The Westing Game

The Westing Game.Puffin Modern ClassicThe Westing Game

By Ellen Raskin

Review by Kate Boyle

Perfect for anyone with an interest in reading a classic, a Newbery Winner, and a frequently challenged book! Young readers looking for an introduction to mystery novels need look no further than The Westing Game. Additionally, seasoned mystery lovers will also delight in this complex tale. The novel revolves around the last will and testament of a wealthy man named Samuel W. Westing. Sixteen people attend the reading and learn they could become millionaires if they can win a game created by Mr. Westing. Paired off and given differing sets of clues, the potential heirs hunt to find the solution to a game they don’t really understand. No one knows why Mr. Westing would choose these people as his heirs; a group that includes a possible murderer! Continue reading

Raven Boys

The Raven BoysThe Raven Boys

By Maggie Stiefvater

Review by Zoey Mills

The Raven Cycle follows a group of soon-to-graduate prep school boys and Blue, a clairvoyant’s daughter, and their quest to find the grave of the Welsh King, Glendower. Lead by Gansey, the group is certainly dynamic in that each character brings something to the story. I would say one of Stiefvater’s main strengths is building characters.

As I got further into The Raven Boys, I realized that I became invested in characters (some more than others) and I could picture them as real people. Building entirely different worlds in a book is an extremely difficult thing to do, and often authors tend to give their readers an information overload. Stiefvater is extremely subtle in providing the information needed, and her foreshadowing is so subtle to the point where I had no idea of any of the twists that lay ahead. Although some events within the story are definitely fantastical, her writing is so moving and powerful that you can find yourself lost in the world of Henrietta, Virginia. Continue reading

Wolf by the Ears

Wolf by the EarsWolf by the Ears by Ann Rinaldi

Review by Laurie Doan

 Do you love the music from Hamilton? Want to learn more about that time?
Time is running out for Harriet Hemmings, rumored to be the daughter of Thomas Jefferson, who must choose between a life at Monticello and a life of freedom. This historical novel is told in the form of a diary.

Harriet will be turning twenty-one soon and will be forced to choose between the only home she’s ever known and true freedom. The kind of freedom which can only be bought through secrets and disguise.

Well dressed, well schooled, well fed, and well loved. Harriet Hemmings has it all. Or does she? Raised at Monticello, the daughter of Sally Hemmings, she is also rumored to be the daughter of Thomas Jefferson. Thus she is held in high esteem by the man himself and feels in her heart that he will protect her. But he is getting old and losing his money. If something happens to him, what will happen to her?

Would she be sold with the place? Or will the slaves in Virginia be set free? When the Governor of Virginia pleads with her to take her freedom she is hesitant and says, “But you’re going to free Virginia’s slaves.”

He replies, “The pro-slavery people in this state are too strong. Look at my father-in-law. He can’t make his mind up about slavery. Hates it, yes. Says it’s a wolf America has by the ears. And that we can no longer hold onto it. But neither can we let it go.”

If Harriet doesn’t take her chance when her time comes, can she count on continuing to be treated well? Or will she too be caught like a wolf by the ears?

Check availability on Wolf by the Ears by Ann Rinaldi
About the reviewer: Originally written for the LibraryKeeper’s Review of Books, Laurie reviewed this book back in 2009. She serves Tredyffrin Township as the young adult librarian at TPL.

Nervous Conditions

Nervous ConditionsNervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Book review by Sam Sørensen

“Quietly, unobtrusively and extremely fitfully, something in my mind began to assert itself, to question things and refuse to be brainwashed, bringing me to this time when I can set down this story. It was a long and painful process for me, that process of expansion.” 

Dangarembga’s semi-autobiographical novel Nervous Conditions presents Tambu’s experiences coming of age in post-colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The novel begins on Tambu’s jarring, unrepentant confession:  “I was not sorry when my brother died.” Immediately, Tambu immerses her audience in one of several tragedies that drive the narrative. Tambu navigates power structures, difficult relationships, and sexism, which are all competing with the main goal of her own emancipation. The novel proves compelling and timeless by engaging the interwoven oppressions of race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, a lot of the same injustices Tambu encounters in post-colonial Rhodesia, we still see today in various countries. Dangarembga published a sequel, The Book of Not, in 2006, but that requires a review of its own!

