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Caitlin, Teen Contributor

Real talk: it’s Valentine’s Day, and I still like books more than people. I have unrealistically high expectations because I’ve read so many romance novels. I’m waiting for my Park Sheridan, Augustus Waters, Étienne St. Clair… *sighs* Anyway, in honor of Single Awareness Day (a.k.a. Valentine’s Day), I’ve compiled a list of my favorite romance novels. Don't forget to check out my blog for more YA book reviews and recommendations and follow me on Instagram for updates every time I post! 


My Favorite YA Romance Novels (In No Particular Order): 

1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell 

2. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green 

3. Anna and the French Kiss (series) by Stephanie Perkins 

4. If I Stay by Gayle Forman 

5. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga 

6. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson 

7. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough 

8. The Selection (series) by Kierra Cass 

9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

10. Delirium (trilogy) by Lauren Oliver 


Emily, Teen Contributor

In a kingdom in lands far away,

years that passed before this day. 

Lived a princess in captivity,

trapped in a tower by the sea. 

King Callous ruled the kingdom's land 

with a fearsome scowl and a ruthless hand. 

It was by his doing that she was trapped--

for one day at court his anger snapped.

Banishing her to a distant tower,

he felt no remorse, but greed and power.

She was led away against her will,

only allowed to bring paper and quill. 

She spent her time simply writing away, 

to her guard's delight and her father's dismay. 

The written stories gave her hope. 

And one day, though her telescope,

she spied a man riding her way,

rubbed her eyes, and began to sway.

For years she'd been the land's outcast,

but now she'd be rescued, and break from her past. 

He rode quickly across the land,

with a bunch of flowers in his hand.

"Fair maiden," he called, "years it's been.

How nice to see you once again!

Do you, by chance, remember me?

We were betrothed when we were three.

I've come now to rescue my captive bride."

And into the sunset they did ride. 


Image Credit: Douglas Scortegagna  on Flickr

Jen, Teen Contributor

Full disclosure: I did NOT want to see this movie from the beginning. This was one of those situations where I was overruled and had to take one for the team, so to speak. I enjoy zombie movies, don't get me wrong, but I am a huge Jane Austen fan and the thought of this zombie mash-up made me cringe. With that said, I have a few thoughts about this film. 

It is a loose retelling of the classic work by Jane Austen. The characters from different social classes are struggling their way through relationship woes...all while fighting the undead horde. There was a good amount of action and humor to keep me interested throughout the whole film. I wasn't rolling my eyes as much as I expected and though I am a litltle reluctant to admit it, I enjoyed this movie. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a zombie movie who doesn't want too much gore. Expect a B movie with a high production cost. I give it 3/5 stars. 

Emily, Teen Contributor


On these cold winter days, sometimes it is nice to find beauty in the small things. Spring is just around the corner, afterall. 

William, Teen Contributor

This fearsome foe of super heroes is TOX, the villain who uses special gases and chemicals to kill anyone who tries to stop him. The gases and chemicals he uses affect people in different ways. Like a gas that makes you weak or knocks you out. Heros beware of TOX.

William, Teen Contributor

This big guy looks like a bad guy, but he is not!!! Wolf spider had been mutated by a experimental spider that went wrong and bit into his heart. When the venom spread to the rest of his body he went on a rampage. But then he had some medicine he could control himself. The medicine was made from a different superhero, and a smart one, called Utility (more on that guy later). Now wolf spider is a hero. 


Caitlin, Teen Contributor

Book Basics: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough  

Published: April 2015, Arthur A. Levine Books 

Genre: YA, romance, historical fiction  

Page Count: 336 (hardcover) 

Star Rating: ★★★★ 

Recommended For/If You Liked: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

This review is basically going to be me freaking out about how much I loved this book. You’ve been warned. 

Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra… the fate of any pair of star-crossed lovers you can think of throughout history has been influenced by Love and Death as they play their Game, one that inevitably ends with Death taking both players. Now, in 1927 Seattle, the players are Henry, a white orphan with a talent for music and Flora, a black orphan, talented jazz singer, and pilot. Can Henry and Flora beat the odds and let Love claim a victory, or will Death win, as per usual? Only the strength of their love will determine the winner.

I loved how Martha Brockenbrough wrote the characters of Love and Death. There was this excellent mix of human emotions that they showed and their seemingly divine interventions in the Game that made them not quite human, but not quite gods either. (This element is what makes the book similar to The Book Thief or The Night Circus, but though the idea wasn’t original, the author took the idea in an entirely new direction).  Also, Love was written as male and Death as female, so their characters destroyed gender stereotypes, which made them even more awesome. The other characters were also stunningly written, but I enjoyed the development of Love and Death the most. 

The book’s setting (rainy Seattle, 1927) contributed beautifully to the plot and mood as the characters struggled with issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, and poverty. These external struggles further complicated the characters’ internal struggles of love and loyalty and staying true to oneself. Martha Brockenbrough did a fantastic job writing these tough issues in a way that made the reader thoughtful and reflective. The writing in the book was very good and it flowed nicely and was very suspenseful: I read the book in one weekend and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days on end. There were, however, some scenes that felt unnecessary and the romance wasn’t written quite as well as it could have been- I didn’t love Henry and Flora’s romance as much as I wanted to. (Honestly, I enjoyed the romance between two of the supporting characters ((no spoilers!)) more than that of Henry and Flora.)

