Tag Archives: crime

Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Margaret-Peterson-Haddix-image-margaret-peterson-haddix-36328311-284-475

“She told me once that her failing was pride. I didn’t know what she meant then, but maybe that’s what she was talking about.”
-Tish

Told using journal entries for an English class, Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey is the heartbreaking story of sophomore Tish Bonner. Since Mrs. Dunphrey promised not to read any entries marked “don’t read this,” Tish uses this project to confess her deepest secrets about her father’s abusive behavior, mother’s neglect, and struggle to take care of her eight-year-old brother on her own.

I don’t know how to describe this book without using the word “depressing.” Honestly, this book was one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. It starts off a bit slow, but the descriptions of neglect and abandonment that Tish and her little brother go through is sometimes hard to read and constantly threatening to make you cry with the turn of each page. It also makes you really think, what if that had been me?

I know this is a very short review, but this book was a short read and there isn’t much else to say. Just try to avoid it if you’re overly sensitive, because it’ll definitely stick in your head for much longer than you think.

-J

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby

“Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.”
-Nick

So, after just recently learning that a.) my school doesn’t teach this book and b.) the movie just came out, I went to the library and checked out The Great Gatsby. Already I knew it was one of those “classic literature” books that English teachers love and students hate, which immediately made me think, “Well, this is going to suck.” I just finished it last night, and I think I’ve waited enough time to let it soak in before writing the review. So here it is: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I’m not really sure how to give a summary for this one. There’s undoubtedly a lot going on in this book, so it’s hard to decide which point to focus on. I guess I’ll say it’s about Nick Carroway, a 1920s-era businessman who moves into a home next door to millionaire Jay Gatsby. This summary, taken from a reviewer on Goodreads, seems to sum everything up much better than I can:

Told from the perspective of Nick Carroway, a young man who lives in the house between Gatsby’s mansion and Tom Buchanan’s home across the Sound.
The 1920’s….a time of women becoming independent, of ravish parties and of young people losing themselves in the magic of the night. Outstanding parties, a war of love, the eyes above the ash pile, drinks and cars, oh my!

Gatsby is mysterious, trailed by constant rumors (“I believe he was an Oxford man.”, “He once killed a man.”, “He’s a gambler!”) and a murky love life. His parties are meant to please while he observes, quiet and unassuming in the background.
But do people really care for the man, or do they just like his ever-pleasant hospitality and abundance of drinks?
Behind his daring ‘get-togethers’, Gatsby is simply a sad man whose mind is glued to the past.

Daisy…the woman he loves is married to none other than Tom Buchanan, a brute of a man (not to mention racist and sexist) whose suspicions of Gatsby run deep.
Nick Carroway befriends dear Gatsby and is the calm observer of this affair. After five years of not seeing one another, Nick gets Gatsby to speak to Daisy again.

This is a story the delusion of dreams, and that of a man who has gone down in history as….”The Great Gatsby

Okay, so to the actual review.

Honestly, I’m not sure what to say. After about the first chapter or so, I realized, surprisingly, that I liked the book. It was interesting, mysterious, and I definitely wanted to keep reading. After Nick goes to Gatsby’s party, I started to realize how badly I wanted to see the movie already. But then it started to get slow. It was repetitive, hopping from affair to scandal like there was nothing else going on. And although it ended with a bang, but I’m still unsure of how I feel about it as a whole.

I am thoroughly surprised I liked it as much as I did, though. This is definitely not my kind of book, and yet I’m so excited to rent the movie this week. I might write a review of the movie adaption and add it onto the next review I post, or depending on how long it is, make it a separate post, so watch out for that. Thanks for reading!

