Teen Book Review: The Summer Before Boys

The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Review by Anna, Sonoma Valley Branch

The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin is an… all right book. It’s about two girls, Eliza and Julia. Eliza’s mom is currently away to be an army nurse, something Eliza struggles with constantly. As a result, Eliza is staying with Julia for the whole summer. But their friendship will be tested once Eliza starts thinking about a local boy, Michael. It’s a tale of growing up and dealing with hard things, a book about an ordinary girl who makes a few mistakes in the summer of 2004.

I didn’t particularly like this book. I’ve always held the belief that if you’re going to spend your free time reading a book, that book should transport you to somewhere exciting and adventurous. In The Summer Before Boys you read about Eliza’s not very exciting life, and her minuscule dilemmas that are huge to her. However, it did get more interesting about halfway through the book, but even so, it did not make it into my favorites. I would recommend this book to kids with parents or loved ones in the army, because I think this novel would be good for learning how to deal with that.

Teen Book Review

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Review by Fallon, Northwest Branch

When 18-year-old Sophie's father dies, she stays at the family hat shop while her sisters move out of the house to seek their fortunes.  Convinced that she is going to go nowhere in life from being the eldest, Sophie is soon bored.  But when the infamous Witch of the Waste comes in to buy a hat and feels dissatisfied, she turns Sophie into an old lady.  Now Sophie must enter the dreaded Wizard Howl's Castle, who is known to eat the hearts of beautiful girls.

Why I Picked it up: I loved the movie of the same name directed by Hayao Miyazaki. When I found out it was a book, I had to read it!  Although it is much different from the book, I also recommend the movie.

Why I finished it:  The storyline was varied a lot from the book, but was still very intriguing and had interesting characters, although I still do not understand Howl.  But be warned that the author does a lot of foreshadowing and to pay attention to minor details.
I'd recommend it to: People who like fantasy, but it is not a typical fantasy.  It is funny in the dry British sort of way, if you know what I mean.  However, if you don't like English authors I would not recommend it to you.

Teen Book Review: Ship Breaker

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Reviewed by Fallon D., Northwest Library

In a dystopian future, many people are forced into tearing apart ships just to scrape by, and so is teenage Nailer.  He leads a tough life, working hard and dealing with his abusive father, but at least he has a job and can eat.  When a "city killer" storm sweeps through his town and leaves many dead, it also washes a valuable ship ashore. When Nailer and a friend find the ship, they begin plundering it for its wealth, they find a survivor, a beautiful rich girl.  Now Nailer is burdened with decision that could change his life: rescue the "swank" or make profit on the treasure trove from the ship.

This book was really good! It was suspenseful, although it was sometimes predictable and the author kind of hit you over the head with social commentary.  With all the dystopian novels coming out right now, it is hard to choose which ones to read, but this is one of the best ones I have read so far. Nailer's adventure is unforgettable; this is a book you will think about long after you've finished.  

Find out what your favorite YA series says about you!

Find out what your favorite YA series says about you! 

Check out this link for some fun commentary on some of the top books in series that made it on to the NPR 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels list.


I always loved the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede (although perhaps more middle-grade, in my opinion).  Here's what they say:

You’re a smart aleck and kind of a badass — that is, you know all the places where a young lady is supposed to scream for help, but you generally prefer to rely on your sword hand. Also you make a killer cherries jubilee.


If you liked The Hunger Games!

If you liked The Hunger Games

Give these dystopian reads a try!

Enclave by Ann Aguirre
In a post-apocalyptic future, Deuce brings back meat while avoiding the Freaks outside her enclave, but when she is partnered with the mysterious outsider, Fade, she beings to see that the strict ways of the elders may be wrong — and dangerous.

Exodus by Julie Bertagna
In the year 2100, as the island of Wing is about to be covered by water, Mara discovers the existence of New World sky cities that are safe from the storms and rising waters.  Can she convince her people to find the cities in order to save themselves?  The adventure continues in Zenith.

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
Eli and his family have lived in the Compound for 6 years.  The world they knew is gone.  Eli's father built the Compound to keep them safe.  Now they can't get out.  His father won't let them out.

Matched by Ally Condie
Cassia has grown up in The Society which dictates everything:  where to work, where to live, what to eat and wear, when to die, and whom to marry.  When Cassia is Matched with her best friend Xander, things couldn't be more perfect.  But things aren't what they seem in the Society.  The adventure continues in Crossed.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Thomas wakes up in the middle of a maze with no memory of his life.  He must work with the community of people also trapped in the maze if they are to escape.  The adventure continues in The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure.

