by Ben Philippe

5 Stars

In Ben Philippe’s latest book, Charming as a Verb, it appears as though everything that comes easily to you is actually really difficult. Henri Haltiwanger seemed to have life in the palm of his hand at first look. He is a first-generation American, the son of devoted Haitian immigrants; he is a thriving student at the renowned FATE Academy, where he is well-liked; and he operates a dog-walking service for New Yorkers. The one thing he desires more than anything else is to attend Columbia University. It’s also his father’s ambition for Henri too, so there’s extra pressure and concern about whether he’ll be accepted.

Enter Corinne Troy, a fellow student and neighbour who is not pleased with Halti. She is highly gifted and “intense,” and when she finds that Halti has been operating his dog walking company, she blackmails him into helping her become more likable among the student body. Corinne eventually becomes nice to be around, and she and Halti begin to depend on each other more and more, sharing their personal difficulties and worries. She encourages Halti to see what his aspirations may be rather than what he believes they must be just for his family’s sake, and they both let down their guard to allow one another in. Things go wrong when Halti snaps under pressure. It’s time for him to show that he’s more than simply a charming guy who desperately wants to rediscover himself. This was a wonderful read for me. Charming as a Verb really captured the pressures that teenagers face during high school, particularly the children of immigrants. Definitely a book you don’t want to miss!

Manaal I.

View in Library Catalogue: Print | eBook

by Justin A. Reynolds

4.5 Stars

I was first intrigued in Opposite of Always because I saw that Angie Thomas, one of my favourite authors, had commented that she thoroughly enjoyed this book. I can confirm that this book is one of the best love stories I have ever read. Justin A. Reynolds has done a beautiful job with this novel. When reading the back of the novel, you might think that it could come across as a bit “sci-fi,” but I guarantee it isn’t like that at all.

Opposite of Always follows the story of two teenagers, Jack and Kate. When Jack and Kate meet at a party, they are instantly compatible. Jack feels as though he might be falling hard for this girl. Soon enough, Kate is meeting Jack’s best friends, Jilian and Franny, who she wins over just as quickly as she did Jack…

But then Kate dies. Typically this is where the story would end, but no. Kate’s death sends Jack right back to the party where they met. Jack thinks he might be losing his mind because there is Kate standing right next time him, breathing, alive and healthy. Jack doesn’t know what is happening, but if he has the chance to save Kate, he will take it. Will he be able to save Kate, or will their story end just as abruptly as it did the first time?

This novel is funny, heartfelt, beautiful and everything in between. I strongly suggest this book to any YA reader or even a young teen who loves unexpected love stories. Justin A. Reynolds had me hooked right from the first sentence all the way to the last. This book is definitely one of my top three favourite books that I have read. I look forward to reading more books by this amazing author.

Emily O.

View in Library Catalogue: Print

by Sarah Suk

5 Stars

Made in Korea is billed as a rom-com, and it delivers with a hilarious and dynamic he-said/she-said dual narrative centred on two Korean American teenagers. Valerie is an ambitious and resourceful young woman with a keen business sense, whereas Wes is less assertive and socially awkward but still astute in his own right. The plot in K-drama is worthy of the top, with twists and turns as the story unfolds. Valerie and Wes are in this stage where they are supposed to want the other person to fail but can help but respect and even be in love. The enemy is borne with grace and humour by the lover’s trope. What gives me great joy in this book is that the lighter rom-com elements are based on a more serious topic. Both Valerie and Wes desperately long for their parent’s approval and support throughout the story. Valerie is always in competition with her older sister, while Wes’ dad demands that he search for a stable field, even if that means him throwing away his dream of becoming a musician.

These conflicts deepen the motivation of the protagonists in their competitors and create common ground for their flourishing friendship and eventual romance. Furthermore, the romance that blossoms between the characters were beautiful. I enjoyed the tenderness of their attraction to one another contrasted with the vulnerability of their relationship and opening themselves up due to their competitiveness. Overall, this was a great book to read, both in terms of premise and character, and it’s one you won’t want to miss!

Manaal I.

View in Library Catalogue: Print

by Kelly Yang

5 Stars

Parachutes is a book about opposite worlds. Clarie and Dani, two girls who are so alike but couldn’t have been raised more differently, struggling with trying to figure out who they are while battling wealth, power, friendship, and trauma. They are asked how much they are willing to pay for freedom and how far they will really go for the life that they want. This story is told from the POV of Clarie “parachute” from Shanghai and Dani, the host sister in California. Based on the cover, I was expecting a story about high school drama. While this story is about high school students, it actually addresses themes as they traversed the toxic environments the girls are in: classism, sexism, racism, and xenophobia. This was a really powerful and important YA story.

