by E. Lockhart

1 Star

We Were Liars is a novel by E. Lockhart. I was in the market for an interesting “mystery” type novel, and I had seen this book praised in social media for the longest time. I finally gave in and decided to read the book. I was not impressed. 

We We’re Liars follows the story of a rich and distinguished family who spends each summer on their private island. The main characters include a group of four teenage friends who call themselves the Liars. The story especially concentrates on one of the teenagers, a girl who develops amnesia following an accident that happens during the summer when she was 15. We follow along as she tries to remember what truly happened during that summer. 

Although I was intrigued at first by the storyline, I did not end up enjoying this book at all. I found the characters hard to relate to, probably because of their rich world. I also found the story to be bland. It took the longest time before getting to any “juicy” parts. The author gives small hints about “the accident” here and there, but nothing of importance and nothing to keep the reader really hooked. I almost gave up reading it several times because of how slow the development was. The only interesting part in this book is the ending… but even with that in mind I wouldn’t recommend it. The time spent on reading the first 190 pages of the book is not worth it, not even with that shocker ending. Lockhart did not meet my expectations with this book, and I was disappointed.

Emma O.

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by Alexa Donne

4.5 Stars

The Ivies rule the school at Claflin Academy. They’re a group of girls who would stop at nothing to ensure their spots in an Ivy League school. The five girls have been sabotaging the other students throughout their four high school years to ensure that they will always stay on top. They each applied to different schools to ensure they’d all make it in. When the leader of the group, Avery, doesn’t make it into Harvard, there is lots of tension among the group. What Avery doesn’t know is Olivia and Emma, who are also in the Ivies, also applied to Harvard. When Emma tells Avery she got in, Avery is furious. The next morning, Emma is found dead. With all eyes on the Ivies, Olivia must find a way to clear her name, while trying to find Emma’s murder. Along the way, she finds shocking information and learns the Ivies are deadlier than she ever imagined.  

There were so many shocking twists and turns throughout this book that I didn’t see coming. Each of the characters were so complex and necessary to move the story along. I really enjoyed this author’s writing style and how she made the story relatable for teenagers, even though it was about murder. Olivia, the narrator, had a really interesting take on the entire situation that helped you look at the story in a different light. The story took place at a boarding school, and the whole dynamic was much different than at a public school. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and would definitely recommend it!  

Hailey B.

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directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers

5 Stars

Joe Gardner is a middle school band teacher whose life hasn’t gone exactly how he expected. He feels unfulfilled at his current job, and he knows that with his excellent piano skills, his true passion is jazz. One of his former students informs Joe of an opening in the band of the legend Dorothea Williams. Dorothea is impressed by Joe’s piano playing and offers him a job immediately. Joe gets the amazing opportunity to play at the best jazz club in town that night. However, in the streets of New York, Joe falls down a manhole transporting his soul into the “Great Beyond”, a foyer with a long walkway, where souls line up going to a white light. Not wanting to die so soon, he escapes the pathway and ends up in the “Great Before”, a place where young souls are mentored to discover their personalities and sparks before going to Earth. Because Joe is determined to get back to Earth somehow, he pretends to be an instructor who trains souls. Joe is given a girl who is only known by her number, 22. 22 is a soul who does not like Earth and finds it pointless. Joe desperately tries everything he can to get 22 to find her purpose and passion. Doing so, Joe learns what it means to have a soul.  

Soul is a funny, moving, and incredibly animated film. The film is all about life journey and finding your “spark”. The movie showcases the journey of finding your true purpose by helping each other. The concept is unique and thought-provoking for older audiences, yet still funny and relatable for children. I loved the deeply moving message of appreciating the gift of life. This is a must-watch for the entire family!  

Emily K.

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by Maika & Maritza Moulite

4 Stars

The young adult fiction, One Of The Good Ones, written by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite, was a depressing but yet a remarkable book. It tells the story of an activist teen, Kezi, who unfortunately dies in police custody after attending a protest. As Kezi’s family deals with grief, Kezi’s younger sister, Happi, sets out a plan to go on a road trip in honour of her sister. The road trip that Happi and Kezi’s friends are set on going, is the trip that Kezi has always wanted to go on right after she would have graduated from high school. The story isn’t just in Happi’s perspective, it’s also in Evelyn’s perspective, Happi and Kezi’s grandmother, but not just Evelyn’s perspective, it’s also in Kezi perspective. As you’re reading the book, in the beginning it’s very slow-paced, but as you continue to read more, all you want to do is find out what really happened to Kezi. Which, as your reading more, gets you very anxious, and at some point you just want to put the book down. Happi is very closed off in the beginning of the book, but as the story unravels you get to see truly who the real Happi is.

