We love receiving student reviews here at Penguin Teachers’ Academy! Today we were fortunate enough to be sent reviews for some of our most recent titles. These students are regular reviewers for YARR-A. The YARR-A website is devoted to teenage/young adult books reviews, written by students and teachers, of novels by Australian and overseas authors. We thank them for sharing their thoughts her with us at Penguin Teachers’ Academy and if you have students who are keen to contribute reviews for us, please feel free to leave a comment for us on the post.
Big Thursday by Anne Brooksbank
When I first got Big Thursday I didn’t know expect I thought maybe I would be taken on a journey to the perfect, happy world of Nat and his family. I was instead inducted into the much more real, much more interesting, much more exiting normal world, where there are real problems with real not always easy solutions. Big Thursday is about Nat, an aspiring surfer like his dad once was, just living through high school with his friends. Life was good for Nat until it was uncovered that his dad might have been involved shady work inside his large company which there after Nat’s life became all the more complicated, from being bullied to possibly moving away from his beloved home.
I really like the fact that the story was not all through Nat’s eyes as well as being shown from his point of view that of a teenager. It appealed to me because it came from someone my age as well as showing a side of the real adult world. It’s not the lightest read but for those who like a good hard teen book then I would definitely recommend this.
Daniel, age 12, Canberra, Australia
The Indigo Spell by Michelle Reed is the third book which follows the life events of Sydney Sage, an alchemist. A lot happens to Sydney in this book, let’s just say that there are some dark witches and secret organisations involved, including that of the mysterious Marcus Finch. I have trouble putting this book into a genre because for me fantasy means warrior elves and daring quests by unlikely heroes, however, I’m not sure how else to put it. There is also a strong romantic element to this book, but not so strong that you feel sick. Teen life may also come into play here, but babysitting vampires can hardly be considered normal. The major theme covered in this story was questioning and rebelling against what Sydney has thought she has known her whole life. While the book would make sense on its own, the value of the story is increased by reading previous accounts. Description in this book was used very well and there are still elements of the story that are clear in my mind’s eye. While this book looks large and daunting, it is actually not a difficult read. I would recommend it to girls 11-15. While older girls may enjoy this book I have never been older than 15 so I can’t speak for them. I would encourage girls that read this in upper primary to re-read it again later on, as they would be able to read into the story more.
Sarah, age 15, Canberra, Australia
The book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The Third Wheel, by Jeff Kinney, starts off by describing middle school boy, Greg Heffley’s life. Greg has a big family which includes 2 brothers named Mandy and Rodrick. His parents are really nice, but they are always yelling at Greg. The problem is though that Greg is getting yelled at for things that Mandy does! I think the family is really funny and would be great to work with if I did a movie with them. I would recommend this book to children and young adults. There were very funny pictures in the book that really made me laugh. One amusing moment was where Greg had to dance with another boy because there were more boys than girls at the school dance. Overall, there are lots of funny, weird and fantastic events in this book and I would recommend everyone to read this wonderful book.
Louisa-Jane, age 12, Canberra, Australia
The Son of Neptune is about a boy in his late teens, Percy Jackson. He is a demigod, which means that he is half human, half god. He has ended up in California near New Rome, home of the Roman Demigods in America. This is very odd as Percy is Greek, and the Romans are sworn enemies of the Greeks. Percy has lost his memory and cannot remember anything from his past except for one name, Annabeth. Puzzled, he discovers a prophecy, which foretells that the earth goddess, Gaia, will rise and take over the world. Percy, along with his new friends, Frank and Hazel, have just three days to travel to Alaska and prevent the prophecy’s contents coming true. If they fail, all humans and demigods on Earth will die.
Rick Riordan has written a thrilling novel. I personally enjoyed this book because it combines mythology, fantasy and humour and is also very readable. While the novel is very readable, I feel that the first novel is this series, The Lost Hero, needs to be read first so the storyline can be understood. This novel is an incredible read and book lovers, as well as people who enjoyed the previous Percy Jackson series, will be reading this novel and falling in love with it for some time yet. I personally would recommend it to anyone.
