The Great Gatsby, by Scott Fitzgerald, depicts the culture and atmosphere of the 1920s in the most accurate way, according to some historians. The classic tale of Nick Caraway, his neighbors Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom Buchanan encompasses the careless nature of the wealthy at that time, which led to the economic bubble of the Great Depression in the 1930s. The story’s centers around Nick Caraway and his point of view on the love between Gatsby and Daisy who both knew each other before World War 1. For five years after the war, Gatsby pursued the American dream, which included gaining wealth and maintaining his love for Daisy. Fast forward to the time when Nick moves to New York and he soon discovers that Gatsby is in love with his cousin, Daisy. Gatsby and Daisy eventually meet again and fall back in love although Daisy is married to Tom Buchanan, who is cheating on Daisy. The drama expressed in these characters makeup the style and prestige of the 1920’s. The themes of class status, the American Dream, and the carelessness of that era. I recommend The Great Gatsby for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and is curious about the culture of the 1920’s.
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Cassidy Emmerich discovers that her boyfriend, Gavin, was cheating on her with another girl and the last thing she wants to do is be reminded of him all summer. Her father and stepmother own a bed and breakfast in Crest Haven, New Jersey, so Cassidy decides to spend the summer with her father’s family to escape Gavin and have a relaxing summer. In Crest Haven, she befriends a group of teenagers while working with them as a camp counselor at the local community center. She especially has a connection with Bryan Lakewood, a boy who lost the use of his legs after a tragic accident and is now confined to a wheelchair. Bryan and Cassidy team up to work on a camp scavenger hunt together and along the way they start to develop deeper feelings for each other. When Gavin shows up in Crest Haven to try to get Cassidy back, she is torn between going back to being Gavin’s girlfriend and taking a risk with Bryan and their new relationship.
Constantine uses the alternating voices of Cassidy and Bryan to share both of their perspectives which gives the reader more insight into the story than if it was told by only one of the characters. Cassidy has a hard time fitting in with all of the Crest Haven teenagers since she isn’t from the area, and teens who have moved to a different place can relate to her in that way. Bryan remains positive most of the time throughout the novel despite his condition, but he struggles with the fact that people treat him differently because he is disabled. He could be viewed as a very inspirational character to those who have overcome a challenge in their lives. This novel highlights the fact that disabled people are still human and that they should be treated the same as everyone else. Both characters have strong groups of friends and family who care about them and the theme of love and support is very prevalent in the novel. Cassidy’s family and friends do not question her judgment when she reveals that she has feelings for Bryan, and Bryan’s friends are excited that he found someone who brightens his life. Anyone who is looking for a unique and satisfying teenage love story should check out The Season of You & Me.
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Penelope Marx wants what most teenage girls want: a dream boyfriend. At seventeen, she’s never been kissed, and Penelope and her best friend Audrey fantasize about what they want in their perfect boyfriend. On the first day of school, Penelope meets Keats, an attractive boy who at first glance seems to embody all of the characteristics of Penelope’s dream boyfriend. She develops a crush on Keats and starts dating him after getting close to him at a party he hosted. Meanwhile, Audrey and Eph, Penelope’s two best friends, start hanging out with other people. As a result, Penelope goes to a fair by herself and meets Grace and Miles, two members of Nevermore, the school’s literary magazine. Penelope joins the Nevermore staff and reads the pieces that students have submitted for consideration. She recognizes one of the anonymous submissions as Keats’s, and she is torn whether to include it since she does not like the story. Keats has also started treating Penelope with disrespect, and hanging out with Cherisse, Penelope’s archenemy. Penelope is then faced with a tough decision: stay with Keats and be disrespected or be without a boyfriend. In addition, her friend Eph is becoming more attracted to her, and she is afraid that if they date their friendship won’t be the same.
Penelope is very socially awkward, quiet, and quirky, which readers can pick up on through her dialogue and her actions. Many teenage girls will be able to relate to the social awkwardness Penelope has when she first meets Keats. Penelope also lives in New York City, and Leder uses her personal knowledge of the city to create a descriptive setting that includes eclectic coffee shops, thrift stores, and flea markets. To go along with the title, Museum of Heartbreak, each chapter has an illustration of an object adjacent to a museum-style description in place of a chapter title, and the chapter that follows reveals why the object is included in Penelope’s museum. That was a unique touch to the novel that connected to the overall museum theme. Teens who like novels that feature friends, love, and heartbreak should check out Museum of Heartbreak.
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When Juliet Moreau learns that her father, a scientist who has been banished from London after charges of performing unethical experiments, is alive and carrying on his work on a remote island in the South Pacific, she sets off to join him. It is not, however, the happy reunion she would have liked. Her father’s work is still shrouded in mystery and the island is populated by many unusual inhabitants. After a series of violent attacks on the residents of the island, Juliet becomes deeply suspicious of the exact nature of her father’s experiments.
Inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter has an excellent gothic-horror atmosphere. In addition, Shepherd stays true to the feel of early works of science fiction such as Wells’ novels and even Frankenstein. Although the book takes place at the end of the 19th century and the experiments described are quite fantastical, the discussion of ethics versus scientific progress is still incredibly relevant.
It was interesting to try to piece together what is actually happening on the island, and there are several truly scary moments in the novel. The Madman’s Daughter does feature the typical YA love triangle; Juliet tries to choose between her lifelong friend Montgomery, and Edward, a castaway she encounters on the way to the island. This was not my favorite aspect of the story, but overall it did not detract too much from the true strength of the novel: Shepherd’s skill in constructing a suspenseful gothic mystery. The ending will definitely leave the reader eager to begin the sequels, Her Dark Curiosity, and Her Cold Legacy, which are just as compelling.
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Cruel Beauty was one of my favorite YA books of 2014 and I have been eagerly awaiting Crimson Bound since I read Rosamund Hodge’s first book almost a year ago. In Crimson Bound, Hodge twists and retells the story of Red Riding Hood. Rachelle was training to be her aunt’s apprentice until she wandered off the path in the forest and was marked as a Bloodbound by a Forestborn. This left her with a choice: kill someone in three days or die herself. Rachelle chooses to live but it is a choice that still haunts her three years later. As her version of penance, Rachelle joins the King’s Bloodbound guard and fights to protect the people from the creatures of the Great Forest, until she is assigned to protect the King’s son, Armand. As she guards Armand, Rachelle is also trying to find two ancient swords that could help her prevent the Forestborn from causing an endless night to fall.
To me, the novel started a little slowly. Additionally, I was disappointed to see that a lot of the plot was taken up by a rather traditional love triangle. Rachelle is such a strong heroine it seemed out of character that she cannot make up her mind between two men. Hodge’s writing, however, makes the story worth it. The story really picked up in the last third of the book and I did not see some of the twists that led to the climax. One of my favorite aspects of Cruel Beauty was Hodge’s descriptions, and she still excels at this in Crimson Bound. The Great Forest is suitably atmospheric and terrifying and it is clear that Hodge got much of her inspiration for the court Rachelle must navigate from pre-Revolutionary France.
All in all, Crimson Bound is a well plotted fairy tale retelling with plenty of twists and a strong heroine, though Rachelle’s indecisiveness between Armand and Erec did take away from the story for me a bit. I would recommend this novel and I hope that Hodge continues with her retellings.
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