The book focuses on many issues that are really relevant to high school and college-aged students today. There are warnings at the beginning of the book because two of the topics are sexual harassment and sexual assault. I wouldn’t recommend this book for a young teen. But this book is not graphic, and I think that this book tells two important stories. There is some romance in this book. But it is woven in between the more important issues that the author focuses on. I was invested in both girls’ stories. I was fascinated by Dani and her debating team, and I was really interested in Claires and the fact she was sent to the US on her own to study. It was very interesting to read the author’s note and see how her own experiences mirrored some of what was in the story. This was such a moving and emotional story. I really enjoyed it.

Manaal I.

View in Library Catalogue: Print

by Angie Thomas

4.5 Stars

On the Come Up : Thomas, Angie: Amazon.ca: Books

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas follows the story of sixteen-year-old Bri, who wishes to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Coincidentally, Bri is the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who sadly passed away before achieving stardom. To catch the big break her father never could, Bri tries to win her first rap battle. However, it’s hard to get one’s “come up” when you are labelled a hoodlum at school and your mom loses her job. With these frustrations pilling up in her head, Bri focuses her anger into her first song, which ends up going viral for all the wrong reasons…

This is the author’s second novel, and I thought it was absolutely phenomenal. I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who likes to or have ever dreamt about writing songs. Angie Thomas was a rapper before she became a world-famous author, and I think it shows in the tone and writing style she chose for this novel. It’s completely different from anything else I have ever read!

This book is not a sequel to The Hate U Give (THUG), so no pre-requisite reading is required! However, if you have read THUG, you will also appreciate the linkages between the novels as the characters in either book live in the “same world”. In THUG, we get introduced to the King Lords and Garden Disciples rival gangs, but the focus of the story is on the King Lords. In On the come up, we get a totally different perspective, and we fall in love with characters from the Garden Disciples!

Emma O.

View in Library Catalogue: Print

by Angie Thomas

5 Stars

Hate U Give, The : Thomas, Angie: Amazon.ca: Books

The Hate U Give (also referred to as THUG) is Angie Thomas’ first novel. It was also the first book I read from this author, but it wasn’t the last as I since devoured everything else she wrote! 

THUG follows the story of sixteen-year-old Starr Carter, a young teenager who lives in “two worlds”. The first being her poor neighbourhood, where she lives with her mother, her father and her two brothers. The other world is the fancy suburban prep school she attends. These two worlds are completely shattered when Starr’s childhood best friend, Khalil, is shot to death right in front of her by a police officer. 

Khalil’s death soon becomes a national headline. Due to the cause of his death, multiple protests take place to avenge Khalil. Because Starr was there when Khalil was killed, she is getting asked questions left, right and center by anyone and everyone. She doesn’t feel as though anyone can truly understand what she is going through. In a situation like this one, what Starr does or doesn’t say could ruin her community as well as endanger her life. 

Angie Thomas is definitely one of my favourite authors. She writes her novels in such beautiful and unique ways. Specifically in THUG, she makes us acutely aware of what life can be for a Black teenager and makes us feel a wide range of emotions from anger and frustration to amusement. I think that any teen or young adult reader will really enjoy this book. You might or might not know this, but THUG was made into a movie. Though the movie is good, I think the book is better. I definitely recommend reading the book before watching the movie.

Emma O.

View in Library Catalogue: Print | eBook | Audiobook CD

by Angie Thomas

5 Stars

Concrete Rose : Thomas, Angie: Amazon.ca: Books

Concrete Rose is the prequel to Angie Thomas’s first novel, The Hate U Give (THUG). It doesn’t matter if you have read THUG or not prior to picking up Concrete Rose because it stands beautifully on its own.

This book follows the life of Maverick Carter, a seventeen-year-old boy whose father is a former gang legend. To help his mom pay the bills, Maverick starts dealing for the King Lords. Maverick feels as though he has it all figured out, that is until he finds out that he is a father. Suddenly, Maverick needs to learn what it means to be a man. Even after the loss of a loved one. As we follow the main character on his journey to fatherhood, we fall in love with Angie Thomas’s writing. It’s funny yet serious, romantic yet realistic. It’s very relatable and gives a strong sense of what life could be like for a teen parent.

