Book reviews: Young Adult and Adult Fiction Books reviewed by NHS Students

Young Adult and Adult Fiction Books reviewed by NHS Students, December 2018.


Carter, T.E. I Stop Somewhere.  Feiwel & Friends, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1250124647.  320 p. Gr.10-adult. P7 Q6

This book was really disturbing, but not because it was some warped horror tale, but because it’s all too true: it’s about rape culture in our society and how acceptable it is.   I really had a hard time reading this because I felt like I was the main character, experiencing all the same raw emotions she was.  I wish the book had a more positive ending, but that’s life.  I don’t know that I could recommend this to others, because it really is pretty disturbing.  Genre: Realistic fiction.


Popoola, Olumide. When We Speak of Nothing. Cassava Republic Press, 2018. $15.95. ISBN 978-1911115458. 256p. Gr. 11-adult. P5Q8    

This novel is tough to read because the dialog and political settings (London and Nigeria) may be so unfamiliar to most high school kids.  However, the topics: police brutality, prejudice, gender bias, pollution, and sexual questioning are universal and current.  It deals with harsh reality (a murder and subsequent riot) as well as myths and is very interesting.  It actually reminded me of Ellen Hopkins’ works, in how direct the prose is, but it is far broader and more interesting.  Genre: Realistic fiction.


Ribay, Randy.  After the Shot Drops. $17.99. ISBN 978-1328702272.  336 p.  Gr. 9-12.  P8Q6

This book is about basketball and friendship.  That sounds pretty basic, but this is one complicated story, with betrayal, hard luck, violence, and love all playing major roles.  It’s told from the alternating perspective of 2 boys, which sounds weird, but it works and the book’s fast pace really keeps the reader interested.  Genre: Realistic fiction (sports.)


Hutton, Keely. Soldier Boy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. $10.50. ISBN 9780374305635. 336p.  Gr.9-12. P7Q7

Every other chapter in this book is the true story of a child soldier in Uganda in 1989, Ricky Anywar.  He was kidnapped, then trained, armed, and forced to kill for Kony’s army.  Through interviews, Ricky actually helped the author write the other chapters in this book, which covers the life of a fictional (but typical) boy named Samuel, who faces the same violence that Ricky did.   It’s hard to read at times, since it is so brutal, but it’s an important message that all high school students should hear. Genre: Historical fiction.

Lawson, Richard. All We Can Do Is Wait. Razorbill, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9780448494111. 288p. Gr 7-10. P7Q

This book is about grief, disaster, and love and how reality can change so quickly.  There’s enough romance thrown in to make it appealing, even when it’s depressing as heck.  Even though the reading level is pretty young, the plot is really complex and the character development is strong.  The only thing I didn’t like was the ending, it felt rushed and incomplete.  Genre: Realistic fiction.


Hurwitz, Gregg. The Rains. Tor Teen, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 978-0765382689. 368p. Gr. 10+. P6Q7

A very violent, intense zombie novel, The Rains is good because the characters are so real.  The whole thing is fast-paced and you feel like you are reading a movie script. Genre: Horror/Paranormal.


Choi, Mary H.K.  Emergency Contact. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 978-1534408968. 400p. Gr.9-12. P6Q6

The writing in this book reminds me of a buffet in a really good restaurant, but right before it closes and there’s only a tiny bit of deliciousness left in each bowl.  There’s a few cute phrases, adorable characters, angsty young adults, a rape, eating disorder musings, and cultural dysphoria – but it’s not really “filling” and the book falls a bit short of being anything more than a touchy-feely romance novel.  Not saying it isn’t good, but it could’ve been GREAT.  Maybe there will be a sequel? Genre: Romance.


Broadway, Alice. Ink (Skin, book 1.) Scholastic Press, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1338196993. 336p. Gr. 9-12. P7Q7

Starting with an amazing cover, this book (written during NaNoWriMo, which is so cool, as I am writing now, too) kicks off a promising trilogy.  The story is about a young girl who learns her late father’s history is tainted with a serious crime. Since all personal history is revealed via tattoos on their skin, there’s no hiding secrets and she has to deal with the consequences.  It sounds predictable, but there are so many twists to the story that it really makes it interesting.  Can’t wait to read the next installment!  Genre: Dystopian.