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting
In a dystopian kingdom where the classes are separated by the languages they speak, Charlaina "Charlie" Hart has a secret gift that is revealed when she meets a mysterious young man named Max.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
After modern science turns every human into a genetic time bomb where men die at age twenty-five and women die at age twenty, girls are kidnapped and married off in order to repopulate the world.  The adventure continues in Fever.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
To free herself from an upcoming arranged marriage, Claudia, the daughter of the Warden of a futuristic prison with a mind of its own, decides to help a young prisoner escape.  The adventure continues in Sapphique.

The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman
Born in the eighteenth year of Enclosure, ten-year-old Honor lives in a highly regulated colony with her parents.  But when they have an illegal second child and are taken away, Honor and her friend Helix uncover a terrible secret about their island and the corporation that runs everything.

Epic by Conor Kostick
On New Earth, a world based on a video role-playing game, Erik persuades his friends to aid him in an unusual ruse in order to save Erik's father from exile and safeguard the futures of each of their families.  The adventure continues in Saga and Edda.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin
After the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts and destroys his city and its surroundings, Alex must survive in a transformed landscape and a new society in which all the old rules of living have vanished.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life.  But ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday, Lena falls in love.  The adventure continues in Pandemonium.

Witch & Wizard by James Patterson
Whit and Wisty live under a ruling regime that will do anything in order to suppress life and liberty, music and books.  They and thousands of other young people are kidnapped when accusations of witchcraft are made against them.  The adventure continues in The Gift and The Fire.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
In a future Chicago, Beatrice must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.  The adventure continues in Insurgent.

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Part of the first generation to be conceived in deep space, Waverly is expected to marry young and have children to populate a new planet, but a violent betrayal by the dogmatic leader of their sister ship could have devastating consequences.

Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari
In a future Manhattan devastated by environmental catastrophes and epidemics, Lucy survives alone until she is forced to join Aidan and his gang.  Soon they learn that Lucy is the target of the Sweepers who kidnap and infect people with plague.

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
In a future where chocolate and caffeine are contraband, teenage cell phone use is illegal, and water and paper are carefully rationed, Anya Balanchine finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight as heir apparent to an important New York City crime family.



Teen Book Review: The High King

The High King by Lloyd Alexander

Review by Fallon D, Northwest Branch

Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper has come a long way since the beginning of the Prydain Chronicles.  After arriving home at Caer Dallben, Taran is at peace…but only for a little while.  Soon, a couple of old friends come bringing devastating news: the powerful sword of Dyrnwyn has been stolen by none other than Arwn, the Death Lord of Annuvin.  Prince Gwydion, the war leader of Prydain, must now journey to take back the sword.  But after only a little while the adventure turns into to something that concerns everyone in Prydain, with Taran and his companions playing a large and dangerous part in.
Being the fifth and final book of the Prydain Chronicles, which stated with The Book of Three, The High King is definitely the best!  This novel was noticeably darker than the earlier books, and the storyline was more complicated and interesting.  "You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." is a great quote by Paul Sweeney, and that was exactly how I felt when i finished this book! It made me really sad to think of the decisions that Taran made and the knowledge that the Prydain Chronicles are over. Fantasy fans will love this series and its characters.

Teen Book Review: Wither

Wither  by Lauren DeStefano

Reviewed by Fallon D., Northwest Library

Because of modern science, 16-year-old Rhine now has four years left to live.  Males live to 25 years and females to 20.  Beautiful teenage girls are whisked away to marry rich land owners in order to keep the human race from dying out, and Rhine is one of them.  Even though her new life is paradise from her rough life in Manhattan, Rhine has only one idea on her mind: escape.

Why I picked it up: One of my friends recommended it to me, and I was unsure about it , but when I saw it was on YALSA's Teens' Top Ten, I decided to read it.

Why I finished it: Even though I did not think this book was good, I wanted to know if Rhine escaped.  I thought the book was going to be more about her escape, when it was more romance (of course, I hate romance).

I'd recommend it to:  Although I did not enjoy this book, I can definitely see other people loving this book, especially if you like books where the world is falling apart.   

You’ve read their hot titles, but check out some lesser-known ones….

You've read all about Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, but have you checked out the awesome series Suzanne Collins wrote BEFORE ​The Hunger Games​?

You've read about Liesel Meminger's adventures with Death, but do you know what Marcus Zusak wrote before The Book Thief​?  

Or what Maggie Stiefvater wrote before Shiver and the Scorpio Races?


Check out this fun article about "B-Sides" of YA literature, for some suggestions of great reads that are a little less mainstream.