Tag Archives: Friendship

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (Review by Trisha I. ’24)

The House of MirthThe House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You’re a young woman living in the big city. You go to social events, despite some introverted qualms, partly to get some social currency and mostly to meet your charming, lovely friends. You like shopping for new clothes, even if you can’t afford them, because they’re pretty (and your peers expect you to). You like this one boy that you really aren’t supposed to like. What could be more human that?

To me, the saddest thing about Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth is that, reading it a century after it was written, I could still deeply understand the seemingly shallow yet nuanced societal flaws the novel depicts.

Spoiler alert: You are Lily Bart, the protagonist, and you’re desperately trying to stay financially afloat in New York as the stock markets begin to jump around a little too wildly and the allowance your aunt gives you drains a little too fast. The House of Mirth charts your path after you turn 29 and realizes that the only socially acceptable solution to your financial problems is finding a husband. However, you are attracted to a penniless lawyer rather than the wealthy stock market brokers and other gentlemen who could actually support you in a stable, if boring, future.

The novel’s premise isn’t what makes it relatable, of course; times have changed, and marriage is no longer a woman’s end goal in life. Yet, as Lily sets about her wearying task of finding a rich and dull suitor, she grapples with a subtle snowballing of rumors, backstabbing fair-weather friends, and misunderstanding after misunderstanding that threatens her good name and prospect—and that kind of awkwardness is understandable to the reader.

The consequences Lily faces are bizarrely large in their scope and a consequence of the stricter times she lives in, but what she goes through is ultimately universal. Everyone knows the pain of a lost friendship or the disorienting feeling of having said just the wrong thing to shut down a conversation without knowing.

Wharton’s writing is at its most poetic when writing dialogue, which is just a slew of verbal irony: in an era of glitz and affected lifestyles, no character means what they say. Each conversation challenged me with its subtext. In one powerfully-executed scene, Lily realizes that one character whom she’d previously looked down upon no longer needs her help nor will help her.

With one passionate speech and sparse language, Wharton depicts Lily’s conflicting feelings of shock, regret, acceptance, and sense of dignity. That’s one scene of many that frustrates me with its sadness but stuns me with its simplicity. If you’re looking for a somber but thought-provoking and relatable read, this is the novel for you. —Review by Trisha I. ’24

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This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (Review by Alysa S. ’22)

This Tender LandThis Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book made me smile and frown and laugh at all the right times. I loved the protagonist Odie’s character development from the moment he undertook a journey of escape towards a better future to the day he returned home, and I also greatly enjoyed the incredibly strong theme of friendship present between the four main characters on the journey.

This Tender Land begins in the rural countryside of Minnesota, and I especially appreciate the author’s accurate historical representation of the Great Depression Era and its socioeconomic effects on the various demographics that we encounter throughout the journey. Although Odie is the main focus of the book, I enjoyed the visibly significant growth of each of the four characters. I think what made this book such a feel-good read was Odie’s relatability as a protagonist: he’s clearly unsure of himself and shoulders immense responsibilities at a young age, but his resilience and inherently caring nature cause me to gravitate towards his character and admire both his strengths and weaknesses.

Though This Tender Land seems occasionally juvenile in its storytelling (understandable from the young protagonist’s POV), for anyone who wants to experience an epic, cross-country adventure while learning a bit of 1930’s history through the eyes of a teenage vagabond stepping into the role of a young adult, this coming-of-age tale proves to be a satisfactory read. —Review by Alysa S. ’22

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Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin (Review by Ritu B. ’24)

Memoirs of a Teenage AmnesiacMemoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some books you stay up reading till 3 A.M. because you love them and don’t want to put them down. For others, you’ve spent half the book yelling at the protagonist for being dumb, and (for the sake of your sanity) you need to know what happens next. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac was the latter. Not that that’s a bad thing.

The book raises intriguing questions on identity: If you lost recollection of the last five years, how would you view your current lifestyle?

After falling down the stairs, Naomi loses all her memories from after the sixth grade. Enter an irresistible, rebellious boy who finds her. Throw in a jock boyfriend, parental divorce, a best friend loyal to the point of idiocy, and the ingredients seem very predictable (and perhaps slightly nauseating if you, like me, have consumed enormously more than the healthy amount of YA Fiction). Yet, we keep returning to this genre because we can’t get enough of the awkward, heartwarming teen romance—which you’ll find no dearth of here.

Ultimately, this book won’t change your life, but who even cares. Give it a shot if you want to drown your sorrows in some cliché YA! –Review by Ritu B. ’24

For those who enjoyed this book, Ritu has recommended Crazy Rich Asians for you to check out!

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Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (Review by Emily M. ’24)

Carry On (Simon Snow, #1)Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell tells the story of Simon Snow and Baz Pitch—roommates for seven years, instant enemies, and living at the Watford School of Magicks. There is a war happening in the World of Mages between the old families, the Mage, and an entity called the Humdrum. Simon and Baz must decide who to fight for. This book technically counts as a sequel. The characters are originally from the world of a fanfiction written by the main character in another Rainbow Rowell novel called Fangirl. I did not read Fangirl before reading this, but I found no issues in understanding the plot. The author develops the characters perfectly, and the plot of the story is paced well and leads up to a stunning conclusion. I was pleasantly surprised, and I absolutely loved both Baz and Simon and how their relationship plays out by the end of the novel. Carry On has a sequel out now, and it is planned to become a trilogy soon. Readers of Harry Potter will love this new magical world. —Review by Emily M. ’24

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Daisy Jones & The Six (review by Emma A. ’21)

Daisy Jones & The SixDaisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About a page into the book, I was completely hooked! Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid tells the story of the rise and fall of a fictional band in the 70s. The story depicts unconditional love, addiction, self-help, and the golden era of rock, all while set to a soundtrack of some of the best made up songs I have ever read. Loosely modeled off of Fleetwood Mac, the drama and events of the novel are so realistic that you will have to keep telling yourself the band doesn’t exist!

