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Under Review: Book Reviews from the Press Team

"Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light." - Vera Nazarian

There is something very special about reading. We are instantly transported to a different time and place and we can experience the world through a different person's eyes. Books can make us feel so many emotions at the same time and can provide comfort and happiness. They are also simply fun to read.

Like many kids and teens, we at the BCS Press Team absolutely love to read. So each of us picked one of our favorite books or series (believe us, this wasn't easy!) and wrote a short review. Enjoy!

1. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (reviewed by Ruqaiyah Damrah)

In 1945, 9,000 refugees were killed when four Soviet torpedoes hit the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German ship. This is a tragedy that dwarfs the losses of the Titanic and Lusitania, yet most people don't know about this. Ruta Sepetys gives those people a voice in this amazing, heart-wrenching novel. The story is set in Germany in the 1940s when Germany and the Soviet Union are at war. It is told through four young adults' viewpoints. I loved how the narration switched so seamlessly from character to character. The first character is Joana, a young nurse who is plagued by guilt for something she has done. Florian is a young man who has forged his way out of the German army; he is hiding to avoid being caught for a crime he committed. Emilia is a 15-year old girl who is hiding a terrible secret that burns inside of her. Alfred is a sailor aboard the Gustloff who is desperate for recognition and is extremely loyal to Hitler. As the book progresses, these four people's stories converge and come together in unexpected and beautiful ways. They are all frightened, trying to escape the horrors of the war, trying to heal the emotional wounds they carry, while all the while discovering who they are and the courage within them. This book is terrifying in a way that makes you realize how horrible and cruel humans can be. At the same time, it is full of heart and optimism: "War is a catastrophe. It breaks families in irretrievable pieces. But those who are gone are not necessarily lost." The prose is beautiful and flawless, and you will be holding your breath and weeping along with the characters. Ruta Sepetys has created a page-turner that will remain in readers' minds.

2. Lunar Chronicles, Book 1: Cinder by Marissa Meyer (reviewed by Gabrielle Lussier)

“Even in the future, the story begins with once upon a time....” In this futuristic retelling of Cinderella, a young mechanic goes on the adventure of a lifetime when a chance encounter thrusts her into a life of intergalactic magnitude. Cinder, the protagonist, is an incredibly strong character who takes matters into her own hands, and risks her own life to protect the ones she loves. I was struck immediately with the humanity of her character, despite the fact she's actually a cyborg. Her humor, wit, and overall personality kept me hooked throughout the story line. I'm not usually a fan of retellings, much less those that allow for the constant 'damsel in distress' stereotype that seems so prevalent in books today, but Marissa Meyer's unconventional mixture of royalty, robots, and a kingdom on the moon blew away any and all expectations I had for this book. The characters were unique, and the plot-line was awesome. The twists and turns throughout the series quickly made this one of my all-time favorites I've ever read. The only damsel in distress I encountered throughout the series was myself- when I had to wait to get the next book. I highly recommend this series to fans of Star Wars, Cinderella, or anyone who just needs a good book to read.

3. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (reviewed by India Rodriguez)

Farmer Boy is a wonderful book. It is a year in the life of a young boy, Almanzo, in the mid 1800s. He lives on a farm near Malone in upstate New York. I love this book because it describes in detail the lives of those on farms in the 1800s. Everyday, he does numerous chores to keep up with the changing seasons on the farm. When his family can spare him, he goes to school. His father owns the best and biggest farms in Malone or, as Almanzo thinks, the world. Almanzo dreams of horses; he wishes his father will let him train the 2-year-olds. The book describes in detail his chores, schooling, family, and his farm. I recommend this book to everyone, but don’t take my word for it! Read it yourself!

4. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (reviewed by Afnaan Damrah)

This series is about three siblings. Their names are Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire. Violet is fourteen and always has an idea to get her and her siblings out of trouble. Klaus is twelve. He loves to read and knows all kinds of information. Sunny is two, and she is fierce and always available to help her siblings. The siblings’ parents die in a fire and they are left in the care of a relative they have never heard of: Count Olaf. Olaf eagerly greets them into his home with open arms, but the orphans soon understand that Olaf just wants the enormous fortune that their parents left behind. They manage to escape from him several times, but Olaf follows them in different disguises. Along the way, they discover a terrible secret about their parents. I loved this series because once you read the first book, you can’t stop. There is mystery and lots of humor. Not everything is just revealed from the beginning. You kind of have to use whatever you read to find out the big mystery. My suggestion to anyone who wants to read this series is to NEVER skim. If you skim over the boring parts, then you will miss a lot of really useful information; I learned this the hard way. My favorite character is Count Olaf. Although he is really nasty and evil, he is very funny. I also love Sunny because she has four sharp teeth and she bites everyone. I liked that there are so many books (13) and that keeps you in suspense.

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