by Rainbow Rowell

In the novel Carry On, written by Rainbow Rowell, Carry On dives into the world of wizardry, magic, and mages. Carry On is a part of a series that Rainbow Rowell has created. In this magical world, Rowell has created its main protagonist as a young eighteen-year-old wizard named Simon. Simon is a talented wizard who is a little famous for his special magical arts and does he had vanquished. Simon shares a strong love for magical art as he encounters many other very powerful wizards such as Penelope, who Simon stated “Is much more powerful than me” and the Mage who is a master in the arts of magic. This Mage casts spells with ease, such as the “clean-up spell” that as the name suggests takes impurities off of your clothes and body. 

In Carry On, Simon acts as the narrator telling his own story, mentioning his childhood and some of the heroic things he did in the past. Simon is going to a magic school where he meets some friends such as Baz, his roommate. Readers that enjoy the Harry Potter series might like this novel as it involves magic, spells, and mystical creatures. Carry On mentions many mystical creatures such as vampires, dragons, a face mimicker, and more.  

I really liked the spells and magic, no matter how silly or unrealistic they may be, such as the “clean-up spell” Alas, I found the book a little boring as Simon, as the narrator, usually talks about his adventures in the past and when he does talk about events in the present Simon’s pace is a little slow from the beginning to around the fifth chapter. In the fifth chapter, he talks about the sword in his possession named “The Sword of mages”. This is when I started to get interested in the book when it added a little bit more magical items. In all, I liked this book even though it had a slow start. I feel like other people will love this book and all the magical aspects of it.

Leo S.

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by Laurel Fantauzzo

5 Stars

My Heart Underwater by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo is written about a Filipino-American girl named Corazon Tagubio, living in California with her parents, who she calls Mama and Papa. She’s young and figuring herself out, specifically her sexuality in regards to her crush on Ms. Holden, the AP European History substitute teacher. Corazon, or “Cory” for short, has conflicting feelings about her queerness and her religion. Cory’s morality class says that her feelings are “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to Natural Law.” One day, her secret is uncovered. Cory’s Papa goes through something that seems like it will change him forever. Everything seems to crumble; to make it worse, Cory is sent to the Philippines to live with unknown relatives. She seems afraid of these unfamiliar people, unfamiliar mannerisms, and an unfamiliar country. Readers may appreciate Fantauzzo’s wonderful ability to understand how to give the readers a proper look into the intensity or sadness of a moment. My Heart Underwater features the integration of Tagalog and Taglish (Tagalog & English), which adds to the genuineness of its Filipino perspective. This added aspect can help other Filipino readers to feel seen in a way not commonly found in books or any media before. Personally, its authenticity in speaking to the Filipino perspective in North America really spoke to me and made me feel heard, warm and sad in all the right ways. One quote that really resonated with me that made me pause and think was this, “‘Some men,’ she begins, ‘Sometimes… all they know how to do, is control. If you try to be away from their control, in any small way, they punish. I was not like my sister, ready to please, ready to obey. If you must reshape yourself, contort yourself, for their love, anak, it is not love.'” The banter between parent and child really brought joy to my heart, and seeing how Cory’s relationship with her parents evolve and change with many surprises was truly lovely to read through.

Though the story felt so perfect, there were some flaws. Some writing techniques felt a little repetitive and boring at times. For example, the use of continual commas that might have indicated Cory’s worry repeated so much that it was uninteresting to read. There were also some parts within the book that was a little dull such as her arrival in the Philippines. Some parts of the plot seemed too rushed to fully take in, for instance, Cory’s romances throughout the book.

Overall, even with some minimal imperfections, the book was so worth reading. All the fierce scenes of emotional rollercoasters or happy little moments were so amusing and entertaining to read. As a queer Filipino living with immigrant parents, in a North American country, it depicted my life almost perfectly. It made me feel seen and important, which is crucial and major to literature now. My Heart Underwater, for me, was a 9/10. It’s definitely a must-read for anyone looking to see a different cultural perspective you may not be used to, and it is very enjoyable to absorb yourself into.

Leo V.

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by Kalynn Bayron

4.5 Stars

It has been 200 years since Cinderella and the Prince found each other, but that fairy tale has been twisted into a nightmare. Teenage girls now have to attend an annual ball, where the men choose their brides based on the finery the girls display. Sixteen-year-old Sophia rather marry her childhood best friend, Erin, than be paraded at the ball in front of a group of suitors. On the night of the ball, Sophia decides to run, and she finds herself in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, who is the last known descendant of the original Cinderella and her stepsisters. Together they vow to bring down the king, and during that process, they find out much more to Cinderella’s tale than they ever knew. 

This book is a retelling of the story of Cinderella. It is a fantasy novel with a dystopian theme mixed into it. This book was very fast-paced (although too fast at times), and there was always something going on to keep the reader’s attention. I personally did not want to put this book down! The protagonist, Sophia, is a very strong protagonist to follow. Through her eyes, the reader sees this gruesome, wicked world that she lives in and sees how Sophia longs for an escape from it. I liked how this was a very different take on Cinderella and how the author incorporated a dystopian society into the novel. I also liked the relationship between Sophia and Erin because you got to see how the world that they live in impacted them. Overall, I would very much recommend this book, especially to the people who like to read fairy tale retellings!

Emily W.

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by Kiera Cass

5 Stars

The Selection follows the story of America Singer, a 16-year old girl who lives in Illéa. The story is set in a dystopian world, and the people of her country are divided into castes that have strict rules about what they can and cannot do. America belongs to the Fifth caste, which is made up of artists who perform in order to earn money. Every year, the Selection ceremony is held where 35 randomly chosen girls compete to marry the Prince and become the Princess. America, among many others, receives an invitation from the palace to run for a position in The Selection. America’s secret boyfriend, Aspen Leger, who is a caste below her, pressures her to enter. For many girls, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. But for America, being Selected is a nightmare. America is determined not to like Maxon, but soon they develop a special bond. Gradually, America starts to question the life she planned for herself as she compares it with a future she never imagined. 

I read this book a while ago, and I absolutely adored it. The writing style of the book is a little juvenile since it is targeted towards young adults. I would recommend this book to anyone who is 12+ and is looking for a cute and light romance. This book has all your classic tropes: the “she’s not like other girls”, the “mean, popular, rich girl who wears lots of makeup”, the “love triangle”. The book does get a little slow at times, but overall it is well-paced. If you are looking for a cute romance and a beautiful series, then this is the book for you.

Harnoor S.

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