Review 10 – Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Vicious
  • Author: V.E. Schwab
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Year Published: 2013
  • Setting: The city of Merit and Lockland University
  • Point of View (POV): Third person omniscient
  • Themes: Antihero, Power, Revenge, Right and Wrong, Good and Evil, Religion, Death
  • My Rating: 9/10
  • Favourite Quotes:
    • “All Eli had to do was smile. All Victor had to do was lie. Both proved frighteningly effective” (Schwab 16).
    • “Victor wondered about lots of things. He wondered about himself (whether he was broken, or special, or better, or worse) and about other people (whether they were all really as stupid as they seemed” (Schwab 27).
    • “But these words people threw around – humans, monsters, heroes, villains – to Victor it was all just a matter of semantics. Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labeled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human” (Schwab 252).


Vicious is an adult paranormal urban fantasy novel about two extremely intelligent young men, Victor Vale and Eli Cardale (later known as Eli Ever). The two began as college roommates and when it was time to choose their thesis topics, Eli chose ExtraOrdinaries, people with supernatural powers. Through his research, Eli discoverd how EOs are created: one’s heart has to stop and then they must come back to life. Victor is the one who suggested the two of them experiment on themselves to try to become ExtraOrdinary. With the tempting possibility of becoming “more,” of becoming “heroes,” Eli agreed (Schwab 51). They underwent the experiments and after some trial-and-error, succeeded in becoming ExtraOrdinary, possessing their own supernatural powers. The novel is revealed piece-by-piece through alternating chapters of the past, in which the two are attending Lockland University as friendly intellectual rivals, and the present, when they are true enemies hell-bent on killing the other. Victor’s power of controlling pain – his own and others’ – is the more formidable of the two, and it leads him to the accidental murder of Eli’s college girlfriend. Eli, his power being the ability to heal himself, calls the police, who take Victor to prison. From that point on, Eli decides that EOs are against the laws of nature and need to be exterminated, and he uses a crazy religious excuse to validate the mass murder of every EO he can find. Meanwhile, in prison Victor concocts a revenge plot against his former friend and after ten years he succeeds in breaking out and begins hunting Eli down with the help of his cellmate Mitch and a young ExtraOrdinary girl he stumbles across named Sydney. I cannot remember the last time I’ve read a book with an antihero and Victor Vale was just that. I rooted for him – despite his villainous qualities – because of the two men I found Eli to be the more horrible. The experience of rooting for a so-called ‘villain’ was interesting and refreshing, and for this reason I can’t wait for the sequel to be released!

Due to the backstory of each character being told at different points in the novel and the main plot continuing to be interwoven throughout, points of conflict arise at many different moments in the novel. Often with novels that contain a lot of flashbacks, I find myself preferring one storyline to the other, finding either the past or the present to be more compelling. However, with Vicious I was completely enraptured by both storylines, regardless of which character was being focused on or what point in time was being described. The flashbacks never caused me to feel disconnected from the story and instead made me feel even more invested in it. I was also happy that this novel was so well-balanced between plot movement and character development, because of its range of interesting and unique characters. Vicious was never dull and information about the characters and their motives was fed to the reader at the perfect pace.

My emotional attachment to this novel was complicated, since I had to adjust to the idea of an antihero. Normally, readers will root for the protagonist and await the antagonist’s downfall, but for Vicious it isn’t that simple. I wouldn’t call either Victor or Eli protagonists, but I did choose to root for Victor and hoped that he would succeed in taking Eli down. My biggest emotional attachment was to the secondary characters that made up Victor’s team: Mitch, the intimidating convict on the outside who is an intelligent softy on the inside, and Sydney, a twelve-year-old EO who can bring the dead back to life. Also, despite him not being a ‘real’ character because he is a huge black dog, I loved Dol, who Sydney brought back to life after he was hit by a car and who she actually convinced Victor to let her keep as a pet. This odd group was the perfect team for Victor and without them his plan never would have succeeded.

I have been meaning to read one of V.E. Schwab’s books for a really long time and Vicious did not disappoint. The way she wove this story together impressed me and shows how talented of a writer she is. The only thing that I wasn’t as impressed with was how tidy the ending was. Everything seemed to work out exactly according to Victor’s plan, despite the extremely high possibility that something could have gone wrong. He just happened to meet and ally with the perfect people that could help him in successfully outsmarting Eli and he just always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Both Mitch and Sydney were almost killed and although that would have upset me, it would have made everything more believable if one of them had actually been injured or even died. I finished the novel feeling awed at Victor’s brilliance and ability to predict how everything would end, but when I tried to rate the book I just couldn’t give it full marks and I couldn’t figure out what was stopping me. Finally, I realized it was because the ending was just too perfect for it to be completely believable. Regardless, I am eager to read Schwab’s other novels and am looking forward to experiencing more of her storytelling.

Vicious is the novel that I chose to read from the adult fiction category and I enjoyed reading about a different age group for the first time in a long while. In the main storyline Victor and Eli are thirty-two years old and it was different for me to read about characters who are beyond the “I need to find myself and discover who I am” stage in their lives. In young adult literature, this exploration of one’s personal identity is a key theme that tends to come up in one way or another in most novels. However, in adult literature the characters are usually more sure of themselves and their goals in life. For Eli, this goal is to rid the world of ExtraOrdinaries because he believes they are unnatural and his god would want them killed. And for Victor, his goal is revenge on Eli for sending him to prison. While these are not typical adult goals, they work in the world of this novel. Aside from these factors, this novel also contains explicit language and some graphic scenes that may not have been published in a young adult novel but are deemed more appropriate for a mature audience.

Vicious can definitely be sorted into the category of paranormal urban fantasy, for it features “paranormal characters . . . in a contemporary setting. City settings are especially popular (ergo the subgenre Urban Fantasy)” (Burcher et al. 228). As implied by this definition, the city setting was crucial for this story. As Eli says about the city of Merit, it “had attracted an impressive number of EOs, by virtue of its population and its many dark corners. People came to the city thinking they could hide. But not from him” (Schwab 217). Had the story not taken place in a city, it would have been more difficult to believe that so many EOs could be found in the same place. This is the first fantasy novel that I have read that takes place in a city in the ‘real world’. In most fantasies that I have read, they take place in an invented world, such as in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas or The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. Most recently, I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, which took place in the ‘real world’ but in a rural rather than urban setting. Having fantastical elements in a city that I could clearly imagine as being similar to Toronto, New York City, or London made it feel like something like this could really happen in our world. In my review for Miss Peregrine’s I said that to fully enjoy it, the reader needs to suspend their disbelief, but this was not necessary for Vicious; readers can just imagine the story occurring in the city nearest to them and it will bring the story to life.

I would definitely recommend this novel to just about anyone who doesn’t mind reading some violent scenes. It is a fascinating experience, having the main character be an antihero, and makes readers really consider what makes a person good or evil. Victor contemplates this throughout the novel, as you can see above in the quotes I chose as my favourites. If you kill someone by accident, does that make you a villain? If you hunt down a person who has committed mass murders, does that make you a hero? What if that person says he is doing it because his god is telling him to and truly believes it is the right thing to do? Good and evil is not black and white, there is a lot of gray area in between and this is what Vicious is exploring. I really enjoyed this novel, aside from my feelings that the ending was just a little too tidy, which is why I gave it a 9 out of 10. This novel by V.E. Schwab is unlike anything I’ve read before and I believe that is hard to find in literature – and film – in recent years. This is a book that will be on my mind for a while, that’s for sure.






Works Cited

Burcher, Charlotte, Neil Hollands, Andrew Smith, Barry Trott, and Jessica Zellers. “Core Collections in Genre Studies: Fantasy Fiction 101.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 3, 2009, pp. 226-231.

Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.

Schwab, V.E. Vicious. Tom Doherty Associates, 2013.



















