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  • July 2019
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Teen Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

SamanthaHi! I’m a 6th grader and really excited to be blogging. I LOVE to read and write so I’m most likely going to have a lot of posts. I’ll give you the most honest reviews possible. I hope you read them!

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

*Spoiler Alert*

This trilogy takes place in a world that separates its population into five groups which are sorted by personality (truthful, peaceful, brave, smart and selfless). Beatrice Prior (nicknamed Tris) was born into one of these groups, Abnegation (the selfless group). But when she turns 16, she gets the option to switch to another group, and she takes it and switches to Dauntless (the brave group). All of this happened in Divergent, the first book in the trilogy. I recommend reading this first before you read Insurgent.

Now, in Insurgent, Erudite (the smart group) has started a never-ending war and forced Dauntless to join them in their attacks against Abnegation. Now Beatrice and most of her Dauntless friends have to make things right and punish Erudite.

Tris and her friends go through many things, like making and breaking alliances, killing thousands of people, and losing people they have loved, before they finally get to Erudite headquarters and steal attack information while killing the Erudite leader.

I really liked this book. I would recommend it for anyone who likes a lot of action. It kept me on the edge of my seat, and I couldn’t put it down for 2 days straight. I hope it does the same for you!

Interview with Avery Williams, author of “Alchemy of Forever”

Being housemates with someone in college, you really get to know them.  You share music, clothes, and noodles topped with butter and Parmesan cheese when you’re already stretched-too-thin, part-time, minimum wage pay check barely covers rent, books, tuition.  You stay up all night sharing stories, songs, study notes, and heart to hearts.  You may drift in and out of touch after you graduate, but even if your contact is limited, there’s an intimacy that never really goes away when you’ve lived with someone- especially if you were on the threshold of adulthood.  Now, imagine my surprise and excitement when I learned that my old friend and college housemate- someone I KNOW- Avery Williams was writing a book for teens!  I love the idea that a person who was so personally influential in my late teens and young adult years is now influencing more teens and young adults through her writing.  Avery was kind enough to let me pick her brain with a few questions and share them with you here:

What inspired your book Alchemy of Forever?

The Alchemy of Forever, for me, is fundamentally about the struggle between magic and science. There are so many books about paranormal creatures for whom magic is a given, but what if there was a coven of immortals who thought of themselves as creations of science? They’ve lived for hundreds of years but don’t know any more than you or me about ghosts or the afterlife. What if, for them, humans almost seem magical? Seraphina has lived an amazing life—has witnessed the Renaissance and lived on every continent. But to her, Kailey’s life is far more captivating. After all, Sera never had the chance to grow up. She never got to be normal.

What interested you in writing for a teen audience?

I’ll speak for myself when I say that my teen years were emotionally intense. Everything felt so monumental. I love the idea of writing for an audience that’s passionate and imaginative. When I was fifteen, I believed that vampires were real. And ghosts and fairies and other dimensions. Okay, I kinda still do, or at least I want to. But it’s the combination of ardent emotions and a willingness to believe in the fantastical that makes teens the perfect audience. Look at popular adult novels—tedious stories about middle-aged couples in Connecticut getting divorced and tending a garden. I just made that up, but you know what I mean. Bo-ring!

Did any real life teens inspire the story or characters?

I will admit to stalking some Facebook profiles of friends of mine who are still in high school for characters’ names and descriptions of their outfits. But no, the characters in Alchemy are plucked from my brain. Kailey’s mom was based on my own, however.

When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid—mostly poems, a few short stories here and there. Alchemy was my first novel.

What’s the coolest thing about being the author of a published book?

The best thing is having people actually read what I wrote! I do have pages and pages (hundreds) of poems that have probably been read by fifty people, tops. And although I would keep writing whether or not I was ever published, it’s so gratifying to know that the book has completed its journey and ended up in the hands of readers. I love going online and seeing the reviews people have posted—even the negative ones.

What were your teen years like?

