April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review “Everything, Everything,” “Teen Boat” Sequel, and More

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.

The Kitsap (WA) Regional Library YA Book Group reviewers tackle new romances, such as Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, Westerns, such as Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, and the sequel to John Green and Dave Roman’s “Teen Boat” graphic novel.

song for ella grayLALMOND, David. A Song for Ella Grey. Delacorte. Oct. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553533590.
Gr 7 Up–
Ella and Claire, Claire and Ella, best friends forever until Orpheus appears on a beach in the rain. Neither of them predicted that love and death would shatter their relationship in this retelling of the Orpheus myth.

The cover for A Song for Ella Grey was unappealing. Certainly, I liked the grey/white/pink color scheme and the way it evoked ocean mist, rain, and darkness. However, the actual cover imagery was sort of bland. If anything, it looked like one of those “drowning girl” covers without the drowning. Unfortunately, the cover went beyond bland to “this is too cluttered and I don’t know where to direct my eyes.” The girl on the cover has a snake superimposed over her, and the title is superimposed over that in an obnoxious sans-serif font. It’s just bland, and there’s really too much going on.

I loved the writing style of A Song for Ella Grey. It’s beautiful, harsh, and poetic. It evokes scenery and song, as well as the inner lives of the characters. The writing makes you feel cold when they do, feel love when they do, laugh, cry, and revel in song. It brings Orpheus’s music to life in a way that bursts off the page, and I loved every bit of it. It is this writing that makes A Song for Ella Grey stand out from other modern-day Greek mythology retellings. Most go for a “let’s show how awesome Greek mythology is” tone. However, A Song for Ella Grey pares away that attitude and leaves us with a story of love, loss, and music, the very essence of the Orpheus myth. It’s absolutely beautiful.

I didn’t know it was possible for a book to be driven almost solely by its writing and tone, but somehow, A Song for Ella Grey manages to drive the entire plot through the writing and tone. Unfortunately, this leaves the characters in a rather tough position. They aren’t particularly rich or well-developed. They’re just sort of strangled by the beautiful writing and sitting there. With the exception of Bianca, (and sort of Claire), they don’t develop throughout the plot. They are rather static, and it’s pretty irritating, because I wanted compelling characters that went with the absolutely stunning writing in this novel. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy A Song for Ella Grey, because I did, but just that save for the writing, I found it completely unremarkable.—Ella W., 15

placebo junkiesCARLESON, J.C. Placebo Junkies. Knopf. Oct. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553497243.
Gr 9 Up
–Audie wakes up every morning still sick from the effects of yesterday’s pills. But hey, if anyone knows how to cheat the human test subject industry, it’s Audie and her best friend (if she could be called that). And all the pain is worth it, her boyfriend, Dylan, is going to love his birthday present!

I really liked the cover. It made the context absolutely clear, instantly. I especially like the words that almost looked like they were scratched into a bathroom mirror. The only thing I don’t like is the “warning” on the spine, where it says, “Warning: take only in recommended doses. Use caution when reading in bed.” It just seems cheesy.

The way that Carleson makes Audie seem so relatable is astonishing. She is in this crazy and uncommon situation that seems completely unrelatable, but somehow you can see exactly how she got there—and how you could too. The second most compelling aspect is the line between sane and mad is totally blurred; you can never put your finger on when you realize Audie is crazy.

Honestly, I thought this book was perfectly constructed and precisely woven to end in a crystal clear ending. Charleston creates a book that will leave you thinking about it for hours and rereading the last couple chapters at least twice. —Juliette S., 13

walk on earth a strangerCARSON, Rae. Walk on Earth a Stranger. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062242914.
Gr 6 Up
–Set right before the California Gold Rush, a strong young girl with an uncanny ability flees the murder of her parents in this well-developed story.

I liked the overall design of the book, but I think Leah should have been in trousers and a shirt on the cover, since that was the outfit she donned for most of the book.

