Watch Over Me by Nina Lacour

Book review by Elizabeth

I had lost all hope. Stepping solemnly into the library, book in hand, only 30 pages in. I sat down and opened it up again, telling myself I could do it, but I was destined to fail. Was this the end? Did all my love of reading leak out leaving a disinterested shell of my former self? There would be only one way to find out. I got myself together, and threw the book across the building, finally freeing myself of its weight. Feeling the power of liberty, I strode over to my usual section, and whipped out the first 2020 book I could find. I opened the hard cover with hope, my eyes flying through the description, taking in each word with wonder. This was it. Finally, after so long; an actual good book. 

Watch Over Me by Nina Lacour is a piece of literature I can only describe as phenomenal. Mila had just graduated high school, finally became an adult, and was finally free to live whatever life she so chooses. She had been one of few accepted to intern and live on a farm in which children were given a loving home and a family, something they were not born into. The interns working there helped take care of the kids, teach them, and hopefully also find love and peace. What didn’t help Mila forget and escape her own troubled past, as she desired, were the ghosts who haunted the farm. They wouldn’t cause trouble, but instead resurface the memories that brought fear and regret to Mila, not to mention her strong desire to fit in and feel like she belonged with the others who lived on the farm as a family. 

Whenever I would finish a good book, a truly good book, I would also slowly close its back cover and hug it closely. I would be happy I found out what happened at the end, but bummed because I couldn’t imagine what I could possibly read next that could top it. This book was a sign, a sign telling me it’s not my fault if I don’t enjoy reading sometimes, but that I just need to find the right thing to read, and boy did I! Not kidding when I read this glorious book, time would actually soar, and I’d find myself on the 60th page in what seemed like 15 minutes. I don’t care that it didn’t have a concrete storyline, or a dramatic climax, or anything else that comes to mind when you think of a book. I realize this sounds hyper-critical of me, considering my take-downs of previous books, but at this point compared to this absolute masterpiece those were just written wrong.

Now let me elaborate. This is a slow-paced book that deals with the main character’s past struggles as they slowly resurface, as well as her evident imposter syndrome regarding the other residents of the farm. Everyone living there keeps praising Mila and being so kind to her, saying she belongs, and is doing a good job, but she doesn’t believe it, partly because of her past, partly because she knows she hasn’t been with them for as long as they’ve had each other. Life on the farm is perfect, but Mila feels that she doesn’t deserve it. Even I expected some dark twist where the perfect life on the farm is some illusion but that’s not what this book is about, at all. It gets in touch with Mila’s conflicts and emotions and and takes the readers through this rollercoaster of feels that is almost impossible to find anywhere else. Mila’s situation is so incredibly relatable, her backstory is so incredibly indulging, and this book is so incredibly incredible I’m having a hard time effectively describing its incredibleness to you. That’s how good this book is. 

I’m recommending it to every living organism out there. I’m serious. If you’ve just finished it, go give it to your plant – it’ll sprout up in seconds. I realize it may not be for everyone, that everyone being the people who would actually want the farm to turn out to be some elaborate scheme, and if that sounds like you go enjoy your day but I hope you still give it a try. In fact, I recommend this book so much that I will be personally offended if I see it collecting dust on the library shelf ever again. It’s worth your time, so stop reading this review and go read this book instead!

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

Book Review by Elizabeth

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland is eyecatching, to say the least. Right off the bat it comes with warnings of sexual assault, PTSD, physical abuse, parental death, and racist violence. Oh and aliens, you know, the usual. 

The book starts off and introduces you to Sia Martinez, a young Mexican girl whose mother had been deported by ICE a few years ago. While struggling in Mexico, she had the ridiculous idea of clawing her way back to her family through the Sonoran Desert, and presumably died in the process. Sia hates the sheriff and his son Jeremy McGhee with a fiery passion for being responsible for her mother’s deportation. After her grandmother’s death, all Sia has now was her father and her best friend Rose. Sia was close with her dead grandmother though, feeling her around at times and remembering all the stories and lessons she had taught her. Just as Sia’s class was starting, a new astronomy project, a new boy arrives in her class who gets stuck as her partner. As he and Sia spend more time together, they begin to create closer and closer bonds, despite Rose’s warning about him that he might be connected to the McGhees. Sia eventually drifts apart from Rose entirely, which meant that she spent almost all her time with Noah (the new guy) and they start getting invested in shows like the X-Files and conspiracy theories. To their astonishment, they keep spotting a space-craft-like-floating-thing in the desert sky that one day crashes in front of them, revealing the one and only – Sia’s long lost mother. 