-J

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Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Twisted

“Why bother trying?  What was the point?  So I could go to some suck-ass college, get a diploma, march out into a job that I hated, marry a pretty girl who would want to divorce me, but then she wouldn’t because we’d have kids, so instead she’d be the angry woman at the other end of the kitchen table, and the kids would grow up watching this, until one day I’d look at my son and he’d look just like that face in the bathroom mirror?
If that was life, then it was twisted.”
-Tyler

High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world. (Summary credited to Goodreads.com)

I have mixed feelings on this book. I kept waiting for it to get better, for a real story to develop, for something, but it never came. In that aspect, this book irritated me. On the other hand, the characters were well-developed and generally likable, making my hate for the story especially frustrating. The main character, Tyler, is a hardworking, dysfunctional teen who knows what it’s like to be both popular and unpopular. His best friend, Calvin, aka Yoda, is a Star Wars-obsessed non-athlete with a crush on Tyler’s younger sister. Bethany is easily the most popular girl in the school, coming from a rich family and used to getting what she wants. See the variety of these characters? And that’s only three of the numerous characters featured in this book. So, overall, it was okay. Definitely wouldn’t recommend it, and don’t want to read it again, but it was good for a one-time thing.

Well, there’s not much else to say. I apologize for this not being the book that’s a big change like I promised, but that one will have to wait– I couldn’t really pay attention from the start, so it’ll most likely take me a while to read, and I don’t really want a take-forever book at the moment. Anyway, the next review will be here soon– most likely Monday or so. See you then!

-J

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The Crank Series by Ellen Hopkins (Crank, Glass, Fallout)

CrankGlassFallout

“Crank is more than a drug. It’s a way of life. You can turn your back. But you can never really walk away.”
-Kristina/Bree, Crank

So I’ve done it. After thinking about it for 50+ reviews,  I’ve finally made a full series post. Now this is as weird for you as it is for me, so please bear with me as I try this out.

The first book in the series, Crank, tells the story of Kristina, described as “gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble.” One day, when she decides to visit the father who has been missing all of her life, she discovers a powerful drug: crystal meth. Soon Kristina’s life is changed forever as she falls deeper into lies, trouble, and addiction.

In Glass, Kristina continues to struggle with her addiction, but with all new problems. As everything around her falls apart, she’ll have to find new ways to get with the monster, and they won’t be pretty.

Fallout takes place nineteen years after the events in Crank, and is told by Kristina’s teenage children, Hunter, Autumn, and Summer. Although their lives are completely different, they have one thing in common: their mother has torn their families apart, forcing them to live separately (and in some cases, without knowledge of each other). But when their paths intersect, their individual lives will be changed forever.

These books are impossible to put down. I know I would’ve had them all read within a few days if it weren’t for my final exams this week. The series is, like Ellen Hopkins’s other novels, not for the faint-hearted, and as real as it gets. Also, I commend the author for her incredible talent of being able to write a teenager’s point of view flawlessly, no matter the subject matter or age range.

The character of Kristina in the first book, Crank, was especially relatable to me due to the description of her personality (quoted above), and I think that made me like the first book a lot more. It is really interesting to see how someone like Kristina could turn down the dark road of crystal meth so easily, and how it affects everyone around her. By Glass, though, the story starts to drag on a little. It feels like most of it is being repeated, or that the words don’t matter and are only there to take up space. I became bored with this book very quickly, and feared that the final book of the series would be even worse. But, I can gratefully tell you, Fallout was my favorite of the three.

The narrator change is what made Fallout interesting to me right from the start. Books are always more exciting with separate narrators, considering you have three different voices, three different points of view, three different lives instead of one throughout the whole 500+ page novel. But the change in narrator wasn’t the only thing that made this addition the best.

Although it makes me upset to finish a series, the final book is usually my favorite. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Everlasting of the Immortals series by Alyson Noel, and Fallout of the Crank series by Ellen Hopkins all have that in common, for two main reasons: one, the climax is biggest and best thing the author can possibly think of; and two, the author always finds a way to tie all of the previous events together perfectly. This denouement, as my English teacher says, is so exciting to me. And the final book in the Crank series fits this description well.

I hope this extra-long series review was worth the thirteen-day wait for me to post again. This review was exhausting, so I think I’m going to stick with some single books for a while until I’m ready for another hour-long reviewing session. Please let me know what you think of the series review style and whether you think I should do this for every series I review. Thank you so much for reading, and have a great summer!

