and ages twelve and up because it was a harder read and had a very complex plotline. I also recommend this book to people who enjoy adventure and science fiction. Overall, I loved the book Ruby Red. (Youth Junior High Fiction GIE and Teen Fiction GIE)
Reviewed by Hazel F.
Chute Middle School
Only one can win. In the book The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick are competing in the annual Scorpio races. In these races people ride the mythical water horses known as capaill uisce. They look like normal horses but are bigger and carnivorous. They eat almost any meat, including that of a human. These man-eating horses are captured and ridden in this dangerous race. The riders must reach the finish line first, but more importantly survive.
The story takes place on a small island called Thisby off the coast of Ireland or Scotland. It’s a beautiful place, and a home to Puck and Sean.
Puck Connolly has decided to ride in the races as the first ever girl to do so. She is an orphan living with her two brothers and little horse named Dove in a small cottage. They can scarcely afford to pay for the house and have enough to eat.
Sean Kendrick, a likeable and somewhat reserved character has won the Scorpio races four times and plans to do so again. He rides his beloved blood red capaill uisce, named Corr from the rich and famous Malvern stables where he works. His ability to work with horses has made him well known.
I highly recommend The Scorpio Races to ages 13 and over. It was an amazing book! This is because the writing was descriptive and full of detail. It was fast paced and kept me on my toes. The book also had an unpredictable ending. This is because the author introduces you to two characters that you both want to win, but only one can. This makes the ending unpredictable because you don’t know who is going to win. I thought it would be impossible to end the book in a way that would be good, but I was wrong. Maggie Stiefvater ends the book in a great and unexpected way.
Never in any part of the book did I grow bored or want to put it down and stop reading. The one thing that I did not like is that the book was sometimes not very specific. It did not tell you the age of many characters or the exact setting. All in all, this fantasy novel is a great read and worthy of five stars.
(Youth Junior High Fiction STI)
Reviewed by Dina B.
Chute Middle School
How would you feel if you never knew your father?
Raine is a girl, living in Milwaukee with her mother and grandfather. Her mother has unexpectedly decided to take a summer job as a cook, at Sparrow Road, an artist retreat. There is a lot of mystery surrounding her mother’s employment, and the history of Sparrow Road. With help from the artists (especially Diego and Josie), and her mom, Raine finds out the reason why her mom took a job at Sparrow Road, and meets someone missing in her life. Raine also finds out what she loves to do -write- and that she’s really very good at it. Through the book, Raine learns much about herself, her family, and how much family is worth, because some people don’t have a family.
Sparrow Road had some high points, and some low. The story has great elements. Especially when the author wrote about the history of what Sparrow Road was in the story, and the details about the artists, and Victor, (the owner of Sparrow Road) are very interesting. Although the book was mostly good, the plot seemed to move very slowly, and even though it was a relatively short book, it seemed to go on forever. At some points, it felt as if the plot had been done before, such as in Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything In It, or in Bud, Not Buddy. Other books too have this basic plot; the main character has never met someone important in their lives, they meet them, and they all live happily ever after, the end.
I would recommend this book to someone 10 or older, who likes stories about family, and what it’s worth. (Youth Fiction OCO
Reviewed by Ben B.