Rutledge, A.B. Miles Away from You. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1328852335. 272p. Gr.10+. P5Q7

Miles is a pansexual son of lesbian mothers who falls for a transsexual girl, and both of them run an online LGBQT advocacy group.  If that isn’t complicated enough, the girl tries to commit suicide, falls into a coma, and her intolerant religious parents put her on life support. Miles must come to grips with who he is and what he can do to be true to himself.  Not sure many high school kids would understand the situations or complexity of this dark story, but it’s well-written.  Genre: Realistic Fiction/LBGTQ


Nijkamp, Marieke (ed.) Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens. Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 9780374306502. 310p. Gr. 9-12. P5Q8

This is a selection of many different genres of stories, ranging from romance to science-fiction, by 12 different authors.  The settings and perspectives of each character in the stories are very different, but the common thread is that all of them are disabled.  I found it to be positive and affirming and I think other teens will, too.


Day, Anna. The Fandom. Chicken House, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1338232707. 416p. Gr.11+ P7Q7

I really liked this book; I got pulled into the characters right away.  It is so easy to relate to their joy and their pain, and I found myself crying a lot while I was reading this.  It has a lot of violence, and there’s a scene where they infiltrate a brothel.  Probably for mature readers only!


Book review: The Search for TK, by Bobbi J.G. Weiss

Weiss, Bobbi J. G. The Search for TK. (Ride series, #3) Candlewick Entertainment, 2018. $7.99. ISBN 9780763698577. 263 pages. Ages 12+. P7 Q6

Kit’s horse, TK has been taken away because he is dangerous. For Kit, who had to overcome obstacles to ride her horse, it is devastating. The main plot revolves around finding a way to get TK back. As Kit is doing research for a project, she realizes some information she knew about her mother (who passed away before book 1) is not true, which leads to some loose ends and a mystery that might be resolved in the next sequel. The first few chapters summarize what has happened in book one and two. Without reading the first two books the reader doesn’t fully grasp the relationships between the various characters. The book does not have a lot of substance; however, it will appeal to youth who like horses. Though the book is the third book in the series, it can stand alone. The book sets up for another sequel.

Verdict: Since the book is made from a Nickelodeon movie, it may be popular with teens. I found the book shallow and not of much substance.

November 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu, Volume 1, by Natsuya Semikawa, adapted by Virginia Nitouhei, character design by Kuriri

Semikawa, Natsuya. Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu, Volume 1. Adapted by Virginia Nitouhei. Char. design by Kuriri. Udon, 2018. $12.99. 164p. Ages 13+. P4Q8

First published in 2015, the original novel described the food in a time-traveling Japanese tavern and the people who inhabited it. Everyone delighted in the food, even a jaded 12-year-old heiress, and the food, a mix of Germanic and Japanese derivations, is described in detail. The first to find the tavern in the book are two German soldiers who then bring their commander. They are followed by a grifter tax collector who is taken back to his childhood with the nostalgia of spaghetti napolitana. The series adapts fiction in the graphic narrative style of manga and anime characterized by stereotyped huge eyes and soft-edged figures in black and white. Books are read back to front and cartoon panels and right to left.

Verdict: Foodies will enjoy learning about the preparation of the menus, and the detailed characterizations are delightful. Teenage readers, however, may not appreciate its leisurely pace.

December 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: I Felt a Funeral in My Brain, by Will Walton

Walton, Will. I Felt a Funeral in My Brain. Push, 2018. 285. $17.99. ISBN 9780545709569. 14+. P7Q10

On the last day of his junior year, Avery’s teacher reads his extra credit response aloud and says, “‘I really did love the poem, Avery. You have a voice, you have talent.’”  Summer lies ahead, and Avery is now looking at a stack of poetry books his teacher has given him. It holds the promise of him and Luca, his best friend-turned-love, consummating their relationship. It will also give him time to spend with his beloved grandfather Pal. He’s hoping his mother will remain sober and see her catering business succeed. He wants to take long runs and read and write a lot. Avery is no stranger to life’s twists and turns, but he has been able to count on Pal. That all changes when Pal takes a fall that causes his death. This loss rocks Avery’s world, and  Avery’s story is the process of coming to terms with his new reality.

VERDICT: …Funeral… is deceptive and needs a patient and sensitive reader, one who is willing to put the pieces together. It is as much poetry as it is prose.  Laden with references to other poets who add depth to this exploration of grief and coming-of-age, this text requires rereading.  Avery is a gay teen whose desire for honest connection will resonate for teens. He also loves pop music, and Walton uses musical allusions to advance narrative and add emotional depth. He weaves future and past events together seamlessly, always with a grasp of his purpose. This novel is a challenging work of art.

November 2018 review by Patricia Emerson.