-J

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The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders

“Sixteen years on the streets and you can learn a lot. But all the wrong things, not the things you want to learn. Sixteen years on the streets and you see a lot. But all the wrong sights, not the sights you want to see.”
-Ponyboy Curtis

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he’s got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends– true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. And when it comes to the Socs– a vicious gang of rich kids who enjoy beating up on “greasers” like him and his friends– he knows that he can count on them for trouble. But one night someone takes things too far, and Ponyboy’s world is turned upside down…

I copied that summary from the cover of the book because, let’s face it, my summary wouldn’t have done this incredible book any justice. Being a classic, you’ve probably heard of this book before– or at least the movie, or at the very least, the famous quote, “Stay gold,” from this book. Usually I wouldn’t be interested in “classic literature” at all, but this is one of my favorite books of all time.

While this may seem weird to some of you, I’m sure the avid readers out there will understand when I say I have a crush on a fictional character from this book, and odd as it may be, that character happens to be Two-Bit. It didn’t help when I saw the movie for the first time and twenty-one-year old Emilio Estevez was cast as Two-Bit in his first movie role. (He was amazing in that movie, by the way, and portrayed the character perfectly. Actually, all of the actors in that movie did.)

I’d better stop before I start gushing. I’ll end it on this note: go read this book as soon as you can. Go watch the movie right afterwards. And even if you don’t want to read this book, go watch the movie anyway. It’s perfection, and it’s full of gorgeous actors from the 80s (Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, etc), which just makes it that much better.

-J

*I just today noticed that this review didn’t post on Thursday when I wrote it. Sorry!

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Aimee by Mary Beth Miller

Aimee

“I think they do it when they can no longer find a reason to keep going. When nothing in heir lives is good enough to balance out the bad. And they do it when they no longer have the courage to carry on past some recent painful experience. They commit what is, in the end, a desperate, final call for help, that is hopefully heard in time by someone else.”
-Marge

Even though Zoe has been cleared, nearly everyone she knows still believes that she killed her best friend, or at the least, helped her commit suicide. Aimee tells of Zoe’s life before, after, and during this horrible incident, and how she slowly found the strength to recover.

The writing style of this book was very… unusual. It somewhat reminded me of a Quentin Tarantino movie, because of how much it jumped around from past to present. Also, the main character/narrator, Zoe, didn’t even have her name mentioned until about ten pages from the very end of the book. It’s pretty odd to read a book where you don’t even know the main character’s name.

There’s only one real complaint I have about this book. Before Aimee’s death, she and Zoe would always hang out with a few other kids named Chard, Kyle, Jason, and Kates. After Aimee’s death, Zoe isn’t allowed to see them anymore, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be mentioned. The only one who keeps in contact with her afterwards is Chard. Zoe barely mentions the rest of them, even in her flashbacks, so we know next to nothing about her other friends. It’s as if they didn’t exist. Sorry, Mary Beth Miller, but if you’re going to introduce some characters, at least give us a little bit of reason. On the other hand, the rest of the characters’ development was great. Literally every character has something going wrong in their lives, and it’s really interesting.

Although excessively long, Aimee is an overall good book. It’s very emotional and can be triggering at points, so I’d advise you only to read it if you’re sure you can handle it.

-J

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Right Behind You by Gail Giles

Right Behind You

“I figured out that I can’t forget.  I can’t really forgive.  But I can live.  Live with it.  Like you live with a scar or a limp or whatever.  You always know it’s there.  It reminds you never to let yourself do anything so stupid and horrible and wrong again.  I step out of my rut, step again, and keep stepping.”
-Kip McFarland/Wade Madison

Nine-year old Kip McFarland set seven-year old Bobby Clarke on fire, and three days later Bobby died. Kip spent the next few years in a mental institution, trying to overcome his past and forgive himself for what he did. Now Kip is changing his name and moving across the country, where he will try to rebuild his life. But will his past let him go, or will it always come back to haunt him?

I know I’ve said this before, probably in my review for What Happened to Cass McBride? but I’m going to say it again anyway. Gail Giles is an incredible writer. And after reading three of her books, I think it’s safe to say she’s become one of my favorite authors. And if you’re interested in teen violence/crime novels, please be sure to check into her works.