When I was a teenager I dyed my hair purple, wore galoshes to school, and carried my books around in a basket. I also wore several dresses at once. I thought it was quirky and adorable, but I probably looked like a bag lady. I spent a lot of time reading books and writing dreadful poems and hiking in the woods with boys I developed severe crushes on. I believed in magic and tried to cast spells in my bedroom. I was probably impossibly pretentious. I was briefly a theater dork but had no acting skills (to say nothing of singing or dancing—I can barely carry a tune and I’ve never been coordinated). I went to punk shows. I tried to get my friends to act out Bram Stoker’s Dracula—my favorite movie of all time—and they did!

What was your favorite book/author when you were a teen?

I’m going to list a few. Christopher Pike was huge for me. I think I’ve read every one of his books. Excellent, fast-paced, noir-ish thrillers with heart. Also Douglas Coupland. My copy of Shampoo Planet nearly fell apart from re-reading it too much. And Anne Rice—she’s the one I blame for my staunch belief that I would find real vampires at goth clubs. Much to my dismay, I did not. Finally, Francesca Lia Block. I didn’t read Weetzie Bat till college, so not till I was 18 or 19. I have you to thank for that, Abby! Now I give her books to every teen girl I know.

Will you share some secrets from the follow up to Alchemy of Forever?

Word on the street (okay, actually from my publisher), is that the first few chapters of the sequel will be included with the paperback release this summer, as well as some chapters about the first few days of Seraphina’s life after she was made immortal, in plague-ravaged 14th century London. So look out for that! I can’t say too much about the sequel, but I will tell you this: we’ll get to find out some of Kailey’s secrets and why she was in Jack London Square the night she died. We’ll learn the truth about the newest body Cyrus jumped into. And we’ll see way more about the rest of the coven.

If your book was made into a movie, what actors and actresses would you like to see playing the characters in your story?

My dream cast would require a time machine… I kept picturing Cyrus as Eric Northman from True Blood, but Alexander Skarsgård is probably a few years too old (no offense, Alexander!). And for the original Seraphina I saw Olivia Hussey, circa 1968 when she played Juliet. Kailey was a young Michelle Williams, and Noah is Jared Leto from his My So-Called Life days. A fan actually posted her fantasy cast, and I think it’s pretty good! Here it is:

What is your favorite memory from when we were teens in college together?

The most hilarballs thing was how people were always getting us mixed up, just because we both had blonde bobs and glasses (“the interchangeable blonde units”). Although I think everyone who lived in our house ended up using the same DIY home hair highlighting kit—that might have had something to do with it. Should I tell your patrons about the party we threw in honor of the Hale-Bopp comet’s return (I believe we pasted aluminum foil all over our walls)? Or the other party that culminated in a lit candle being smashed through a window, aimed by a jerky dude at our lovely friend who resembled Marilyn Manson? Come to think of it, those could have happened the same night. But I can’t say more—I’m sworn to secrecy on all counts!

Learn more about Avery Williams and the Incarnation Series:




Watch the Alchemy of Forever book trailer:

Teen review: Goliath (Leviathan Trilogy) by Scott Westerfeld

My name is Joshua, I attend Obama 6-12 where I will be a sophomore this year. Me and my afro greatly enjoy playing magicthegathering, reading, playing soccer, fencing, doing my school’s musical and hanging out with my friends. I know how to speak some Spanish (Hola hermosa, come estas?), can pretend to speak some Swedish (jog ticker om du), am learning some American Sign Language (…), and am hoping to learn some Thai.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

Goliath gives a strong ending to Westerfeld’s latest trilogy

With Leviathan and Behemoth behind him, one would wonder how anyone could top them. Fortunately, we have Scott Westerfeld to do the job. The book Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld, shows his skills as a writer and researcher, but also exhibits the lack of commentary in his art.

But before I start ranting on about Goliath, I should probably tell you what it is. Goliath is the third book in Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy. The trilogy is an alternate history of World War I. It is told from the alternating viewpoints of Deryn Sharp, an English girl masquerading as a boy to join the air-force, and Prince Aleksander, the son of the duke who’s assassination started World War I. In the world of the Leviathan trilogy the different sides which we would call the Allies (Britain, France, Russia, etc.) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, The Ottoman Empire, etc.), were called the “Darwinists” and “Clankers” respectively. These names were determined by the technology of the sides, where the Darwinists used genetically altered animals for war, the Clankers used extremely advanced steam-based walkers, aircraft and boats to fight back.