In the end, this was a fantastic book- one that I would definitely reread and am absolutely going to buy at my next trip to the bookstore. Despite a few minor complaints, this book was heart-achingly written and I would absolutely recommend it. 

Follow my blog for more reviews and recommendations and follow my Instagram for updates every time I post. 

Emily, Teen Contributor

Nothing is the same, now that

Winter's here. Stillness is

the landlady, silence and

cold her boarders. The freezing

air chokes and stifles, for the

warm dance of life in summer

was vanquished. River’s sweet song

and the chorus of birds are

on tour elsewhere. As if the

world hit pause, summer’s frantic 

energy wait under the 

billowy drifts of cotton 

snow. Nothing is the same, for

Winter is lord of the land. 

Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned, this film is rated R.

There is not a more hated yet more profitable director than Michael Bay. Year after year, one hears endless bashing on his style, the numerous weaknesses of his plots, his possibly misogynistic viewpoints, and, of course, his endless explosions that litter every one of his films among other problems with his films. And all of the disdain for Baydem (Bay, Mayhem, combined) is undoubtable well founded. Yet, through all that hate, Bay’s films continue, every year, to make profit after profit. That’s why he is continually hired. Most people don’t want high concept things in the cinema, they don’t really want to think, or really to feel. Most people want to sit back, stop thinking for a while, and enjoy a cool looking movie (that’s my theory anyway). Well, if you want a cool movie, Bay is the best around, and delivers more of what we’ve come to expect in 13 Hours.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is the most recent film by this master of the mindless Michael Bay, and the title is rather self-explanatory. It follows the real life soldiers, 6 men stationed at a secret base in Benghazi, fending off a terrorist attack provoked by a traveling senator.

Despite Bay (or actually perhaps aided by Bay but I’ll get to that in a bit), the story is interesting. It’s the perfect subject for a biographical movie to be made of, because most people have heard about the Benghazi affair if not entirely aware of what happened. The events are utterly fascinating and it really retains the audience in the story.

The acting is serviceable. There is nothing particularly special, but the actors do the best with what they have. Most characters are incredibly one dimensional, even John Krazinski’s Jack as the main character doesn’t have much depth. But, there are no noticeably bad performances, so I really can’t complain.

The action scenes are consistently and intensely annoying. Last year, the Revenant and Mad Max Fury Road both proved that it is indeed possible to make a good fight sequence and action sequence without a shaky camera, which makes the level of camera shake in this movie almost unbearable, particularly a car chase near the beginning (the whole movie of Mad Max was a car chase but it didn’t need to be unnecessarily confusing).

The writing is clunky at the best of times. The characters are more caricatures than characters, which did not give the actors any favors. It tells the story, but it could have been way more engaging, way more heartfelt, and just better all around.

The most fascinating thing about 13 Hours though is Bay himself, who seems like he is trying his hardest to make a good movie. It’s as if all of the bad word of mouth has finally got to him, and the film is his way of proving he is a good director. It is a noticeable effort, albeit on in vain. In the end, he can’t resist himself, numerous fireworks-like-explosions litter the screen, awkward humor that he is known so well for pokes through in a couple of scenes, and his love of America, specifically the American Flag, is well documented. But at least he’s trying.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a surprisingly passable film, featuring a Michael Bay who is trying. The worst thing I can say about it is that it is entirely forgettable, for after seeing it last week I am already having trouble remembering some things. I wouldn’t recommend paying money to see it, but I can’t blame you if you do. 6/10

For more reviews, visit my blog.

Image Credit: AJ L on Wikimedia Commons.

Emily, Teen Contributor

Chris Crutcher's Staying Fat for Sarah Bynes was dedicated to "All those who finally stand up for themselves," and is an incredible story of pain, fear, trying to do your best, and friendship. 

Eric "Moby" Calhoune and Sarah Byrnes have been friends for a long time, and are bonded by their deformities: Sarah has horrible burn scars over her face, neck, arms, and hands from a childhood incident involving boiling water, and Moby is incredibly overweight. They are inseparable as friends, so when Moby joins the school's swim team and begins to shed some pounds, he frantically tries to eat more to maintain the friendship he treasures and Sarah's respect. However, as soon as Sarah gets wind of this, she demands he stop. 

When Sarah is hospitalized and stops speaking entirely, Moby stays by her side to help her recover and get back on her feet. When she reveals to him the horrible secrets of her past, he sticks with her. With the aide of his swim coach, he even manages to get her back to a safe place. 

This book is extremely suspenseful, and encompasses fierce religious debates, attempted suicide, buried secrets, shady characters, intense dialogue, and knife wounds. Though the language gets a bit confusing at times, this novel is a must read. Not only a touching story of friendship, it also addresses a lot of issues that teens wrestle with today, about their beliefs and trying to do what is right, when you don't know what that looks like. This book really makes you look at what you believe, what kind of person you are, and what you would do stuck in the character's shoes. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes should definitely be added to your reading list!


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