Review 9 – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  • Author: Ransom Riggs
  • Publisher: Quirk Books
  • Year Published: 2012
  • Setting: Florida and Cairnholm Island, Wales
  • Point of View (POV): First person, from Jacob’s perspective
  • Themes: Paranormal, Secrets, Family, Appearances, Courage, Identity
  • My Rating: 9/10
  • Favourite Quotes:
    • “I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After” (Riggs 7)
    • “I heard the generators sputter and spin down, and all the lights along the harbor and in house windows behind me surged for a moment before going dark. I imagined how such a thing might look from an airplane’s height – the whole island suddenly winking out, as if it had never been there at all. A supernova in miniature” (Riggs 96)
    • “Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize that we were alone? I had always known the sky was full of mysteries – but not until now had I realized how full of them the earth was” (Riggs 336)


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a paranormal young adult novel about a sixteen-year-old boy named Jacob, who grew up listening to his grandfather telling him about and showing him photos of the peculiar children that he knew as a child. These children possess different abilities or ‘peculiarities’, such as fire manipulation, invisibility, levitation, super strength, and their abilities get increasingly stranger from there. As a child, Jacob believed his grandfather whole-heartedly, but as he aged, he began suspecting that the photos were doctored and his grandfather had been making up stories all along. One day, Jacob’s grandfather is killed by a horrific creature and his last words are a riddle for Jacob: “Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man’s grave. September third, 1940” (Riggs 30). Because no one else saw the monster, Jacob is sent to a psychiatrist, Dr. Golan. Jacob soon solves part of the riddle and decides he needs to find the island off of Wales from his grandfather’s stories, so he can find the children’s home and the woman who runs it, Miss. Peregrine. After Dr. Golan approves of the trip, saying it will give Jacob closure, he and his father set off for Cairnholm Island. Once he arrives, Jacob finds the house and encounters some of the peculiar children, and the truth of his grandfather’s stories is undeniable. It turns out that the children’s home exists in a time loop created by Miss. Peregrine, so even though the children still appear to be children, they are actually around eighty or ninety years old. Every day the loop resets and they relive the same day – September third – over and over again.

The peculiar children that Jacob meets includes Emma, who can manipulate fire; Millard, who is invisible; Olive, who is as light as air and will float away if she isn’t careful; Bronwyn, who has super strength; Enoch, who can animate the dead for a short period of time; Horace, who has prophetic dreams; Claire, who has an extra mouth with very sharp teeth on the back of her head; Hugh, who can control bees and has an entire hive in his stomach; and a few others. Miss. Peregrine herself is a Ymbryne, which means she can manipulate time and transform into a bird, specifically a peregrine falcon. These characters were so interesting and it was pretty funny reading about Jacob meeting and learning about them all. With such a wide range of characters, readers definitely get to know some better than others, and I am looking forward to completing the trilogy so I can learn more about their backstories. This novel is driven forward more so by the plot than by its character development, but without the characters, the novel definitely could not function.

The novel really picks up when the characters start to suspect that Jacob was followed to the island by two horrible creatures called a Wight and a HollowGhast. Wights appear human, but have white eyes with no pupils. These creatures used to exist as HollowGhasts, terrifying monsters that “stank like putrefying trash; they were invisible except for their shadows; a pack of squirming tentacles lurked inside their mouths and could whip out in an instant and pull you into their powerful jaws” (Riggs 8). Hollows consume the souls of peculiars and if they consume enough they will evolve into Wights. Soon enough, their suspicions are confirmed, and Miss. Peregrine and the children must all fight against these monsters to protect themselves. The creatures seemed like something out of a nightmare and when the secret identity of the Wight is revealed, I was shocked! The twist was completely unpredictable and I loved how it made the book even creepier.

Although I wasn’t able to develop a deep emotional connection to most of the characters, I was able to connect to some, including Jacob, Emma, and Miss. Peregrine. These characters are the ones the novel focuses on the most and who we hope will succeed. Aside from the characters, I was completely invested in the progression of the story and I could not put this book down! I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children so quickly because I just needed to know what was going to happen next.

Ransom Riggs’ writing style is lovely, with its wonderful imagery and thoughtful descriptions. As I have recently visited Wales, I can attest that Riggs’ description of the beautiful landscape isn’t exaggerated at all. I also think that he captured the dialogue of an ‘awkward teenage boy’ very well, for even with the fantastical storyline, I found Jacob to be a very believable character. A unique aspect of this novel is the photographs that Riggs includes throughout it. These are “authentic, vintage found photographs . . . from the personal archives of ten collectors, people who have spent years and countless hours hunting through giant bins of unsorted snapshots at flea markets and antiques malls and yard sales to find a transcendent few” (Riggs Photograph Credit). These photographs added a lot to the story, at times allowing readers to better imagine the peculiarities of the children and at times serving to add a level of creepiness to the story. For me, they were a fantastic addition, for you would read about a character and then, after flipping to the next page, you would see the unbelievable photograph. This is definitely something that makes Miss Peregrine’s stand out and is a huge part of why I wanted to read this book.




Marcie, about to be “snatched by a wight as she waited for the school bus” (Riggs 236)

This novel can be categorized as paranormal contemporary fantasy, because it involves “paranormal characters (werewolves, vampires, wizards, fairies, etc.) in a contemporary setting” (Burcher et al. 228). Although Miss Peregrine’s does not include any of the provided examples, it involves ageless children with ‘peculiar’ abilities as well as monsters that could terrify you just as easily as traditional werewolves or vampires could. Also, because readers definitely need to use their imaginations and suspend their disbelief to enjoy this novel, it provides the opportunity for readers to exercise that part of their brains and develop their creative thinking. This is something that I highly value in the books I read, because I am a strong believer that “an imagination educated in part by reading fantasy . . . isn’t hampered by words like ‘impossible,’” something I think is an asset in real life as well as a benefit to readers (Owen 76). As a fan of fantasy, especially paranormal fantasy, Miss Peregrine’s was everything I hoped for as a book that falls into those categories.

I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of fantasy and likes to read something a little creepy. Who doesn’t love a bunch of kids with superpowers? Any age and any gender could enjoy this thrilling story. I gave Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children a 9 out of 10, because I loved learning about all of the story’s different characters, the creepy yet beautiful setting, the unpredictability was incredible, and the found photographs were such a fantastic addition. However, I wish that there had been more character development and I found the sporadically mentioned and very undeveloped romance between Jacob and Emma to be unnecessary and it seemed like it only existed to fulfill the supposed ‘need’ in young adult novels to include a romance. This is a trilogy I definitely plan on completing as soon as I can and I will be watching the Tim Burton film adaptation very soon. If you want something unique and fast-paced, pick this book up!






Works Cited

Burcher, Charlotte, Neil Hollands, Andrew Smith, Barry Trott, and Jessica Zellers. “Core Collections in Genre Studies: Fantasy Fiction 101.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 3, 2009, pp. 226-231.

Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.

Owen, Lucia. “Dragons in the Classroom.” The English Journal, vol. 73, no. 7, 1984, pp.76-77.

Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Quirk Books, 2011.

Review 8 – Tilt by Ellen Hopkins

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Tilt
  • Author: Ellen Hopkins
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Year Published: 2012
  • Setting: Nevada, United States
  • Point of View (POV): First person alternating POVs mostly between the three main characters: Mikayla, Shane, and Harley. Minor characters’ one-page POVs act as dividers between the stories of the three main characters.
  • Themes: Family, Friendship, Love, Mistakes, Coming of Age, Betrayal, Rebellion, Death, Depression, Adolescence
  • My Rating: 7/10
  • Favourite Quotes:
    • “I know / what happy is, but I / don’t / understand what sad means. / It must be how you feel, like / when you can’t find your smile” (Hopkins 289).
    • “I Hate How Relationships / Are so fragile. How they / crack / shatter / fall to pieces. / And the hammer is / time / distance / moving forward. / Why can’t people grow / closer / tighter / welded together? / Instead they go / looking / for the next / frail connection. / There must be a way to / stay / in love / no matter what.” (Hopkins 397).
    • “’Do you ever feel / like that? Like you have to change / everything about yourself to get / where you want to be, or think you do?’ / Now she’s quiet. Finally, she answers, / ‘Think you do’ says a lot, you know?” (Hopkins 504).


**CAUTION: this review contains a discussion of some hard topics, including abortion, death, overdose, and rape**

Tilt is a young adult contemporary novel written in free verse poetry about three teenagers who are each dealing with their own family conflicts and personal hardships. Mikayla, who is almost eighteen, is in a relationship with her boyfriend, Dylan, and the two are crazy in love, until an accidental pregnancy changes everything. Sixteen-year-old Shane has just come out to his parents as gay and is experiencing his first relationship with a boy named Alex, who he finds out has HIV. And Harley, who is fourteen but wants people to stop treating her like a child, is hanging out a group of people who she feels she can’t say no to, leading her to do things she isn’t comfortable with. The families also bring in their own complications, with Mikayla’s parents on their way to a divorce, Shane’s four-year-old sister Shelby, who is terminally ill, and Harley’s father’s new girlfriend and her son. Each of these stories climax in different ways, at different points in the book. The peak of Mikayla’s story comes when she decides not to have an abortion, which causes Dylan to break up with her. For Shane’s story, it is when Shelby passes away, sending him into a deep, isolating depression. And for Harley, it comes when her poor judgement leads her to date an older boy who only cares about accomplishing his goal of taking her virginity. Tilt depicts several situations that many teenagers can relate to in some way and I loved the free verse poetry format and how it told the story in such an interesting way.