The fullness of the main character was my favorite part. She knew what she wanted, and she went after it, and was not afraid to be herself, while keeping an open mind. She was very real and well-developed.

The ending was abrupt and unsatisfying, but possibly that was because it is the first book in a trilogy. The villain was a bit shallow and vague though, powered by threats and maybes. But, all in all, it was a very good book.—Jessica Y., 14

teen boat_GREEN, John. Teen Boat: The Race for Boatlantis. Clarion. Sept. 2015. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780547865638.
Gr 7 Up
–Everything about this book was PERFECT! TeenBoat, a high school senior, discovers that the Orca Race, an annual boat race, is actually the key to entering Boatlantis. After winning the race, however, he realizes that Boatlantis is not as it seems.

The cover reflected everything about the book. It showed TeenBoat’s main power, and also showed the main villains. The plot was so absurd. It was funny, and everything worked really well. Nothing disappointed me. The book was exactly as advertised.—Thadeus S., 14


Imagine a man that can transform into a boat (like Transformers) and there is a man with a copper mask (like G.I Joe) but he is as rich as Bruce Wayne. And it is all about power to make money. Considering how it was a graphic novel, I loved how each drawing could convey the spirit and meaning of each scene in the book. I was never disappointed while reading this book.—Mark G., 12

drift and daggerKULPER, Kendall. Drift and Dagger. Little, Brown. Sept. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316404532.
Gr 7 Up
–Okay, I want all of y’all reading this here summary to envision yourself in an alternative universe where everything revolves around magic, like 18th century magic-filled world. Got a picture in yo’ head? Good. Okay, now imagine yourself, a person without magic who people refer to as a “monster” or “blank,” who everybody hates and wants dead. So our story begins with Mal, an 18-year-old dude from Prince Island who has been traveling around the world with his thieving partner Boone ever since his best friend Essie told his secret to the entire island—that he was a blank.

Magic doesn’t work on him, for him, or even around him—so basically, you or me living in this alternative universe where magic dominates all. As the book goes on, it will constantly make you draw conclusions that will make you think: “Hey! Being a blank ain’t all so bad!” (but I don’t think you’re supposed to draw that conclusion so don’t tell anybody I told you that).

Anyway, Mal and Boone start another thieving adventure by traveling around the world in search of the shar, which is a dagger that cuts magical people and takes their power from them permanently. If you are holding the shar, their old power works on you. Pretty cool, right? That’s what Mal thought, so he gets his hands on the shar and is going to use it as revenge on Essie for backstabbing him, but then she turns out to not be such a backstabber. Then there’s more conflict of whether or not she will abandon her duties as the witch of Prince Island and go with Mal to travel the seven seas, or abandon Mal and be the witch from Prince Island.

I ain’t going to tell you how this book ends because I had to read it and find out, so I’m spreading the love around and if you want to know which Essie chooses, you’ll have to read the book.

The book was really well thought out. I thought the main character was supposed to be relatable (but wasn’t with me for some weird reason), and the overall idea was a new approach to magic dominating the world and such. It was very detailed and descriptive.

At a lot of the places in the book, even though I could tell the author went to great lengths to provide detail and thoroughness, I found the book boring. I mean, it had a great plot and made constant references to the several main conflicts, but I wasn’t thrilled to be reading this book the entire way through. I guess maybe it was hard for me to imagine how one of the conflicts, being that Mal was a ‘blank’ or completely magic-less, I just didn’t feel like that conflict was so important. Maybe I didn’t sympathize with Mal as well, or maybe there’s something wrong with me, but the book felt kind of drawn out and a little bland.—Sam G., 14

Kurtagich_TheDeadHouse[1]KURTAGICH, Dawn. The Dead House. Little, Brown. Sept. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316298681.
Gr 8 Up–Kaitlyn and Carly are twin sisters and they share a single body. After the death of their parents, mysterious events begin occurring at their school, culminating in a fire and five deaths. Years later, Kaitlyn’s journal is discovered, and suddenly, an occult element is added to this long unsolved cold case.

