Teen Book Talk features book, movie, and local event reviews written by local teen writers. This week, we’re sharing a review of an older teen book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Teen reviewers select which books and movies they’d like to review, and also which local events to attend and review. All opinions are those of the reviewers. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Jiwon H., Teen Reviewer

Book Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chbosky

Book Format: Book

Year of Publication: 1999

Who will book appeal to?: Teenagers

Rating: 3 stars

The protagonist is a fifteen-year-old boy named Charlie. He is currently coping with the suicide of his friend, Michael, and in order to lessen his anxiety of starting high school without Michael, Charlie starts to write letters to a stranger that he heard was nice but has never actually met in his real life. The letters mainly talks about his daily life at school and how he feels about other people around him. At school, his English teacher, Bill, becomes both Charlie’s friend and mentor. Charlie overcomes his shyness and approaches one of his classmates named Patrick who eventually becomes Charlie’s best friend along with his stepsister, Sam. Throughout the school year, Charlie has his first date and first kiss, deals with bullies, and experiments with drugs and drinking. He makes more friends, loses them, and gains them back again. He also makes his own soundtrack using mixtapes. At home, Charlie has a relatively stable life with his supportive parents. However, a disturbing family secret that Charlie has repressed for his whole life appears at the end of the school year. Charlie goes through several mental breakdowns and ends up being hospitalized.

The letters continue on despite these various incidents that Charlie experiences. I recommend this book to teenagers, especially the ones in high school, because the protagonist with the similar age as themselves will make the story more relatable and understandable, and they can put themselves in Charlie’s shoes. Some readers might not be interested in this story because it covers the dramas in school and they might assume that it would be a story that is too common. However, I think that this story shows the conflicts to its readers in a rather unique way. The format – letters – makes the plot sound more realistic and every book will talk about high school dramas in a different way, so I believe that it is worth reading.

Teen Book Talk features reviews by local teen writers. This week, we’re sharing a review of another movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The DVD is now available to place on hold at the library (there is currently quite a long hold list!)

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Neha H., Teen Reviewer

Name of Movie: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Release Date: November 18, 2016

MPAA Rating : PG-13

My rating : 4 stars

Genre : Fantasy, action, thriller

Set roughly seventy years before the timeline of the Ha rry Potter series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first entry in a five-part series of prequels that will focus on the events leading up to the climactic duel between Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore. With a screenplay penned by J.K. Rowling, F anta stic Beasts is directed by David Yates, and produced by David Heyman and Steve Kloves — all of whom worked on the original Harry Potter film ser ies. The film follows the adventures of British magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), after he arrives in 1920s New York City with a briefcase filled with magical creatures.

Newt finds himself directly in the midst of the sudden chaos and turmoil that wreak havoc on New York streets; the mayhem gradually reveals the longstanding tension and deep distrust between the American magical community and the “No-Majs” (non-magical people, the equivalent of Muggles). Although Newt evidently prefers the company of the beloved creatures he carries with him, he encounters demoted Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), her Legilimens sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Jacob Kowalski, a No-Maj (Dan Fogler), all of whom help him in his quest to save the American Wizarding World from total anarchy.

Each of the actors deliver superb performances; Oscar-winner Redmayne, in particular, perfectly captures the charisma and charm of Newt. While not quite as emotionally powerful and gripping as on the page, Rowling’s talent still shines through her screenwriting; she expertly conveys the developing relationships between the characters through memorable lines of dialogue.

The thrilling, fast-paced action sequences are supplemented by a lilting score courtesy of James Newton Howard ( The Hunger Games, T he Dark Knight, Maleficent), who incorporates snippets of John Williams’ classic “Hedwig’s Theme” along with refreshingly original elements. However, a few scenes in the middle of the film seem a bit too drawn out, and the magical creatures — which were promoted as the core of Fantastic Beasts — are quickly forgotten in the midst of the action. Nevertheless, Fantastic Beasts makes for an entertaining fantasy adventure sure to enchant audiences; moreover, its underlying commentary about the dangers of intolerance and paranoia is just as riveting as it is deeply unsettling.

This week for Teen Book Talk, we’re sharing a double review! One for the original book, The BFG, by Roald Dahl, and the other a review of the recent movie release by the same name.

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Neha H., Teen Reviewer

BFGName of Movie: The BFG
Release Date: July 1, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG
My rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy, adventure
Celebrated director Steven Spielberg teamed up with Disney to bring Roald Dahl’s 1982 children’s classic to life with The BFG , released July 1, 2016. Ten-year-old Sophie is understandably frightened when she is plucked away from her dormitory in a London orphanage to Giant Country in the darkness of night, during the “witching hour”. But when she discovers that her twenty-four foot tall captor is in fact benevolent, Sophie dubs him the “BFG”, or “Big Friendly Giant”. She gradually learns that he is a dream-catcher, who captures pleasant dreams in glass jars and gives them to children. However, Sophie’s presence in Giant Country does not go undetected; her scent attracts the vicious Fleshlumpeater and eight other giants, who, unlike the BFG, eat small children. Together, Sophie and the BFG formulate a plan to travel to London and inform the Queen of the evil giants before any more children are eaten.