I did become emotionally attached to most of the characters in this novel, whether that means I was proud of them, rooted for them, or thought they were being stupid. I am glad that Mikayla followed her heart and decided that an abortion was not the right decision for her, despite the knowledge that having the baby meant that Dylan would leave her. I also love Shane and Alex together, and am glad that Alex having HIV does not stop them from being together. The two are very aware that they have to be careful in order to prevent Shane from becoming HIV-positive as well, and they make sure not to take any risks. My heart did break for Shane when his sister passed away, however. He begins self-medicating with pills, alcohol, and marijuana and all I could do was keep reading, even though I predicted that he would overdose (accidentally or purposefully). I am happy that Shane survived and hopefully will be getting the help that he knows he needs. Lastly, I was honestly incredibly annoyed with Harley throughout the entire second half of this novel. She makes the worst decisions, like how she ditches her best friend, Bri (Mikayla’s little sister), in favour of a group of friends that do not care about her well-being. After a night of heavy drinking, Harley vomits and instead of helping her, her ‘boyfriend’ Lucas tells his buddy to take a picture of her, which is then posted to social media. Harley says several times about Lucas that “pretty much / whatever he asks, I can’t say no / to” (Hopkins 466). I really, really hoped that my prediction about her story wouldn’t come true… But it did. When Harley was black-out drunk one night, Lucas raped her. My heart broke for her, and I was furious and disgusted, especially since the rape was told in one page of free verse told from Lucas’ point-of-view, which read “a gentleman, / would / turn / away . . . But she’s a sweet / little piece of virgin meat, and / I’ve waited patiently. The first / turn / belongs to me” (Hopkins 549). Yes, Harley made some terrible decisions, but that is no excuse for rape. Forcing yourself on somebody, no matter the situation, is never okay. I also felt that after the crazy emotions that one goes through while reading this book, readers do not get closure for any of the stories, for the book just ends, without them coming to a real conclusion.

Ellen Hopkins is known for writing her novels in free verse poetry, and this is a fairly unique writing style in fiction, especially young adult. She does not set the pages up the in the same way every time, but the way the words are arranged changes with each new page. The pages that are formatted in the same way are the one-page dividers that are told from the secondary characters’ points-of-view. These pages are black with white type, creating a necessary contrast between them and the main storylines. The majority of the poetry is on one side of the page, with the exception of a few words from each stanza, which are shifted to the other side. These isolated words work with the main idea of the page, but also say something new. Here is an example told from Brianna (Harley’s best friend)’s point-of view:


While the poem says something in itself, the words along the side read, “A best friend / is / your voice, / when you / can’t find it,” giving the poem a double meaning (Hopkins 65). Another narrative choice Hopkins makes, is to portray dialogue in italics instead of quotation marks to show when another character is speaking to one of the three main characters. This was difficult to get used to but is the same technique that Hopkins uses in all of her novels. This is the second book of hers that I’ve read, and I once again really enjoyed reading her free verse poetry. It was a welcome change from the typical novel reading experience.

Tilt definitely fulfills the expectations of a young adult contemporary novel. It deals with “issues that are relevant to teens, including racism, pregnancy, divorce, substance abuse, family conflicts, and political injustice, young adult novels provide a roadmap of sorts for adolescents coping with these issues in real life” (Bean & Moni 638). Hopkins’ novel deals with the majority of these issues in detail, and readers are able to watch the characters and see the way they deal with their problems and decide whether they would make similar choices if they were in that situation. Alternately, it allows readers to relate to the characters and to use the novel possibly to help them cope with whatever they are dealing with in their own lives. This novel, like most in the young adult genre, also addresses “questions of character identity and values” (Bean & Moni 638). Mikayla, Shane, and Harley are all deciding on the kind of people they want to be, in their own ways, just like the author’s intended audience is. Hopkins uses her novels to make her readers ask themselves, ‘what would I have done in this situation’. I know that Tilt did this to me, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who was inspired to ask myself some hard questions.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an emotional read. Tilt made me feel a lot of emotions and ask myself a lot of questions, which I think is a testament to Ellen Hopkins’ writing talent. This novel can be relatable to anyone, but especially to teenagers and young adults. I gave Tilt a 7 out of 10 because although I loved the free verse poetry and the emotional tone, I did find it to be predictable – with the exception of Mikayla’s story. As well, I was not happy with the way the book ended, for it did not feel finished at all. This book is not part of a series, it is a stand-alone novel with no expected sequel. With Mikayla’s plan for the adoption of her baby falling through, Shane’s (possibly accidental) suicide attempt, and Harley’s rape happening so close to the end of the book, I feel like there is more to know about the lives of these characters. While all three stories end on an optimistic note, we don’t know what is going to happen next, and I wish that the book hadn’t ended so close to what felt like the climax of each story. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this novel and I absolutely flew through it. Hopefully, I will get the chance to read more of Ellen Hopkins in the future.






Works Cited

Bean, Thomas W., and Karen Moni. “Developing Students’ Critical Literacy: Exploring Identity Construction in Young Adult Fiction.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 46, no. 8, 2003, pp. 638-648.

Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.

Hopkins, Ellen. Tilt. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012.


Review 7 – Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Six of Crows
  • Author: Leigh Bardugo
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
  • Year Published: 2015
  • Setting: Mainly in Ketterdam, Kerch and the Ice Court, Fjerda (in Bardugo’s Grisha Universe)
  • Point of View (POV): Third person omniscient, alternating between the main characters: Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, and Jesper. The first and last chapters are from the perspectives of two minor characters: Joost and Pekka Rollins.
  • Themes: Survival, Identity, Courage, Revenge, Greed, Friendship, Race (Grisha vs. non-Grisha)
  • My Rating: 9/10
  • Favourite Quotes:
    • “‘No mourners,’ . . . ‘No funerals,” . . . Among them, it passed for ‘good luck’” (Bardugo 21).
    • “‘It’s not natural for women to fight.’ ‘It’s not natural for someone to be as stupid as he is tall, and yet there you stand’” (Bardugo 143).
    • “She’d laughed, and if he could have bottled the sound and got drunk on it every night, he would have. It terrified him” (Bardugo 242).


Six of Crows is a young adult fantasy heist novel about six teens, each with their own special talents, who are tasked with breaking a scientist out of the impenetrable Ice Palace. The story takes place in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Universe, where some people, called ‘Grisha’, have special abilities or powers. These powers include the ability to manipulate the body by damaging or healing it, to control a particular element, or to manipulate different materials such as steel, textiles, glass, or poisons. Grisha are thought of in different ways, depending on where in the Grisha Universe you are, for in some nations, the Grisha are hunted, while in others they are revered, and in others they exist as indentured servants. In Six of Crows, a drug has been invented called jurda parem, that strengthens a Grisha’s powers, making them extremely dangerous in some cases. However, the drug is highly addictive and slowly kills the user. The job of breaking Bo Yul-Bayur – the scientist who accidentally created jurda parem – out of the Ice Court is offered to Kaz Brekker, a criminal prodigy and leader of the Ketterdam gang called ‘the Dregs’, and in exchange, he and his team will receive thirty million kruge (the novel’s invented currency). This team consists of Inej Ghafa, otherwise known as ‘the Wraith’ due to her special gift for stealth; Jesper Fahey, a sharpshooter and gambler; Nina Zenik, a beautiful Heartrender Grisha, meaning she can cause damage to a person’s internal organs; Matthias Helvar, a former Drüskelle soldier (Grisha hunter); and Wylan Van Eck, a young demolitions expert. Despite a complicated plot and a fantastically detailed world, this novel is heavily driven by its characters and I loved learning about their backstories and how their pasts affect them in the present.

The height of the conflict in this novel comes when the team finally make it to the Ice Court and have to find a way in so they can retrieve Bo Yul-Bayur. The plan is not revealed to the reader ahead of time, so we are taken along for the ride as the group of teens use their individual talents to accomplish their task. There is also conflict between characters, especially between Nina and Matthias. Matthias, as a former Drüskelle (Grisha hunter), is greatly threatened by Nina, due to her Grisha abilities. In addition, the two have a history, for it’s because of Nina that Matthias was sent to Hellgate prison, falsely accused of slave trading. As Nina and Matthias’ past is slowly revealed throughout the novel, we begin to realize how truly complicated their relationship is. Kaz and Inej’s relationship also develops, for the two begin to realize that they have romantic feelings for each other. However, Kaz is so focused on the heist and his desire for revenge upon a leader of another gang in Ketterdam, for something the man did to Kaz years ago, that he is unable to think about much else. The team does not get out of the Ice Court without adversity, for there are soldiers sent after them to stop them from escaping with the son of Bo Yul-Bayur (who they had to take in his father’s place when they found out that he’d already died before they arrived). Nina decides to risk the horrible consequences of the jurda parem in order to help them escape, and even once they do, the novel still isn’t over. In order for the team to get their thirty million kruge, the exchange still has to take place, with each side planning on double-crossing the other. This first novel in Bardugo’s duology ends dramatically, with a kidnapping, Nina’s survival in question, and neither side getting what they wanted. This book was action-packed and always kept me interested. I can’t wait to read the second novel!