Check availability on Nervous Conditions

Are you participating in our YA Reading Excellence Award? Nervous Conditions would be perfect for it!

About the reviewer: Sam S. has worked as a Circulation Assistant for the Tredyffrin Public Library since 2013. She loves writing, reading, teaching, playing with her cat (Gigi!), and finding the perfect cup of coffee.

The Giver

The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Review by Adrien Scott & Travis Johnson

Adrien Scott: Even if you had to read this Newbery Winner for school, it’s definitely worth a reread.  Jonas lives in what appears to be a Utopian society, but it becomes clear early on that it is in fact a very controlling society where jobs and even families are determined by a group of elders.  The story starts when Jonas is given a very special job by the elders, and follows what happens after Jonas makes certain decisions.

Though targeted for a younger audience, the message of the story will appeal to readers of all ages. Continue reading

Circumnavigated Fairyland

Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making book cover

Review by Anna Yardney

Title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Author: Catherynne Valente

“Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog. Because she had been born in May, and because she had a mole on her left cheek, and because her feet were very large and ungainly, the Green Wind took pity on her and flew to her window one evening just after her twelfth birthday.”

I spent my childhood reading C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald and Hans Christian Andersen, but this is hands down one of the finest adventures in fairyland that I have ever come across. While this is ostensibly a book for children ages 10-14 I would recommend it to anyone who has ever enjoyed a good escapist fantasy. This book will make you laugh, cry, hope, and wonder all over again. Catherynne Valente invokes all the charm of Oz and the whimsy of Wonderland in this adventure while turning tropes on their heads and side-stepping every cliché. Be sure to check out the delicious sequels!

Check availability on The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making today!

Did you love this first book in the series? There’s more!

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland

About the reviewer: Circulation and tech services staff member Anna Yardney owns every single book in the series and has no plans to stop collecting them.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger GamesReview by Kate Boyle

This book was originally marketed for teens, but it is now wildly popular among adults and adult reading groups. It is a fast-paced and imaginative view of a dystopian society. America is now a country called Panem, derived of a capital city and 12 (once 13) districts. After district 13 attempted an uprising against the powerful capital, the rebels were wiped out and the capital instilled “The Hunger Games” to remind the districts of the devastation that resulted from the unsuccessful campaign. For 70 + years now, each district must enter their children, ages 12-18 into a lottery. Two are chosen, one male and one female, to enter into the Hunger Games, a televised to-the-death battle which changes yearly. Twenty four tributes enter the games, not knowing what challenges or terrain they will face, but only one can survive to be crowned the winner. This first book in the Hunger Games trilogy introduces readers to Katniss Everdeen’s epic journey of self-discovery.

This book is extraordinarily written, with deep characters that become very real to the reader. We are caught up in the struggle to understand the Hunger Games, as well as the children who are sent there to be warriors. Publishers Weekly hit the nail on the head: “It’s a credit to Collins’s skill at characterization that Katniss, like a new Theseus, is cold, calculating and still likable.” In contrast to Katniss, we also get to know her District 12 counterpart, Peeta, whose sweetness of temper and own personal agenda make him a dangerous competitor.

The Hunger Games is rich with political intrigue, a touch of romance, and a bird’s eye view at what horrors people can inflict on one another for “entertainment.” I personally read the trilogy so quickly that I felt I must have missed things and had to reread sections until I was satisfied. Collins successfully hooks the reader and we struggle along with Katniss to grasp the multifaceted strategies of the games. This book is fascinating and honestly, a little scary due to the fact that it’s not terribly difficult to believe that the human race can sink to this level. A must-read, whether or not you’ve seen the films. Try The Hunger Games, surely you’ll be wanting to read Catching Fire and Mockingjay too.