I despise the cover of The Dead House, but must grudgingly admit that despite its stunning achievements in hideousness, it actually fits the book. There’s a subtle difference between the eyes, and the effect of the trees flowing out from the hair of the girl on the cover is rather nice. Otherwise, the cover is all in a dreary sepia tone that just screams “Look at me! I’m a cliché horror novel!” The house at the bottom is completely unlike anything in the novel, even the titular Dead House, and far from the main setting of an exclusive high school and equally exclusive mental hospital. However, the cover does get bonus points for scaring me out of my skin when I woke up in the middle of the night, turned on the lights, and saw it on my bedside table when I didn’t have my contacts in.

The most compelling aspect of The Dead House was definitely the pacing, which almost saved it from the pile of promising but ultimately forgettable and slightly terrible books. Despite the gimmicky, found footage–esque format of the novel, the pacing clipped along and occasionally kept me guessing towards the end (this is not to say it wasn’t predictable, because ultimately, it really was).

The plot was fairly tightly contained and it definitely had a sense of what kind of book the author wanted it to be. If anything, that awareness and the excellent pacing kept me engaged during some of the more ludicrous moments towards the end of the novel.

The idea of a “found footage” book rarely works, as it can easily come off as very silly, especially if the handwriting fonts don’t match the handwriting descriptions in the novel. This was especially annoying in The Dark House, as all diary entries were in a typewriter font, while the book explicitly described them as being written in a messy handwriting. This kills the mood and fun of a “found footage” novel, and the idea of snooping in someone else’s diary.

To make matters worse, the book actually tries to incorporate found footage by writing “transcripts” of a school vlog project. This is very clunky and does not hold much interest at all, especially when things take a turn for the overly hammy and cliché horror movie.

I’m rather fond of horror, but The Dead House was just disappointing. It was bland, un-scary, and cliché. After reading The Girl From the Well duology, I guess I was just a bit spoiled for quality YA horror. There is none of the subtle creep factor of those novels in The Dead House. Ultimately, while a bit entertaining, this book was just dull and uninspiring.— Ella W., 15

hellow goodbyeSMITH, Jennifer. Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between. Little, Brown/Poppy. Sept. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316334426.
Gr 8 Up
–Are you looking for a book about love? Are you looking for a book about moving on to college and breaking up or staying together? Then Hello, Goodbye, and Everything Between is the book for you. Clare has to choose between leaving her boyfriend Aidan or staying together, but being miles away at two different collages. There are a lot of past stories like a dance they went to, a beach, and much more. The main character’s friend got a little drunk and it was funny when he came out of the police department with black finger prints and a big black square.

When I first got the book I did not know it was a romance book. I’m not really into that type of thing. It had a note on the front so I thought, well it can’t be bad. I did not see that the characters were kissing on the front. I’m not saying it was a bad book, it was not my typical book (I like mysteries). It was a fantastic book!

everything everything_I don’t think a lot of other teens would read a book like this unless they read romance books. But I believe that kids could read all the genres of books if they read them a lot.—Jordie P., 12

YOON, Nicola. Everything, Everything. Delacorte. Sept. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780553496642.
Gr 10 Up–
If you are looking for a beautiful, relatable story, Everything, Everything is for you.
The cover is just BEAUTIFUL. It both literally and metaphorically represents the story, plus it is gorgeous. The most compelling aspect for me would have to be Madeline’s emotional journey. It was so relatable, but also so unique that I just had to keep reading. It was amazing.—Lauren W., 14

SLJTeen header

This article was featured in our free SLJTeen enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a month.

Empowering Teens: Fostering the Next Generation of Advocates
Teens want to make a difference and become advocates for the things they care about. Librarians working with young people are in a unique position to help them make an impact on their communities and schools. Ignite your thinking and fuel these efforts at your library through this Library Journal online course—April 24 & May 8.