The BFG is undeniably filled with dazzling imagery and heartwarming humor. Newcomer Ruby Barnhill, as Sophie, gives a lovable and endearing performance. Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance wonderfully brings the beloved character of the BFG to life, through his emotive facial expressions and state-of-the-art motion capture technology. The audience is presented with several meaningful interactions between the two unlikely friends. Spielberg’s longtime collaborator John Williams provides a musical score as wonderfully riveting as the film itself.

However, Spielberg and Mathison have significantly toned down the macabre darkness characteristic of Dahl’s works, in favor of focusing more on the friendship between Sophie and the BFG. Though Spielberg’s adaptation diverged from the original storyline in many instances, the deviation from the book’s classic ending was by far the most disappointing. Despite the outstanding performances by Rylance and Barnhill, The BFG falls a bit short of expectations by keeping it too nice. It never quite rises to its full potential, and fails to truly capture the impish charm of Roald Dahl’s book.

Jiwon H., Teen Reviewer

bfg bookBook Title: The BFG

Author: Roald Dahl

Format: Book

Year of Publication: 1982

Who will book appeal to?: Young Kids

Rating: 4 stars

The BFG (short for The Big Friendly Giant) is a children’s book written by Roald Dahl in 1982. The main characters are a girl named Sophie, who lives in an orphanage, and a giant. One night, Sophie hears a noise from the street and goes out to the balcony. In the balcony, she sees the giant walking in the street with a suitcase and something that looks like a long trumpet. The giant takes Sophie with him to a place where many giants live, because his existence should not be revealed to people. Later, the giant explains what he does with the suitcase and the trumpet – he blows various dreams he has collected into people while they are sleeping. He tells Sophie that he is called BFG, because he is friendly, and also mentions that there are some giants who are not friendly at all – they are dangerous to people. They go to the Dream Country together and Sophie sees many dreams that BFG has collected. Will she be able to return to the orphanage or will she decide to stay with BFG?

This book is written as a children’s book, so obviously I recommend this book to young kids; the plot is easy to understand and not very long. However, I also recommend this book to readers other than children who like reading fantasy stories. I think readers who like fantasy stories, or young children can try reading this book. Also, the movie, which is based on this book, will give a good representation of overall story line, even though it does not include all the details from the actual book. So, I recommend watching the movie after reading this book if readers think this book is interesting.

 

This week for Teen Book Talk, our reviewer is writing about a Disney movie, Lemonade Mouth.

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Natlie L., Teen Reviewer

lemonade mouthMovie: Lemonade Mouth

Release Date: April 15, 2011

Rating: PG

My Rating: 3 Stars

Genre: Musical, Drama, Comedy

Five students from Mesa High School run into trouble with the school’s authorities, and they all end up in detention. There, they realize that their mutual musical compatibility can lead to the start of a revolution that will overthrow—or at least change—the tyrannical rule of Principal Brenigan, a man who’s obsessed with school sports, sponsorships, and his own reputation. Through their band, Lemonade Mouth, they learn to overcome personal problems, family issues, and foreign obstacles in order to prove to the world that the arts, self-expression, and friendship are all important values that should be upheld.

I’m not a huge fan of a certain dairy product called “cheese,” and it’s a bit unfortunate that this film contains a lot of it. The story itself is just like a pepperoni pizza—very simple and delightful to consume—but the creation of it could’ve used some more pepperoni, not more cheese. By too much cheesiness, I mean much of the plot and characters’ lines are predictable, which made several scenes seem to drag on forever because I already knew how it would end. I credit this lack of suspense to the fact that it’s a Disney film because—let’s face it—Disney productions are always heavy on the cheese, and everyone already knows what that tastes like.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed this film because—cutting out predictability, the fairytale-like ending to romances, and the needlessly tragic backstories—it spreads great messages to its intended audience—little kids. The themes of individuality, self-expression, perseverance and the values of friendship and family are heavily stressed throughout the whole movie. These themes are incredibly important for kids to know because they will always be relevant to real-life situations that kids will encounter in both the near and distant future.

Parents, I say this film is a fantastic way to get your children started on learning about expressing themselves without fear of parental and societal pressures. You can watch with them, and who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself dancing to the catchy tunes as well!

