|The Poet X||Elizabeth Acevedo||Miss Mason|
|Boy Under Water||Adam Baron||Mrs Shearer|
|S.T.A.G.S||M.A. Bennett||Ms Grundy|
|Apple and Rain||Sarah Crossan||Miss Lawrence|
|The Queen’s Assassin||Melissa De La Cruz||Mrs Mason|
|Turtles All the Way Down||John Green||Mrs Fay|
|Orphan Monster Spy||Matt Killeen||Ms Andrews|
|Inside Out and Back Again||Thanhha Lai||Mrs Reading|
|Long Way Down||Jason Reynolds||Mrs Reading|
|The Hate You Give||Angie Thomas||Ms Skennerton|
|Crongton Knights||Alex Wheatle||Mr Baker|
|Brown Girl Dreaming||Jacqueline Woodson||Mrs Alderson|
|The Sun Is Also a Star||Nicola Yoon||Miss Lloyd|
The story of Apple had me intrigued from the start. A young teenager who’s earliest memory is that of her mum walking out on her and leaving her with her nan.
Apple is very relatable character and had me rooting for the best for her all the way through the story.
When her mum returns, eleven years later, the adventure and suspense starts and they had me hooked. I couldn’t put it down.
The book covers issues of teenage angst, the role of a parent and friendships.
Other characters are well developed, believable and relatable. I particularly liked Del.
I recommend it as a great book to learn a little about Apple and about yourself. 4.5*
I’ll be honest, when I discovered this was a verse novel (a book written in poetry form) I was initially sceptical – how wrong I was! The Poet X tells the story of Xiomara, a teenage girl struggling with her strict Catholic parents, starting to notice boys, growing up and her hidden talent for writing amazing slam poetry. A passionate story told in a unique form – a painfully realistic and satisfying read.
As well as an interesting style, the novel features a diverse range of key characters, all struggling with their own demons: her best friend, Caridad, who tries to keep her in line; her ‘golden child’ twin brother who is battling his own issues of sexuality; Xiomara’s fierce, strictly Catholic Dominican mother; her emotionally unavailable father; her inspiring English teacher Ms Galiano and her love interest, Aman. However, it’s Xiomara who has to negotiate the path to finding her identity and defining herself – her name doesn’t translate as ‘one who is ready for war’ for no reason!
I would highly recommend this novel – more suitable for older readers (13+), The Poet X deals with features some very raw, fierce emotions that will make you laugh and knot your stomach in equal measure.
I took up the challenge to read this book as it is written in short free-verse poems which I thought would make an interesting read. I wasn’t disappointed!
Lai writes from personal experience about her struggles as a child refugee, having had to flee her home country of Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon. Unsure if her father is alive, Hà immigrates with her mother and three older brothers to Alabama. There she experiences prejudice, poverty along with the challenge of learning a new language from scratch. The cultural shift that Hà and her family experience is written about so simply yet poetically, I found it hard to put this book down. It is a deceptively easy read – one critic wrote that Lai paints ‘big pictures with few words’ which I felt summarised it completely. Any teenager would enjoy this story and I’d particularly recommend it at a time when we are not in school – it not only reminds you of school, but of how important family and friends are.
This is a beautifully written story, told in verse, from the perspective of a ten
year old girl called Hà. Each verse is relatively simple and easy to access, but put together they paint a detailed picture of this monumental time in her life.
Hà was born in Saigon, but as war breaks out and it becomes too dangerous to stay, she takes the hazardous voyage to America with her family. We find out what she loves, she questions, she craves and she fears as she tries to make sense of her life before, during and after this time of transition.
Despite the many challenges she faces, I love Hà’s strength of character and the warm humour used to bring some lighter moments to a difficult time in her life. I particularly enjoyed the poems where she is trying to makes sense of the English language, and one called Choice where Hà has to choose just one personal item to take with her on her journey. I wonder what you would choose?
Reading this book will help you to think about what matters most to you and how you might deal with unexpected challenges that come your way.
I loved this book! I originally chose it because I really enjoy swimming and was expecting a book about how swimming helps a boy cope with his life.
As I soon discovered, swimming plays a minor but pivotal role in the life of the extravagantly named Cymbeline Igloo, a 9 year old boy who is popular, bright in class and good at sports – apart from swimming!
A school swimming lesson ends in an embarrassing disaster for Cymbeline, but this sets off a chain of events, narrated in the first person, in which Cymbeline learns about the see-saw nature of relationships with friends; how adults do not always make the right decisions and a huge amount about himself!
I found the book to be warm, moving , funny and very readable. The plot is fast moving but the characters are very skilfully portrayed and easy to identify with, making it enjoyable for both students and adults
This book is about a black girl, Starr, who lives in a poor neighbourhood but attends a posh school in the suburbs, of mostly white students.
Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend by a police officer.
I didn’t expect to like the book but Starr’s character felt very real to me and the story gripped me and kept me reading to find out how Starr deals with her ‘two worlds’ colliding. “The Hate U Give” is the first novel from author Angie Thomas and although it is fiction it is based on her experience of growing up in the Southern States of America.
I think this book is suitable for older readers. Some of the dialogue is challenging as it is given with colloquialisms and phrases unfamiliar to me. I’d rate this book 4/5. Thank you, Mrs Reading, for assigning this book to me.
I decided to read S.T.A.G.S. because I don’t usually read thrillers and I wanted to try something different… I’m glad I did!
The narrator of the story is Greer MacDonald, who feels like an outsider at her very posh boarding school (St Aiden the Great School, or S.T.A.G.S). When she receives an invitation from the Medievals (the elite clique) for a weekend of huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ in the country she decides to go, ignoring every red flag along the way. After arriving at her schoolmate’s huge manor house in the countryside strange things start to happen and it turns out that it might not just be the deer that are being hunted…
It’s difficult to review the book without giving too much away, but I would definitely recommend it for readers who enjoy books with twists and turns. The story is a little far-fetched and the narrator’s naivety is frustrating at times, but I found the book engaging and also amusing. I would give the book 4/5.
Natasha and Daniel couldn’t be more different. Sure, they’re both smart, and sure, both their families are first-generation immigrants, but that’s it – or at least, that’s what Natasha is determined to think. She believes in facts and science, and Daniel is a dreamer, a wannabe poet. One of them believes in love
at first sight, and one of them doesn’t… With a looming deadline of life-changing proportions, can they find the answers to the challenges facing them?
This incredible story takes place over the course of just one day, and Yoon weaves a memorable tale of friendship, family and love.
Sarah is a fifteen-year old blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jewish girl who is on the run during Third-Reich ruled Germany. After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, she finds herself on the run from the Nazis when she meets a mysterious man who is part of the resistance, in need of her help.
As a character, Sarah is a troubled soul with a distressing past which haunts her through flashbacks of her mother during the book. These intermittent points tell us snippets of where Sarah has come from and helps us understand her complex characteristics such as he incredible ability to lie with confidence and conviction. It must have been terrifying for her as a teenager to have been placed within such a dangerous and risky situation (no spoilers!).
I found it quite difficult to read this book, purely because I had only just finished The Tattooist of Auschwitz. As books both set during the same tragic time, it was tricky to engage with two different pespectives of the same event, yet each of them told a completely different story. The way in which the book is written would work very well as an audiobook due to the internal dialogue and flashbacks.
I would recommend this book. Sarah is an admirable and brave character, coping with a tragic situation the best she can. I believe it is best suited to an older teen reader due to some of the aggressive language and complex character
I was really interested to see what this book was actually about because it has such a strange title, but eventually it all makes sense.
We follow the main character, 16-year-old Aza, as she navigates through her day to day life struggling with OCD and a fear of pathogens, alongside her creative best friends. The disappearance of a millionaire – father to one of her former friends – sends them on a mission to find the answers to this mystery. The complications of love interests and friendship dynamics shows some of the typical aspects of being a teenager, contrasted with the growing sense of mystery and the search for the truth. I couldn’t put it down!
I would highly recommend this novel. John Green has written another fantastic read and I think anyone from 14+ would enjoy this book.
The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa De la Cruz is the debut young adult fantasy novel from this long established best-selling author. Her first foray into fantasy writing held great promise. Assassin Caledon Holt and novice guild member Shadow of the Honey Glade are pitched together in a battle for their queen, their country and eventually their own lives.
The book begins well with the blood vow indicated on the books cover art
encapsulating the magic that might be unveiled and the tie that binds the books titular protagonist. The potential builds through the first few chapters, introducing the world, its capacity for magic and our main characters. Shadow particularly captures the imagination with her burgeoning magical talent and her strong proactive nature. Unfortunately, for me, that’s where the hopeful anticipation ended and the disappointment began.
The further the book progressed, the more frustrating it became. The plot turned formulaic and by the end it felt like our author had not even decided where to go with the story until she was actually writing it. It was messy, bouncing around from one perspective to another focusing on the mundane and missing out on the opportunity to make the story something great.
There was next to no chemistry between our main characters and their apparent vocations as lethal veteran and magical novice assassins respectively were simply impossible to buy into. For me, I did not believe these people would or could be assassins for ‘Renovia’s’ crown given their incompetence, immaturity and propensity for distraction.
I was hopeful that I could at least recommend the book for young readers new to the fantasy genre and therefore less prone to criticise in this way. However,
I am such a lover of the genre myself that I wouldn’t want anyone to read this and not try anything else.
