November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review Alice Pung’s “Lucy and Linh,” Historical Fiction, and More

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Our resident teen reviewers cover a bunch of September 2016 YA releases, including Matt Phelan’s latest graphic novel and the plot-twisting Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung.

dancing-in-the-rainHRDLITSCHKA, Shelley. Dancing in the Rain. Orca. Sept. 2016. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781459810655.          
Gr 8 Up–
Brenna lost her mom to cancer and her sister took a turn for the worst. Can Brenna fix her life with the help of Aussie trams or will it go off the deep end for good? I loved the cover. People say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I totally do. In the background up top is a mountain range, which depicts Bear Mountain, where the main characters met. There are two trams, one going down and one going up, where they would meet in the middle. This was totally reflecting the book. Ryan is a trammie and Brenna is a volunteer on the mountain. They meet on the trams.

The book was so good, it’s hard to find any fault with it. The characters were so amazing and I was so sad when one of them left the book. I was disappointed with the ending. I was hoping for an ending with a reunion. Maybe this shows there will be a sequel?—Emma B., 14

girl-on-a-planeMOSS, Miriam. Girl on a Plane. HMH. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544783997.              
Gr 7 Up
–Fifteen-year-old Anna is flying alone on a plane back to boarding school when her plane is hijacked by Palestinians. The plane is taken down to land in the Jordanian desert and dynamite is strapped to it. While wondering if they will ever see their families again, the passengers onboard begin to understand the situations of events that could cause someone to become a hijacker.

I do not like the cover. The cover makes the story of a hijacking look like a romance novel. It does not demonstrate the struggles that the main characters go through as they try to survive or the difficulty they face as they try and figure out what kind of person they are going to be if they returned safely home.  It also does not represent the decades of hard times that led the hijackers to justify killing planes full of innocent people.

One of the most compelling aspects of the book is that it is based on a true story. The fact that the author experienced a hijacking as a young girl very similar to the one she writes about gives the book details that are very original. Another aspect that is very intriguing is how the hijackers are portrayed. Instead of cruel and brutish, most of the hijackers act as they do because they think it is their only remaining option. They lost everything, and they decided that committing such an extreme act was the only way the get the world to notice them. It was a unique aspect of their character that is not often examined.

This book is less intense and dramatic than I had been expecting. Although it is not slow, it could have shown the emotions of the people on the plane more acutely. Most of the people on the plane are very calm. I had been expecting more people to panic, maybe even try and escape. Everyone is scared and uncomfortable. The reason why people are remaining calm should be made clearer in the story.–Olivia C., 15

MG-GN-Phelan-Snow WhitePHELAN, Matt. Snow White. illus. by author. Candlewick. Sept. 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780763672331.
Gr 4-8–We’ve all heard of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” but here’s a new story about Samantha White, a girl living in New York City in the pre-Depression era, who finds herself living alone with her evil stepmother after her father’s sudden death.

I liked the cover. The font used was very cool.

I really enjoyed the pictures in this graphic novel. Even seeing them only in black and white, they’re very beautiful and unique, and they’re fairly easy to understand. I’m excited to see how they look with color as well! I also really enjoyed the story, for it gave a classic fairy tale a little sprinkle of real life.

Sometimes, it was hard to follow what was happening in the pictures, but that was about it!—Zoe D., 14 

Vassa in the Night by Sarah PorterPORTER, Sarah. Vassa in the Night. Tor Teen. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765380548.          
Gr 9 Up
–This is a super great book about what happens when night is captured and torn apart. I liked how the font, colors, and design really blended well. The cover reflects the contents well with the night background and swan.

I really liked the characters and plot. Vassa was an interesting character, and you could really see how she developed as the story went on. I also really liked Erg, and while it made sense and gave the story a good ending that (SPOILER ALERT) she dies, it’s also really sad. The plot was what also drew me in. It kept the story going, and really reeled me in. Overall, it’s a great story.

I thought it was a little unbelievable how understanding Chelsea is. At first she didn’t seem like she liked Vassa much, but at the end, it’s like their best friends, just because she disappeared for a couple days.–Kaitlyn H., 14

the-cabin_PRESTON, Natasha. The Cabin. Sourcebooks Fire. Sept. 2016. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781492618553.           
Gr 9 Up
–Mackenzie’s two friends are murdered while she and her group of friends are spending the night in a vacation cabin. The evidence shows it must have been one of them. Who can she trust? Her friends she’s had for years, or Blake, a new guy who tagged along that she’s fallen for? With romance, mystery, and danger, this is one book you shouldn’t miss.

I like how all of Preston’s covers are one theme—sort of dark/creepy with a flower. I think the cover pops, especially with that spider cobweb red rose. It reflects the contents with the cabin in the background, which is pretty much the setting where the story begins. I loved the mystery, and how we were playing detective along with Kenz (the main character). I didn’t know who the murderer was until the very end. And even then with the major plot twist, during what seemed to be the resolution, I learned that the murderer was actually someone I never expected.

Not disappointed at all! I am a little curious as to why the book would end with a major plot twist. I understand that it’s sort of a hook for the sequel, but I wonder if stopping Megan’s scheme will be substantial enough to make up a whole other book.—Marianne M., 15

PUNG, Alice. Lucy and Linh. Knopf. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399550492.     
Gr 8 Up
–This book is great because it shows what small, less-fortunate town life is like, especially living near a bigger, better town. The struggle for Lucy, the main character seems real, and the ending is very unexpected.

The cover definitely reflected the content. I like that the cover is simple and the title is not too hard to read or understand. The front is simple and reflects the book well. I loved that it was written in letter format. And it seemed like Lucy, the main character, was talking to me. Lucy reflects on past events but fills you in on them at the same time. It really makes it feel like she is writing a letter. I was not too disappointed in any area. The book wasn’t my usual style, but I liked it anyways.—Madeline W., 14             .

YA-HS-Pung-Lucy and LinhANOTHER TAKE

Lucy is the daughter of Chinese immigrants, she is incredibly ambitious and when she accepts a scholarship to the prestigious girls school, Laurinda, she can’t help but be caught up in the social hierarchy ruled by the Cabinet, a rich and popular trio. Linh is strong willed and doesn’t let anyone talk down to her. She is the girl Lucy wants to be, and Lucy’s last link to her old life.

The simplicity of the cover had both an aesthetic appeal and portrayed the themes of the book accurately. The uniform made it clear this book took place in a private school.

Pung’s writing style is the most enthralling aspect of the novel. Lucy’s voice is compelling and true. It is easy to identify with her and her feelings regarding the Cabinet and the school. As a narrator, she was successful in telling the story in a simple but interesting manner. Her observations about students and teachers were raw and insightful. Having the narrative presented as letters to Linh was clever and effective. Additionally, the characters were realistic and true. Lucy’s observations about the socioeconomic divide and racism in her school and town were delicately handled, raw, and very well written. This is an excellent read, and an important one too.

Lucy and Linh was thoroughly enjoyable. However, for most of the novel I was confused about the identity of Linh. Once I neared the end and her identity/relationship with Lucy was revealed, I had no further issues.—Elsie C., 15

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