The novel is divided into parts, each progressing through the story of the whimsical, carefree Daisy Jones and the emerging musical powerhouse The Six. Daisy and the band’s stories begin to intertwine and new group dynamics emerge and are tested. The characters are each imperfect in their own ways and there is a sense of humanity given to each of them. Unsurprisingly, my favorite character was Daisy. Daisy is headstrong, stubborn, self sabotaging, and possesses natural born talent, but she grows and develops over the course of the story. As the novel was told in an interview format, each character was reflecting on the decisions they made in the past while providing commentary and witty remarks. Each character’s voice emerged distinctly and proved a testament to their personalities.

This book was honestly a perfect shelter in place read for me and a great addition to my favorite books of all time list! I found myself eager to keep reading and couldn’t put the book down (I finished it in one night!). The story is incredibly engrossing and realistic, and though I grew up in the 2000s, I felt fully immersed in the bustle of LA and the rock scene of the 70s. -Review by Emma A. ’21

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (review by Anya W. ’20)

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Simonverse, #1)Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d looked at this book a few times before, and rejected it because the summary seemed a bit flat, but then the release of the film rekindled my interest, and I was thrilled to find the novel on overdrive. Once I finally got to reading it I did not regret my decision.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, is sweet romance shaken up with a healthy dose of teen angst and youthful irresponsibility. Abertalli tells a tale of staying in, coming out, and ultimately finding oneself. It was a great read for a sunny day. -Anya W. ’20

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Nietzsche and the ‘Burbs (review by Sophia G. ’21)

Nietzsche and the BurbsNietzsche and the Burbs by Lars Iyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just finished the book Nietzsche and the ‘Burbs by Lars Iyer. Overall I enjoyed it, however, sometimes the main characters were far too edgy for me. They often lament life rather than embrace it, rejecting the concept of amor fati that the real Nietzsche held so close to heart. The book is about a suburbian band of British misfits who try and make music to escape their boring lives as well as adventuring to entertain themselves. Most of the plot points, relationships, parties, whatever, are pretty normal for the YA genre, however I find they are handled with far more poetic prose. If you enjoy long flowing sentences and sardonic humor as I do, then you probably will like this book. If you aren’t a fan of some what emo main characters, I would avoid. Overall, it’s a well written and very original look at the coming of age genre, with some lovely turns and twists. -Sophia G. ’21

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We Are The Perfect Girl (review by Ms. Pelman)

We Are the Perfect GirlWe Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel Kaplan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A charming, fresh, and sharply written retelling of Cyrano De Bergerac where friendship, not romance, is at the heart of the story. Aphra and Bethany are best friends. Bethany is painfully shy—she can’t string 4 words together when attempting to speak to her crush Greg. Aphra is smart, funny, and outgoing, but does not consider herself attractive mainly due to her nose (naturally). In the midst of trying to help Bethany get together with Greg, she inadvertently begins an anonymous relationship with him online, which she then parlays into assuming the Cyrano role, feeding Bethany lines during dates and composing text messages for her. As an overwhelmed Bethany tries to go along with the plan, Aphra falls harder and harder for Greg.
Even readers unfamiliar with the original story will understand both the folly of their plan and the inevitable blowup that will ensue. The trick is making us care. Kaplan accomplishes this feat and more in her deftly constructed novel. With its swift pacing, humor, and fully-realized characters, readers will be swept up. Far from simply zany, the substantive plot makes clear Aphra’s journey through anger and pain, and her awakening to the kinds of love that matter most. While its seeming conventionality may be a turn off for some, readers who don’t mind romantic entanglement mixed in with their strong, intelligent female protagonists will find much to enjoy. -Ms. Pelman

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With The Fire On High (review by Anya W. ’20)

With the Fire on HighWith the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ever since she got pregnant with babygirl, Emoni’s life has been about deciding right: she knows better than to mess around, because she’s got babygirl to look after and money to save. College, mistakes like boys, and even the new cooking course that could let her pursue her dreams as a chef seem so far beyond her reach.

The snappy dialogue of Emoni’s internal monologue is easily matched by the well-crafted plot and brilliant characterization of the novel. Acevedo spins a fun, thought provoking tale of hope, responsibility, success, and picking yourself back up after you fall down. The romance is better handled in than many other books I have read in the genre, and the author does a stellar job of handling difficult topics. While the novel my be a little more mature than most YA works, it is still accessible enough to resonate with teen readers and honestly better written than many a YA beach reads.

With the Fire on High is a stunning piece, just as good if not better than Acevedo’s earlier work on The Poet X. Her characters are realistic, complex, and likable, and while I can see her writing style developing in some similarities in her protagonists, Acevedo has clearly proven she is not a one trick pony. -Anya W. ’20

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The Birds, The Bees, and You and Me (review by Anya W. ’20)

The Birds, The Bees, and You and MeThe Birds, The Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

WARNING: Opinions presented herein may be skewed by the fact that I was reading this book at two in the morning.

While not the most memorable book I’ve ever read, Hinebaugh’s novel is founded upon a strong premise: when a school’s curriculum is misinforming students to a level of danger to their safety, what’s a girl with the know-how to do? Of course, then people come and just make things more complicated.

In a tale of secrets, friendship, and self discovery, Hinebaugh uses a compelling premise to clearly send her messages. While the romance seems at times an easily shed distraction from the drama, it is well written enough not to disappoint fans of romance. The drama is on point, the injustice enough to move hearts and the writing clear enough to read but complex enough to enjoy, even while sleep deprived. -Anya W. ’20

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