The way Maika & Maritza Moulite wrote this story truly feels as if you are present in the story. This book is very much a wake-up call to those that don’t believe what’s actually happened to black individuals, to those that don’t know how people treat black individuals. It’s very heartbreaking to know that people some people recently found out what black people go through, not just them, there are so many other races that are being treated horribly, and it’s sad to think that only because of what’s been happening in the past 2 years people have woken up. Overall, this book should definitely be on your list, although I wouldn’t suggest it to a younger audience because of all the heavy topics, I recommend this book to 14 years and older.

Hoda. D

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directed by Garth Jennings

5 Stars

Sing is not the first movie to incorporate the talent-show concept into its story, but it is unquestionably the most successful. While not especially unique, this zany escapade centered on a theatre-owning koala with great ambitions has enough charm and enough variety in the song choices to avoid alienating older audience members. Buster Moon, our protagonist, is barely hanging on to his business; the bank is ready to seize control of the theatre. Before tragedy hits, his plan of hosting a talent show draws the public interest. Throughout the movie, each of the main candidates is shown overcoming their own obstacles, whether it’s debilitating stage fright, the invisibility of being a stay-at-home mom, or a bank-robber dad with a job opening in the family firm. I didn’t have high hopes for this film at first.

This film was equally entertaining for both adults and children, and I honestly couldn’t tell you who had a larger crowd. I could tell from the teaser that this was going to be engaging because it wasn’t only animals singing, but also familiar voices! During the audition, they sang current songs as well as some older songs, but that was a good way to truly cater to their audience. Each actor/actress gave their all to their roles, and I was surprised to see that a few of them could sing! The start was interesting. It drew my interest, but I was hooked until the main character started talking about his current situation. The most intriguing aspect of the film was the lessons it taught, which were that people would do what they want when they want to do it and that you should never be scared to do what you are best at and go for your dreams! The great ensemble, which includes many well-known figures in the entertainment world, makes the film more appealing to parents as well. Overall, this film was enjoyable to see!

Manaal I.

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by Vivek Shraya

5 Stars

I’m absolutely not someone who generally reads non-fiction and enjoys it — and honestly, who can blame me when fiction is so much more entertaining than reality? — but if you do not read (or place a hold on) this amazing non-fiction book you are transphobic, misogynistic and racist. I don’t make the rules *sniffs nose and looks haughtily down on you*. OK, fine. Maybe you’re not those things but seriously: GET. THIS. BOOK.

It’s a 96-page book mainly about misogyny affecting Vivek Shraya, the author, and her struggle with inner (and outer) misogyny as a trans woman who was raised and perceived as a gay man. The story follows Vivek throughout different stages of her life and shares short stories of transphobia, over-sexualization and misogyny she’s faced. I’m not going to lie… this book had me on the verge of tears multiple times, which doesn’t happen often. This was an own-voices book (literally a mini life story of the author) so rating it seems somewhat trivial and disrespectful (I can’t exactly say their life was 1 star respectfully) but if I had to give it a rating it would be 5/5, 10/10, 100/100. The writing was beautiful- lyrical — and interacted wonderfully with the reader by asking probing questions that left you dumbfounded and deep in thought. It was a phenomenal queer-feminist read and gave the perspective of someone who was ‘not raised a woman’ (Vivek experienced the oppressor side and does not share the same experiences AFAB women are more prone to) but has experienced both sides of misogyny. Again, 5/5 stars.

Age rating: Mature people
 Trigger warnings: Transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, over-sexualization, mentions of biphobia/bi-erasure, cheating, mentions of sex, body dysmorphia, self-loathing, mentions of (sexual) assault and more. Check for more if you’re sensitive!

Jazleen H.

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by Karen McManus

4 Stars

One of Us is Next is the sequel to One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus. I was doubtful that the sequel would be as good as the first book, as generally speaking sequels are often a little disappointing. I’m happy to report that it is definitely not the case here! This novel is fresh, not predictable and in my opinion even better than the first book! 

One of us is next follows the story of 3 young teens, Maeve, Phoebe and Knox and is still situated at Bayview High. Ever since the whole “Simon Says” situation, there have been many copycats at the high school, but no one has been able to fill the gossip void quite like Simon did. Until now.