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this novel. I absolutely adored it at first. It was just my style of read: adversity, dark pasts, will-they-won’t-they couples, all sprinkled with the main characters’ culture. But then the entire extraterrestrial thing got involved and I think they went a little too far with that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t shoot aliens down as soon as they come into play. I picked up this book, didn’t I? It’s just that their backstory is a little too convoluted. It’s hard to keep track of why they’re doing what they’re doing, and the climax feels like it’s there for the sake of a climax. I just got bored of this book after a while. Maybe if you are a little more used to, and enjoy the likes of aliens, you’ll find this book all the rage. At least I recommend the first half of this book wholeheartedly. It was one of the most indulging reads ever. 

Prepped by Bethany Mangle

Book Review by Elizabeth

Prepped by Bethany Mangle was finally something new on the shelf. Surrounded at every angle by the same boring “quirky love story” made this novel seem like a breath of fresh air. Little did I know of the, let’s just say experience that awaited me. 

The book opens on a survival training lesson, one of the many painful and dangerous drills Becca Aldaine has endured. She and her family lived in a part of their suburban Ohio neighbourhood that was filled with people paranoid of the inevitable apocalypse that could strike at any second now. Any second now. Any second…now. Well, the important part was that they were prepared, right? Even if that meant submitting children as early as thirteen into freezing duck ponds, tiny crawl spaces, and spending any disposable change for supplies for their two underground bunkers, able to function independently for three years. Point was, life sucked, and this was apparent to Becca more and more as she got older. Not to mention the arranged marriages all residents were forced to oblige by, and the compulsory children that came with it – just in case that the burden of repopulating the entire world came down to only them, you know? The usual stuff. 

Becca’s plan was simple though, to get good grades, get a full-ride to her first choice college to study physics, and leave the world of doomsday maniacs behind. Unfortunately her father, the man in charge of the training sessions in their community and the number one advocate for prepped survival, gets put into a coma by crashing into a drunk driver – the one factor he couldn’t control. This leaves Becca’s mother in charge, who was arguably even worse of a leader than her father on account of her spite from being forced into this lifestyle she never wanted in the first place. Becca’s little sister, Katie, was also gravely affected by her father’s incident, to the point where she started giving in to the doomsday way of life and losing her childlike spark. Now, Becca is torn between pursuing the dreams she’d been working to achieve for twelve years, or taking care of her sister so as to not leave her in her mother’s hands. Even if she got accepted and had a like-minded boyfriend willing to help, nothing would come easy. 

I personally felt as though this book was trying too hard to be The Hunger Games. From the cute little sister who is the most important person in the protagonist’s life, to Roy’s (Becca’s arranged boyfriend) overall demeanor resembling that of Peeta, and even the concept itself is playing into the dystopian society genre, but instead of the whole known world, it’s a small community. Speaking of the concept, it was pretty obvious to me it was the only real well-thought out part of this book. I really hate to say it, but this book lacked a lot of the creativity that could’ve made it such a better novel. The potential was immense, yet kind of wasted. Just for me to tell you the concept I alone had to read past half of the book to fully understand it, which is never a good sign. The book is full with unnecessary scenes of the characters going in and out of school, walking their dog or going to the mall to further the narrative to no end. It’s embarrassing that the actual story part of this story could fit in about 100 pages out of it’s 307. I would lose my train of thought so often, not because I didn’t try to pay attention, but because I simply don’t care about the bus ride to high school! This book captures your attention from the start with it’s thrilling training sessions, then loses you when the so-called narrative begins, only to regain it when another training session comes, and then again at the climax. For what it was worth, I enjoyed what little substance there was in this chip bag of mostly air, though I attribute this solely to my infamous reputation as a Hunger Games fangirl, a series this book is very poorly cosplaying as. If you’ve got time to kill, and I mean kill, go ahead and give it a read, it won’t hurt that much. However, if you prefer a brim-full chip bag as opposed to two thirds of air, I suggest you skip this one out. But who knows, maybe I’m just a bad reader.

Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson

Book Review by Elizabeth

Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson caught my eye instantly on the library shelf. I’ve always been drawn to books depicting teenage characters for I find them most relatable, and this one was no different. This novel pulls you into a realistic world, is generally slow-paced which makes it easy to follow, and gets you invested into the lives of the characters you could easily slip into the shoes of. 

We start in early July, a time of liberty and excitement for all the adventures to endure during the seemingly everlasting summer ahead. Nala finds the simple pleasures of trying on new hairstyles, listening to her favourite music, spending time with her friends and family, and hopefully finding love – all she needs to do to achieve the summer of her dreams. Unfortunately, all of her friends, as well as her cousin who she’s very close with, have taken part in their local volunteer group, Inspire Harlem, leaving Nala feeling like an outsider around them at times. Lucky for her, at the Inspire Harlem talent show, which she was reluctant to go to, Nala spots the most perfect guy she ever laid eyes on. Coincidentally, Tye Brown was also interested enough in her to engage with Nala after the show, which Nala unknowingly isn’t ready for. To hopefully make herself seem more attractive, intriguing, or at least “as woke”, Nala falls into a barrel of lies to glamorize herself for Tye – well half-truths at least. 

Along with keeping up her activist charade, Nala has been running into problems with Imani, who has been by her side since forever, but more of her sister and roommate since Nala ran away from her mom’s place. Somehow, Imani has been more distant, more sparse at family gatherings, and would seemingly rather spend time with her friends without Nala. Now, Nala doesn’t know whether she could get the guy, and even if she did if she could sustain her façade, because surely he couldn’t love her for who she really was, or whether she could figure out why her cousin-sister-friend needs to step away from her when all she wants to do is to bring the both of them closer. 

Aside from the dilemmas, I still would enjoy this book just as much. The author’s descriptions of Harlem and New York, the feeling of summer and new love are truly something else, binding you into the motion of their world only to have it unsatisfyingly disrupted by your annoying little brother barreling into your room. Nala makes a lot of lists throughout the book, making it even easier to understand everything that’s going on all at once. The pictures painted in your mind are very vivid and intriguing, a forever page-turner. I would definitely recommend this book to someone like me who isn’t into big adventures and wild fantasy. It’s very comforting, real, and enveloping, just how I like it. 

Clique Bait by Ann Valett

Book Review by Elizabeth

Clique Bait by Ann Valett is one interesting novel, indeed. I was quite excited to read this one since my high school drama content has run quite low, so I wanted to taste that convoluted, unrealistic, and overexaggerated world again. Fortunately, this book delivered me my reading guilty pleasure, as well as some internal screaming at the pages which I oh so love. 

Each chapter of this book opens with a short letter written from our main character, Chloe, to her best friend Monica. Chloe is a senior who day and night thinks of one thing only – how to take down the most popular clique in their school. She and Monica had previously divided up their private school’s students into levels, each representing a different step in the social hierarchy. Monica had always wanted to be at the top, to sit in the seat of Lola Davenport, their current queen bee. After she had gotten to Level One (the most elite clique), the regulars had taken her down, so much so that she was no longer at their school. This is why all through summer, Chloe had been planning her revenge on them, to bring justice to Monica that she knew she deserved. To put her plan into action, Chloe would need to infiltrate Level One, using blackmail to force her way in via William, the mayor’s son. Little did she know, William would instead offer to help her, proposing she pretend to be his girlfriend to ease her way in, as what needed to seem to them as a permanent fixture. 

Overall, this book was nice. I enjoyed this read as a way to kill time, while still feeling productive. This isn’t a masterpiece by any means. Frankly, I found it predictable but at the same time engaging, so props for that. I wish the author hadn’t resorted to such overused tropes, and wish the ending wasn’t as anti-climactic. For the average reader, I’d still totally recommend it as this book still does the job, but maybe not so much for someone who wants more nuance and twists in their reads. Still, I think this is a great guilty pleasure read and really hits the spot on a rainy day. 

July/August Summer Programs 2021

Are you getting excited for summer?

Start your summer planning by checking out our July/August summer programming guide for kids, tweens, and teens!

Download the programming guide, or pick up a print copy at your local library.

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Registration for July programs opens on Monday, June 28 at 9:30am.

Registration for August programs will open at the end of July. Check our social media accounts for the date announcement.