McCracken Middle School
In the book Spinning Out, by David Stahler, Jr., two friends go through a radical change in their lives when they decide to audition for the high-school musical “Man of La Mancha.” This might not seem like a big deal, but let me juxtapose it against the first scene of the book when the two main characters, Gerard Paquette (the narrator, who everyone calls “Frenchy”) and Stewart Bolger, are smoking marijuana. They do this every day. They are pranksters, and at the beginning of the book Frenchy explains some of the past glories he and Stewart executed. Frenchy is quite a complicated character, because his father returned from serving in Iraq, and within a few months, Frenchy’s father killed himself because of the post traumatic stress. That happened around the beginning of the past summer, and senior year just started. Stewart’s family is rich and very liberal; his father created a successful software company and then retired from it. Stewart is known as the “hippy”. Anyway, Stewart speaks to Frenchy and expresses interest in the school musical. This is quite shocking to Frenchy, and so at first he thinks that Stewart is going to mess up on purpose when they have their audition. Quickly, Frenchy realizes that maybe Stewart was not joking about joining the school musical. Stewart genuinely wants to be in it. The important thing is that Stewart asked Frenchy to do it with him, and Frenchy only agreed until after he saw the musical itself. Frenchy watched it, loved it, and then was easily pressured into trying out. Then came the audition day and Frenchy realized Stewart was not joking. Frenchy did very well at the audition, while Stewart was phenomenal. Not surprisingly, Stewart gets the lead, Don Quixote, and Frenchy gets another lead, Don Quixote’s sidekick Sancho Panza. Soon, Stewart seems to grow obsessive with the play. He wears a full costume of Don Quixote first for Halloween, and then he wears it to school the day after Halloween. At first it seems like Stewart is doing this as some technique to get into character, but it is clear that something else is going on…
This book was simply fascinating. This is without question my favorite work of realistic fiction I have read. It is remarkable how easily the author gets the main character to go insane and have intended coincidences with Don Quixote de la Mancha. Like Stewart’s hatred of the windmill, or when he falls “in love” with a girl who he felt indifferent to before he assumed the role of Don Quixote. This book certainly deserves 5 out of 5. I would recommend watching “Man of la Mancha” before reading this book. It is actually my favorite musical, when I saw it a few years ago I felt just as how the author portrays the feelings you feel after you watch the musical in the story. Concluding, I would just like to mention that there is at least one swear word on every page, so keep that in mind. Spinning Out is certainly worth reading, and I would like to thank the author for creating such a remarkable, fascinating story. (Youth Junior High Fiction STA and Teen Fiction STA)
Reviewed by Emily R.
McCracken Middle School
When I first saw this book, I was attracted to the mermaids on the cover. After a few seconds, though, I wanted to drop the book and run. It was called The Undrowned Child. When I decided it was safe to look at, I began reading the first page. The text almost immediately drew me in. I had to check it out.
While the title may frighten people off, or draw them in on false pretenses, it correlates to the story in a few ways. Set in Venice, Italy, a mysterious menace lurks underneath the city. This menace has been causing trouble for the city and its citizens. Very odd things, such as an ever-present fog, plague, and demonic birds, are present in the city when Teodora Gasperin arrives. Her parents finally brought her to Venice because they had scientific business there. Teo thinks (after spending too much time with her obnoxious cousin Maria) at first that Venice isn’t all it has been described as.
Teo continues to have a terrible time when a book falls on her head and she must go to the hospital. During the night there, a horrid statue called a brustolon scares the wits out of her. In the morning, she finds that no adults can see her. She realizes children can see her when a true Venetian talks to her. He is called Renzo, and, as you can probably predict, becomes one of the key characters in the story.
Before I give too much away, the antagonists must be mentioned. There are many, but in the end it comes down to a creature beneath the waves who wakes from slumber and an evil being resurrected from the past.
Don’t worry, there is good in the book as well (and magic), so I thoroughly enjoyed it. True, it got very bloody, nasty, and disgusting, but you soon forget about that. Everything happens so fast and then you’re done. So, if there was one thing wrong with the book, it would be pacing. Otherwise, please read The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric. You will enjoy it. (Youth Fiction LOV)
Reviewed by Andrew G.
Fairview South School
Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice is about a boy named Erik who finds out startling news when he comes home one day. He begins to tell his parents about a successful hunting test he just took, but his parents don’t seem very excited. That’s when he knew something was wrong. His parents explained that they have both been deployed to Iraq, and that he was going to be spending a few months with his grandparents, Big Darrell and Oma, in North Dakota. Erik gets really upset at the news and now cannot go on his first-ever hunting trip with his best friend, Patrick.
When he gets to North Dakota, he is not enjoying his life too much. The one day he finds a dog and names it Quill, because he finds it with quills in its snout. When he asks his grandpa, Big Darrell, if he could keep it, he says no. The next day the owner calls and says he will be picking up the dog later on that day. Erik decides to run away with Quill, his uncle’s shotgun, and a few supplies he could find in the house. Find out if Erik can make it on his own and keep Quill as his cherished pet by reading Wild Life.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in adventure books and a little bit of nature. I liked this book because I didn’t know what was going to happen next and it really kept me reading. There was always a sense of adventure and survival. Pick up this book today! (Youth Fiction DEF)