The Licanius Trilogy by James Islington is a more advanced young adult fantasy series for first time fantasy readers but is a truly excellent debut by a great author that leaves you wanting more. Something the Queen’s Assassin unfortunately did not do for me
A group of teenagers pulling together to go on a mission to help their friend. Crongton Knights will take you through a whirlwind of emotions.
Following the trials and tribulations that McKay and his friends go through was thought-provoking, insightful, funny, exciting, and at times scary.
Perhaps even more poignant at this time in our lives, the book helped me be thankful for the good things we have in our lives, and that all of us are living with some baggage, worries, and difficulties. However, having people around you will always help.
Part of a trilogy, but can be read alone. Would highly recommend.
The book is a memoir of a girl growing up in South Carolina and New York City in the 1960’s. The USA was going through a period of great change. Civil rights activists were making huge strides towards gaining racial equality in the eyes of the law.
Jaqueline spends her earliest years with her mother, father and older sister and brother in Ohio. After her parents separate, the family moves to South Carolina to live with their grandmother and grandfather. Memories of segregation are fresh in South Carolina. Black people might be allowed to ride at the front of the bus now but inequality is still a huge part of their lives.
When the family moves to New York and sets up home in Brooklyn it’s a world away from the deep south.
Jaqueline struggles to find her place in the world. She knows she is a storyteller but she struggles at school feeling overshadowed by her older siblings.
The book tackles issues of race and inequality without preaching. As someone who has no first hand experience of this it really helped me to empathise with people who still experience similar feelings today. It’s a story about family and humanity and that is something we can all relate to.
The book is written in verse. I did not think I would enjoy this style of writing. I thought that the story would be spoiled by careful choices of language to fit the rhythm of the text. This was not the case. The verse does not rhyme but has a rhythm to it that sweeps you along and is really engaging. The short verses make the story really accessible….If you are a reluctant reader or feel daunted by pages and pages of dense text then this could be the story for you. You can read it in really small chunks of 1 or 2 pages at a time without losing track of the story. However, I suspect that once you start you will find, like me, that you just want to read 1 more verse before you put it down.
I would rate this book 4.5/5 .
This is a book about bereavement, revenge and justice for a younger brother to follow ‘the rules’ and kill the person who shot his brother dead. The entire action of the book takes place in the lift from the seventh floor (where Shawn’s flat is) to the ground floor. It is written in verse which adds to the tension and feelings of injustice that Shawn feels as he descends the lift to kill. The language (along with the pictures) is powerful and heart breaking pulling you into and down the lift with Shawn whilst he experiences a range of emotions.
I found this story very powerful and would really recommend it to every teenager: The author Jason Reynolds has said that he planned not to write boring books, so young people who think they hate books will learn that they don’t. Because it is written in verse, I found myself wanting to read just a bit more to find out what happened next. The themes and language are strong at times so this book is best for children aged 14+, although a savvy 12 year old would definitely also enjoy it.
Mrs Mason read The Queen’s Assassin, by Melissa De La Cruz
This is an exciting fantasy-romance about the dashing Caledon Holt and his young apprentice, Shadow of the Honey Glade. Whilst she is being prepared to spend her life at Court, she escapes her fate and meets Cal, an assassin pledged to support and defend the Queen. Their adventures are exciting and as their relationship deepens, the twists and turns of the story make this book an interesting and engaging read.
I really enjoyed this book and found both central characters interesting as their spark was ignited. The chapters are written from alternating perspectives, giving you insight into the emotional rollercoaster that accompanied them on their adventures. Good plot, twists and turns, likeable characters – what more could you want?!
We also asked students to read these books to see what they thought.
Crongton Knights is set in the estate of South Crong, where McKay, the main character, lives. His dad can’t pay his bills and his brother, Nesta, is always in trouble with gangs and the police. The story is focused around McKay and his friends’ mission to get a phone back, and how it all gets out of control. The book isn’t the first in the series, which you work out if you know there was a previous one, but in Crongton Knights the events of the previous novel aren’t that important.
I read this book because I thought the title sounded exciting. It turned out that the book wasn’t a super long fantasy novel like I first thought but I still enjoyed the book because it was quite fast paced and although I didn’t think it would be very gripping, the tense setting and atmosphere made me want to read on. I liked McKay, the main character, because he’s relatable and not perfect.
I would recommend this book to someone who likes gripping books.
Apple’s story is all about making the right decisions; where to live, who to like and which people she can trust. It is a very realistic story, which is why I felt, especially as the story went on, that I connected with Apple and experienced real empathy for her situation.
I really liked how well the relationships between each character were thought out, shown and explored right up until the finishing page.
This has definitely become one of my favourite reads, as it shows that choosing the right thing is never as simple as it seems.
I think that anyone and everyone would enjoy this book. 4/5*.
