As you may have guessed from the title, as of today, I won’t be posting anymore on Tweens Read Too. This is something I’ve thought about for a long time, maybe the last six months, for a couple of reasons.

The first is that I realized my reading tastes are maturing. I’m slowly starting to creep into adult literature (though, admittedly, it’s a very slow creeping), and I’m betting that within the next four or five years, I will be primarily reading adult lit. With that comes a bit of moving on. I no longer read and absolutely love enough middle-grade to run a separate blog about it.

That being said, I still greatly enjoy the genre. There’s something about middle-grade that you can’t get from YA or children’s or adult or any other genre out there, and I don’t think I’ll ever fully move on from YA and MG lit. Because of that, I’ll be casually reading middle-grade when I find books I’m excited about and posting those reviews on my other book blog, The Silver Words. I also plan to hold Tweens Read August or some event like it again, but it’ll be on TSW instead of TRT.

The second reason I’ve thought about moving on is because time has gotten tight for me as of late. It used to be manageable, but I have several things going on right now, between standardized test prep and extracurriculars and projects and writing a novel and starting at community college. I still defend my reading time, but it’s not realistic for me or my schedule to be posting on two blogs all the time. It comes out to at least five posts released a week, sometimes more than that. Knowing what my schedule looks like for the next couple of months, I knew I couldn’t make it to the end of the year as I’d initially planned, so I decided to end it here.

All of those things aside, some of you have followed this blog since it began in June 2013. Some of you have followed it since a year ago, a month ago, yesterday, and to all of you, thank you so much. You can’t begin to imagine the gratitude I have towards all of my readers, and I hope that you’ll continue to follow my bookish journey on The Silver Words.  Thank you again, and happy reading.


Someone else will be taking over the blog, and I’ll provide oversight and maybe even the occasional post. I’ve mentioned my cousin, another avid reader, on here once or twice. My cousin’ll be taking over the blog and providing most of the content, as well a bit of new style. Stay tuned for more info, and goodbye (for now)!

Review: Extraordinary by Miriam Spitzer Franklin

extraordinary by miriam spitzer franklin

Last spring, Pansy chickened out on going to spring break camp, even though she’d promised her best friend, Anna, she’d go. It was just like when they went to get their hair cut for Locks of Love; only one of them walked out with a new hairstyle, and it wasn’t Pansy. But Pansy never got the chance to make it up to Anna. While at camp, Anna contracted meningitis and a dangerously high fever, and she hasn’t been the same since. Now all Pansy wants is her best friend back—not the silent girl in the wheelchair who has to go to a special school and who can’t do all the things Pansy used to chicken out of doing. So when Pansy discovers that Anna is getting a surgery that might cure her, Pansy realizes this is her chance—she’ll become the friend she always should have been. She’ll become the best friend Anna’s ever had—even if it means taking risks, trying new things (like those scary roller skates), and running herself ragged in the process.

Pansy’s chasing extraordinary, hoping she reaches it in time for her friend’s triumphant return. But what lies at the end of Pansy’s journey might not be exactly what she had expected—or wanted.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Extraordinary is one of those books that I feel like I could’ve loved in elementary school but is ultimately not for me at this point. My problems with the story weren’t necessarily because there’s anything wrong with the book, but because I came in with two incorrect assumptions:

The first one has to do with target audience and age of the protagonist. I thought this was middle-grade. It’s not middle-grade. The protagonists are in fifth grade, and they read like they’re in third or fourth grade. Because of that, if I was to recommend this, I would recommend it to lower middle-grade readers.

Unfortunately, while I’m on the topic of the characters, the cast lacks the maturity of their age. There are books where the main characters feel like teenagers, feel like middle-graders, but this isn’t one of them. The voice and narration was very unnatural to me, and the events of the plot held no substance. Things happened, were supposed to have some sort of meaning, and then quickly moved on.

However, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the plot and the characters. Extraordinary struck me as the friendship version of Tricia Clasen’s The Haunted House Project, which was one of my Tweens Read August picks. Even though it was cliché in many ways, the friendship between Pansy and Anna was fun to read about. I also loved the coming-of-age nature of the story, which brings me to my second point.

I went in expecting Extraordinary to be a book about friendship. I love reading about friendships, especially broken ones, in middle-grade and YA, but more than anything else, Extraordinary is a coming-of-age type of book. Pansy grows tremendously over the course of the story, becoming her own person and learning how to live with the idea of not always being with Anna. That’s not to say they don’t end up together in the end. They go through their own share of troubles, but they have an incredible bond with each other.

In terms of the supporting cast, I adored the good family relationships in the story. There’s no Disappearing Parent Syndrome for Extraordinary. Anna’s problems tie in her entire family and Pansy’s entire family, and Pansy’s parents play strong roles as her supporters. This was great to see when much of middle-grade lit is moving toward stories where parents play minimal, if any, roles. The teachers within the story weren’t particularly memorable either, but I enjoyed their roles and support while I was in the story.

