Freshmen Year: Bullies Beware!

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It’s interesting reading a book that takes place in the same city that you live in, which, in this case, is Washington, D.C. Freshmen Year: Bullies Beware was written by mother and daughter team Kesia Ryan-Webster and Anita Ryan-Webster.

The plot revolves around Tiara Johnson, an African American high schooler who starts a new life when her family moves from Boston to D.C. the summer before her freshmen year. She soon finds herself up against a bully both on the tennis court and in school.

I liked the message of keeping an open mind to a new place. Tiara is upset about moving, but makes an effort to adapt to a new place by making friends and joining extra curricular activities. The presence of bullying within the story was also a good element, as it made the plot more realistic.

The pacing could have used a little work. The story included different view points from multiple characters, including Tiara’s mother and father work as a lawyer and doctor. I liked the different angles, but I felt the subplot involving a case of Tiara’s mother’s unnecessary because it didn’t contribute to the overall story.

There is even some added humor, with one part of the story mentioning D.C.’s reaction to snowfall. Currently being in D.C. in the wintertime, I found the description very realistic.

If you want a story about bullying and moving to a new place, this is a book worth checking out.

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The Beginning of Everything

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Authored by Robyn Schneider, The Beginning of Everything is about what can happen when one event changes your life forever.

Ezra Faulkner starts his senior year after spending the summer recuperating from a car accident that injured his knee. No longer able to play sports and cast out of his former athletic clique, he focuses on finishing up high school, reconnecting with an old friend and forming a relationship with mysterious new girl Cassidy Thorpe.

I found this book very relatable, as Schneider explores the themes of friends growing apart over the years and how decisions about the future can be stressful. There’s even an unexpected twist that ties in with coincidence, though I’m not going to give it away.

I really liked the character of Ezra. Although he is initially depressed about not being able to play sports, he becomes determined to find a different path for himself. His actions are an example of accepting life when the unexpected happens, as opposed to moping around and wishing stuff didn’t happen. It sends the positive message of being proactive in life.

Overall, I recommend this book to people who want a story about coincidence and future decisions, set against the backdrop of high school.

Just One Day

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Warning: Spoilers

Written by Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay, Just One Day follows the journey of Allyson Healy, a girl who meets a boy named Willem while on a trip to Europe and ends up taking a sporadic trip with him to Paris for one day. But when he unexpectedly disappears the next day, she begins the long road of trying to track him down.

I loved the traveling themes of the book. Allyson describes her trips through England and Paris, describing the scenery and meeting new people. Having experienced a lot of this myself, I could easily visualize the settings and situations.

However, I found several elements of the story to be a little unrealistic. Allyson becomes very depressed when she starts college due to not finding Willem. She obsessively searches for him on the Internet and even travels back to Europe in an attempt to find him. The apparent theme of true love might be the reason, but it also sends the message that somebody should become consumed and base almost all of their decisions on just one person. I just couldn’t really relate to Allyson’s desperation of wanting to find somebody that badly, especially since Willem is a complete stranger.

Between Forman’s books, I would recommend If I Stay more, as it takes on a more interesting concept.

Picture Me Gone

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American-born author Meg Rosoff’s novel is about London native Mila and her father’s trip to Upstate New York to search for her father’s friend after he goes missing. Mila’s heightened ability to sense feelings and read people are put to the test as she attempts to help her father solve the mystery, involving some people from the past and unexpected discoveries.

Being from Upstate New York myself, I found the setting well-written, being able to relate to the snowy environment and culture shock Mila describes.

The character of Mila was interesting, but there were several times when I forgot she was twelve years old. Her extensive narration sounded more like a teenager than a preteen.

The sentence structure of the novel was also very unusual. Rosoff chose not to include quotation marks with her character lines. It could be because of Mila’s narration structure, but the lack of punctuation made it very hard to distinguish the dialogue from the rest of the writing.

Overall, the book had a solid setting and decent story, but the plot could have used a better climax and more character development.