May 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review Trailblazing Nonfiction, “Labyrinth Lost,” and More

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The Kitsap YA reviewers take on some informational titles, contemporary YA, and creepy reads just in time for fall, including Zoraida Córdova’s Labyrinth Lost.


COMBS, Sarah. The Light Fantastic. Candlewick. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763678517.       Gr 9 Up–We always hear those awful news stories about school shootings and kids getting killed. We never expect them to come to us, though. Follow seven different people, seven different stories, on a journey through a single day in time, a single day that turns into something no one would’ve expected.

I liked the cover. It was pretty and artsy.  I liked the characters. Getting to know each of them individually was great, and it made the story very fun to read. I also liked the idea and plot, even if it’s really, really sad.

At times I was confused by which section was narrated by whom. I could usually figure it out later on, but it still threw me off a little. Also, all the stories didn’t really go together very well. It jumped around from place to place a lot, and I get that they were all connected a little bit, but it still just didn’t go together very well for me. I also wish the point of the forum has been stated more clearly. I could get the gist of it, but it was never really said what was actually going on and what each person was actually going to do. And Pal’s part in the story was weird. Also the back of the book made the bleacher scene sound really intense, but it just turned out to be really anticlimactic for me. That’s a lot of stuff; this story was just confusing to me at some points.— Zoe D., 13

YA-HS-Corvado-Labyrinth LostCÓRDOVA, Zoraida. Labyrinth Lost. Sourcebooks. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781492620945.   
Gr 9 Up–This is a great book about a girl with magic who doesn’t want it. But she ends up learning more about it, her family, and herself through her journeys.

I liked the colors, which make the cover look appealing. Also, I like how the main character is on the cover, so you can see how the author envisioned the character.

I liked the plot the best. I thought Los Lagos was really cool and well written. The characters and their personalities really added to the story as well, with Nova, who betrays them, but turns out to be a victim of the Devourer.–Kaitlyn H., 14

eve-the-graces_EVE, Laure. The Graces. Abrams/Amulet. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780571326808.
Gr 9 Up–River’s father has disappeared, and she’ll do anything to bring him back. When her mother moves her to a small town, she meets the Graces. Only Summer, the youngest Grace, admits they’re witches, but River knows this is her chance. Not to mention beautiful and misperceived Fenrin Grace….

I really liked the cover. It accurately portrays the witchy theme of the book. The only thing that was a little confusing was that it had symbols in threes instead of fours, like the four elements.

The most compelling aspect of the Graces is the characters and the plot. I formed a strong connection to the characters. The plot was extremely well paced, it wasn’t mindlessly breakneck, but I couldn’t rip myself away; something was always happening. I wasn’t disappointed with this book for ANY reason!

I really like the way Eve used swear words in the Graces. Most books I’ve read either use so much profanity it’s just jarring, or awkward outbursts that are just unrealistic for the characters. Only when I finished the book did I realize, “Hey, there’s actually a lot of swearing in this book,” it was beautifully woven in realistically and perfectly emphasized.–Juliette S., 14

YA-SP-Kurtagich-And The Trees Crept InKURTAGICH, Dawn. And the Trees Crept In. Little, Brown. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316298704. 
Gr 9 Up
–Silla and Nori have found sanctuary from their abusive home, but in a poisoned place. At La Baume, the trees creep ever closer, and madness stalks the house. Desperate to save her sister, Silla searches out an escape, but the key to fleeing the darkness may lie in her own past.

The cover of And The Trees Crept In was wonderfully creepy in certain respects, while utterly boring in others. The title font was rather dull and bland, and the girl on the cover looked extremely Photo Shopped and unfitting. Perhaps without her, the cover would continue to project an air of creepy-cool, because a different font and a different photo of a girl would be quite beneficial to it.

The most compelling aspect of this book is the atmosphere. It’s claustrophobic and haunting and utterly unnerving. You feel every chill and you jump at every creak described in the narrative. There’s a tangible air of foreboding to the setting on the crumbling house. Silla’s fear feels very real, and the minimal cast works well to set up horror, as does the use of common horror tropes combined with a less-common setting of a forest that slowly encroaches on the house. It’s spine-tingling, shivery, and just all around spooky. I greatly enjoy this, especially because it makes the main character’s paranoia seem very, very realistic.

I was highly disappointed in And the Trees Crept In. It was extremely convoluted, and all of its creepy atmosphere couldn’t save it. I saw the ending coming from a mile away, and there was much eye-rolling when I finished the novel. Additionally, the formatting of the novel was incredibly convoluted, to the point where even the excellently rendered atmosphere couldn’t save it. I had intense issues with the “found footage” aspects of Kurtagich’s previous horror novel, and while this wasn’t quite as terrible as that in terms of formatting, the use of diary entries was included in the most gimmicky way possible. I’m quite fond of horror novels using diary entries to provide clues for the story, but this use of them added nothing to the story. They seemed to be there for the purpose of adding creepiness, but instead of making it creepy, it made the novel feel more like bad “creepy-pasta.” Finally, almost nothing was explained. We get some vagueness about a shadowy “protector” who turns out to be a monster. It’s the most insipid way to end a horror novel possible.