Also, on a side note, what kind of fifth grade class is still learning the multiplication tables for 2? I know personal experiences aren’t always accurate, so I took a look at IXL and they should be learning decimal/fraction multiplication and division, as well as exponents, probability, and ratios. I’m nit-picking, but it was little details that made this book seem younger than it’s intended for.

Strangely enough, by the end of the story, I realized that when I started this book, I was looking for another book along the lines of Jenny Han’s Shug or Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me. Both books are very deep and poignant, talking extensively about friendship, loss, and coming-of-age. Granted, those books are more middle-grade than children’s, but I would probably think of them first if someone wanted a recommendation. Overall, Extraordinary was a decent read, but I would only recommend for younger middle-grade readers and children’s lit readers. 2 stars.

ARC Review: The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat

the changelings by christina soontornvat

Izzy’s family has just moved to the most boring town in the country. But as time goes on, strange things start to happen; odd piles of stones appear around Izzy’s house, and her little sister Hen comes home full of stories about the witch next door.

Then, Hen disappears into the woods. She’s been whisked away to the land of Faerie, and it’s up to Izzy to save her. Joined there by a band of outlaw Changelings, Izzy and her new friends set out on a joint search-and-rescue mission across this foreign land which is at turns alluringly magical and utterly terrifying.

Description taken from Goodreads.

I feel like if I had read this during my middle-grade years, I could’ve loved it to death, but when I was reading it now, all I could do was point out the clichés to it. I think the problem with the story is that there’s next to nothing fresh about it. It’s interesting, and the characters are heartfelt, and the writing is cute, but there’s nothing super memorable there.

That being said, I did love Izzy and her adventures with the outlaws. Their trip through Faerie was entertaining, and I loved Izzy’s voice as a character. She’s bookish and clever, not necessarily strong or brave, but she grows over the course of the story and comes to home both within herself and with her family/friends.

Overall, I probably wouldn’t recommend this one. It’s cute, but it’s just not what I’m looking for. I’d much rather recommend Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander series, which has many of the same themes and was one of my first of these kinds of novels. Good read, but nothing I would come back to. 2 stars.

ARC Review: Time Traveling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

time traveling with a hamster by ross welford

Back to the Future meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in this original, poignant, race-against-time story about a boy who travels back to 1984 to save his father’s life.

My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty-nine and again four years later, when he was twelve. On his twelfth birthday, Al Chaudhury receives a letter from his dead father. It directs him to the bunker of their old house, where Al finds a time machine (an ancient computer and a tin bucket). The letter also outlines a mission: travel back to 1984 and prevent the go-kart accident that will eventually take his father’s life. But as Al soon discovers, whizzing back thirty years requires not only imagination and courage, but also lying to your mom, stealing a moped, and setting your school on fire—oh, and keeping your pet hamster safe. With a literary edge and tons of commerical appeal, this incredible debut has it all: heart, humor, vividly imagined characters, and a pitch-perfect voice.

Description taken from Goodreads.

I was prepared for the worst with this book. Between the blurb, the cover, and the title, I was fully prepared to put it down 20% of the way through as an unfortunate disappointment. But no, Time Traveling with a Hamster demanded to be loved and read, and it reminded me why I continue to read middle-grade lit.

I think what I love about this story is that it’s so no-nonsense. It gets right to the heart of the story, never stopping to dwell on the ridiculousness of the situation. Between Al’s authentic voice and the great pacing, it’s easy to get lost in the magic of the story. I’ll admit that I was skeptical in the beginning, but shortly after I got into the story, I realized it’s perfectly reasonable to write a story about time traveling with a hamster.

The plot and writing were spot-on. I especially loved the way that Al got to explore his relationships with his dad and grandpa because of the time travel, though I wasn’t impressed by his bad relationship with his step-sister. There were points in the story that were cliché or felt like they were formatting ideas derived from other writers (ten facts about one of the characters, a chapter move that I dislike immensely because it breaks the story apart). I was disappointed by this, especially in the beginning, because of how impressed I was by Welford’s writing.

All in all, I would recommend Time Traveling with a Hamster to boys and girls through middle school and maybe a little younger. Honestly, it’s great for anyone willing to give it a chance. The humor is spot on, the story is exciting enough to keep impatient readers going, it has heartfelt characters, and the ending is satisfactory. A great read. 4 stars.

Review: My Seventh Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin

my seventh grade life in tights by brooks benjamin


All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.


At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?


Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor.

Description taken from Goodreads.