I became extremely attached emotionally to Six of Crows and its characters. The book is told through alternating point-of-views, for the most part being told by Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, and Jesper. This way, the reader gets an in-depth look into each of these characters’ thoughts and emotions. The only main character whose point-of-view is not heard is Wylan’s, because his identity as the son of Jan Van Eck (the man who gave Kaz the job), is something kept secret from the reader and most of the other characters until Kaz chooses to reveal the information. The main reason Kaz chooses to bring Wylan along as part of his team is to use him as insurance. Kaz thinks that Jan will not double-cross him if he has his son as a hostage. Unfortunately, the father and son do not care for one another and using Wylan as a security measure does not work. Had Bardugo told parts of the story from Wylan’s point-of-view, this twist would have been revealed much earlier. When the novel ends, Wylan remains the team member we know the least about. As the novel progressed, I definitely chose Inej as my favourite character. She is incredibly strong mentally, as well as being very talented with her knives, and undetectable in her stealth. As per usual, I love a badass female protagonist. Her backstory is also fascinating and I am excited to see even more of what she can accomplish in the second book. Throughout all of the dangerous scenarios in Six of Crows, I was heavily invested in the well-being of the team and I wanted them to succeed. The talents and personalities in this group are like none other I’ve read about before.

Leigh Bardugo’s writing style is fantastic. She gave each of these characters their own specific voice, and despite the multiple POVs, I never got confused between them. She succeeded in building a world that is so complex and interesting that it makes me want to read the trilogy she wrote before Six of Crows, which takes place in the same universe. I do, however, feel that Bardugo should have included a little more explanation on the world for those of us who hadn’t read her previous trilogy. At times in the beginning, I felt confused since I did not even know what a Grisha was. As I continued reading, I was able to figure it out, but it would have been nice to have a few more subtle definitions to make the reading experience a little easier. The pacing of the story was always fast, which was perfect for this story. It is only in the occasional flashbacks into the pasts of the characters that the pace of the novel slows down a bit to emphasize the importance of the scene. Bardugo crafted this novel beautifully and her writing style might even be one of my new favourites.

Six of Crows definitely succeeds in fulfilling the expectations of its genre as young adult fantasy. Fantasy can be loosely defined as “any work that contains magic or other elements that cannot be understood by the rules of reality” (Burcher et al. 227). I have found fantasy to be a controversial genre in that you either love it or you hate it. For those people that love it, there are several reasons why: it “allows escape and generates hope” and “provides exercise for the imagination,” which is important because “an imagination educated in part by reading fantasy might be more able to solve problems here and now because it isn’t hampered by words like ‘impossible’” (Owen 76). Another aspect of fantasy that I love is how it “often crosses age lines, with adults reading books written for young adults and vice versa” (MacRae 115). I believe that Six of Crows falls into the category of fantasy called epic high fantasy, which “feature[s] elegant prose, large casts of characters, arduous quests, and lots of magic . . . [and] worldbuilding” (Burcher et al. 227). With its fantastic characters, fast-paced heist plot, and Grisha magic system, I don’t think anyone can argue against how well this novel fulfills these requirements.

I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of fantasy. I know that for some people, fantasy just isn’t something they like because it’s ‘hard to believe’ and ‘too different’. Yet, for some, these are the reasons to love fantasy. It is the easiest genre to lose yourself in – it is escapism at its finest. With fantasy being my current favourite genre, and with the amazing characters and character development that takes place in Six of Crows, I really loved this book. I am giving it a 9 out of 10, because I was completely enthralled with the story, however, I do wish that there had been a bit more of an introduction to the world in the beginning and I did find the ages of the characters to be a bit unbelievable. I was picturing the characters to be in their early to mid-twenties, not just in their late teens. It was a bit of a stretch for me to fully buy into these incredibly skilled characters being only sixteen to eighteen years old. With that said, I will still recommend this book to anyone who asks for a fantasy recommendation and I am dying to get my hands on the sequel.






Works Cited

Bardugo, Leigh. Six of Crows. Henry Holt and Company, 2015.

Burcher, Charlotte, Neil Hollands, Andrew Smith, Barry Trott, and Jessica Zellers. “Core Collections in Genre Studies: Fantasy Fiction 101.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 3, 2009, pp. 226-231.

Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.

MacRae, Cathi Dunn. Presenting Young Adult Fantasy Fiction. Twayne Publishers, 1998.

Owen, Lucia. “Dragons in the Classroom.” The English Journal, vol. 73, no. 7, 1984, pp.76-77.




Review 6 -Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Scrappy Little Nobody
  • Author: Anna Kendrick
  • Publisher: Touchstone: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
  • Year Published: 2016
  • Setting: Mostly Portland, Maine; New York City, New York; Los Angeles, California
  • Point of View (POV): First person, autobiographical
  • Themes: Family, Identity, Courage, Ambition, Growing Up, Friendship
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Favourite Quotes:
    • “I resolved to keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” (Kendrick xii)
    • “Working with Zac Efron gave me a real-life understanding of how Charlie Manson got all those people to move to a ranch and do his bidding” (Kendrick 168)
    • “I gave up on being Nice. I started putting more value on other qualities instead: passion, bravery, intelligence, practicality, humour, patience, fairness, sensitivity” (Kendrick 194)
    • “A few surprising revelations: 1. People need escape and fantasy at every age. 2. Maybe we are all most free when we are playing make-believe” (Kendrick 246)
    • “If there was just a little more time, or a little more money, or if you could just get through this one last rough patch, it would all be clear, it would all fall into place. It’s an insatiable trap” (Kendrick 259)

*This review DOES NOT contain spoilers!*

Scrappy Little Nobody is a memoir by Anna Kendrick about the first thirty or so years of her life. Anna already loved being on stage – singing, dancing, and acting – by the age of five or six and had her first big role on Broadway at the age of thirteen. At age seventeen, she moved to Los Angeles from her hometown of Portland, Maine. Anna has faced many challenges, from mean girls in school, to not booking any acting jobs in LA, to being an Oscar nominee for Up in the Air and yet still being broke. Despite all of this, Anna’s sarcasm, ambition, and spunk (I can’t use any other word to describe her) helps her get through it all. Now a very well-known and much-loved actress, thanks to movies like Pitch Perfect, Anna reflects on everything in her life that helped to shape her into who she is now. This memoir was funny, relatable, and I really, really loved learning more about the early years and personal life of one of my favourite actresses.

Due to this novel being a memoir, there is no real ‘peak of conflict.’ The book is divided into five parts: “My Double Life,” which describes her childhood and adolescence; “Leaving the Nest,” which describes Anna leaving home to live in Manhattan briefly and her permanent move to LA; “Boys,” which is self-explanatory; “Hollywood,” which is about when she is finally cast in her first few films; and “Scrappy Little Nobody,” which is made up of miscellaneous stories. Each part is broken down into several different moments in Anna’s life and each of these moments has its own conflict. I found each story to be just as engrossing as the previous one, and I loved how it gave the book an episodic feel.

After completing this book, I have developed a very strong emotional attachment to Anna Kendrick. I went from thinking of her as an actress that I really liked and who I thought was funny and talented, to knowing that I will now be going to watch every movie she ever makes. Anna wrote this book very conversationally, making it feel like the words had gone directly from her mouth onto the page. Her personality really came through and I was happy to see that her own distinct voice did not get lost in the editing process. As part of my reading experience, I decided to annotate this book as I read it, meaning that I let myself write in the margins, highlight, and underline as much as I wanted as I read the book. I can’t even count how many times I read something that I related to and scribbled “THIS IS ME!” along the side of the page. For example, there are a few times that Anna talks about her experience as a “very, very small weirdo,” and I cannot even tell you how much I want to put that on a t-shirt and wear it every single day of my life (Kendrick xvii). She goes on, and talks about how “always being the smallest also gave me a specific role in life; it gave me an identity. Lining up by height? Excuse me while I give you a starting point. Gymnastics day in gym class? I’ll prepare myself to be thrown,” and, as a person who barely scrapes by as five feet tall, I don’t think that I have ever related to anything more (Kendrick xix). After reading her memoir, I have decided that I want, no, I need to become best friends with Anna Kendrick.

Throughout her book, Anna lets readers into her head and is very honest about her thoughts and emotions. In a section she calls, “He’s Just Not That Interesting,” Anna talks about a time she had gone through a breakup, saying, “you’re allowed to be a miserable shit for a while after you get dumped . . . Breakups can turn fully dimensional people into stubborn little vessels for your most stubborn little feelings. It takes a while for them to change back” (Kendrick 115). This is one of the many times that I felt like Anna was honest about something that not everyone would have been honest about. I thought memoirs were all about praising the individual it was written about, and I’m sure there are some out there that are like that, but I am very happy that Anna was honest and real when she wrote it. She made it clear that she is an imperfect human being, just like the rest of us.