I am constantly and consistently disappointed with the quality of YA horror. As a fan of the genre, I tend to have high expectations for the sort of horror I enjoy, and YA very rarely delivers. For people looking to books similar to this, I suggest Libba Bray’s The Diviners or Lindsey Barraclough’s Long Lankin. Or go listen to some murder ballads or Child Ballads or something. They’re creepier and better than this book.—Ella W., 16

lee-every-falling-starLEE, Sungju & Susan Elizabeth McClelland. Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea. Abrams/Amulet. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419721328.                       
Gr 6-9
Every Falling Star is a true story about a boy in North Korea, and how he escapes. It is full of emotion, from despair and tragedy, to joy and excitement.

I like how the cover reflects the story, with the barbed wire fence that gives readers a caged feeling, and the hopeful sunset.

I really liked the characters. Each person in Sungju’s gang had a distinct personality. There was Sangchul, who sang, Myeongchul who acted, and Chulho, who wanted to be a party leader. They really made you feel what Sungju was feeling, whether it was loss, joy, or excitement.—Kaitlyn H., 14           

swaby_trailblazersSWABY, Rachel. Trailblazers: 33 Women in Science Who Changed the World. Delacorte. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399554162.
Gr 5-9–Throughout history there have been many amazing women who have made extraordinary advances in the field of science despite facing immense pressure against them because of their gender. This book describes the lives and achievements of 33 of these determined women.

I do not like the cover of this book. It is not eye-catching and is very generic. It does not reflect the contents of the book at all. The cover shows science as a field of study where people do nothing but use beakers and microscopes. The entire book is encouraging people to look at science in a different way, as all the women described in this book did.

This book is very interesting and encourages thinking in a new way. The cover looks like a textbook. It would be much better if the cover showed pictures of the amazing women that made huge advancements in science and math.

I love how this book describes the scientists it talks about with a very human perspective. Instead of being described as groundbreaking scientists often are, this book tells you what the scientists themselves probably would have wanted you to know about them.  It focuses on the determination and personalities these women had that helped them achieve what they set out to do. These women would smuggle mice through airport security in their pockets, work in unused janitors closets, and watch lectures from the rafters so as not to miss them. I like how the book tells you how strong these women were, and how that helped them overcome all of the challenges they faced. I also enjoyed that it made sure to include what each scientist taught other people during her own life. One scientist had a clock that ran backwards to encourage people to think differently even about what seems ordinary and to question everything. I also really enjoyed that it talked about women in many fields of science, such as the woman who invented windshield wipers. All discoveries are important and all the women in this book had amazing courage. This book is written extremely well.  You can tell that it is directed to a younger audience, but only in the sense that it is written without being dry or impersonal, and it doesn’t assume that you were alive during all the events that it discusses. It does very well in not being caught up in small details about each person’s life, but to get the important facts.

I had read complete biographies on some of these women before, and the author did a very good job of including all the important information about each scientist in just a few pages. This book is very encouraging and makes you want to go outside and see what you can discover. I was not disappointed with this book.—Olivia C., 15

sweren-beacker-onesSWEREN-BECKER, Daniel. The Ones. Macmillan. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250083142
Gr 9 Up–Genetic altering in babies is a technology humans in The Ones are faced with. After using this new science, people soon realize it’s a mistake, but how do they reverse the unfairness of perfect genes? Easy, take away the rights of the Ones, those who have been altered. But this makes a whole new minority group fighting for their freedoms. Cody and James are just a couple in this fight against oppression. Such a fantastic book, READ IT!!!

I love the bold title and how it stands out. The scene of just average people walking around goes with the theme. The small words at the top saying “we are not created equal” is definitely a nice touch. I wouldn’t change anything about the cover.

I loved the author’s writing style! Switching off from different points of view for James and Cody was a nice touch. I also loved the prologue, because I didn’t understand it until. It was a really nice tie-in. The characters were also fabulous, especially Cody. She was always so strong, brave, and tough. What a great main character.

I got really sad when James told Cody he hated her and I was really sad they weren’t going to be together anymore. But then like the next chapter it was if the author had anticipated this and it turned out James did love Cody and he came back to save her. I like happy endings and so this bond was important. The cliff-hanger at the end is annoying, but I understand it. It makes me even more intrigued to see the sequel.—Marianne M., 15

wills-some-i-wanted-to-beWILLS, Aurelia. Somebody I Wanted To Be. Candlewick. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763681562.
Gr 9 Up–Fat-ass, chubs, never Leah, but he doesn’t know the difference. You can be anyone when you’re no one. I liked the way the cover intrigued me and way she said she was silent like a flower.

Leah’s life intrigued me, she was so relatable, so completely human, and she was real.

It was a little slow going at first but then I got really into it.—Rachel F., 15   


I hate to be so down on this book. It definitely has a lot of potential, but it was simply a boring and depressing read.

I think the cover was perfect for Someone I Wanted To Be. It was perfectly melancholy and something about the colors pulled me in. The most compelling aspect of was the setting. The author did well to capture the depressing aspects of Leah’s depressing town.

I was disappointed by the plot of this book. It was interesting premise, but NOTHING HAPPENED. Basically the entire book is Leah moping around. The conflict wasn’t dangerous enough and the climax was just depressing.

This has great characters and setting, but don’t choose this book if you like a compelling plot.—Juliette S., 14



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