YA Book Reviews by Teens

YA Books Reviewed by Teens

These book reviews are created by teens through our virtual volunteer program at Weston Public Library. Teens choose the books they want to read and write honest reviews of those books. If you are looking for your next book, look no further as your teen peers have recommendations here for you. To learn more about our virtual volunteer program and how you can participate, please contact Alessandra Petrino, Head of Children and Young Adult Services @ apetrino@westonct.gov. Currently our virtual volunteer program is only being offered to Weston students.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Reviewed by Lecia Sun

This Japanese novel about a cafe where customers have the ability to travel back in time is a heart-warming story. Kawaguchi sets up the idea of time traveling in an underground coffee shop, where only one person can sit in a specific chair at a specific time. Once in another time, the timer traveler has to drink a cup of coffee before it gets cold, hence the book’s title. The book describes four time-traveling stories, with each time traveler having some connection to the coffee shop. The first story is that of a woman who wants one moment to speak with her loved one before they ended their long relationship on poor terms, the second is that of a loyal customer who wants to go back in time to give his wife a love letter, the third is of a restaurant owner who wished to see her sister one last time, and the last is of a mother traveling into the future to meet her unborn daughter. 

Kawaguchi takes the idea of time travel to ask what someone would do or say if given a chance to travel back in time, intertwining topics such as Alzheimer’s disease and the tragic deaths of the people closest to them. I found a common theme across all four stories that, especially under the time constraint, the time traveler was first lost for words, did not say as much as they planned to, and then felt a sense of closure as they returned back to their time. But it was what the time traveler did with their experience afterward in their current time that had more of an impact on me than the people’s experiences in an alternate time reality. As Kawaguchi puts it, “no matter what difficulties people face, they will always have the strength to overcome them. It just takes heart. And if the chair can change someone’s heart, it clearly has its purpose.” The four time travelers each had their own experiences and motivations for time traveling (some held on to the belief that they could change the past to change the present, which did not work). Still, in the end, they chose to make the most out of their reality, which I believe is such an optimistic and encouraging message to convey. 

While the writing style was quite inconsistent with sometimes large chunks of info dumps, long monologues, and actions of the characters being all too similar to that of stage directions for a play, the whole premise of the plot made the book enjoyable. I recommend this book to readers who are seeking a quick read, but one whose message lingers far after they have finished it.

Review by Lecia Sun

Lovely War by Julie Berry, Reviewed by Lecia Sun

Lovely War puts a creative spin on the classic Greek myths, intertwining the myth of the goddess of love and the god of war with the World Wars to discuss why love and war are always bound together. Just as the Greek myth goes, Aphrodite and Ares are caught in a golden net set by Aphrodite’s jealous husband Hephaestus, but this reimagined tale is set in the backdrop of World War II. Before exposing her to the rest of the Greek gods, which occurs in the myth, Hephaestus allows Aphrodite to plead her case, to which Aphrodite tells the love story of two couples who met during the Great War. Berry combines the symbolism of love and war with music and death by introducing the perspectives of Aphrodite, Ares, Apollo, and Hades, each of whom influenced the two love stories. 

What intrigued me the most about this book is the strong narration of the 

gods—Aphrodite in particular—and how their affinities are representative of their beliefs and attitudes toward war. Ares naturally thrived off of war, while Aphrodite was attracted to conflict for the beautiful love stories that bloomed quickly under irregular circumstances. It made the gods much more realistic with flaws and desires that only become heightened during a state of conflict. 

Berry brings up topics from history that are not as frequently discussed in World War books, such as the segregation and discrimination of black soldiers during the war. She also discusses the influential role of music during the Great War and how certain black soldiers used jazz to uplift themselves. Using the love story of Colette and Aubrey, she brings in real groups and people such as the 369th Infantry Regiment, or Harlem Hellfighters, and their bandleader James Reese Europe. I thought it was a clever way of connecting war with music and love. 

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction or Greek mythology, as this book was an enjoyable read. As someone who knows much about Greek mythology, I appreciate the details and complexity Berry adds to the love stories during the Great War and the Greek Gods who took a liking to these four individuals.

Review by Lecia Sun