My Seventh Grade Life in Tights had everything I wanted, and more. It was sassy and smart and heartfelt, and I was rooting for Dillon every step of the way. The structure was there, from the pacing to the premise to the world-building. From the start, I loved his voice and character, but what really made the story was the friendships.

love great supporting character friendships, so much so that it’s currently my pinned tweet, and My Seventh Grade Life in Tights delivered. I felt Dillon’s struggles with reconcile his dreams with his relationships with his friends, and it was a great representation of the collection of lows and highs that seventh grade is.

Also a plus on that count, there’s plenty of diversity in this story. Brooks smashed clichés and stereotypes throughout the book, and I loved seeing that.

Another thing that this book has going for it is Dillon, whose passion for dance is inspiring. He’s trying to enter into an adult world at a young age, and I respect that. He tries really hard at what he does, he doesn’t give up, and he’s genuine all at the same time. I enjoy seeing kids who are passionate about something represented in stories, and by the end of the book, I was ready to have more of Dillon! In particular, I would love to see who he becomes as a young adult, if that were ever an option :D

All in all, the book was superb. It hit all the right notes, and I’m even happier that I got the chance to work with Brooks during Tweens Read August. I had a ton of fun with the book, and I’ll be recommending it. 4.5 stars.

Review: Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard

beetle boy by m.g. leonard

The glorious start to a middle-grade trilogy about a brilliant boy, his loyal friends, and some amazingly intelligent beetles that brings together adventure, humor, and real science!

Darkus Cuttle’s dad mysteriously goes missing from his job as Director of Science at the Natural History Museum. Vanished without a trace! From a locked room! So Darkus moves in with his eccentric Uncle Max and next door to Humphrey and Pickering, two lunatic cousins with an enormous beetle infestation. Darkus soon discovers that the beetles are anything but ordinary. They’re an amazing, intelligent super species and they’re in danger of being exterminated. It’s up to Darkus and his friends to save the beetles. But they’re up against an even more terrifying villain–the mad scientist of fashion, haute couture villainess Lucretia Cutter. Lucretia has an alarming interest in insects and dastardly plans for the bugs. She won’t let anyone or anything stop her, including Darkus’s dad, who she has locked up in her dungeons! The beetles and kids join forces to rescue Mr. Cuttle and thwart Lucretia.

Description taken from Goodreads.

This book was a Tweens Read August pick. Check out M.G.’s post on the blog here

I’m no huge lover of beetles or insects, but I was initially interested in M.G. Leonard’s debut because I heard it was reminiscent of the kind of writing in another book I loved as a kid but can’t remember now (has snow and a red machine on the front? anyone?) Anyway, I went into Beetle Boy with high expectations, and almost all of them were met.

Starting with what I liked, I loved the factoids on beetles! M.G. clearly loves beetles, and she worked them into the novel without making it seem unnatural. There weren’t any info-dumps, and I came to appreciate beetles over the course of the story. I went it a bit skeptical of how well that element would be handled, but I was pleasantly surprised. I grew up on movies like Antz, The Ant Bully, and A Bug’s Life, and this book brought many great memories back for me.

Along that same vein, the writing and plot were spot-on. The writing captured the feel that I was looking for. Like some of the other books I’ve reviewed lately, it had this feel of older middle-grade fiction, books that aren’t narrated in such a whimsical way. I appreciated that, and I loved getting to know the characters. Each person was nuanced, and characters were distinctive.

What I disliked had to do with writing though, as much as I loved both of the execution of this story. I can’t truly see myself recommending this story to many kids in its target audience. It’s just too out-there, I guess. It’s a fun story, but enthusiasm for reading about bugs (no matter how cool they are) doesn’t transfer easily. I’d still recommend this to lower middle-grade readers.

Overall, not a bad read by any means. I was entertained, and I enjoyed learning about beetles. However, for the most part, I probably won’t be recommending this one. 3 stars.

Review: School of the Dead by Avi

school of the dead by avi

From Newbery Medalist Avi comes the spine-tingling story of Tony Gilbert, who must solve a mystery surrounding the ghost of his uncle Charlie.

For most of Tony Gilbert’s life, he always thought of his uncle as “Weird Uncle Charlie.” That is, until Uncle Charlie moves in with Tony and his family. He’s still odd, of course—talking about spirits and other supernatural stuff—but Uncle Charlie and Tony become fast friends. Between eating ice cream and going to the movies, Tony is having more fun with Uncle Charlie than he ever could have imagined.

So when Uncle Charlie dies suddenly, Tony is devastated. So sad, in fact, he starts seeing Uncle Charlie everywhere! Tony recently transferred to the Penda School, where Uncle Charlie went as a kid. The school is eerie enough on its own without his uncle’s ghost making it worse. On top of which, rumors have been circulating about a student who went missing shortly before Tony arrived. Could that and Uncle Charlie’s ghost be related?

Full of twists and turns that get spookier by the chapter, School of the Dead is a fast-paced mystery that Avi’s fans will devour!