Boy Underwater is the story of Cymbeline Igloo and his mother’s nervous breakdown after a swimming accident. This book documents what Cymbeline sees as he tries to interpret the mysteries of the world around him.
This book is an impactful story full of mystery and twists that you don’t see coming. The book leads you on, to make you think one thing when it is actually the polar opposite. My favourite part of the book occurs shortly after his mother’s breakdown, where Cymbeline begins to realise what is going on – developing the Cymbeline character.
The book doesn’t maintain the same level of maturity throughout – the beginning being childish, the middle being dark and more mature (tackling quite serious topics) and the ending being childish again.
Overall, the book is decent and I would recommend it to people 10 and under. This is due to the transitioning nature of the book, it reminds me of The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas as both books tackle difficult subjects in a childish, innocent nature.
The novel, Boy Underwater by Adam Baron, tells the story of Cymbeline Igloo, a boy in Year 4 who finds out the hard way that, unlike his friends, he does not know how to swim! Accompanied by his friends, he attempts to solve the mystery of why his mother never took him swimming. This leads to him finding out more about his past than he could ever imagine; helping him understand the behaviour of his family, and the significance of certain clues including Mr Fluffy his teddy bear.
The title of the book works on both a literal and metaphorical level. Although the book’s first theme – where he is literally underwater in a swimming pool – relates to the title, it also describes his emotions of confusion and struggle especially with his mother’s mental health. For a storyline containing many tragedies and difficulties, not just of the main character but other characters too, the narrative feels lighter than you might expect. The childlike perspective (for the narrator of the book is Cymbeline) adds in humour and entertainment to an otherwise difficult subject matter. This was a book that I did not want to put down due to its gripping and compelling storyline. Every time I thought I had guessed what would happen, something unexpected happened that changed the plot altogether!
I would recommend this book to adults and children alike, as the struggles that characters in this book face are universal. It is a fascinating read, written cleverly and in an engaging manner, covering themes of friendship, family, loss and belonging.
A teenage spy. A Nazi boarding school. The performance of a lifetime.
Sarah has played many roles – but now she faces her most challenging of all. Because there’s only one way for a Jewish orphan to survive at a school for the Nazi elite. And that’s to become a monster like them.
SURVIVE. DECEIVE. RESIST.
They think she is just a little girl. But she is the weapon they never saw coming… with a mission to destroy them all.
Why would I recommend this book?
Orphan, Monster, Spy is an incredible book about a Jewish orphan who goes undercover in a Nazi school during WW2.
It contains a huge amount of unexpected plot twists that leave you on the edge of your seat. Author Killeen filters information cleverly, allowing you to know enough to understand what’s going on, while keeping you guessing right until the very last pages. I liked the fact that there are so many well rounded characters, all of whom play a large part in helping the protagonist in the story, whether they want to or not.
Another thing that I like is that the story is an accurate account of the war from two perspectives – that of a young Jewish girl, and that of her alter ego (a patriotic Nazi). It was interesting to see how differently people acted around the Jews in comparison to how they acted around Sarah, (who they don’t realise is a Jew). It showed how people’s prejudices can blind them from reality.
This book makes you really think about what a horrific time the holocaust was, and how horrifically the Jews were treated due simply to their religion. It puts our modern-day problems in perspective.
Who would I recommend this for?
I wouldn’t recommend this book to children aged under 12, because even though it is a thrilling, exciting spy book, it covers some difficult subjects, such as anti-Semitism and abusive teachers. However, for people over 12 it is an exceptionally well written Spy/Detective novel. I think that it is full of interesting facts and information about the living conditions and education in Nazi Germany, and how Jews and others targeted by the Nazi party managed to survive in a world where everyone was against them. The book triggers a rollercoaster of emotions like none other, which, when combined with the description, makes it feel like you’re really there.
Are there any negatives?
Despite being the amazing book that it is, there are some issues with the novel. There is a distinct lack of sentence sizes in the book, as most of the sentences are quite long. Another issue with the book is that it takes a long time to set the scene. There is action in the beginning of the book, it is just that the book doesn’t really start until around page 80. I understand that it has to set the scene, and Killeen makes it exciting, but it takes its time. Because of this, I found that the beginning of the book starts to creep a little over to the repetitive side, in terms of events. Obviously, the events weren’t the same, but they felt quite similar to each other.
What was my favourite part?
My favourite part of the book is very near to the beginning, when Sarah first encounters the man. It is a very tense and quietly thrilling scene, as you begin to wonder whether he is a friend or foe. I do not want to elaborate as I wouldn’t want to spoil it for the readers, but it drew me in and gave me a good idea of the drama to come. Another reason I liked this scene is that the book was just beginning to start. This meant that I still didn’t know exactly what to expect, and having such a mind-bogglingly brilliant scene so near to the beginning of the book was an excellent first impression.
I would rate this book 4/5