After doing some research into the memoir genre, I determined that Scrappy Little Nobody can be categorized as a ‘contemporary memoir’ rather than an autobiography or the more traditional style of memoir (written by a powerful person near the end of their life). According to Kirby and Kirby, “during the last twenty years or so, autobiography and the old memoirs have been reborn as literary memoir and transformed into a dynamic and highly readable genre that we term contemporary memoir” (23). Anna Kendrick’s memoir can be categorized this way because of how incredibly relatable her stories are, despite her celebrity status. This kind of narrative, when executed successfully, will “create meaningful moments that connect to a reader’s life experience” (Kirby & Kirby 23). Even in the technicalities, Anna adheres to the contemporary memoir genre effortlessly, using “literary techniques borrowed from modern and postmodern novelists, including using distinguishable first-person voice, posing questions, and often interjecting uncertainties and ruminations into their factual texts” (Kirby & Kirby 22). Overall, I am surprised that this is Anna’s first written work, for it feels like it has been written by an experienced writer. I truly hope that this is not the last time Anna publishes a book, because I have fallen in love with her writing style and with her portrayal of the contemporary memoir genre.

I would recommend Anna Kendrick’s memoir to anyone who is relatively interested in her, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who would identify themselves as a fan of hers. Anna’s personable authorial voice and relatable stories could make just about anyone feel a connection to her, and by the end of the book you feel like you got this special glimpse into another person’s life – her failures and her successes, and how she came to be where she is now. I gave Scrappy Little Nobody a 10 out of 10 because I really don’t think I’d make any changes to this book. I think the way it was written, edited, and put together couldn’t have been done much better than it was. I am thoroughly impressed with my first experience reading a memoir and I can’t wait to see what Anna Kendrick does next.






Works Cited

Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.

Kendrick, Anna. Scrappy Little Nobody. Touchstone, 2016.

Kirby, Dawn Latta, and Dan Kirby. “Contemporary Memoir: A 21st-Century Genre Ideal for Teens.” The English Journal, vol. 99, no. 4, 2010, pp. 22-29.


















Review 5 – Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Delirium
  • Author: Lauren Oliver
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Year Published: 2011
  • Setting: Dystopian Portland, Maine
  • Point of View (POV): First person narrator
  • Themes: Love, Family, Corrupt Government, Secrets, Rebellion
  • My Rating: 5/10
  • Favourite Quotes:
    • “(Love is) the deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t” (Oliver 4).
    • “Don’t be an idiot. If it was on the news, it definitely isn’t true” (Oliver 48).
    • This is what people are always talking about when they talk about God: this feeling, of being held and understood and protected. Feeling this way seems about as close to saying a prayer as you could get” (Oliver 352).


Delirium is a young adult dystopian novel about a society that has determined “amor deliria nervosa” – otherwise known to us as love – to be a disease that must be cured (Oliver 3). When each citizen turns eighteen they must be administered the cure, which turns them into emotionally-detached human beings. They are then matched with a life partner, which is determined by similar levels of intelligence, wealth, biological compatibility, etc. They are assigned a career and even the number of children they must have. Then the citizens of this dystopian Portland go on with their lives knowing, but not really caring, about the people around them. The protagonist, Lena, is almost eighteen and initially cannot wait for her procedure. That all changes when she meets Alex, an uncured boy from the Wilds, the unknown forest outside of the city. With Alex’s help, she begins to see that love can actually be really amazing, and that even though she can feel the ‘symptoms’ of love – “the disorientation, the distraction, the difficulty focusing” – it feels so good that she doesn’t care (Oliver 237).

When Lena decides that she cannot go through with the procedure and that she has to escape Portland in order to escape the cure, the peak of the novel’s conflict begins. She decides to run away with Alex into the Wilds and live with the other “Invalids” who are out there, uncured and in love (Oliver 163). What ultimately convinces Lena that she has no choice but to leave Portland is that she and Alex discover new information about her mother. For her entire life, Lena has thought that her mother committed suicide when she was six, because even after three failed administrations of the cure, she was still infected with the deliria, leading to depression and hopelessness. The couple discover that she is actually alive and quite possibly living out in the Wilds. Lena is determined to escape with Alex and reunite with her mother, but it isn’t easy to escape Portland’s government undetected.

For the most part, I was not emotionally invested in this book, for I found a lot of Lena and Alex’s relationship to be very cringe-worthy. With sentences that have Lena comparing Alex’s eyes to maple syrup over a stack of pancakes, and how she only truly believes that she’s beautiful when Alex tells her so, their relationship makes me gag more often than it makes me swoon. It just wasn’t believable enough or real enough for me to allow myself to completely buy in to it. Despite this, I was still upset about the way the novel ended. Lena and Alex are racing out of the city to the Wilds and their lives are at stake; all they need to do is make it over the fence. They have guards and police officers shooting at them as they race for the border, but the couple still succeed in making it to the fence and all they have to do is climb over. Lena drops to the ground on the other side and turns around to see “Alex is still standing on the other side of the fence . . . he hasn’t moved a single inch . . . hasn’t tried to,” and he sacrifices himself to the officers to allow Lena to escape, even though it seems clear to the reader that he could have also made it over the fence (Oliver 439). I was upset for Lena that after everything they went through, it seems that they won’t get to be together and that the cure will likely be forcefully administered upon Alex. Of course, anything could happen in the sequel, but for this first novel in the trilogy, it seems that Lena is now on her own. In a book that had been so predictable, in which pretty much everything was working out the way that the two main characters wanted it to, I did not expect such an unfortunate ending.

Lauren Oliver’s writing style is often quite lyrical, with a lot of imagery and metaphors. Sometimes this really worked for me, as can be seen in the quotes from this book that I chose as my favourites. Other times, as I’ve already discussed, it didn’t work for me at all. Unfortunately, I frequently found the similes to be cliché and overdone. The pacing, however, was excellent, and seamlessly balanced action with moments of calm. Each chapter begins with an epigraph that provides further insight into the world of Delirium. The epigraphs range from quotations from “The Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook, or The Book of Shhh,” – the handbook that all citizens must read and follow – to nursery rhymes, giving readers further information without creating information dumps (Oliver 3). Oliver is a talented writer, but I feel that she needs to be edited a bit more to eliminate clichés and reduce descriptions that are too flowery.

As a young adult novel, Delirium follows Bean & Moni’s diagnosis that this genre discusses “societal conflicts and dilemmas” through “the unique point of view offered by an adolescent main character” (638). Had this novel been told from the perspective of any other character, especially a cured, adult character, it would not have told the same story. By telling Lena’s story through first-person narration and because her procedure is so imminent, it provides a very interesting, different narrative and a relatable protagonist (particularly for teenagers who are falling in love for the first time). Delirium is also a dystopian novel, and this genre has the “capacity to frighten and warn . . . engag[ing] with pressing global concerns: liberty and self-determination, environmental destruction and looming catastrophe, questions of identity, and the increasingly fragile boundaries between technology and the self” (Basu et al. 1). In particular, Oliver’s novel is a warning that reminds readers of the consequences of allowing the government to gain so much control that it compromises the people’s own bodily integrity. The citizens within the novel are not in control of what is done to their bodies and brains, for they have no choice but to take the cure for love. As teenagers, the characters see how the adults’ emotions are relatively non-existent after receiving the cure and they see how much of their personalities are going to be sacrificed, and yet there is nothing they can do to prevent it from happening to them. “Another major theme in YA dystopias is conformity, which is often exaggerated for dramatic effect,” and this is evidenced by how willing the teenagers are to go through with the procedure despite the radical change they know will happen to them (Basu et al. 3).

I would not recommend this novel to most readers besides young, love-obsessed teenagers. This is actually a re-read for me, since I read the novel when it was first published in 2011, when I was sixteen. Even then, I disliked it just as much as I do now, for the exact same reasons. I hoped that when I read it for the second time around I might enjoy it more, but I did not, and for these reasons I had to give it a 5 out of 10. Due to my strong dislike of Lena and the disbelief I had throughout the novel about Lena and Alex’s relationship, I was unable to enjoy Delirium, despite its intriguing premise and unique dystopian world.






Works Cited

Bean, Thomas W., and Karen Moni. “Developing Students’ Critical Literacy: Exploring Identity Construction in Young Adult Fiction.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 46, no. 8, 2003, pp. 638-648.

Basu, Balaka, et al. Introduction. Contemporary Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults: Brave New Teenagers, by Basu et al, Routledge, 2015, pp. 1-15.

Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.

Oliver, Lauren. Delirium. HarperCollins Publishers, 2011.