The films are strong adaptations, giving us a look at the machinations behind the scenes of the dreaded games and well worth the watch!  Casting is very strong, Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect Katniss, Josh Hutcherson is very moving as “the boy with the bread” Peeta, and Woody Harrelson is spot-on as former games winner, Haymitch Abernathy.  Special shout out to Elizabeth Banks as the incorrigible Effie and Lenny Kravitz (you read that right) as Katniss’ understated ally Cinna.

Check availability on The Hunger Games  •  Check availability on The Hunger Games DVD

Check availability on Catching Fire  •  Check availability on Catching Fire DVD

Check availability on Mockingjay  •  Check availability on Mockingjay: Part One DVD

About the Reviewer: Kate Boyle has been a librarian at Tredyffrin Public Library and Paoli Library since 2011. She read The Hunger Games for the third time this year and loved it just as much this time around.  She is on Team Peeta.

A Bad Boy can be Good for a Girl

A Bad Boy can be Good for a GirlReview by Laurie Doan

Who are Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva? And why are they acting so stupid? This novel is a confidential look at high school life through three girl’s experiences as they cross paths with an irresistible “big jock” on campus.

Josie is a jock herself and is confident in all things until she starts her freshmen year. Doubts set in, and big jock knows just how to manipulate her. Nicolette? Well she’s the girl who knows what she wants and knows how to get it. She’ll take her pleasure where she finds it without ever looking back. Until big jock that is. And finally there’s Aviva, the least likely to be taken in by big jock. A hippie by-product of enlightened parents. Did I say the least likely to be taken in?

Just who are Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva? You’ll find out when they discover a peculiar pulpit from which to deliver their new insights on love. Insights gained from a bad boy who in the end probably did do them some good.

Check availability on A Bad Boy can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone today!

About the Reviewer: Laurie Doan is the YA librarian at TPL and runs programs like plays and summer performance art camps.

Gateway by Sharon Shinn

GatewayReview by: Laurie Doan

When Daiyu leaves behind the city of St. Louis she finds herself in another version of the Gateway to the West. In this version, almost everyone is Chinese like herself. She has been recruited to help stop a dangerous politician who threatens the very fabric of Shenglang. Daiyu must first get close to Chenglei which means she must attend the annual Presentation Ball. Thrown into a crash course of manners and dress and formal dances, Daiyu also finds herself in a crash course of love. As she partners with Kalen to learn the patterns of the traditional tiaowu dance she finds herself in a dizzying spin of emotions. When they are separated so that she can go to live with the woman convinced to take her in as her “niece“, Daiyu finds ways to go behind Xiang’s back and meet Kalen at the aviary where he works. As she draws close to Kalenshe finds her old life may be slipping away. In a playful moment, Kalen laughed as he asked her to stay in Shenglang with him.

“‘There’s a thought! You could stay in Shenglang. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about me being lonely after all.’ Continue reading

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for AlaskaReview by Andreana Ferro

Miles Halter leaves home to attend Culver Creek Preparatory High School in search of what he calls “The Great Perhaps.” He becomes friends with The Colonel and Alaska Young who are known for rule breaking and pranks. Miles falls in love with the idea of Alaska, but she has a troubled past. When a tragic accident occurs, Miles must uncover what it means to live and love.

I really enjoyed this book because it was realistic. The characters were interesting and believable. The author did a great job with the tough themes of life and death by creating an overarching motif using religion.
A quote that stood out: “When Fillmore was dying, he was super hungry. But his doctor was trying to starve his fever or whatever. Fillmore wouldn’t shut up about wanting to eat, though, so finally the doctor gave him a tiny teaspoon of soup. And all sarcastic, Fillmore said, ‘The nourishment is palatable,’ and then died. No truce.”—Miles Halter (Pudge)

Looking for Alaska is well worth a read and not just for teens or fans of Green’s other novels like The Fault in our Stars.  This novel won the Michael L. Printz Award in 2005 and is in development to be a major motion picture.

Check availability on Looking for Alaska

About the Reviewer: Andreana Ferro has been an Information Services Assistant at Tredyffrin Library since 2013 and is a Children’s Librarian at the Warminster Library. She enjoys nature hikes, the beach, writing, and singing.