Book Review: The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

My contact at Harper Collins Canada loved Ben Philippe’s The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, so much so that she could not resist sending me an advanced copy of the novel. Her enthusiasm was infectious and I knew I had to read it as soon as I had received it.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemprorary Fiction

Release Date: 8 January 2019


Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas. Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet, against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris. Be it loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making. He even starts playing actual hockey with these Texans.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

My thoughts: 

I loved this novel! It was humorous as well as contemporary and is perfectly suited for its target audience. As someone who has moved to another country, I could understand some of Norris Kaplan’s experience albeit as an older person. While reading Philippe’s story, I could imagine a teenager behaving in the way described in the story – I could not help smiling at the antics as well as the adolescent experience. As I am writing this review, I cannot help but smile as I think about my favourite scenes.

The novel is a perfect read for a teenager. It describes teen relationships and reflects what the current status quo is seen as being in North America. The story has a little romance, as well as describes a young boy’s coming-of-age. The sense of humour scattered in the novel would appeal to both boys and girls. And as an older adult, I enjoyed the snapshot of the current teen experience. In addition, the story is well-written and perfectly paced.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 90th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey

I came across Josie Jaffrey, an independent author, on Instagram. After contact with her, she offered me a copy of her latest Young Adult fantasy novel, The Gilded King. As I enjoy this genre, I agreed to read and review her work.


In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well. Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, a boy who believes in fairytales that Julia’s world cannot accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape int the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside. But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained. Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight. One way or another, the walls of the Blue are coming down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.

My thoughts:

From the first page of this novel I was drawn into Jaffrey’s world and swept away by her prose. The world she has created is refreshingly different and, even though it does not exist, her description of the Blue (and later the Red) captured my imagination and allowed me to suspend disbelief. I fell in love with the characters Julia and Lucas – and grew to distrust other Nobles living within the Blue. As the story moved to a climax, I held my breath and hoped for the survival of my favourites. The writer expertly takes you through a range of emotions, and does not allow you to put down her novel and forget her story.

I loved reading The Guilded King. the first in the Sovereign series. As the story came to a close, Jaffrey left me on tenterhooks, anxiously waiting for the next installment. Her writing and storytelling has converted me into a fan and I know that I am going read everything that she has previously written. If you love fantasy fiction, you should seek out a copy of this tale – you will not regret it.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 52nd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Here So Far Away by Hadley Dyer

Here So Far Away by Hadley Dyer was one of the book proofs I received when I went to the OLA (Ontario Library Association) Super Conference at the beginning of the year. This YA novel centres on George Warren (given name Frances) who is in her senior year of high school. Instead of owning her last year of school, George gets into a big fight with her best friend; a fight which creates an irreparable rift in their social circle. In addition, George’s family has fallen on hard times since her father got injured – and there is no guarantee that he will be able to return to work. George then meets Francis, an older guy who shares her name and affinity for sarcastic banter. She lets herself fall hopelessly in love. But, because of Francis’s age, she tells no one.

The novel describes a young girl’s first encounter not only with love; but also how her relationships with her family and friends are affected by her seemingly hopeless attraction to an older man. Dyer shares George’s story with sensitivity and care. As the reader, I came to care for George and understood why she was drawn to a person that she should have avoided. The well written sentences in the novel kept me interested in the story right up until the unexpected ending.

I enjoyed this novel and would recommend this read for those who enjoy reading love stories – though this novel is not the traditional type of romance story. Even though the book is listed as a YA novel, the subject matter would be enjoyed by older women.

Do you enjoy reading love stories?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 20th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Weave A Circle Round by Kari Maaren

I had neglected my TBR pile that I received from the OLA super conference in January so decided to pick up one of the YA novels that I had received. Kari Maaren was one of the first authors I met at the conference and I enjoyed speaking to her for a few minutes before I moved on so that the next person in line could receive her signed copy.

Weave a Circle Round is a debut fantasy adventure novel. The main character is Freddy, and she doesn’t want people to think that she is weird. Her family makes that difficult though: her deaf stepbrother is a geek, and her genius little sister is training to be the next Sherlock Holmes. All Freddy wants to do is survive high school without being noticed.

Freddy’s life changes when two odd neighbours move in next door. Cuerva Lachance and Josiah are definitely not normal. Neither is their house, which defies the law of physics. The presence of Josiah turns Freddy’s carefully crafted life upside down. Especially when she finds herself on an adventure thousands of years in the past with her very weird neighbours.

While on her adventures, Freddy comes to some realisations about her life, the way she is living it, and the choices that she makes. In the story, the characters Cuerva Lachance and Josiah represent this choice:

“If Josiah represented order, Cuerva Lachance had to represent chaos. That was the choice, then:order or chaos. Stability or change, predictability or mystery, the possible or the impossible. Pick one, and the world got a tiny bit more predictable; pick the other, and the world got a tiny bit less.” (p185, TOR – Macmillan Publishing Group, 2017)

As Freddy comes to realisations like these, we see a change in her character. Even though the reader is asked to suspend belief in the physical world and accept that travelling backwards in time does exist, we believe in the development of the main character. The emotional changes that Freddy experiences, her realisations and growth are reflected in what we see in developing teenagers in today’s world.

I enjoyed reading this well-written tale (after all, I enjoy reading fantasy novels). As I was reading it, I knew that my teenage daughter would enjoy it too. The characters would captivate her, and the adventure they experience enthrall her. I have set aside this novel for her to read once the school year is over. This novel is well worth the read if you enjoy reading YA fantasy fiction. It would make a perfect read for young teens as well – both boys and girls.

Do you enjoy reading stories in which the characters time travel?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 16th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: A World Below by Wesley King

Last Saturday I decided to begin reading the books that I had received when I attended the OLA Super Conference. I decided to begin with the YA (Young Adult) fiction that I had requested.

A World Below is a story written by an author I have previously read – Wesley King – and describes a field trip taken by an eighth grade class to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. While on the field trip, an earthquake occurs and the students are plunged into an underground lake. Separated from their teacher, the students have no option but to try and make their way above ground even though they disagree about the best way to do this. Pretty and popular Silvia does everything she can to hide her panic attacks while leading the group. Eric finds himself separated from his class and totally on his own under the ground – until he meets an unexpected stranger.

This tale is told from three points of view and is a fast-paced adventure story that will encourage reluctant readers to turn the pages to find out what happens to the unsupervised group. I found that as I reached the end of each chapter, I could not put the book down due to the cliffhangers. The writing is simple and easy for twelve year olds to read – and yet the content will cause them to flip the pages as fast as they can. I can already imagine my daughter, already a Wesley King fan, lounging on the sofa engrossed in this tale.

I recommend this read for any middle school child who enjoys reading adventure stories. The adventure will enthrall, the dynamics between the children will be believable, and the outcome will be greeted with satisfaction.

Do you enjoy reading YA fiction?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the seventh in my 50 book pledge for 2018)