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.

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by Karen M. McManus

4 Stars

One of Us is Lying was my first YA “Whodunit” book, and it did not disappoint. Karen M. McManus writes in a way that hooks you right from the very beginning and keeps you guessing until the end!

One of Us is Lying follows the story of five Bayview High students, Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, Cooper and Simon. Bronwyn is an intelligent and introverted girl whose goal is to get into Yale. Addy is the popular high school girl who wishes to become the homecoming princess. Nate, also known as the school “bad boy,” is on probation for dealing and doesn’t believe he has a future doing much else. Cooper is a star athlete who has many successes ahead of him. Finally, there is Simon, the outcast and the creator of Simon Says, the high school’s notorious gossip app.

On Monday, these five students find themselves all wound up in detention. At the end, only four exit the classroom. Why you ask? Because Simon is dead, and according to the investigation, it wasn’t an accident. Simon had planned to reveal dirty secrets on the four survivors the next day. Once this is found, Bronwyn, Addy, Nate and Cooper all become prime suspects… is one or all of them guilty?

This novel is definitely a page-turner. It is impossible to put down once you start reading as you want to figure out what happened to Simon. The story is told from the viewpoint of the 4 “prime suspects,” so you get to really relate to each of the characters in unique ways. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to any teenager or YA!

Emily O.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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by Sabina Khan

5 Stars

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali Audiobook | Sabina Khan | Audible.ca

Sabina Khan, the author of The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, has written about the struggles of being a part of the LGBTQ2S+ in the Indian community through 17-year-old Rukhsana Ali. Readers get to look through the eyes of Rukhsana, who is lesbian and lives in a strict home with her conservative, Bengali parents who favour her younger brother Aamir over her. (Aamir is still a great little brother and tries his best to make things better.) Their parents believe that women are supposed to be great wives and mothers but also support the idea of getting an education and getting a degree.

Rukhsana’s parents one day meet her friend Ariana who is actually her girlfriend. Her parents love Ariana, but when they find out who Ariana really is to Rukhsana, they are appalled and ban the two girls from seeing each other. What will break most hearts is that the parents do not care about the fact that Rukhsana is lesbian they are afraid of what the Indian community will think of them for having a daughter that is a part of the LGBTQ2S+. To fix Rukhsana, her parents trick her into a trip to Bangladesh and try to force her into an arranged marriage. Readers will be torn apart by the tragedy but come to love Rukhsana and her family. Rukhsana teaches everyone that we have a choice to make, and it will affect our futures. The words of her Nani “We must be the masters of our own destinies. I did not learn that until it was too late. You have to fight to take back control of your life. Sometimes you will hurt the ones you love the most. But in the end, it will always have to be your choice.” ( Khan 336)

I would recommend the book to readers who can take sad stories but look forward to a better ending. This book does talk about sensitive topics such as rape and murder, so this is directed to an older audience (15+). I am not a part of the LGBTQ2S+, but it is heartwarming to see strict, conservative parents accept and want to learn about their child’s community.

Lyelle B.

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by James Dashner

5 Stars

The Eye of Minds

The novel The Eye of Minds by James Dashner is a story about a young teenage boy named Micheal. Since he doesn’t have the chance of seeing his parents much, he spends most of his time gaming. This book takes place in the future, where gaming and technology are more advanced and ultra-modern than this current era. The main gaming system displayed in the book is called VirtNet. This stunning gaming system provides a great experience for gamers whose minds are connected to the system, making them present in a virtual world. This world also unlocks the gamer’s ability to use their five senses. Everything starts well until a sudden event occurs. Kaine, a cyber-terrorist, has the ability to claim different gamer profiles, forcing them to follow whatever he says. The owners of VirtNet are shocked but are willing to find a way to stop the dangerous cyber-terrorist before he hurts their company and its profits.  

To catch a hacker, you need a hacker. VirtNet has been examining Micheal and his hacking skills. They decide to use him to save VirtNet and find Kaine. This risk is enormous, and Micheal realizes that he might have a chance of dying in the process. It’s a dangerous journey, but Micheal and his friends are ready to take the challenge. 

This novel was truly a masterpiece. The book contained great detail and was fast-paced, which drew me right from the beginning. This book also kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through, and I can’t wait to see what will happen next. Overall, I would recommend this book to all ages.

Ahmed Q.

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by Traci Chee

4.5 Stars

We Are Not Free

The Historical Fiction/Young Adult Fiction, We Are Not Free, written by Traci Chee, was an addictive and intriguing book. It was also quite unusual. The author featured 14 Japanese American teens during the perspectives of 14 Japanese American characters. Usually, in books that have 3-5 characters, each character has had his/her chapter. I never personally liked that. But the way Traci Chee had Frankie, Tommy, Ike, Twitchy, Mas, Shig, Minnow, Stan, Bette, Yum-yum and Yosh have their own chapters and perspectives. It was a different book. I never read anything like it, but once I started reading it, more and more, I literally couldn’t put it down! All the 14 teens had different characteristics like bravery, artistic, leadership, talent, loveable, athletic, funny, considerate, friendly, humble, intelligent, sensitive, outgoing and optimistic. The story is about all the 14 teens’ lives turning upside down after over 100,000 people of Japanese descent have been removed from their homes in San Francisco and forced into hard labour camps. These 14 Nisei (a person born in the US or Canada whose parents are from Japan) teens gather to compare their perceptions as they are all facing racism and prosecution to pull them all apart. This book is historical fiction directed at young adults, but in some parts, there is crude language. This story is based on all the lives we’ve lost, especially during WWII. I would recommend this book to ages 12 and up. This is historical fiction and young adult. The book deals with the creoles and discrimination and other races at that time when they were treated badly during WWII. Characters do go through some of the hard times in life for the Japanese and other races at the time that were treated really poorly during WWII. It may have situations and events that are hard for some children under 12 to understand. Nevertheless, I rate this book a 4.5/5 star. It’s an amazing read and an emotional read!

4.5 Stars

Hoda D.

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by Jenny Han

4 Stars

Book Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before – Eagle Eye

Written by Jenny Han, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a young adult romance novel. Lara Jean Covey is the main character and a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in Virginia and is very close to her older sister Margot and younger sister Kitty. In a hatbox given to her by her mother, she keeps love letters written to all of the boys that she has loved before – five in total. By writing these love letters, she is able to pour her heart and soul out and release the emotions and true feelings that she would never say in real life. One day at school, Peter Kavinsky, one of the boys she wrote a letter to, approaches her and tells Lara Jean that he does not feel any attraction towards her. Initially, Lara Jean expresses confusion, however, she quickly realizes that Peter has received the love letter she wrote to him years ago. Horrified, she rushes home to make sure the remaining letters have not been sent out, but she cannot find the hatbox. She eventually discovers that her younger sister Kitty had sent out all of the love letters. With all of the letters sent out, Lara Jean must cope with her out of control love life. 

Personally, I found this novel to be quite charming and relatable. The novel is fairly short and will not take long to finish, I was able to finish it within a day. Some may find parts of the story to be cheesy, however, I thought that the book was wholesome and relaxing to read. Anyone who enjoys teenage romance novels will absolutely fall in love with this book! 

Emily K.

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