Goliath opens with Prince Aleksander and his entourage aboard the British airship Leviathan after they had been “captured” when in reality they are voluntary passengers who even help the ship with some of their technology, and only stay aboard because it suits them. The ship was headed to a Japanese port to assert British authority in the area until it changes its course on secret orders from the highest authority. When the ship reaches its new destination in the middle of the Siberian wilderness the crew who includes the two main characters, Deryn Sharp and Prince Aleksander, sees an huge swath of forest that has been flattened by an explosion. At ground zero of this wasteland stands none other than the scientist Nicolas Tesla, who the crew of the Leviathan has come to rescue. When on board Tesla tells of how he caused the destruction with his newly created weapon Goliath. It then becomes top priority for the airship Leviathan to take Tesla to New York City where his weapon is stationed. On the way they encounter the ruthless news tycoon William Hearst, and a Mexican Civil War which Hearst owns the movie rights to.

When they finally arrive at their destination, they are of course attacked by the “Clanker” (Central) Powers in an attempt to either dissuade the use of Tesla’s weapon or kill Tesla outright. Tesla does reach his weapon safely though and is prepared to use it to change the color of the sky over Berlin to flex the muscles of Goliath. However, he is attacked by Clanker war-machines, which nearly destroy his weapon, so he decides to hit Berlin with his full might. He is stopped by Prince Aleksander because the firing of the weapon would cause the Leviathan, Which has been waiting nearby for Tesla’s protection, and all aboard to go up in flames. Because Deryn Sharp is aboard the Leviathan, and Aleksander realizes he has strong feelings for her, he cannot allow that to happen. So Aleksander kills Tesla. Fortunately for the “Darwinist” (Ally) cause, the Clanker war-machines on American soil are enough to push the neutral country into the war fighting for the Darwinists. And fortunately for Prince Aleksander and Deryn Sharp, they are both alive and able to ride the Leviathan together, and confess their feelings for one another.

Westerfeld’s skill with words is shown in his ability to bring characters, and a world, to life. Were some writers may work to make sure there characters are as deep as they can be, but put them in an easily understandable setting, Westerfeld must create characters and settings. In his classic style he creates a new world that is very different from ours, and places his characters in it. However, he doesn’t use a glossary or other cheat-sheets to let us know how his world works, he shows us. He builds up from simple slang words used by the main characters, to whole political systems and intrigues, entirely of his devising. In his writing, Westerfeld even makes sure that everything matches up with our world were it must, specifically in the sciences. It is this depth and breadth of characters and worlds that shows Westerfeld’s skills as a writer.

As a researcher, Westerfeld stands above the others. To create such wondrous characters and fantastic places, Westerfeld must learn about what he is writing. He looks through not only the applicable science, as shown in the detailed descriptions of the war-machines of both sides in his book, but also the applicable history. That was something that made reading the Leviathan trilogy not only entertaining, but also educational (“Look Mom, I’m Studying World War I!”). This research is shown also in the afterwards of his books where he explains what in his books are “history” and what parts are “alternate.” Because of his detailed descriptions and meticulous notes, we can see that Scott Westerfeld is really just better at research than most writers.

However, Scott Westerfeld isn’t perfect, the commentary in his art is either weak or non-existent. He resorts to the use of different technologies to draw a very distinct line between the allies and central powers. Even the choice of technologies was not accidental with the allies using the power of life and progress, whereas the central powers use cold machines. This is not to say the central powers deserved to use the technology of life, but perhaps the allies did not either, and perhaps the line between the two sides is less distinct than we would like to think. Also Westerfeld portrays Tesla as a “mad scientist” suggesting that the wild claims Tesla made concerning his technology were promoted by insanity rather than Tesla’s need for funding. This painting of Tesla removes all fault from the system of scientific funding at the time and places it instead on Tesla himself. This lack of commentary is not only bothersome in its own right, but due to science-fiction’s standing as a method of commentary, is an abject betrayal. This cliché portrayal of both Nicolas Tesla and the allied/central powers is why I feel that Westerfeld does not have much useful criticism.

Despite, the faults I find with Westerfeld’s work, I still think he is a good artist if not good at adding extra meaning to his work. So I would Say that Goliath Is definitely worth the read.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld is released on Tuesday–click here to reserve your copy today!

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