Review 4 -Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Author: Roald Dahl
  • Publisher: Puffin Books
  • Year Published: 1964
  • Setting: Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and the surrounding town
  • Point of View (POV): Mixed, but mostly third person omniscient
  • Themes: Family, Greed, Rules, Poverty, Fantasy
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Favourite Quotes:
    • “I, Willy Wonka, have decided to allow five children – just five, mind you, and no more – to visit my factory this year” (Dahl 19).
    • “‘The taste would be terrible,’ said Mr. Wonka. ‘Just imagine it! Augustus-flavoured chocolate-coated Gloop! No one would buy it” (Dahl 76).
    • “Dear friends, we surely all agree / There’s almost nothing worse to see / Than some repulsive little bum / Who’s always chewing chewing gum” (Dahl 99).


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a middle-grade (otherwise known as children’s) fiction novel. It tells the story of Willy Wonka, a famous chocolatier, who creates a contest where five children can come and tour his chocolate factory for a day, but only if they find one of the five Golden Tickets that he has hidden inside of the wrappers of his millions of chocolate bars. The five children who win the contest are: “Augustus Gloop, a greedy boy. Veruca Salt, a girl who is spoiled by her parents. Violet Beauregarde, a girl who chews gum all day long. Mike Teavee, a boy who does nothing but watch television. And Charlie Bucket, the hero” (Dahl Introduction). While the first four children are all spoiled and entitled, Charlie comes from a life of poverty. His four grandparents all sleep in the same bed and the family barely has enough to eat, so Charlie is extremely lucky to have found a Golden Ticket. The children can each bring one or two of their guardians to tour the factory and Charlie chooses to bring his Grandpa Joe, who is definitely still a child at heart.

The plot is complicated once the children and their guardians have entered the factory. One by one the spoiled children get greedy and disobey Mr. Wonka, causing the children to have to leave the tour. Each time a child is escorted out, they are accompanied by the Oompa-Loompas (Mr. Wonka’s unique workers), who sing about the children and how their actions have led to whatever misfortune has befallen them. One song explains gleefully that “Veruca Salt, the little brute / Has just gone down the garbage chute,” (Dahl 116) and another about Mike Teavee, about whom they “shall simply have to wait and see / If we can get him back his height. / But if we can’t – it serves him right” (Dahl 141). Finally, when only kind and humble Charlie is the last child left, Willy Wonka reveals the true reason behind his Golden Tickets: to find a child that he “liked best” (Dahl 151). Mr. Wonka would then teach him or her everything he knows, so one day the child can take over the factory for him. In this way, Charlie goes from a poor boy living in a shack to the heir to the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory.

Going into this adorable little book, I had a pre-existing bias that I was going to love it, because I was already familiar with both movie adaptations. I was also already familiar with Roald Dahl, having previously read Matilda. Reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory gave me such nostalgia for all of the books I used to read in elementary school. I admit that my emotional attachment to this story has a lot to do with these kinds of feelings, rather than being due to the story itself. Even so, I did develop an attachment to Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe. They are the two most genuine, kind-hearted characters in the novel, especially when compared to the other children and their parents. Every time Charlie was able to get his hands on a chocolate bar, I held my breath, waiting to see which of his chocolate bars would be the one containing the Golden Ticket. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a nice change from the other novels I have been reading lately, for in this novel everything falls into place: the bad people get what they deserve, the good people get rewarded, and they all live happily ever after. The more mature books I have been reading lately are much more complicated than that, and a happily ever after is certainly not a guarantee. Reading this novel amidst all of my university assigned readings has taught me that sometimes simplicity is exactly what a reader needs sometimes, and that is exactly what a middle-grade novel can offer.

Roald Dahl’s writing style is immediately recognizable and is completely unique. For the most part, this book is written in third person omniscient, but it also has moments where it uses second person and even first person. The narrator typically sees all and knows all, even Charlie’s inner thoughts and feelings. Yet, briefly, the narrator speaks directly to the audience, saying, “This is Charlie. How d’you do? . . . He is pleased to meet you” (Dahl 3). To further complicate the narration styles, the narrator then begins using ‘I’, saying, “But I haven’t told you about the one awful thing that tortured little Charlie, the lover of chocolate, more than anything else” (Dahl 7). These alternating points of view are just another way Dahl chooses to be creative in his writing. To me, Willy Wonka is a representation of Dahl’s writing style: creative genius, a little all over the place, and a lot wacky. Wonka speaks in stream-of-consciousness – which was hilarious to read – and when speaking to the other four children and their parents, he combines an obvious air of condescension with a childlike cheerfulness, making those receiving his masked insults unsure if they are really being insulted or not.

The novel’s pacing was very quick, which is typical for a middle-grade novel because authors of this age category are aware of the shorter attention spans of their audience. A factor that certainly helps to keep that attention is the setting of the novel: a fantastical chocolate factory. Dahl encourages his young readers to use their imaginations and to push themselves into being as creative as possible in their visualizations of such a fantastical setting.

For the first time, I am reviewing a middle-grade novel and I have to keep reminding myself that the expectations for this age category are different from the expectations of young adult novels. In middle-grade, the characters are more flat, stereotyped, and are less likely to analyze their own actions or the actions of others, while in YA, the audience expects more depth from the characters they are reading about. Despite this being a common occurrence in middle-grade, the “stereotyping of characters is the form of criticism that has been most heard about,” for it could present problems of racialization and sexism (White 5). Although these particular, more serious issues are not very prominent the stereotype of how rich and privileged people behave is definitely witnessed in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

There are also more restrictions placed upon the content of middle-grade novels, and that is another way in which this novel has been criticized. Eleanor Cameron “objected to its ‘phony presentation of poverty and its phony humour, which is based on punishment with overtones of sadism’” (White 4). In response, I would argue that the presentation of poverty is not meant to be accurate. Dahl wishes to get the image of poverty across, while keeping the tone of the novel light and fun. Even in moments where readers are made to feel pity for the Bucket family, there is always an underlying sense of ridiculousness – like that which is created by the image of the four grandparents all in the same bed. As far as the ‘humour based on punishment and sadism,’ I contend that this is definitely an overstatement. Dahl is teaching his age eight to twelve audience that the kind of behaviours that the four children were displaying: selfishness, greed, and presumptuousness, are qualities that will not lead to anything beneficial, for it is none of these children that receive Wonka’s reward in the end. Instead it is Charlie, who possesses none of these qualities.

Of course I would recommend this novel! To anyone and everyone! My advice for someone who thinks that they are too old to read a children’s book would be to just give it a chance! It felt so good to fly through a novel, to not have to think too much about the meaning behind the words. The ending was a happy one and it left me feeling fulfilled, and there were no loose ends that needed to be tied up that weren’t. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory deserves my 10 out of 10 rating due to the nostalgia that I – and many other readers – associate with it, and due to its complete uniqueness, for there is no other book in the world like it. Reading a middle-grade book for the first time in years made me want to read more, so I am definitely planning on adding more novels from this age category to my to-be-read list.






Works Cited

Dahl, Roald. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Puffin Books, 1964.

Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.

White, Mary Lou. “Censorship – Threat over Children’s Books.” The Elementary School Journal, vol. 75, no. 1, 1974, pp. 2-10.

Review 3 – Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Eleanor & Park
  • Author: Rainbow Rowell
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
  • Year Published: 2013
  • Setting: 1986 Omaha, Nebraska
  • Point of View (POV): Third person omniscient, alternating between the two protagonists, Eleanor and Park.
  • Themes: Love, Family, Identity, Courage, Appearances, Gender, Race
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Favourite Quotes:
    • “‘I just want to break that song into pieces,’ she said, ‘and love them all to death’” (Rowell 59).
    • “Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive” (Rowell 71).
    • “I don’t like you, Park,” she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. “I…”—her voice nearly disappeared—”think I live for you” (Rowell 111).


Eleanor & Park is a young adult contemporary novel about two misfit sixteen-year-olds who fall in love with each other over the course of a school year. The novel is complicated by the hardships that each character goes through at home and at school. In each other they find a confidante, someone that they can trust to be there for them, and an unwavering support system. Eleanor is a “big and awkward” redhead from a complicated family (Rowell 8). While she is funny and clever, she is also troubled, for Eleanor’s stepfather is abusive towards her mother, her siblings, and herself. As if Eleanor’s home life isn’t enough, she is also bullied at school. She experiences abuse in some form every single day and it undoubtedly affects her relationship with Park. It causes her to be argumentative with him, even though she hasn’t even told him the details of her horrible situation. Despite all of this, she slowly allows herself to open up to Park as the novel progresses. Park, himself, is struggling with his identity as half-Korean, half-American. As he struggles to accept himself and increase his self-confidence, he meets Eleanor, who teaches him that it’s okay to be different and that his heritage and individuality are qualities that he should be proud of. The story of these two teens was lovely and I really enjoyed reading it.

