YA Book Reviews

Reviews written featuring upcoming YA and tween books, teens can also submit book reviews to ahaymanitl@gmail.com to be featured on the site!

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January 30, 2020

My Hero Academia is a long-running anime and manga series by Kohei Horikoshi, debuting in Weekly Shonen Jump in July 2014. In a world where 80% of the populations have superpowers known as Quirks, there is one who stands above all of them. The No. 1 All Might is seen as the Symbol of Peace and Justice around the world. Izuku “Deku” Midoriya idolizes All Might and wants to be a Hero like him, but is crushed when he learns he is part of the few that have no Quirks, even though both of his parents have them. Because of this, he is relentlessly bullied by his fellow classmates, especially by childhood friend Katsuki Bakugo who has a Quirk that allows him to ignite his sweat and create explosions, being called “Kacchan” by Izuku. Because of a chance encounter with All Might later on, it is revealed to Izuku that a villain attack 5 years beforehand badly injured him, causing him to assume a skinny, almost emaciated form. After Bakugo gets held hostage by a slime Villain that was previously captured by All Might, Izuku’s body starts moving by itself as he runs over since the Pro Heroes can’t get close enough. All Might sees this and makes him re-evaluate his beliefs, turning back into his muscular and blowing the Villain away with a Detroit Smash. Later on, as Deku is walking home, he runs into All Might again who tells him that he can be a Hero after previously telling him he can’t. Izuku trains with All Might as he tells Izuku the secret of his Quirk: One For All. All Might’s Quirk is a special Quirk that can be passed down from generation to generation, getting stronger with each pass. He passes it on in a comedic moment by telling Izuku to eat a strand of his hair. For the next 10 months, Deku trains to be powerful enough to handle the strength of One For All and apply for U.A. High. The day of the entrance exam comes as Izuku meets multiple people he’ll grow a bond with as time passes. The exam involves maneuvering a cityscape and earning points by destroying 3 different types of robots, with a fourth one that costs no points. The test starts as everyone is destroying the robots except for Izuku, who has gotten no points. As the test nears the end, he sees one of the people he met before, a girl named Ochaco Uraraka, trapped under some rubble, with the 0 point robot approaching. Deku runs over and jumps up at the robot’s head and smashes it before it can reach Ochaco. However, the impact of the jump and the punch causes Izuku to break both his legs and one of his arms. Before he can hit the ground, Ochaco uses her gravity manipulation Quirk to float him up and reduce the impact. The test ends as an old lady known as Recovery Girl uses her Quirk to heal Deku. A week later, Deku is contacted by All Might via a pre-recorded projection. Deku thinks he’s failed the test since he got no points for defeating the robots, but All Might tells him he earned point through his selfless actions since being a Hero also involves saving innocents, earning him 60 points. This allows Deku to enroll in U.A. and start his journey towards being a great hero. He gets acquainted with his classmates as their teacher, Shota Aizawa. The students of Class 1-A have their Quirks put to the test in multiple events, including a 50-meter Dash and throwing a baseball a far enough distance. When Deku goes to throw the ball, his Quirk is temporarily “erased” by Aizawa’s Quirk, being told he’ll get nowhere if he can’t control his Quirk. Deku takes this into consideration and concentrates all the energy of his throw into a single finger, only breaking said finger from the impact. The baseball lands at over 700 meters and impresses Aizawa. The next day, All might bursts into class in a “completely normal way” in his Silver Age costume, explaining to the kids that a good Hero also needs a good costume to go along with them. The volume ends with Deku stepping out of a changing room with his Hero costume along with the rest of his classmates.

This Volume is a great start to a fantastic series. It explores the concept of a world with superpowers, but also explores the consequences, like power regulations, Villain attacks, brand deals, etc. The inspiration from American superhero comics is very apparent, especially in All Might who is drawn with heavy shading and a very colorful, yet simply costume, as well as with his attacks being named after states. I recommend this series to anyone who is looking for something fresh or someone who loves superheroes. Even if you’re not usually a fan of superheroes, I think this series will surprise you with what it has to offer.

– Alexander Reilly, Island Trees High School student

January 30, 2020

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The Hate U Give is a very powerful story revolving around the Black Lives Matter movement. It follows a 16 year old black girl named Starr who lives in the projects while attending a prep school mostly filled with white people. While Starr is being driven home from a party by childhood friend Khalil, they are pulled over by a police officer. When Khalil reaches into his car for a hairbrush, the officer mistakes it for a weapon and shoots and kills him. As tensions rise between Starr’s community and the police because of their failure to indict the officer that killed Khalil, Starr decides to support the protests for Khalil. After a run in with the King Lords (a gang running the community Starr is a part of), Starr and her community decide to stand up against them when the police arrive after they tried to kill Starr and get their leader arrested. Afterwards, everything mostly returns to normal, but Starr promises to keep the memory of Khalil alive no matter what.

The Hate U Give is a good story about a girl thrusted into a situation she has no control over and seeing it how it affects her life and everything around her. It also acts as a coming of age story as Starr slowly begins to realize that she should not have to keep her two worlds, being her life at home and her life at school, separate from each other. There is a big flaw involving the story, however. When Starr and Khalil are pulled over, Khalil is acting very disrespectful towards the cop and is even not listening to his orders at some points. While this does not give the officer the right to shoot Khalil, his hairbrush might have looked like a weapon to the officer because of the distance between them and since it was nighttime. Cops are putting their lives on the line and they never know who they might be dealing with, so they always have to be on guard. It is never shown that Starr mentions this to anyone, not even her family. While I do not think this would have stopped the protesting, it’s possible it might have changed the reasons said protests were for or even the methods they went about protesting. Even so, I still enjoyed the story. If the premise interests you or you want to read a story involving the Black Lives Matter movement, I suggest giving it a read.

