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Find your next book using our nifty booklists!

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Teen Book Reviews

These a-MAZ-ing reviews were written by the teens at our LA County Libraries. New reviews are posted monthly. If you are in grades 7-12, and would like to submit a review for our website, please fill out our review form.

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An Ember in the Ashes

Sabaa Tahir

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Aanvi

An Ember in the Ashes tells the story of two protagonists that make the most unlikely pair. Elias, a Martial soldier, is faced with doubts about the brutal regime he serves. Laia, a Scholar, aligns with the Resistance to free her brother who has been captured. To help her brother Laia must spy on the Commandant, while posing as a slave. Meanwhile, Elias is chosen for the Trials, a competition in which Martial soldiers contend for the position of Emperor. These two characters' stories intertwine and each develops a connection with the other. I loved reading this book, as the world-building was exceptional and I was left in suspense at the end of each chapter. It is told from two point of views, allowing readers to view the story from two very different lenses. The story offers a good balance between captivating action scenes and complex character development. Each character must make difficult choices and live with the effects of those choices. Impending moral questions form as a result of these choices that made me question what is viewed as "right" and "wrong". There is a romantic subplot, with two love triangles, but it doesn't take away from the actual story-line. Overall, this was a remarkable book with dark themes, heart-wrenching action scenes, and characters that suffer through atrocious circumstances.

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

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Red Queen

Victoria Aveyard

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Alison

To begin with, this entire series was astounding...but it was “Red Queen” that truly struck out as an alluring novel. Set in a segregated world where blood determines your status and fate, Red blooded citizens (who are drafted into a hopeless war) are destined to serve the “Elite” Silvers, humans with silver blood have supernatural abilities that deem them powerful and as descendants of Gods. This first novel of the series follows the journey of Mare Barrow, where she discovers that while she is a lowly Red, her lightning silver power makes her dangerously powerful--and a target. To hide this abnormality, the royalty of the palace announce Mare as a “lost Silver Princess”, and marry off Mare to Prince Maven, where she is undoubtedly used as a pawn to quench Red rebellions. To protect her loving family and to avenge her heart to the King, she desperately dodges the players out to get her to help out with the Red Guard (a rebel organization intent on setting the Silver tyrants down). But in this game of cat and mouse, can she survive long enough to help the people she loves most...and trust the right boy who has captured her heart? Because in this world, betrayal is the key, and one wrong move can cost your life. Red Queen was absolutely delightful to read that left me at the edge of my seat the entire time.

Genre: Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy

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The Book Thief

Markus Zusak

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Christian

The narrator of this astonishing novel is an uncommon and untimely one, the death. The backdrop of the story is the historical time of World War II, when hardships, poverty, and Jewish-hatreds are widespread especially in Germany. The protagonist, Liesel Meminger, whom death becomes fond of during her journey in that period, is an orphan who lives with a foster family that's harboring a Jew, and since the day she lost her little brother and was left by her mother, she became a book thief. She is a book thief, who unleashes powerful words as Max, the Jew her foster family hidden in the basemen, said. Throughout the event of the story, Liesel becomes really attached to whatever books she may see or touch. This was an amazing adventure of a little girl, satisfying herself by stealing books in the painful times of war. This novel really inspired a lot of readers including me.

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Historical, Tragedy

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We Were Liars

E. Lockhart

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Christian

Cadence Sinclair is a 17-year-old girl who survived a horrible accident at her family's summer home two years ago that she cannot remember. The elders in her family believe that their name is a proud one. In that family, no one is criminal, no one is an addict, and no one is a failure. In Summer Fifteen (as in the age Cadence is during the summer spent on the island), a mysterious event happened on the family's private island while Cady was spending her summer vacation together with the Liars--her two cousins, and Gat, who she had a relationship with during that season. Unfortunately, she was a victim of an accident; or was she? Then she returns after 2 years after her accident determined to remember the details, but as the pieces start to come together she discovers not only the painful truth of that night, but a shocking revelation about herself. The things that I really loved about this novel are that it is a contemporary story dealing with pride and honesty and the plot twist in the end is very wondrous and remarkable one.

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Thriller, Tragedy

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Lies We Tell Ourselves

Robin Talley

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Tori

Lies We Tell Ourselves is a story of Linda and Sarah, that takes place in 1959. Both girls are on opposite sides of the civil rights movement. An event that will change their lives as much as they change one another's. Sarah is on the forefront of the integration movement. She and seven other African American students are integrating into a local "whites only" high school, the first of its kind in Virginia. Sarah is starting her senior year of high school, a year that's meant to be full of college acceptances and fun times with friends. But she is met with torment and constant ridicule for her skin color as she becomes part of the student body. Life is anything but fun for Sarah, especially when she butts heads with Linda, the daughter of the towns chief newspaper editor. A girl who is as strongly supportive of segregation as she is beautiful. As Sarah fights for the integration of the school, she also battles with her conflicting romantic feelings toward Linda. This fantastic book takes a realistic view of the integration fight of the 1960's and the still relevant topic of gay rights. Since this is my final review, I wanted to find a great book to end with. Lies We Tell Ourselves was a real eye opener and had me captivated throughout every chapter. Thank you to everyone who read these reviews and have fun reading!