The height of the conflict in this novel comes when Eleanor realizes that she is no longer safe in her home. For after months of indirect threats, she discovers that it is her step-father, Richie, who has been writing disgusting sexual messages on her school books. Thinking back over the last few months, Eleanor thinks about “how he looks at me. Like he’s biding his time. Not like he wants me. Like he’ll get around to me. When there’s nothing and no one else left to destroy. How he waits up for me. Keeps track of me. How he’s always there. When I’m eating. When I’m reading. When I’m brushing my hair,” and she knows that she has to leave (Rowell 288). Unfortunately, this means leaving Park behind and possibly the most heartbreaking fifty pages I’ve ever read.

In regards to the emotional attachment I developed for this book, I really did become invested in the relationship between Eleanor and Park. Throughout the novel, I was rooting for them to pull through all of the negativity that life was throwing at them. Yet, Eleanor’s home life became too much, leading to their reluctant sort-of breakup at the end of the novel. The ending broke my heart, but I also found it irritating. I really disliked that Eleanor did not even try to stay in touch with Park at all after leaving Omaha. As a person who believes in long distance relationships, it upset me (and I’m sure, many others) that Eleanor wouldn’t even try and did not give Park any kind of explanation. And how she finally sent Park a three-word postcard on the last page of the novel does not redeem her for me.

Rainbow Rowell’s writing style is very clear and conversational, and the dialogue between characters is always very believable. Often, the characters’ thoughts interrupt the progression of the story, represented by italics, which I thought was a great way to deepen the readers’ understanding of the characters. The pacing of the novel was perfect. It included moments of action where I flew through the chapters and slower moments where the focus was on developing the characters and their relationship. Rowell chose to set the novel in 1986, which I found very interesting to read about, with comic books and mixtapes being what draws Eleanor and Park together. I believe that this is a relatable story that could occur anywhere and at any point in time, but for these characters, without the pop culture of 1986, they may never have been brought together.

The novel, as young adult literature, succeeds in fulfilling the expectations of the genre. Eleanor & Park discusses “societal conflicts and dilemmas” and expresses “the unique point of view offered by an adolescent main character” (Bean & Moni 638). The novel directly appeals to its intended audience by depicting adolescents who are “living and wrestling with real problems close to [the teenage audience’s] own life experiences” (Bean & Moni 638). A major theme in YA literature is coming-of-age, or ‘bildungsroman.’ The characters are in the process of developing their identities into the kind of people they want to be. Eleanor and Park help each other to accept themselves and understand that they deserve love just as much as everybody else. Eleanor says, “the world rebuilt itself into a better place around [Park]”, meaning that when she is around him, she is in a world where she can forget about her bullies at school and her abusive stepfather and just allow herself to be happy (Rowell 269).

I would definitely recommend this novel to just about anyone. With its relatable characters, this story could be enjoyed by people of any age, not just by young adults. While the romance is the main focus of the story, the individual lives of the characters could easily bring in readers who don’t usually read romance novels. I gave Eleanor & Park an 8 out of 10 because even though I really liked the story, I was often very annoyed with Eleanor and her behaviour. She kept Richie’s abuse and the extent of the bullying she was receiving at school a secret until later in the novel, using Park unfairly as an outlet for her anger in the meantime. I definitely enjoyed the character of Park more, but being frustrated with Eleanor does not mean that I disliked the novel. It was definitely a solid 8 for me and I will continue to recommend it to anyone who will listen.






Works Cited

Bean, Thomas W., and Karen Moni. “Developing Students’ Critical Literacy: Exploring Identity Construction in Young Adult Fiction.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 46, no. 8, 2003, pp. 638-648.

Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.

Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park. St. Martin’s Press, 2013.

Review 2 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two
  • Authors: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
  • Year Published: 2016
  • Setting: J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Point of View (POV): Screenplay Format
  • Themes: Family, Identity, Courage, Appearances, Memory, Friendship
  • My Rating: 4/10
  • Favourite Quotes:
    • “This… is the last thing I had from my mum. The only thing. I was given to the Dursleys wrapped in it. I thought it had gone forever and then . . . Dudley found this and he kindly sent it on to me” (Rowling et al. 39).
    • “‘The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution’” (Rowling et al. 48)
    • “To suffer is as human as to breathe” (Rowling et al. 258)



Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a fantasy screenplay about Harry Potter’s son, Albus Potter, and his struggle to live up to his father’s reputation, as well as the difficult relationship between Harry and Albus. Much to everyone’s surprise, when Albus enters his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he is sorted into Slytherin rather than Gryffindor like the rest of his family. He becomes best friends with Scorpius Malfoy – the son of Harry’s rival throughout their time at Hogwarts – and feels ostracized from his family, and the older he gets, the more fights he gets into with his father. In Albus’ fourth year, he and Scorpius get into trouble with an illegal Time-Turner, threatening the safety and happiness of the entire wizarding world.

Albus is different from the rest of his family. He is not an extraordinarily talented wizard or athlete, and he is sorted into Slytherin, when his brother, parents, and grandparents are all Gryffindors. He rebels against the expectations placed on him due to his father’s reputation and allows himself to be manipulated into going back in time to save Cedric Diggory, who was killed by Voldemort in Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts. He even convinces Scorpius to come with him in his misguided schemes and the two are eventually kidnapped by Delphi, a witch with a false identity. Despite Scorpius’ willingness to follow along with Albus’ plans, he is arguably the best character in the play. He is a charming, happy geek who always has something funny to say, even in the worst situations. With this story being the first time Scorpius is introduced to fans of the Harry Potter world, the expectations were that he would act the same way as his father, Draco. Yet, Scorpius could not be more different. For myself at least, Scorpius saved this book from being a complete flop.

I obviously cannot talk about a Harry Potter book without talking about Harry Potter himself. However, in this play, Harry was not the character I know and love. This forty-year old Harry is unwilling to relate to his son Albus, just because he is different than Harry was at his age. As I read, I found it very difficult to take his character seriously because he was written so differently than he was in the original seven novels. Much of his actions and dialogue did not seem like it made sense coming from him, such as when he threatens Minerva McGonagall, one of the professors he respects most at Hogwarts, saying, “if I hear you don’t – then I will come down on this school as hard as I can – using the full force of the Ministry – is that understood?” (Rowling et al. 123). He also tries to force Albus to stop being friends with Scorpius just because Draco is his father. Honestly (and unfortunately), the scenes I enjoyed most in this play were the ones that didn’t include Harry.

The greatest conflict in this novel comes when Albus and Scorpius are kidnapped by Delphi, who at first claims to be Cedric Diggory’s cousin, and are taken back in time. When Harry and his team, including Ron, Hermione, Draco, and Ginny, go back in time to save Albus and Scorpius, they discover that Delphi is really the daughter of Voldemort. The Dark Lord had the child in secret with his right-hand Death Eater, Bellatrix Lestrange, and now Delphi is trying to change the past to create a future in which Voldemort is still alive. Together, Harry and Albus are able to put aside their differences to defeat her, and good once again triumphs over evil.

Going into this book I already had a very strong emotional attachment to the author, the world, and the characters. However, due to the screenplay format, I found that J.K. Rowling’s voice was lost and that for the most part, the story came across very monotone. This prevented me from emotionally investing myself in this new Harry Potter storyline. Aside from the affection I developed for Scorpius, I did not feel connected to the characters or plot at all (even to Albus, the main character). I much would have preferred for this story to have simply been published as a novel – not a screenplay – written by J.R. Rowling, without the influence of any co-writers. The Cursed Child makes it very clear that it is Rowling’s magical writing that makes the story of Harry and his friends so beloved; no one else can write Harry Potter like she can. This book does not do Rowling’s ideas justice.

The pacing of the novel at times moved extremely fast – and not in a good way. Act One, Scene Four is called a ‘Transition Scene’, where “the changes are rapid as we leap between worlds. There are no individual scenes, but fragments, shards that show the constant progression of time” (Rowling et al. 19). In that one scene, the play moves from Albus’ first year to his third year at Hogwarts, the transitions truly feeling fragmented and making little sense. I had to reread the scene twice in order to figure out what was going on and what the authors were trying to accomplish. Seeing it performed on stage would probably have a greater effect, but in the published copy, the scene just does not succeed in portraying a time change in the flowing, easy way that the authors intended. The rest of the play continues in a fast-paced manner, although it is much more manageable by the time of the conflict’s peak. In regards to the setting, Rowling’s magical world is a key component to the story, for this narrative could not exist without it.

As a screenplay, the book is written the way that those familiar with the genre would expect, for “screenplays depend on evocative language and an interpretive reader to generate meaning,” (Rush & Baughman 36) due to the instances “of commentary, of irony, or of close-in lyrical experience – that need to be expressed in other ways” (Rush & Baughman 31). This screenplay heavily relies on interpretive readers and actors to turn the script into something great, because with its lack of authorial voice, it certainly is not on its own. The play also uses examples of evocative language (when something is described in a way that reminds the reader of something else), for instance, when Ludo Bagman is described as “the ‘greatest showman on earth’” it reminds fans of the series of how Bagman is known for having a huge personality, but it all being an act, for behind that big personality, Bagman is a coward and a cheat. He pretends to be someone that he is not, and calling him a ‘great showman’ emphasizes that fact.