For those who have already read THUG, you will appreciate all the small linkages and references back into that story. For those who haven’t read THUG yet, an interesting cliffhanger awaits at the end of the novel!

I think that any teen or young adult reader will enjoy this book. I read it in three days, even during school hours, as I could barely put it down! This is even a book I’ll enjoy re-reading!

Emily O.

View in Library Catalogue: Print | eBook | Downloadable Audiobook

by John Green

5 Stars

Paper Towns : Green, John: Amazon.ca: Books

In their childhood, Quentin and his neighbour Margo stumbled upon the dead body of a man who had shot himself in the park. Margo’s investigation of his death evoked a love for mysteries that is still present today. Fast forward to the current day, and Quentin’s dreams of going to prom with Margo are far-fetched, considering she rarely speaks to him. However, during the middle of the night, only a couple of weeks before graduation, Quentin hears a knock on his window and finds Margo standing outside. They spend the entire night carrying out an extreme revenge plan on all of Margo’s enemies, and Quinten believes the chance to befriend his now solitary neighbour is much closer than before. Plans are made to meet up at school the following day, yet Margo never shows. It is not uncommon for Margo to disappear, and she often leaves clues of where she has gone. The significance of this disappearance, however, is that the clues are specifically intended for Quentin.  

The story of Paper Towns tells the adventures of Quentin and his friends on the search for his runaway neighbour in hopes of finding her before they graduate from high school. What the future holds for them is unknown, but what Quentin does know is that Margo only wants to escape Orlando, Florida, what she considers to be a ‘paper town’.  

Paper Towns is a captivating novel that combines contemporary romance with mystery and suspense. I loved the structure of the novel, and I found the characters to be very relatable. The plot was intriguing and fast-paced, creating a book you do not want to put down. I would highly recommend this novel to teens interested in contemporary fiction and mysteries.

Emily B.

View in Library Catalogue: Print | eBook | Downloadable Audiobook

by John Green

4 Stars

Paper Towns : Green, John: Amazon.ca: Books

Paper Towns begins with a prologue taking place nine years before the events of the novel. Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman are only nine years old when they discover the body of a man who committed suicide in their neighbourhood park. Fast-forward nine years later, the main characters are seniors at Winter Park High School. Quentin is an outcast, while his childhood crush Margo is a popular girl. Margo reappears into Quentin’s life, showing up at his window one night and recruiting him to help her play mischievous pranks on her boyfriend and friends who betrayed her. The next day, Margo is surprisingly nowhere to be found. With the help of his friends, as well as a series of clues Margo left behind for him, Quentin embarks on a mission to find and reunite with the girl of his dreams. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought that it was quite entertaining to read. However, I did find that the middle of the book was a little long and tedious. Besides that, I loved the way John Green mixed together both romance and comedy. John Green’s writing style is amazing, and this was a great piece. Also, the characters within the book were very relatable, and I felt connected to each of them, especially Quentin. Overall, Paper Towns was a great coming-of-age book and has an amazing storyline that will keep you engaged. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery and adventure novel!

Emily K.

View in Library Catalogue: Print | eBook | Downloadable Audiobook

by Angie Thomas

5 Stars

Hate U Give, The : Thomas, Angie: Amazon.ca: Books

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, tells a story about a 16-year-old African-American girl named Starr Carter. Starr lives in a poor, mostly black neighbourhood of Garden Heights but attends a fancy, wealthy, and predominantly white private school in the city, Williamson Prep. One day when Starr is being driven home from a party by her childhood best friend Khalil, they are pulled over by a white police officer. Khalil, who is black, is instructed by the police officer to exit the vehicle. After leaning into the window to check on Starr, Khalil is shot three times by the officer and killed. Starr becomes entangled in the national news story after witnessing the fatal shooting of Khalil. Tension culminates in a riot after a grand jury decides not to indict the police officer for the shooting. Garden Heights erupts into both peaceful protests and riots. Facing pressure, Starr must find her voice to advocate for what is right. 

I loved this novel and thought it was incredibly powerful. The novel truly speaks the truth about how today’s society is. It shows real-world problems that affect everyone every day. The novel was informative, showing how our society can be around people with different skin tones and cultures. This novel helped educate me on the matters of racism and police brutality. By reading this novel, one is able to understand the injustice the black community has had to face and is continuing to face to this day. I strongly urge all teenagers to read this book at some point, as it will leave you speechless, stick with you forever, and is truly eye-opening.

Emily K.

View in Library Catalogue: Print | eBook | Audiobook CD