Masterminds: A Book Review

Five teenagers with bikes beneath a helicopter with a search light

Living in a perfect city may sound like a blessing, right? Or is it a curse? Eli Frieden is a current resident of Serenity, New Mexico, where the mere idea of crime and poverty, and the thought of unemployment are oblivious to human-kind. Here in Serenity, there is no concept of stranger-danger, or danger at all. Here in Serenity, everything is okay, and everything is alright. But deep down inside, is the city as wonderful as it appears?

Eli Frieden lives in this so-called “perfect city” and seems to be living a normal life. However, upon biking to the city limits for the first time with his friend, Randy Hardaway, he experiences unimaginable pain. The next day, Randy makes a spontaneous trip to his grandparents, although Eli suspects this is not the whole story. He sets out to discover the genuine truth about this desert utopia. At a cost of knowing about the city, he also learns the truth about the 184 other residents, and even himself. Meanwhile, many of his friends notice strange behaviors from many adults, and start to lose trust in the people he, and the rest of the town, live with.

Masterminds, altogether, is a phenomenal title that definitely deserves praise for its riveting plot twists and relatable characters. Along with that, this realistic fiction is a Maryland Black- Eyed Susan nominee. This book has a breathtaking storyline, and leaves mysteries lying in every corner. Chapter by chapter, this story starts to unfold, and one by one the pieces connect into a grand idea, that the reader has yet to discover. I would highly recommend this book to teens, and anyone  who enjoys thrillers and unforeseen conclusions. For these reasons, I would rate this book a 9/10. Masterminds holds a special place in my top favorites, and hopefully will do the same for you too!

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The Truth About Us by Janet Gurtler

The Truth About Us book cover - a teen girl and teen boy embracing in front of a brick wall

Seventeen year old Jess has dealt with more problems than most teenagers her age. After a tragic incident in the past, her family can never be the same again. Her life becomes a ball of confusion and anger that only ends in her sabotaging her only true friendship with her best friend, Penny. After Penny and Jess stop communicating with each other, Jess gets involved with the wrong crowd, leading her to get into trouble with her father and being sent to help out at the Local Soup Kitchen for the whole remainder of the summer as punishment.

When Jess goes to the Local Soup Kitchen for the first time, she ends up seeing Flynn, a poor boy who eats there with his family and also helps out when he can. Whenever Jess sees him, her heart flutters. Soon, Jess feels like Flynn is the only person that understands her. They end up wanting to be together but since Flynn and Jess live different lifestyles, both families disapprove. Sometimes opposites attract – but can this relationship withstand the pressures against it?

I would recommend this book to mature readers. If you are up for a good romance story that will make you cry at times but also make your heart skip a beat, this is for you!

The Darkest Part of the Forest (Book Review)

In a clearing, in the forest lays a glass coffin with a beautiful creature inside. On and on this person sleeps, never waking no matter what anyone does.

Think you know this story, huh? Think again.

The coffin contains a boy with horns and pointed ears. The things that haven’t awakened him include kisses from local teenagers, hard blows to the coffin with a sledgehammer, and loud, raucous parties with girls dancing on top to tunes blaring out of their iPods.

Welcome to Fairfold, a town where the lines between what we’d call fantasy and reality are blurred. A town where the Folk, as fairies are called, fill the forest and occasionally play nasty tricks on the human residents and visitors. Where sometimes the fairies will fulfill a wish or a blessing, but always with dire consequences.

Enter Hazel and Ben, brother and sister who have spent their whole lives in Fairfold. They know how to run the forest paths, know every inch of the stream and hills, know all the stories and secrets of their hometown.

These two have a few secrets of their own. Years ago, after Ben had been blessed by a fairy woman and could play music that enchanted humans and Folk alike, the pair decided to become monster hunters to protect tourists and townsfolk from the creatures that crawled the woods. Hazel longed to become a knight and would become one, in a way, when she pledged seven years of her life to the fairy king in exchange for a music scholarship for her brother.

Now the coffin has broken, and the boy is gone. Hazel is losing track of time, and when she wakes in the mornings, she her body is bruised and battered, her clothes and feet covered with mud. Acorns with secret messages fill her pockets, and her beloved sword is missing.

What is going on? Who freed the fairy boy, and what will this mean for the town of Fairfold?

For the answers to those questions and more, read The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black.

Roar: Book Review

Cover of the book Roar by Cora Carmack

Review By Alyssa7128

“Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.”

Princess Aurora Pavan comes from one of the most ancient Stormling families in the world. As an heir to the throne, Aurora’s been groomed and pampered, more than you can ever imagined, to be the perfect queen. Thousands of years ago, her family was pledged service and devotion, in exchange for safety from the sky. The kingdom was practically made out of magic, and was capable of repelling the world’s deadliest enemies. To the people of the kingdom, Aurora sounds like she wold be the most intelligent and brave queen ever imaginable. But she shows no trace of magic she’ll need to protect the kingdom.

Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and menacing Stormling Prince from a nearby kingdom, to keep her secret safe and save her crown. He seems like the solution she’s been waiting for, as he’ll guarantee the protection of her people, and a spot as the next queen. But the more she finds out about him the more she want to hide under her bed and never come out.  When she sneaks out of the castle to spy on the Prince, she stumbles upon a black market she’s never seen before, and they’re selling what she lacks: storm magic. What scares her the most is the people selling it. They’re not Stormlings, in fact they’re storm hunters.

According to the many books Aurora read, her ancestors faced a storm and tore out its heart, to first gain magic. But when a handsome storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but instead possesses it, Aurora realizes there might me a third option for her future besides destruction and marriage.