I would recommend this book to longtime fans of the Harry Potter franchise who wish to read anything and everything Harry Potter-related that is released to the public. I would NOT recommend this book as a first reading experience for those who have never read Harry Potter before. Firstly, this is because it includes many spoilers for the first seven books of the series and would spoil the reader for the (MUCH BETTER) original story. Secondly, the fact that it is written as a screenplay instead of as a novel, like the previous books, would only confuse new readers, potentially even more so than it confused the long-time fans who are already familiar with the story and its characters. Regardless, NO ONE should go into this book expecting a piece of fantastic writing and NO ONE should expect this book to be at the same literary standard that the other Harry Potter novels are at, due to the amount that the play relies on the imagination of the readers to fill in the obvious holes in the narrative. I gave The Cursed Child a 4 out of 10, and I am completely aware that my personal bias is outweighing my knowledge that a screenplay cannot be considered on the same plane as a novel. I know that screenplays are limited by the restrictions of their genre, but I still cannot bring myself to give this book any higher of a rating. I do not regret reading this book and am glad that I can add it to my Harry Potter collection, but I seriously doubt that I will ever pick it up again for a re-read, the way I do with the original seven books of the series.





Works Cited

Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.

Rowling, J.K., John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016.

Rush, Jeff, and Cynthia Baughman. “Language as Narrative Voice: The Poetics of the Highly Inflected Screenplay.” Journal of Film and Video, vol. 49, no. 3, 1997, pp. 28-37.

Review 1 – New World: Rising by Jennifer Wilson

Quick Facts:

  • Title: New World: Rising
  • Author: Jennifer Wilson
  • Publisher: Of Tomes Publishing
  • Year Published: 2014
  • Setting: The dystopian city of Tartarus
  • Point of View (POV): First person narrator
  • Themes: Identity, Trust, Alliances, Survival, Corrupt Government, Rebellion
  • My Rating: 9/10
  • Favourite Quotes:
    • “Once I had opened a book and read its pages, those characters could never be taken away from me. Even if the books were burned, they would still live on in my mind” (Wilson 20).
    • “‘Even the most gentle people have a dark side you know’ . . . ‘I know,’ . . . ‘It’s how you control that darkness that defines you’” (Wilson 78-79).
    • “There is no good or evil here, it all depends on what side you’re standing. Nor is it about wrong or right, it’s about surviving” (Wilson 151).


New World: Rising is a young adult dystopian novel about a girl, Phoenix, who lives in the city of Tartarus. In Tartarus, there are five Tribes: Ravagers, Scavengers, Taciturns, Wraiths, and Adroits, and the Tribes’ motto is “Join or die” (Wilson 7). Phoenix, however, refuses to do either and instead survives on her own from the time she was eleven and had witnessed her parents’ brutal murders. But then she sees a pack of Ravagers hunting a ten-year-old girl who later decides she wants to be called Mouse. After years of choosing to live and survive alone, something changes that makes tough, unemotional, intimidating, self-reliant Phoenix want to risk her life to save the girl. Injured in her fight with the Ravagers, Phoenix falls unconscious, and when she wakes up, she finds herself in an unfamiliar place with people that bear no Tribe allegiance markings. She soon learns that these people are The Subversive, a group whose focus is to escape Tartarus and take down The Sanctuary – the supposed utopia that, in reality, is controlled by a corrupt government. Working with The Subversive, Phoenix and Mouse contribute their knowledge – Phoenix’s being of Tartarus and Mouse’s of The Sanctuary – to help them in their cause. Along the way, Phoenix meets Triven, a kindhearted, caring bookworm, who is also a very talented fighter and a young leader of The Subversive. They begin as friends, but against her instincts, Phoenix begins to fall in love with him.

The height of the conflict in this novel comes after the plans and preparations to gain access to The Sanctuary are complete, and Phoenix, Triven, Mouse, and the others from The Subversive set off. Despite their attempts to stop her, Mouse is cleverer than the others give her credit for and she succeeds in going with Phoenix and Triven into The Sanctuary, instead of being taken back to the safety of The Subversive. Much of their team is lost in an attack from the Ravagers, so only five of them were able to sneak in, including Phoenix, Triven, and Mouse. Once they are out on the streets of The Sanctuary, Phoenix is forced to make decisions that will either lead to her saving herself or saving the others. It is only on the last page of the novel that Phoenix realizes that Triven and Mouse are “the only two people [she] ever loved” (Wilson 318).

I definitely became emotionally invested in this novel. I rooted for Phoenix to open up to her newfound friends, I felt protective and cared about Mouse, I fell in love with Triven, and I hated Maddox and his self-righteousness. The characters in this novel were very well developed and reading their character arcs was one of the best aspects of the book. The Tribes were also a fascinating element, and the first few pages in which the illustrations explained the different behaviours, colours, and markings of each Tribe were a great addition to the novel’s world building. I only wish that the novel had spent more time interacting with the different Tribes, for some of them – like the Adroits – were hardly mentioned. I hope that in the next two books they are given a larger role. I am definitely planning on reading the rest of the trilogy as soon as possible, mostly due to the cliffhanger at the end. I NEED to know what happens next!

Jennifer Wilson’s writing style is straight-forward and easy to read. Although there were some information dumps, they didn’t particularly bother me since her descriptions were a perfect mix of lyrical and to-the-point. I did not see her plot twists coming, especially the revelation of Arstid’s secondary identity. The novel maintained a fast pace throughout its chapters, with barely any quiet, tensionless moments. Just when you think you can relax after a huge action scene, Wilson shocks you again. I adore books and authors that can continue to surprise me, and in a genre like dystopian fiction – which has a certain predictable formula that experienced readers will expect when they start reading – surprises are uncommon. Thus, I will definitely be returning to this series and will hopefully be reading more by Jennifer Wilson in the future.

New World: Rising follows Bean & Moni’s definition of young adult fiction, due to its use of “perceptive, sensitive, intelligent, mature, and independent” teenage characters, especially the protagonist (638). Phoenix offers readers the opportunity to observe a female protagonist who intentionally detaches herself emotionally from many of the people and situations around her. This is uncommon even in dystopian novels, because even if a female protagonist is emotionally detached, she always has a pre-existing weakness (for example, Katniss’ weakness for her little sister in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games) that shows readers that despite the way she appears, she still has a soft spot for someone or something. Phoenix is different. She lost her parents six years ago and became a hardened, independent survivor as a result. At the beginning of the novel, Phoenix is alone and is strong in her self-imposed isolation. It is only after around forty pages or so that the reader, and Phoenix herself, learns that she has a weakness: an innocent little girl, reminiscent of how she used to be before the deaths of her parents. This novel shows young, female readers that it is okay to be emotionally closed off, but it is also beneficial to yourself and others to open up to people.

As a dystopian novel, New World: Rising definitely succeeds. Without a doubt, it will “frighten and warn” readers about “pressing global concerns,” such as total government control where those who are not deemed worthy of saving could end up in hellish circumstances (Basu et al. 1). Tartarus is where those not let into the Sanctuary were forced to stay, and it is accurately named, for it derives from the Greek myth in which Tartarus is a deep abyss where the Titans are imprisoned and made to suffer. Prejudice is alive in today’s world, and if it is allowed to progress, who knows what the repercussions would be. The novel depicts “a postapocalyptic struggle for survival [and] a valiant attempt to retain individuality in a totalitarian world,” which is typical of the genre, but is here presented in a new and unique way (Basu et al. 4).

I would absolutely recommend this novel to anyone that is remotely interested in dystopian fiction (and even to those who aren’t!). This novel gives a fresh take on the tropes of the genre and includes characters that readers will become emotionally invested in. The setting and the idea of the Tribes is so intriguing and the ending leaves the audience wanting more. I gave New World: Rising a 9 instead of a 10 out of 10 only because I occasionally got annoyed with Phoenix not opening up to the other characters and because of a couple of information dumps, but this did not actually hinder my reading experience very much at all. I cannot wait to continue with this trilogy and keep learning more about this unique dystopian world.






Works Cited

Basu, Balaka, et al. Introduction. Contemporary Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults: Brave New Teenagers, by Basu et al, Routledge, 2015, pp. 1-15.

Bean, Thomas W., and Karen Moni. “Developing Students’ Critical Literacy: Exploring Identity Construction in Young Adult Fiction.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 46, no. 8, 2003, pp. 638-648.

Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.

Wilson, Jennifer. New World: Rising. Of Tomes Publishing, 2014.