Book reviews: The You I’ve Never Known, by Ellen Hopkins

Hopkins, Ellen. The You I’ve Never Known. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2017. 608p. $18.99. ISBN: 978-1481442909. Gr. 9-adult. P9 Q9

It is unreal how this author can pack so much character and emotional energy into her books through such sparse prose/poetry. I have read all of her books now and this one is one of my favorites. It is unusual for her, in that it doesn’t revolve around a single theme (like prostitution or drugs) but centers on the very complex lives of two teens who face the lies and delusions of their parents in similar ways.  There are themes woven into this book (homosexuality, kidnapping, predation) that might make some readers squeamish, but any Hopkins fans should be used to this by now.  The characters are really inspiring but they are far from perfect, which makes them relatable.

April 2018 review by NHS student.


Book review: Spontaneous, by Aaron Starmer

Starmer, Aaron. Spontaneous. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2016. 368p.  $17.98. ISBN: 978-0525429746. Gr.9-adult.  P7 Q6

In this darkly humorous, weird book students in a senior class keep exploding. After a few people blow up, they close the school while the FBI tries to figure out what is going on, quarantining the entire class and testing them extensively.  Snarky senior Mara and her friends get involved in trying to help out and they believe it’s all a government conspiracy.  The story is funny but really hard to follow and there’s no real end to the book. Despite that, I enjoyed reading it because Mara is so sarcastic and her comments are really relatable. P7 Q

April 2018 review by NHS student.

Book review: Behind Closed Doors, by Miriam Halahmy

Halahmy, Miriam. Behind Closed Doors. Holiday House, 2017. 208p. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0823436415. Gr. 9+. P6 Q8

Josie and Tasha are from the opposite ends of the economic spectrum and don’t socialize at school. Tasha’s mom has a boyfriend who is trying to lure Tasha, and Josie is trying hard to intervene with her mom’s hoarding.  One night, after Josie’s mom is in jail, Tasha leaves her dangerous situation and moves into Josie’s crowded house. Suddenly, they find themselves stuck in similar situations and they need each other’s support.  This book was very relatable to me and gave me insights into real situations kids face every day. Though it was hard to read at times, the book ends on a positive note and shows how important friendship is.

April 2018 review by NHS student.

Book review: Lone Stars, by Mike Lupica

Lupica, Mike. Lone Stars. Philomel Books, 2017. 240p. $17.99.  ISBN: 978-0399172809. Gr. 7-9. P6 Q8

This book is about Clay, a young boy who overcomes his fear of playing football.  He and his friend Maddie also take time to help the coach (a former Dallas Cowboys player) cope with traumatic brain injuries he suffered while playing pro football.

Verdict: I liked this book; it’s an easy read that will appeal to anyone who is interested in sports.

April 2018 review by NHS student.

[Editor’s note: Other reviewers noted that, unlike other books by Mike Lupica, the sports action sometimes takes a back seat to emotional issues off the field. Unfortunately, the decision to have the children hide the coach’s symptoms may also hide some of the effects of cumulative brain traumas.  This new book by a well-known sports writer brings awareness to a growing problem for school and professional football programs.]

Book review: Stranded, by Melinda Braun

Braun, Melinda. Stranded. Simon Pulse, 2016. 288p. $10.99.  ISBN: 978-1481438209. Gr. 9+. P7 Q7

Seventeen-year-old  Emma goes on a hiking trip along with six other people.  While on the hike, a storm hits where the hikers are camped out for the night, killing two of the teens and the guide.  Now Emma and the last three hikers have to survive in the forest and find their way back to safety.

Verdict: I liked this book because it was so realistic; the characters had dimension and were believable.  It was refreshing to read a “teen” book that didn’t demean the adventure by adding romance.

April 2018 review by NHS student.

Book review: A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White., by Barbara Herkert, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Herkert, Barbara. A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White. Illustrated by Lauren Castillo  Christy Ottaviano Books, 2017. $18.99 ISBN: 9781627792455. Unpaged. Gr. K-2. P7 Q10

This exquisitely written and beautifully illustrated book, written by Newport author Barbara Herkert, introduces the author of Charlotte’s Web to young readers.  E.B. White’s early childhood was filled with explorations of nature and interactions with all sorts of animal life, including a “bold mouse” who later became famous as Stuart Little.   Readers will be captivated by this sweet tale, which shows how adult E.B. (now Andy, editor at The New Yorker) moved his young family to a farm in Maine, where he became inspired to write his famous children’s books.  This book would be an excellent introduction to a classroom reading of his chapter books.  Also contains a brief biography and bibliography.

March 2018 review by N.H.S. students, edited and compiled by Liz Fox.

Book review: When They Call You a Terrorist: a Black Lives Matter Memoir, by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

Khan-Cullors, Patrisse and Asha Bandele. When They Call You a Terrorist: a Black Lives Matter Memoir.  “Advance reader’s edition.” St. Martin’s Press, [released January 16, 2018]. [272 pages]. $24.99. ISBN 9781250171085. Ages 14-up. P8Q8

Activist Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, explores racism in the structure of American society by revisiting her younger life in racially segregated suburban Los Angeles.  Contrasting the treatment of students in schools in a racially segregated  neighborhood with treatment of students in the nearby largely white, upper class school she attended points out the many ways that dominant society structures itself to keep minorities poor and incarcerated.  Stories about police and prison abuse of her schizophrenic brother bring a human side to what is more and more often the stuff of headlines.  Weaving a highly effective analysis of the lack of social justice and the active use of force against minorities with her personal, lived experiences makes this memoir memorable.

Verdict: This memoir comes at a time when structural racism is coming to awareness of all Americans.  Khan-Cullors repeats some of her stories, often to illustrate slightly different aspects of societal problems, and uses her life to humanize what would otherwise be a polemic.  This work not only reflects the life of an articulate black woman, but can also be a window into the effects of structural racism and economic inequality for white students. I hope that future books will talk more about the Black Lives Matter movement and her community building activities. Highly recommended for high school and public libraries.

May 2018 review by Jane Cothron.