February 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review Kephart’s ‘Going Over’, Han’s ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’, and More

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Jenny Han and Beth Kephart are already big names in young adult literature, but it seems like a rising star is always on the horizon, such as the previously self-published Natasha Preston and debut novelist Lindsay Smith. It’s good to know the YAAC reviewers are just as eager to try someone new as they are ready to critique an established author, such as Jenny Han, whose To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before gets a triple look in this column

Three takes on To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before:

To all the boys I've loved beforeHAN, Jenny. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. S. & S. April 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781442426702.

Gr 9 Up—When Lara Jean’s old goodbye love letters somehow get sent out, she has to pretend to date an old friend so that her best friend won’t suspect anything. But what happens when things get past the point of her just pretending?

I really liked the book but the ending was so open-ended and I hate it when books do that. If it had more closure, I think that I would have liked it a lot more. It was a lot better than I expected it to be from the title and summary. It seemed like just a fluff book from that.

I was most interested in what was going to happen when Lara Jean’s sister came back home and what her reaction to everything was going to be. I just imagined her coming home and seeing everything and just saying, “What do you people resort to without me?!”—Paige B., age 13


Oh my goodness, I loved the book. The first time I opened up the book and started reading, I thought to myself, “Man, this book will be so cheesy and lame.” However, after 10 more minutes of reading, the story really caught my attention. The part that made me love this book even more was the moment when Lara Jean agreed to be Peter’s “girlfriend”—a fake one, designed to get his ex-girlfriend jealous.  At first, I hated the idea of them being together, because I wanted Lara Jean to be with Josh, but as the story continued, I was hooked and started rooting for Peter and Lara as a couple. It was the climax, from my point of view, because that was the part where the story really begins, showing how her life will be changed and how the romance really happened.

Fans of books such as Anna and the French Kiss (Dutton, 2010), or Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys (S. & S., 2006) will enjoy this book which is full of romance and comedy!— Minh Thi N., age 16


I finished the book in about three days, which meant I enjoyed it a lot. I was not pleased with the ending though. However, I like how the author ended the sisters’ relationship aspect of the book on a happier note, I did not think the author did a thorough job with the love aspect.

Personally, I wish the author had done little bit more to show how Peter and Lara Jean might turn out. I sensed that Peter and Lara Jean might end up together but when I finished the book, it was based on a lot of assumptions and I think the author could work on that. How did the rumor turn out? Did Peter ever confront Genevieve for what she said about Lara Jean?

I don’t believe I have ever read a romantic novel where the relationships between sisters are incorporated so well with all the romantic stuff. Since I have three younger sisters, I feel that I can relate to the whole boy drama pretty well. I enjoyed the novel because the main character’s dialogue, thoughts, and actions are very relatable and all the other characters seem real.

The book illustrates wonderfully how three sisters matured through a series of events that brought them closer to each other than ever.— Tho Thanh N., age 18

KEPHART, Beth. Going Over. Chronicle. April 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781452124575.

Going OverGr 9 Up—Ada is in love. She is in love with Stefan, and shows it through her graffiti art, and by letting him escape over the wall. She is in love with a missing child, with a best friend with dreadlocks, and with dyeing her hair.

This book is beautiful and unique! When do you ever read about a graffiti artist who is way cool and not a “bad” kid? The setting of Going Over, Punk Berlin in the early 1980s, has been spun beautifully; it is gritty, painful and lovely. The writing is incredible, poetry in prose form the entire way through. The storyline is simple but emotionally moving. It is beautiful and paints a magnificent picture and hits you in the stomach. Recommended for the arty, the punk kids, the kids into history and romance, forbidden art and escape plans.—Emma, age 17

PRESTON, Natasha. The Cellar. Sourcebooks Fire. March 2014. pap. $8.99.  ISBN 978-1492600978.

The CellarGr 9 Up—When Summer is captured and kidnapped, she certainly does not expect what comes next. Her captor, Clover, also has three—always three—other girls there, all renamed after flowers. Rose, Poppy, and Violet are expected to act like his perfect, flowery wives, and now Summer, renamed Lily, is expected to do the same.

I was very interested in finding out what Summer’s boyfriend was going to be willing to do to save her. I was very pleasantly surprised with how far he went and I thought it was very sweet.

I thought that the book was really good, but it also really scared me and I probably should not have chosen it as a book to help me fall asleep. Now I get a bit freaked out whenever I hear the flower names mentioned. That whole concept terrifies me so much and I don’t even know why I chose that book.—Paige B., age 13

SMITH, Lindsay. Sekret. Roaring Brook. April 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781596438927.

Gr 7 Up—Yulia is a physic. When she is taken away to a “school” for the people like her, she feels caged and hopeless. Her mother and younger brother are taken away from her and she is forced to obey the leaders of the school, even if the things they make her do are against her wishes. With the help of her newfound friends, she must find a way to get out of the school and be free.

SekretThis book was amazing! I absolutely fell in love with it. It had so many twists and turns, in the  plot, romances, and new discoveries. The sense of suspense builds up, exciting the reader even more. I felt as if I were actually there, sharing the feelings the main character felt, her pain, her suffering, her longing. This book will grasp you right from the first page. I could never put this book down. New secrets unfurled at every corner. There was a hearty amount of action in this book, perfectly balanced with a beautiful romance. The history of Soviet Russia in this book is very interesting as well.

The most compelling aspect of the book is the deadline that has been set for a young boy to save his home, which he must do by making an obscene amount of money. It encompasses the lengths someone is willing to go to save their home.

People who like spy books, or books about espionage would love this. If you like romance, you would love this. Personally, to me, I find this book like no other. If you really like adventure, romance, and historical fiction, then this is the book for you.— Sanjula B., age 13


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  1. I love the honest voices of these young reviewers, and particularly Paige who scared herself to sleep. Made me laugh – in recognition of having made that sort of bad book choice myself!