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Lord of Shadows

Cassandra Clare

Ages 13+

Reviewed by Leslie

Cassandra Clare makes a riveting comeback in Lord of Shadows, the second book in her new series, The Dark Artifices. The story of Emma and Julian’s forbidden love and quest to stop the Black Book—a tome of powerful dark magic that could destroy all Shadowhunters—from falling into the wrong hands is enthralling, though melodramatic at times. The novel’s theme of forbidden and unrequited love is not original, and the writing, though still good, is not the author’s finest, since the narrative switches frequently and rapidly from one character’s point of view to another’s. However, the novel has a strong underlying message about the horrible pervasiveness of racism, homophobia, sexism, and corruption in society and government. In spite of its flaws, Lord of Shadows is a book that everyone should read, not just for its fastly moving plot, but for its honesty in discussing the need for a more open attitude in the way we view autism, the LGBTQ+ community, and racial minorities.

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

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That Burning Summer

Lydia Syson

Ages 13+

Reviewed by Samantha

The one thing that keeps coming to my mind when I think of the book, That Burning Summer by Lydia Syson, is the fact that the title is the exact way I feel about the weather here in the Antelope Valley. So moving on, That Burning Summer is the perfect summer read for all you history buffs! Set during WWII, specifically the Battle of Britain, the book is told from the third person perspectives of three different people: Henryk, the Polish pilot who crash lands in a marsh, Peggy, the British girl who finds him, and Ernest, Peggy’s younger brother. The book itself is simple, but heartfelt. Henryk is emotionally and mentally destroyed from his experiences in the war. Peggy sees a man she can help and find a friend in. Ernest, only twelve, is trying desperately to be brave. In my opinion there isn’t much of a plot to this story, but overall, it was a good read. The one thing that did drive me crazy was that I could not find the name of the town Peggy and Ernest lived in anywhere in the book! I might have missed such a minor detail, but I would have liked that information to be a little clearer.

Genre: Historical Fiction

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The Young Elites

Marie Lu

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Kaitlyn

Adelina Amouteru in The Young Elites by Marie Lu is a very different take on the classic dystopian heroine. Having become an abomination after losing her eye in a fever that devastated her society, she saves for years to be able to leave her abusive father and travel to the capital city where she hopes to make a life for herself. When things go south in her escape, Adelina finds herself at the mercy of the government and then the Daggers, a secret organization of people with powers like hers. They decide to take her in, some more reluctantly than others, and begin teaching Adelina to control her powers. But the more control and power Adelina gains, the darker she becomes until she makes an unforgivable mistake that costs the Daggers almost everything. The Young Elites is full of twists that will truly take readers by surprise and keep them hooked until the very end.

Genre: Dystopian

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Clockwork Angel

Cassandra Clare

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Kaitlyn

In Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, “all the stories are true.” Every story about supernatural beings--the fair folk, werewolves, vampires, demons, warlocks--is true. They all coexist together under a tense system of laws called the Accords. The Accords were created by shadowhunters; half human half angel beings that were selected to rid the world of demons. In the reign of Queen Victoria, Tessa Gray travels from New York to London to find her brother and is picked up by the Dark Sisters who force her to use a strange new ability to assist them in a mysterious work. They claim to be preparing her for a man they call the Magister. Tessa escapes with the help of Will, a Shadowhunter, whose wit and recklessness hides a broken spirit. While she takes refuge in the Shadowhunter institute, Tessa meets Jem, Will’s best friend, whose caring heart also carries a secret. Tessa finds herself torn between the two boys as she becomes more familiar with the shadow world and the darkness it hides. She discovers that some of this darkness is directed at the Shadowhunters and a plot to destroy them. A plot that involves her. Clockwork Angel is a beautifully written story of love, betrayal, and magic set to the backdrop of 1870’s London.

Genre: Fiction, Supernatural

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Everything, Everything

Nicola Yoon

Ages 14+

Reviewed by Tori

Everything, Everything is the story of Madeline, a girl that has spent the last seventeen years of her life locked up in her house with only her mother and nurse to talk to. She is diagnosed with an immune deficiency disease which is commonly known as 'Baby Bubble Disease'. But, Madeline's routine life is thrown for a loop when a boy her age named Ollie moves in next door. As they begin IM'ing one another something greater than friendship begins to blossom. Read as Madeline experiences a number of firsts ranging from love to heart break, and everything in between. Will their love be able to tempt fate or even death? It is rare for me to find a young adult story about sickness (the only other I know is The Fault In Our Stars by John Green), but I digress. I thoroughly enjoyed this book seeing as to how it was quite the page turner. Madeline tells her story and you get the unique perspective of a person who knows nothing of the world. You get to see the world as she sees it, a place of wonder and untouched possibilities. As the book reaches its climax, you will get thrown for a plot-twist that is relatively predictable. But all in all, I would have to recommend this book if you are stuck on which book to read next. Also, the movie comes out on May 19th (so now's the time to say you read it).

Genre: Romance