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Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

jacket-aspxThis novel focuses on the story of three girls:  Tabitha (Tab), Bridge, and Emily.  These girls are all best friends who vowed never to fight no matter what comes their way.  As soon as they enter the seventh grade, each of their lives begin to change.  Tabitha starts to see the real world.  Bridge has come back from a horrible accident.  Emily changed her appearance.  All of these things make them question the stability of their friendship.  My favorite character is Tabitha because of how down-to-earth she is.  I would rate this book a 10 out of 10.

Submitted by M. H.

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

16068954Len Vlahos’s The Scar Boys is a unique sort of tale—although it was written in the current day, it takes place in the good old 80s. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that, despite the thirty-year time gap, many of its themes and messages stand true today. The Scar Boys centers around Harry Jones, who at eight years old was the victim of a horrific lightning-related accident that both metaphorically and literally scarred him for life. He spent the remainder of his childhood being bullied for his “freakish” appearance, which taught him to hide inside his shell and never come out. This was his policy until he met Johnny McKenna, who saw Harry’s scars but didn’t notice them in the way everyone else did. Johnny changes Harry’s life when he suggests they form a band—the titular Scar Boys—and Harry discovers his true love of music. Music heals Harry in a way that nothing else could, but his new life as a suburban rock star comes with its own set of problems. Harry’s story, written in the form of a college essay, details his journey to find himself and learn to prevent his scars from defining him.

The Scar Boys is a rather solid story with a decent message and relatable characters. I did enjoy it thoroughly mostly due in part to the protagonist, Harry, who had interesting ways of dealing with the world around him. However, I do have a few gripes. The story did seem to end abruptly; the pacing was going well until another climax came up during the last fifteen or twenty pages. I don’t feel like it’s a good idea to have something so impactful at the end of your story, especially when it leads to a somewhat forced happy ending, but maybe that’s just me. The book also used the hackneyed old cliche of the gratuitous use of foreshadowing towards the end of each chapter, which spoiled the enjoyment value slightly. Nevertheless, I would still recommend The Scar Boys for being a generally honest and satisfying novel despite its couple of shortcomings. As an additional bonus, the young adult demographic the book is targeted towards might just learn a little tidbit or two about the 80s.

Submitted by Lauren Leon

In the book there is a high school boy named Harry who is writing a college admissions essay, and is asked to write about the challenges he has faced.  So now, he is retelling his story of how he became confident because of the challenges he has faced.  He starts off by saying how he was in an accident, so people don’t want to talk to him.  My favorite part of the book is when Harry and Johnny become friends while in a big conflict.  It showed how Johnny was different from other people and could understand Harry.  I would rate this book 5 stars.  I like how it the experiences showed how a high school guy might think or act.  I would recommend this book to people who like bands too.

 

Submitted by R. T.

 

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

100 Sideways MilesFinn Easton, an epileptic boy decides to have his own adventures with his best friend Cade Hernandez in order to have a good time.  My favorite character in this book is Finn.  He is a brave, young lad who ends up observing Cade (indirectly) killing their teacher.  This was also my favorite part, considering it was extremely humorous.  The book itself deserves an 8 out of 10, but I would not recommend it to friends unless they are mature enough to read it as it contains curse words and sexual material.

Submitted by Eram Kabir

While many works of literature are about the theme of independence and creating your own path, none do so in quite the same way as Andrew Smith’s 100 Sideways Miles. The story follows the life of teenager Finn Easton, who lives in a small California town with his father and stepmother. Finn has two very big problems—one is that he had a dead horse fall on him when he was young, which mysteriously gave him epilepsy and a peculiar scar. The other is that he feels his entire life revolves around his father’s bestselling novel. A character in the novel is based on and looked just like Finn; leading everyone Finn meets to believe he is the character. However, Finn also has two great things in his life—his best friend, the insubordinate yet brilliant Cade Hernandez, and the love of Finn’s life, Julia Bishop. When Julia moves away from Finn’s town, Finn is utterly heartbroken, not to mention still “trapped” inside that cursed book. But when he and Cade become unexpected heroes while on a road trip, Finn realizes that perhaps he isn’t just a fictional character after all.
100 Miles Sideways is definitely unique. It plays with the fine line between reality and fiction, perception and reality, while still having a lighthearted tone for most of the book and presenting a charming cast of characters. Finn and his dynamics with Cade are funny and sometimes even relatable (an example of this is when Cade embarrasses Finn by making him shop for condoms). I also found the different way in which Finn looks at life to be somewhat insightful. However, the book does have one major issue. The pacing of the book is really all over the place. It starts out by introducing the reader to the world and the characters, which is fine, but then an entire third of the book is dedicated to random misadventures with Finn, Cade, and Julia that does little to enhance the plot besides establishing Finn’s relationship with Julia. While it was entertaining, it left me feeling confused as to where the story was trying to go or what message it was trying to convey halfway through the book. The third portion of the book is where the real plot and climax occurs. Really, you can erase all of the second part except maybe ten pages, and still have a coherent plot that doesn’t go off in some other direction. As I said, this “filler” material was still enjoyable and the events still have some small significance later on, but the fact that said significance/impact on Finn’s life could be summed up in a few paragraphs is a storytelling flaw. Regardless, 100 Sideways Miles is a fun, humorous little slice-of-life story that at the same time has some deep messages. While I did enjoy it, I’m not sure I could recommend it to anyone who gets confused easily, as it can be abstract and sometimes unclear.

Submitted by Lauren Leon

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