– Alexander Reilly, Island Trees High School student

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November 19, 2019

The Great Gatsby was a really interesting book.. It had amazing symbolism and captured the readers attention!

Alyssa Pesce, Island Trees High School student

November 19, 2019

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

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This book started off very very slow. The first 100 pages (part 1 and 2) was as boring as reading the Webster Dictionary out loud for 3 hours straight. However, after discussing how slow the beginning was with my AP Lit teacher I was shocked to realize that the author wanted you to feel this way. He wanted to portray how mundane and god awful-boring the psych ward really was… to deepen the readers’ understanding of how staying at the ward would leave you more insane than how you first arrived.

And the ending (without spoiling anything) made me rethink the way I look at everything…

Have you ever watched a really good movie and stayed up all night thinking about the ending? This was that book for me.

I would definitely recommend this book… it is in my top 10 favorite books of all time.

Audrey Yackavage (Island Trees 12th grader)

May 21, 2019

In Wings of Fire: The Lost Heir, the dragonets finally free and have the whole world to explore. Their first stop is to visit Tsunami’s, the Seawing dragonet’s home in the middle of the sea.

The problem is they have to find it first. Meeting her mother is everything she ever wanted, but then why does something feel wrong? A mystery to solve, a dangerous path to take. Will the dragonets make it out safe and alive or be trapped somewhere yet again? Come find out in yet another thrilling adventure.

Kayla Watson, Island Trees Library Patron

 

May 18, 2019

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In the book Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy, there is a war raging between three sisters for who will take the throne. There is a dragonet prophecy in which five dragonets are supposed to stop the war, but the dragonets don’t like living in secrecy for so long and think they are ready and escape. But trouble comes and finds them first.
         This first book in the series Wings of Fire, starts a new adventure that is thrilling and exciting. For me, this book kept me on the edge of my seat and I couldn’t put it down! And eventually when I did put it down I couldn’t stop thinking about it. If you like fantasy and adventure, this is the book for you.

Kayla Watson, Island Trees Library Patron

January 30, 2019

Release Date: January 29, 2018

Where to start with this book! While A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer starts off slow, by the end of this almost 500 page-long book I was flying through dying to know what was going to happen next in this re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast.

The novel centers around Harper, a teenage girl with high functioning cerebral palsy living with her cancer-stricken mother and older brother Jake. Their father borrows money from the wrong people, and Jake falls into the role of henchman in order to protect Harper and their dying mother. One night, while Harper is standing watch as Jake goes on one of his “jobs”, she witnesses a woman being dragged down the street by a strange man.

Harper being Harper, she grabs a crowbar and tries to save the girl. Instead she is teleported to Emberfall, a magical land with a prince who, as the title suggests, is so very dark and lonely due to a curse placed on him by a scorned sorceress. Prince Rhen must re-live the same season in his castle over and over again until he can find true love. After going through hundreds of girls, with truly monstrous outcomes, he finally meets his match with Harper – a fiercely independent woman who does not let her disability control her life and is adamant about not falling in love with Rhen.

While Harper and Rhen’s will they, won’t they love story dominates most of the book, there is plenty of action and adventure for teens looking for more than just romance. In regards to characters, Rhen’s loyal Guard Grey is one of the best developed characters in the novel. He is loyal to the prince, yet there’s an air of secrecy that surrounds him that makes the reader more interested in Grey’s story than Rhen’s (I even began shipping Grey and Harper at one point because they develop such a wonderful relationship). There is also a good amount of world building as we learn about the people of Emberfall and their neighboring country who is on the verge of declaring war due to the dysfunction of the royal family of Emberfall.

I’m excited to read the next book in this series “A Heart So Fierce and Broken”, which is expected sometime in 2020!

-Amanda Hayman

January 18, 2019

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Release Date: April 2, 2019

This book surprised me in all the best ways. It’s been a while since I’ve read a good fantasy book that just feels original, but Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan goes so far beyond the typical YA fantasy making it one of the most intriguing books I have read so far this year. 

The book follows the intertwining stories of three characters: a prince, a divine girl who can talk to the gods and a monster (akin to Kylo Ren), set in a world at war. The characters and world come alive on the page as the reader is plunged into the harsh, icy world of a land ruled by gods and their enemy: the water-logged land of heretics who practice blood magic. Then there are the Vultures – twisted monstrosities who have given themselves over to blood magic completely becoming human-vulture hybrids with insane amounts of magic. 

Despite this book having the potential to feel like just another dark fantasy about a “chosen” girl, the protagonist Nadya breaks from the pack and becomes the princess who saves herself by the end of the novel. 

Full of twisted, dark romance, blood magic, betrayal and intriguing court politics set in a world uniquely its own – Wicked Saints is a wickedly good read for older teens looking for something a bit darker they can devour.

-Amanda Hayman

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Release Date: April 2, 2019

January 5, 2019

Mera: Tidebreaker by Danielle Paige was an excellent graphic novel full of adventure, romance and a strong female lead who carves her own path and creates her own destiny. This graphic novel is perfect for middle grade readers and comic fans who loved the recent Aquaman movie and were itching to learn more about Mera’s upbringing and origin story. While there are some differences and discrepancies between the Tidebreaker and the film, a huge one being Mera and Arthur meeting prior to the events in the film, fans of the original comics will love meeting Mera and learning about her past, first steps on land and how she learns to shape her own destiny.

Amanda Hayman