Now, there is someone playing an anonymous game of Truth or Dare. If one chooses not to play, a dark truth is revealed about them…

Phoebe is the first target, then Maeve. But when it comes to Knox’s turn, things are becoming more dangerous. The dares are becoming deadlier, and the truths are getting darker. Although Simon is gone, someone is trying to keep his legacy alive. Will there be a new mystery to uncover, or is this a simple game of truth or dare?

With this sequel, McManus chose to dive more into Maeve’s character (the sister of one of the main characters from One of Us is Lying), which I really enjoyed. I appreciated how she kept the characters from the first book as “extras”, as we get to know about them from this sequel’s characters’ perspectives. Although not mandatory, I would recommend reading One of Us is Lying first as this will provide the full background on the original main characters, as well as the vibe at Bayview High. I recommend this series to anyone who is looking for a good YA and young teen mystery novel. 

Emma O.

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directed by Michael Gracey

The Greatest Showman is a biographical musical about the journey of young Phineas Barnum as a kid, entrepreneur, museum owner, circus producer, and entertainment producer. Phineas, son of a tailor, meets Charity, the daughter of one of his father’s affluent clients. He makes her laugh and gets slapped for it by her dad, but the spark from their first encounter lasts throughout their youth, even when she’s away at boarding school, and he’s an orphan on the streets. Despite all odds, Finn and Charity marry and have two daughters years later. In the midst of raising his family, he secures a loan to build a museum of curiosities, eventually fails. He is inspired by an encounter to ask unusual-looking people to participate in a performance centered on them.

With help from costumes and makeup, he launches what will become the first circus. Barnum’s show is critically criticized, but the general public enjoys it. Barnum makes a fortune, but he can’t seem to stop looking for approval from higher classes. We all need some positivity and light in our lives. The world is filled with so much hate and unkindness toward anybody who is different. This film teaches us that everyone is valuable, that everyone’s existence has significance and purpose, and that we should work hard to help everyone, rich or poor. The message of this movie reminds us of how we should treat those around us and gives those of us who are different the courage and power to be who we are. Not to mention the amazing songs people of all ages can enjoy! This is the type of movie which you can’t help but come back to just because of its timeless nature. Human nature craves the light and goodness movies such as The Greatest Showman give to us in this world.

Manaal I.

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by Carrie Mac

2.5 Stars

Are you in a reading slump, enjoy reading about sapphic relationships, a romance reader, figuring out your sexuality in terms of liking women as a woman/AFAB (and those who ‘appear to be a woman’), or looking for a quick read?

Well, if yes, I recommend this book: Crush by Carrie Mac. It is a 125-page novella (with big font) and takes place over the span of a week, I believe. Essentially, Hope, the main character, is left with her neglectful older sister while her hippie parents are in Thailand and she struggles with her new feelings for a girl named Nat. The book is extremely easy to follow and I promise you will breeze right through. I can’t recommend this book as a sapphic book alone because of how non-impactful it was but if you are in a reading slump and sapphic, or sapphic-questioning, I would definitely recommend it. I rated this book 2.5/5 stars but it was 5/5 for what I needed at the moment (a short, dumb, sapphic read).

Honestly, this rating will vary for each person who reads this and what they’re feeling so the only thing I can say is that you should read this book with low, very low, expectations in terms of plot, world-building, characters and basically everything else.

Representation: Bisexual/Pansexual/Sapphic main character, lesbian love interest, lesbian side representation, hippies.
 Age rating: 13+ (mentions of sex with older men and some more stuff for more mature audiences)

Jazleen H.

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by Leigh Bardugo

3 Stars

The young adult/fantasy/adventure fiction, Shadow And Bone, written by Leigh Bardugo, was a very mystical book. I am not the type of person to usually read any fantasy books, but I was a part of a book club and this was the book we were reading. This story is about Alina Starkov, all her life she felt as if she never belonged, she felt as if she wasn’t good enough, but thanks to her best friend Mal, the guy who she’s secretly in love with but won’t admit it.

But where she lives, the fold, gets attacked and Mal is awfully injured, she reveals a power that saves his life. Alina never knew she had a power like that, or maybe she did, but she kept it a secret and slowly forgot about it because she wanted to stay with Mal. Once her power is released, Darkling realizes she had a power that could save her town, take her to the royal court to be trained as a Grisha. As love sparks between the two, Alina doesn’t know the actual plan the Darkling has for her. Some parts of the book, as I was reading, was truly boring, but other parts of the book makes you feel as if you were right there or even more you’re Alina. Which by the ending of the book, you wouldn’t want to be in the position Alina was in. Either way, I would still recommend this book to people over the age of 12 and up. Overall, I rate this book a 3/5 stars!  

Hoda D.

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