Josh, age 14, Canberra, Australia
Prodigy is the second instalment in the Legend series of fictional thrillers written by Marie Lu. The story is set in a dark, dystopic, futuristic United States and tells the story of June and Day, and how they must make life or death decisions to fight for their own, and their family and friends’ survival. The governance in this story is a monarchy with an Elector Primo in charge. The Elector Primo is horrible and has brought nothing but misery and suffering to his people for years. Unexpectedly, however, he dies and is replaced by his son. With this sudden change comes an unsettling within the Republic; June and Day join with a group of freedom fighters called the Patriots and to help them to assassinate the new Elector Primo and drive the republic into a revolution. June and Day need the Patriots to have any hope of rescuing Day’s brother, but the Patriots will only help them if June and Day try to assassinate the Elector Primo. As time goes on, they waver as to whether the new Elector Primo is the same as his father and whether they should indeed kill him. June and Day must decide …
This book is nearly 350 pages long and I found it a challenge to get through. Also, the complex story means that if you miss something, it can complicate the story significantly. As a result of the length of the book, the necessarily of having read the previous book, the complicated story and the theme of this book; it would only be suited for a select reader, someone at least 13+ and who has read the previous book. I found the complex storyline a drawback. If you are a keen reader then by all means, read it and you will probably enjoy it.
Dion, age 14, Canberra, Australia
Rat flu has exterminated nearly every single animal on the planet. The species in Captain Noah’s Lost World Circus are the last of their kind. This book is about the survival of the circus including Lucy the elephant. Colt Lawless and Birdy his friend take on the task of saving the circus.
This book has a few hard words but otherwise it’s fine. You have to read the whole thing, not just part of it. The story kept me interested and made me want to know what would happen next. I recommend it for both girls and boys, 8 years and older.
Pascal, age 11, Canberra, Australia
Nameless is a fairy tale drama based on the Snow White story twisted with reality and fantasy. Camille is the main character; she is a fifteen years old girl who wants to reconnect with her past and therefore her true identity. The novel details Camille’s arduous and dangerous journey to find out who she is and where she truly belongs. Camille starts to show the physical scars of her childhood to her best friends Ruby and Ellie and her adoptive brother Nico. Keeping her scars hidden underneath her school uniform until the mysterious Tor arrives and he has scars of his own to share.
Nameless will appeal to adolescent teenagers, particularly girls. Although the novel has explicit language but in context, the use of language is appropriate and not over used. Throughout this novel many controversial issues arise. Early in the novel we discover Camille was an orphan found on the snowy road and adopted by Papa Vultusino and is raised with his son Nico.
I enjoyed the novel. The creativity used to make the story come alive in its own unique way and the way the author has twisted reality and fantasy without confusing the reader. The novel is well presented; with a story or parable which is applicable to modern day adolescent teenagers. The cover would appeal to teenagers and doesn’t give the story away but it makes you interested in the book. The writing is a reasonable size, easy to read and written in such a way that the reader is drawn into a word of imagery and mystery. I would recommend this book to high school girls from twelve years to sixteen years old.
Skylar, age 12, Canberra, Australia
This great realistic novel shares with the reader exactly what it was like to grow up in Carlton in 1956. This is a fabulous read that I strongly recommend for children aged 9-11 years old, especially if you love books that really let you relate to the character.
Lina is a young Italian girl who now lives in Carlton, Melbourne. She loves writing and tries hard to follow her strong dreams. She wins a scholarship at an expensive girls’ school and to fit in she must keep her home life a secret. A tale of friendship and secrets, this is a great before bed read.
I loved this book because I found it easy to relate to the characters. The only problem I had with this book was that I couldn’t find a clear complication or resolution. Apart from that I found this a great read and I strongly recommend this to anybody who likes a realistic book.