Book review: Me and Me, by Alice Kuipers

Kuipers, Alice. Me and Me. Kids Can Press, 2018. 239. $10.99. ISBN  9781525301414. 14+. P7Q7

Lark’s dream date with Alec begins as she has imagined. As she’s living it, she knows it will become a new song for her to perform with her band, one more way to capture its perfection.  Then the idyllic canoe ride on the glassy lake becomes a nightmare when the air is pierced by cries for help. Annabelle, a four-year-old who has been enjoying the afternoon with her mom at the lake’s edge, is drowning. When Lark and Alec dive in for the rescue, Alec hits his head and sinks.  Lark can only save one.  Will it be Alec or Annabelle?  The choice she makes splits her world in two. In the course of this novel, Lark plays out two versions of her life; in each, only one of the two regains consciousness.  The other remains in a coma at the hospital.  In one, Lark continues her relationship with Alec, one that becomes more complex as it develops.  In the other, guilt over Alec and the gratitude of Annabelle’s parents send Lark in a totally different direction. She switches between these parallel states and begins to fray as the world start to overlap. She is not fully herself in either, and before she loses herself altogether, she must find a way to integrate these lives.

VERDICT: The possibilities inherent in “what if” thinking, in the existence of parallel lives, will appeal to mature teen readers as will the important role music plays.  Kuipers uses a rush of water as the way to take Lark from one life to the other, and unfortunately as a device, it is not totally successful.  Her epilogue admits as much when she answers the questions that linger after the narrative has concluded. The writing successfully carries each of the separate story strands, but the resolution lacks the conviction of the rest of the novel. The idea, however, of how pivotal moments define us will appeal to many teens.

November 2018 review by Patricia Emerson.

Book review: Phoebe Will Destroy You, by Blake Nelson

Nelson, Blake. Phoebe Will Destroy You. Simon & Schuster, 2018. 246. $18.99. ISBN 9781481488167. 14+. P8Q7

What’s a teen to do when he has a successful mom, an author and a college professor, who struggles with alcohol addiction and despite serious professional mistakes, keeps getting another chance?  Nick has been in therapy and has a father who supports and loves him.  When his mother returns from yet another stint in rehab, the stress in their house prompts his father to send Nick to spend the summer with his Aunt Judy, Uncle Rob, and cousins, Kyle and Emily, in the small beach town of Seaside, Oregon. His dad is trying to help, but Nick has a lot of unresolved feelings about his mom and uncertainty about what his senior year will bring. Seaside is a sleepy town, unlike Eugene, and Nick’s job at his uncle’s car wash, the Happy Bubble, is a routine that gets old. Nick becomes a willing chauffeur for his younger cousin Emily and her friends.  At a beach party he sees Phoebe, and his feelings change about what this summer might bring.  Phoebe has a reputation among the locals, but that just makes Nick all the more intrigued. He’s going to find out for himself what lies behind this enigmatic young woman.

VERDICT: Blake Nelson creates realistic characters and setting.  Nick is someone high school readers will appreciate, understated and earnest, even as he becomes involved with someone who is clearly “wrong” for him. He is no saint, but he’s trying to be righteous through the confusion of change. Nelson depicts the poignant foible of the smartest people to see only what they want to see as opposed to what is true. Even those with Nick’s advantages are not immune. Heartbreak is difficult to write well, but Nelson succeeds.

November 2018 review by Patricia Emerson.

Book review: The Opposite of Innocent, by Sonya Sones

Sones, Sonya. The Opposite of Innocent. HarperCollins, 2018. 260. $17.99. ISBN 9780062370310. 14+. P8Q8

Lily has always loved Luke, her father’s best friend.  Luke has been a fixture in their family, the man who lent her father the necessary cash to keep his business afloat. Now he’s returning from a two-year stay in Kenya, and Lily, a romantic 14-year-old, admits, “I’ve been in love with Luke/ ever since I was a little girl,” and can’t wait to see him and have him living with her and her family again. Those closest to Lily recognize Lily’s infatuation yet fail to see what’s happening.  Luke is a trusted member of the family, but no one is paying close attention as Luke begins to take advantage of Lily’s affection. Soon Lily finds herself trapped in a situation that she’d thought she wanted and questions her own part in the web of deceit and predation that envelopes her.

VERDICT: Sones has written about a difficult reality with sensitivity and restraint for mature middle school and all high school readers.  In free verse poetry, she skillfully creates a young teen who is out of her depth and shares enough detail to eliminate all doubt as to the extent of Luke’s manipulation and evil intent. As difficult as the subject matter is, the story has too much basis in real life to ignore and Sones has done her research.  The dedication, “For all the Lilys…” underscores her purpose here.

November 2018 review by Patricia Emerson.