Now, the actual story. Right Behind You is great in every way, shape, and form. The characters are lovable and fun, the kind of characters that you wish were real people. The main story is truthful and addictive, and you can almost feel your heart skip when someone says or does something that will have real consequences. You understand all of the characters’ motives, whether you agree with them or not, and you can identify it to real life oddly well.

Since I’m running out of unread books, after Aimee and Deadline are done I’ll start rereading. Some titles you have probably heard of (Thirteen Reasons Why, The Outsiders, the Divergent books), while others will probably be totally unfamiliar to you (Crash Into Me, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Rosebush). Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy the reviews I’ll be posting and keep reading!

-J

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After by Amy Efaw

After

“She can paint a pretty picture, but this story has a twist. The paintbrush is a razor, and the canvas is her wrist.”
-Karma

Devon Davenport is a sophmore in high school who attempted to murder her newborn daughter immediately after giving birth. After is her story of life in a juvenille detention center while awaiting her trial, and the trial itself. Suspenseful, surprising, and all-around incredible, After is definitely a book you won’t want to miss out on.

Another of my favorites. This book is amazing, and now I can see why it’s so popular in the YA fiction world. No matter how crazy it gets, the characters are occasionally relatable in some way. No matter how much you are prejudiced about the characters, you’ll end up liking them at least a little bit.

Once again, this is one of those books where I can’t say too much due to spoilers. But this book is awesome, and I advise you to go read it as soon as possible.

-J

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

“I had to keep on acting deaf if I wanted to hear at all.”
-Chief Bromden

When I brought this book to school to read, a few people came up to me and said, “I watched that movie; it was awesome!” Hearing so many people say that, I was excited to read the book. Usually if the movie’s good, the book is even better, right? I haven’t watched the movie yet, but I can say I enjoyed the book.

The novel is narrated by Chief Bromden, a Native American who pretends to be deaf and mute, allowing him to hear the hospital’s secrets. He tells the story of McMurphy, a troublemaking gambler who transfers into the hospital near the beginning of the book. (I don’t know what else I can say about this book without giving away any key plot points or spoilers, so I’ll just leave it at that.)

This is the kind of book that just makes you want to keep reading. The reasoning behind the fact that it took me five days to finish isn’t because I disliked the book; it’s just really long (nearly 300 pages, with extremely small font) and I’ve been busy over the past week. That’s all. And though I could complain that the book was too long or dragged on at parts, I won’t focus on that at all, since those are pretty much the only flaws I could find within the book.

However, there is one flaw I’m going to complain about a little bit. This book was written in the sixties, so obviously the writing style is a little different from the current YA books I’ve been reading. Also, it’s more of an adult book, so the tone is going to be different as well. That being said, I still believe it should have been clearer at some points. After reading a book, I’ll usually go onto Wikipedia and read the plot synopsis to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I actually missed a lot in this one. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but I think Ken Kesey should have been a little clearer in some of the major plot points.

Well, that’s about all. I’m off to watch the movie now, which, judging by how many people told me it was great, I’m very excited to see. See you in a few days!

-J

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What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles

What Happened to Cass McBride

“I was begging him. I knew it would get me nowhere. I watch TV. I read those kinds of books. The bad guy likes the begging… He gets off on it.”
-Cass McBride

After reading this book and Shattering Glass, I’ve developed a particular liking for Gail Giles. What Happened to Cass McBride? is really a book you keep thinking about long after it’s over, and those kinds of books are always the best. I have to say, this is one of the few books that actually scared me, in a way– reading about this kind of topic with Gail Giles’s descriptiveness makes you really feel what it’s like to be trapped like Cass, and that’s kind of scary sometimes.

David Kirby killed himself not long after being rejected by Cass McBride, the most popular girl in school. Although there’s no way of telling, Cass can’t shake the feeling that his death is her fault. But David’s brother Kyle believes Cass must pay for her actions– so he buries her alive.

One thing I really like about this book is how it switches between three different points of view. It goes from Cass’s perspective of being buried alive, to Ben’s perspective of the investigation, to Kyle’s perspective after the whole ordeal as he’s being interviewed by the police. It’s a really strong novel, and I loved every second of it.

-J

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