She doesn’t have magic now, but if she’s brave enough, she could steal it.

I loved this book. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. It’s 380 pages long, with small print. It was a longer read, at least for me. I would recommend this book for ages 12 – 16. This book was so good and I would rate it a solid 10/10!!!!!!

-Alyssa7128 7th Grade

The Year of the Hangman Review

Cover of the book The Year of the Hangman by Gary Blackwood

Review by shipperprincess52

Stars- 2/5
Summary- In 1776, the rebellion of the American colonies against British rule was crushed.  Now, in 1777—the year of the hangman—George Washington is awaiting execution, Benjamin Franklin’s banned rebel newspaper, Liberty Tree, has gone underground, and young ne’er-do-well Creighton Brown, a fifteen-year-old Brit, has just arrived in the colonies.  Having been shipped off against his will with nothing but a distance for English authorities, Creighton befriends Franklin, and lands a job with his print shop.  But the English general expects the spoiled yet loyal Creighton to spy on Franklin.  As battles unfold and falsehoods are exposed, Creighton must decide where his loyalties lie…a choice that could determine the fate of a nation. (Goodreads. Been a while since I read this book and I didn’t like it so I didn’t want to write my own summary for this one.)

Thoughts- I didn’t like it. The characters weren’t interesting and there wasn’t really any action. Creighton was annoying and bratty, he didn’t know how to do anything on his own and that made him extremely unlikable. The whole thing was twisted and boring. It was practically a Revolutionary War AU Fanfiction. It’s the complete opposite of the real war. I really couldn’t stand any of the characters and the plot bored me to tears. (I won’t say anything about the plot just incase I spoil anything.)

Read it at your own risk. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Age- 12+

Challenger Deep- Book Review

Cover of the book Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Review by laurae87

Caden Bosch thinks too much. As a fifteen-year-old struggling with schizophrenia and anxiety, life is one confusing mess of hallucinations and worried thoughts. With the growing concern of his family, Caden takes too many painkillers, eats too little, and paces around the house in a dissociated state. At school, his test scores are dropping, and his paranoia is rising. School becomes a place that triggers panic, so Caden starts skipping classes, and instead, walks around town. His “thought-voices” torment him and make him think unpleasant thoughts. Caden is slowly losing his grip on reality. His parents notice his unusual (and worrying) behavior and admit him into a psychiatric ward. There, he meets other teens who are battling their own mental illnesses. He slowly becomes friends with some of the teens, and tries to help them with their struggles, along with getting better himself. However, one situation that occurs is so shocking that Caden doesn’t know if he will be swallowed whole by the gaping jaws of schizophrenia, or if he’ll manage to get out alive. Will Caden have the courage and strength to battle his mental illness and win, for now? To find out and follow Caden through his journey, read Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. This novel is about courage, self-reflection, and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, psychosis, paranoia, mania, and anxiety. Challenger Deep lets people who have been there know that they are not alone in their struggles. In the last pages of the novel, Shusterman provides resources and help for those dealing with mental illness.

The Elementals- book 1 -How it all Started

Image of sphere broken into four elements.

By: sharkgirl25

Chapter Four – Her Bark is Worse than her Bite

“Oh. My. Gosh!” Marina yells in astonishment. “I cannot believe that we have powers!”

“Okay, okay! Calm down, Marina! It’s not like we just won the lottery or something!” Earth says.

“Actually, Earth, it’s just like winning the lottery! Just think of what we can do!” Inferno says.

Earth thinks of the possibilities. Well, she thinks, I can always grow a tree and tie Shatcene the drama queen to it, and then have poison grow out of her sock. And I can make lots of trees grow, so that way the loggers don’t have to cut down the rainforests, and I can turn dry, dead grass into fresh, new green grass! 

“Well… WHO THE POMEGRANATE AM I KIDDING?! THIS IS SO AWESOME!” Earth yells, startling her friends.

Eliza walks by, and purposefully knocks Earth to the ground, shoving Inferno and Marina as well. When Earth’s hands touch the ground, two flowers pop up. She realizes what she did and points her hand toward Eliza’s feet, and poison ivy slinks its way up her leg, tightening its grip. She goes to take another step, and falls, smearing mud all over her pink dress.

“Auuuuuugghhhhh!” she screams, realizing that poison ivy was holding her down, and that she got mud smeared along the front of her new dress.

Vines wrap around her, pinning her to the ground, which Earth had coated with a fresh layer of mud. Earth, still on the ground, laughs so much she turns into a hyena. Earth the hyena rolls on the ground, laughing, and then springs up and runs circles around Eliza, laughing. Inferno and Marina stare at Eliza, who is on the ground, struggling, and then at Earth the hyena, who is running circles around Eliza, still laughing. Marina can’t stand Earth’s laughing, and Eliza’s screams, so she yells,

“STOP! IT’S TOO ANNOYING!”

Earth changes back into a girl, but still has a hyena tail. The vines and poison disappear, and so does the mud on her dress. Earth’s hyena tail vanishes, and she stands up, saying,

“What. The pomegranate. Just. Happened?”

Eliza stands up and says,

“Ewww! What was I doing on the ground?! And why are you guys here? Get out of my way!” She walks away, clearly having no memory of the previous events. Earth, however, remembers it all.

“One thing’s for sure,” Marina says.

“What’s that?” Inferno asks.

“Earth’s bark is worse than her bite!”

Earth laughs. “Depends on what type of tree it is!”