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Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

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Beauty Queens. Beautiful, poised, and perfect. Or are they more? When several teen beauty queen contestants crash-land on a desert island, they are lost as to what to do. Fight for survival and rescue, or continue practicing for the pageant? Keep up a facade, or let their true colors show through?

One of the strengths of the novel is the female teen characters.  Many of them are very diverse with different ethnicities, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Furthermore, the way their personalities are gradually revealed as the novel progresses is very well done.

Another slight bit of strength is the use of satire in the novel to show the impact of the standards of beauty and perfection on young girls. In between the chapters, there are script of commercials and infomercials written out that are sometimes funny and sometimes meaningful. Sometimes, the humor is a bit too much, but maybe the author overdid the humor in order to show how having fun with a girl’s image is just too cruel.

The flaws of the novel start with one of the female teen characters. I don’t want to spoil too much, but this reader feels that this one teen female sets a bad example for teen girls by being sexually active in a way that is tempting.

Another flaw of the novel is with the teen male characters that show up in a later part of the book. They weren’t as well-developed as some of the female characters which bothered this reader a lot. It made it seem like mostly men were the cause of female exploitation in popular culture and that only female exploitation in popular culture was important, when males are just as exploited as them! As a female reader, I’m all for empowerment of girls, but males also need to know that they can be more than just a sexy bod.

Last but not least, the plot. The idea of having beauty queens crash-land on an island so they are forced to fend for themselves is a good main plot. The sub-plot, not so much. Evil dictator named Momo Cha-Cha trying to use the beauty pageant for his own gain? What is this, a cartoon?

Overall, this book was a so-so. Sometimes it was great, other times it was annoying. While I applaud Libba Bray for making the effort to write a thought-provoking book, it  is not her best work.


Written by Serena Zola

January 21, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Book Review: The House You Past On The Way

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 Even though she is the grand-daughter of celebrities and the daughter of an interracial couple, fourteen year old Staggerlee is lonely. Then, her aunt Hallique dies and Staggerlee meets her cousin Trout. Trout is everything Staggerlee wants her to be, and also a good friend. However, both girls have secrets that affect who they could love and become.

The highlight of this book is the main characters Staggerlee and Trout. They are brought to life very well by the author’s writing style. It uses metaphor and prose in a way that reads like poetry. Some of the best lines from the book involve Staggerlee being together and apart from others by using music and the moon.

Some pitfalls in this book are its pace and length. Since the book has short chapters and only one hundred fourteen pages, this book is good for reluctant readers. However, for readers who connect to the characters, it will feel too rushed. There isn’t enough time to be with Staggerlee and Trout when they are together. By the novel’s end, readers might want more when there might not be.

All in all, this book is good for preteens questioning their identity or their sexuality. However, it could have been drawn out a little more.

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Written by Serena Zola

August 24, 2012 at 7:57 PM

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

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  From the moment she was diagnosed with cancer, sixteen year old Hazel Grace thought that death was the only thing her future contained. She was content with just going to college classes, reading An Imperial Affliction over and over, and watching America’s Next Top Model until her dying day. Then, her mother makes her attend a cancer support group. There, she meets the gorgeous prosthetic-legged Augustus Waters and her future is forever changed.

One of the best things about this book are the main and supporting characters. The main characters completely contradict how the world sees cancer kids. Hazel and Augustus are intelligent, funny, and vulnerable all at once. As for the supporting characters, the parents are just as good as the kids. In particular, Hazel’s mother is almost an adult clone of her daughter. She has Hazel’s sense of humor mixed with her own random and caring nature.

Another enjoyable thing in this book was that it is laugh out loud funny at times. Humor is found within most of the teens and adults and is not confined to a particular group of people. For instance, Hazel’s mom asks her daughter, “Did that boy give it to you?” Hazel replies, “By it, do you mean herpes?”

Some powerful features of this book are its themes of being remembered, being loved, and leaving a mark on the world. John Green uses many things including books, poetry, and people to convey  messages. They come together with John Green’s signature writing style to create something that  stirs the mind, heart, and soul.

Overall, this was a fantastic book. In fact, this has to be John Green’s best work since his debut novel Looking For Alaska. It is recommended to anyone being deeply affected by cancer, disease, death, and life.

Written by Serena Zola

July 2, 2012 at 6:40 PM

Book Review: Bloodlines

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The paranormal world of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series is back with a all-new series called Bloodlines. This first book is told from the point of view of a human called Sydney Sage, whose job as an Alchemist involves studying magic to guard vampire secrets and protect human lives. After the incident with the half human-half vampire dhampir called Rose Hathaway, Sage’s loyalty to the Alchemists has been questioned. However, when dhampir Jill Dragomir-sister of Moroi vampire queen Lissa Dragomir- is in danger, she goes into hiding at a human boarding school. Unexpectedly, Sage is chosen to be her guardian and protector.

One of the best things about this first book in the Bloodlines series is the fresh narrator. In the previous series Vampire Academy, its narrator Rose Hathaway is beautiful, witty, and tough-as-nails on the surface. While she wasn’t a bad character, she was a little of something already seen in female-fronted action movies. Sage, on the other hand, is an intelligent girl whose insecurities are shown upfront. This alongside the storyline sets up a more authentic series. Another notable thing about the book is its theme of self-identification that Sage and one other character exhibits.

The only downside to this series is that is doesn’t work well by itself. If you haven’t read the Vampire Academy series first, then you may be confused when you start Bloodlines. While the author does explain the series’ world, she does it in a way that makes the reader want to read more and yet wonder if there is more. All in all, this is a good start to the series.

Written by Serena Zola

December 29, 2011 at 8:11 PM

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