Fourth Friday – July 2020 That was a surprise!

monthly book listThe words “avalanche” and “July” don’t usually go together, but then again this is 2020, and there are lots of things that “didn’t used to …”

I am used to having a handful of teen volunteer reviewers during the summer. They are looking to meet community service requirements, and we have a long list of books we want to introduce to parents and kids.

Well, this year, we received than 100 volunteer applications, and 40 volunteers signed on to review books for us. And not just teens – grad students, grandparents, parents, retired teachers. I’m exhausted and thrilled all at the same time!

Needless to say, lots of readers means lots of reviews – more than 100 if we were counting. Rather than cherry pick a couple here and there, I have decided to share a very special set of reviews:

4 books that surprised their readers!

Not plot twists, just pure reading enjoyment. These are books the teens picked to read and surprise! they liked it more – a lot more! – than they thought they would. In one case, the book has inspired the reader to learn more about a different culture!

If these books can do this for our reviewer, maybe they can excite your reader, too.

counting by sevensCounting by 7s
written by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Puffin, 2014

diverse characters, friendship, realistic fiction, death/loss/grief

Ages: 11 and Up

Review Tagline: Give this to yourself AND a friend.

Willow Chance (12) is a highly gifted girl who lives with her adoptive parents Jimmy and Roberta. There is no one else she connects with or trusts. After being accused of cheating on a test (she didn’t), Willow begins meeting with a school counselor. Because of these appointments, Willow begins to make new friends. When her adoptive parents are killed in an accident, these friends help Willow find a home and heal emotionally.

Teen Review Excerpt: I love this book and would suggest it as a gift! It will touch your heart.  Willow reminds us that being considered “abnormal” is not something to be ashamed of, it is something to embrace. Since Willow is in middle school, that is most likely audience. However, because of the beautiful messages and themes in this book, it can – and should – be recommended to all ages. No matter what your age, you can learn from this heartwarming novel.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

epic fail arturo zamora pablo cartayaThe Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
written by Pablo Cartaya
Puffin, 2018

coming of age, diverse characters, family, self esteem, realistic fiction

Ages: 10 and Up

Review Tagline: Heartwarming, uplifting … a real gem!

Arturo Zamora (13) is expecting a typical, hot summer in Miami: paying basketball with his best fiends and shopping for new shoes to play in. Not this year. First, he has to help out at La Cocina de la Isla, his family’s restaurant and a neighborhood institution, because his grandmother (owner) is sick. Then the beautiful Carmen moves into their apartment complex. But that’s not all. Arturo and Carmen learn that a rich businessman plans to build a high rise right where the restaurant is. With his feelings for Carmen deepening, and his anger at Wilfido growing, Arturo has got to find a way to muster the courage and keep himself together – or risk losing everything that matters to him.

Teen Review Excerpt:  This is a beautiful story about family, friendship, and love.  It’s also pretty funny. I love how wonderfully Cuban and Hispanic cultural values are woven into the story. It made the background of the story much more understandable and presented many interesting topics I want to learn more about.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

friends with boys faith erin hicksFriends with Boys
written by Faith Erin Hicks
Square Fish Books, 2015

coming of age, friendship, graphic novel, realistic fiction

Ages: 11 and Up

Review Tagline: So real I wanted to jump into the book myself.

Maggie has been homeschooled by her mother for most of her life. Now that it’s time for her to start high school, she’s terrified. When Maggie looks to her older brothers and father for moral support, she finds that they are dealing with their own problems. Despite a rough start, Maggie befriends Lucy and Alistair, both of whom are a bit of an outcast at school. Together they help Maggie feel more welcome. But no one seems to be able to help with the strange ghostly lady that haunts her everywhere she goes.

Teen Review Excerpt: I wasn’t expecting Friends with Boys to take me by storm. I went in thinking it would be a typical coming-of-age novel, but that isn’t all of what happened. Thank goodness for that. This well written and illustrated graphic novel is an absolutely relatable, riveting read! It is heartwarming to see Maggie learn to let go of the past and grow to accept her family and friends as they are. I also really enjoyed the subplot with the ghost as it definitely gave the novel a sweet supernatural twist.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.


carry on rainbow rowellCarry On!
written by Rainbow Rowell
Wednesday Books, 2017

diverse characters, fantasy, relationships, magic, romance

Ages: 15 and Up

Note: The plot contains profanity, sexual situations, and mild violence.

Review Tagline: “Borrowed it first, but loved it so much I bought it!”

Simon Snow (18) is in his final year at the Watford School of Magicks. For the last eight odd years they have been at Watford, Simon is convinced that his roommate, Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch (not so affectionately known as “Baz”) has been trying to kill him! When Baz fails to show up for school this semester, Simon is convinced something is wrong. With the help of his best friend Penelope, his girlfriend Agatha, and his mentor the Mage, Simon is determined to get to the bottom of the Baz business

Teen Review Excerpt: I enjoyed this book very much! I expected to enjoy this book, and ended up loving it. I was a little surprised with how much I enjoyed it. There are so many interesting layers to it that I did not expect it to have going in, and it truly was a treat to uncover them all. Carry On will remind readers of Harry Potter. That being said, this book is distinctively NOT Harry Potter; Carry On maintains its own sense of uniqueness, with a vastly different plot. It is also multi-perspective which adds depth to the story.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

2 responses to “Fourth Friday – July 2020 That was a surprise!

  1. I so enjoy your blog–especially today because you have helped so many people use their time wisely this summer to review books in order to obtain service hours and/or just to have more of a ‘purpose’. I think the lack of ‘purpose’ every day has really been difficult for many this season. It’s a good avalanche, and with so many schools deciding it is best to stay remote, kids will have more time on their hands. So I hope ‘sitting down to read’ will be on the increase. Thank you!!

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Lori. You are right about a lack of “purpose.” Seeing the kids engage with books has helped rejuvenate my love of reading, too!

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