Megan, age 11, Canberra, Australia
The book Meet Ruby by Penny Matthews is an interesting story with drama and sadness. It is part of the Our Australian Girl series. The book is set in 1930 and there was a little girl named Ruby and her life was turned upside down by the Great Depression. She went from very rich to poor.
The beginning of this book was very enjoyable but as a read on I got scared about what might happen. Even though I was scared I wanted to read more and now I am looking forward to book two. I also would like to see what happens to the other girls in the other books from different times. This book would appeal to girls from 8 to13 years. It was pretty easy to read and understand. I rate this book 4½ stars out of 5.
Lelia, age 11, Canberra, Australia
Tim Sinclair’s Run is a story about one teen boy on the run from the world. Dee, a parkour fanatic and his friend Jess live in a city ruled by two worlds, everyday life and the adrenalin-filled parkour fantasy. Then one day Dee’s two worlds collide as he gets tricked and threatened in strange events featuring one mysterious stalker and an iPod. Dee must run from everything he knows and with the help of Jess, work out what must be done to escape death.
This book is a brilliant cliff-hanger which will have you hooked until the last page. When I read Run, the thing that really caught my eye was the use of effects such as word shaping on each page and the descriptive language, both of which make you feel like you are in Dee’s situation and world.
I would recommend this book to 13-18 year olds who like adventure and books that let you escape your world with each turn of the page. Run is a good read with lots of action and surprise. Well done to Tim Sinclair!
Sally, age 13, Canberra, Australia
I think the book Beautiful Creatures written by Kami Garcia and Margret Stohl is an excellent book. It’s about a boy named Ethan Wate and a girl named Lena Duchannes (it rhymes with rains). It is a touching romance and an exciting fantasy.
Lena and Ethan become bound by together by a deep, powerful love. But Lena is cursed and, on her sixteenth birthday, her fate will be decided. Ethan never saw it coming.
As you see it is a really great book though I thought the text could have been a bit bigger. The words, however, were very well chosen and imitated the accents of the people well and explained the theory of the magic. The design of the book, including the family trees and the font, was amazing. I recommend this book to younger readers and adults, or people who love romance novels. To sum it all up, the characters, the themes and the words were all amazing.
Dayton, age 12, Canberra, Australia
Scarlet is the second book in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, continuing Cinder’s exciting story, as she struggles to evade the evil lunar queen, and battle with her own emotions for Emperor Kai. This book also introduces a new character, Scarlet, into the series, who adds another layer of excitement and romance to the book as she searches for her missing grandmother, and finds herself falling for the mysterious street fighter who has just entered into her life.
I thought it was very easy to get drawn into, and the introduction of a whole new character made it much easier to follow if you haven’t read Cinder. The author has managed to weave the stories around classic fairy tales which I think added to the beauty of the series, without making it cliché. I think it would be most suitable for girls ages 11 and up, and because details from the previous book are covered early on in Scarlet, it is easy to understand without reading Cinder.
Miriam, age 14, Canberra, Australia
With the combined talents of Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood how could The Treasure Box ever have been anything short of spectacular? The story begins…”when the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.” Peter and his father flee their war-ravaged city with very little. The only thing Peter’s father saves is a book wrapped lovingly and placed in an iron treasure box. His father explains that this book is, ‘rarer than rubies, more splendid than silver, greater than gold’.
Margaret Wild’s carefully selected words provide the reader with a powerful and uplifting story which highlights the devastation of war and human resilience. The story is beautifully complemented by the superb illustrations of Freya Blackwood. She has used a range of paper cutting techniques to help create depth in her illustrations. The greys and browns in the first half successfully adds to the mood. As the story moves on and Peter returns to reclaim the treasured book, Blackwood adds to her colour palette to include blues and greens to symbolize the return of hope. I absolutely loved this book and look forward to sharing it with others. The Treasure Box successfully reminds us about the importance of stories, past and present.
Kylie, Canberra, Australia