This week for Teen Book Talk, our reviewer talks about an older movie release, Red Riding Hood, that was released in 2011.

*Side note: if you enjoyed the movie, or if you enjoy fairy tale and folk tale retellings, check out Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge.* 

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Chaturya G., Teen Reviewer

Name of Movie: Red Riding Hood

Release Date: March 11, 2011

Rating: PG-13

My Rating: 3.5/5

Genre: Fantasy/Thriller

The setting in this film takes place in a fantasy medieval village setting. The main character of the film is a girl named Valerie. She’s in love with a man named Peter, but her parents want her to marry someone else; Henry. Their village is haunted by a werewolf, who originally stopped killing humans years ago. However, Valerie’s sister is killed by this werewolf who has now become a threat once more. The village calls upon someone named Father Solomon to get rid of this werewolf. The rest of the film is about the village trying to get rid of the wolf, and Valerie’s conflicts regarding her love life and the werewolf, who she is able to communicate with and fears is actually someone very close to her.

I thought this was a pretty engaging movie, but I felt like something was lacking throughout. This was redeemed through pretty much the last ten minutes of the movie when a twist is revealed and it really gets intense. I liked the mystery and romance aspects of the film, but I wish that the “werewolf” (and its human character) had more screen time because I felt as if the character wasn’t developed well enough when it’s finally revealed who it is. Overall, it was a pretty good film and the soundtrack was great.

This week for Teen Book Talk, our reviewer gives her take on a Disney movie, Lemonade Mouth (release date 2011).

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Natlie L., Grade 11, Teen Reviewer

lemonade mouthMovie: Lemonade Mouth

Release Date: April 15, 2011

Rating: PG

My Rating: 3 Stars

Genre: Musical, Drama, Comedy

Five students from Mesa High School run into trouble with the school’s authorities, and they all end up in detention. There, they realize that their mutual musical compatibility can lead to the start of a revolution that will overthrow—or at least change—the tyrannical rule of Principal Brenigan, a man who’s obsessed with school sports, sponsorships, and his own reputation. Through their band, Lemonade Mouth, they learn to overcome personal problems, family issues, and foreign obstacles in order to prove to the world that the arts, self-expression, and friendship are all important values that should be upheld.

I’m not a huge fan of a certain dairy product called “cheese,” and it’s a bit unfortunate that this film contains a lot of it. The story itself is just like a pepperoni pizza—very simple and delightful to consume—but the creation of it could’ve used some more pepperoni, not more cheese. By too much cheesiness, I mean much of the plot and characters’ lines are predictable, which made several scenes seem to drag on forever because I already knew how it would end. I credit this lack of suspense to the fact that it’s a Disney film because—let’s face it—Disney productions are always heavy on the cheese, and everyone already knows what that tastes like.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed this film because—cutting out predictability, the fairytale-like ending to romances, and the needlessly tragic backstories—it spreads great messages to its intended audience—little kids. The themes of individuality, self-expression, perseverance and the values of friendship and family are heavily stressed throughout the whole movie. These themes are incredibly important for kids to know because they will always be relevant to real-life situations that kids will encounter in both the near and distant future.

Parents, I say this film is a fantastic way to get your children started on learning about expressing themselves without fear of parental and societal pressures. You can watch with them, and who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself dancing to the catchy tunes as well!

Neha H., 9th Grade, Teen Reviewer

"The Martian film poster" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Martian_film_poster.jpg#/media/File:The_Martian_film_poster.jpgName of Movie: The Martian

Release Date: October 2, 2015

Rating: PG13

Your rating: 4.5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, science fiction

Based on the 2011 novel by Andy Weir, Ridley Scott’s The Martian tells the story of a man who surmounted incredible odds in the name of survival.

When the crew of the Hermes is forced to abort their mission on Mars in the wake of a massive sandstorm, botanist Mark Watney is mistaken for dead and abandoned. Watney discovers himself stranded on an unfamiliar planet with no method of establishing contact with NASA or his team. Vulnerable to the harsh climate and left with only a meager amount of food and supplies, Watney must rely on his ingenuity to survive. He develops creative methods of growing plants on the notoriously infertile terrain and contacting Earth using the neglected Pathfinder probe. Meanwhile, a group of multinational engineers work day and night to bring him home.

Scott’s adaptation of the bestselling science fiction novel is uplifting and surprisingly witty. Watney’s sharp humor, resourcefulness, and dogged determination embody his heroism. He combines physical strength with exceptional skill, and provides much needed comic relief in such a desolate situation. There are some instances of strong language, as well as one gory scene where Watney uses an office stapler to seal his wounds. Nevertheless, this compelling film is full of inspirational messages. In Watney’s own words: “At some point, everything is going to go south on you … you can either just accept that, or you can get to work.”