Description taken from Goodreads.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Avi, but the premise of School of the Dead won me over. I was curious to see what the story would be like, and I ended up enjoying it much more than I expected. However, as others have correctly noted, the twist at the end is a bit easy to guess by the middle of the novel. I’m sure mature middle-grade readers will be able to guess it fairly easily, but I still had a lot of fun with the story, so I don’t think it’ll be a major turn-off.

Even though I enjoyed the plot and the characters, two things wavered for me throughout the story. The first is the fact that the book isn’t scary. I don’t think it would be scary for anyone. It does the ghost cliché, it works within its premise, but it’s nothing shocking or wholly original.

The second is the writing. Avi’s writing doesn’t give me the voice of a middle-grader. Tony felt much older than his age much of the time. Avi’s writing tends to favor the same kind of cool detachment as Kate DiCamillo’s work. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. In fact, I enjoyed it, but I don’t know how the target audience will receive it. If you’re looking for whimsical and action-packed, this isn’t the book for you.

It’s lack of originality and it’s writing made me question how easily its target audience will fall in love with it, but I know a few kids who loved books like Anya’s Ghost that could appreciate a story like this. The rest of the book was pretty solid, and I’ll be recommending it. 3 stars.

Review: Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger

fuzzy by tom angleberger and paul dellinger

When Max—Maxine Zealster—befriends her new robot classmate Fuzzy, part of Vanguard One Middle School’s new Robot Integration Program, she helps him learn everything he needs to know about surviving middle school—the good, the bad, and the really, really, ugly. Little do they know that surviving sixth grade is going to become a true matter of life and death, because Vanguard has an evil presence at its heart: a digital student evaluation system named BARBARA that might be taking its mission to shape the perfect student to extremes!

Description taken from Goodreads.

I’m not a Tom Angleberger fan, but that might just have to change if he continues to come out with books like Fuzzy!

The only thing I didn’t like about the story (and didn’t like is a strong phrase) is that it had a slow beginning. I wasn’t drawn in from the very first page, but maybe that’s too much to ask. It’s enough that the rest of book is superb.

Despite my pacing problems in the beginning, I quickly fell in love with Fuzzy. There were a few different reasons for that, most notably because of the world-building and plot.

Fuzzy takes place in the near-future, and it almost has a dystopia-type feel. Dystopia is much harder to come by in middle-grade lit than young-adult lit, to the point where I wasn’t sure what it would even look like. Tom Angleberger did an amazing job of answering that question for me. No, not everything felt natural. There were a few weak spots where I felt like he was over-describing, but I think that’ll do a good job of introducing the subject material to younger students and people unaffiliated with code and technology.

When it really comes down to it, I was completely in love with the world-building of Fuzzy. The entire book did feel a little immature, so it was a bit awkward. I didn’t love the world for its writing or the way it was described, but because of its ideas. For the most part, Angleberger brought together his world spectacularly. I loved the way he (subtly) pointed out the flaws in where we’re heading with education, and his vision of technology-driven schools was fascinating.

As for the plot, it brought the story together. This may seem like a no-brainer, but beyond the obvious, the plot made the book. What I mean by that is it gave life the characters. It provided the world of Fuzzy a home. Not every book does that, and I was impressed by the chain of events in the book.

All in all, I loved Fuzzy. It had a relatively weak beginning, but it gained speed (and a place in my heart). The world was one I could dive into, and the storytelling was refreshing. I’ll be recommending this one! Hopefully, I can make some young STEM-lit fans :D 4 stars.

Review: Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard

lucky strikes by louis bayard

With her mama recently dead and her pa sight unseen since birth, fourteen-year-old Amelia is suddenly in charge of her younger brother and sister, and of the family gas station. Harley Blevins, local king and emperor of Standard Oil, is in hot pursuit to clinch his fuel monopoly. To keep him at bay and her family out of foster care, Melia must come up with a father, and fast. And so when a hobo rolls out of a passing truck, Melia grabs opportunity by its beard. Can she hold off the hounds till she comes of age?

Description taken from Goodreads.

Two words that, when put together, are immediate turn-offs for me in any book: rural South.

As soon as I cracked open Lucky Strikes, I wanted to stop reading. The narration style just doesn’t do it for me. I figured I would get into the book and see if I could get past it, but it was an issue for me throughout the entire story.

Sure, it’s sad. It’s sweet. It’s quirky. It’s got a nice cover. Theoretically, it’s got the makings of a mainstream MG novel. But no. I can’t see myself recommending to anyone for two reasons. The first is that it wasn’t for me. I can’t try to sell off books I know that I dislike. And the second is that this doesn’t read like a middle-grade novel.

Lucky Strikes is a perfect representation of books that adults think middle-graders will be drawn to. On top of the setting, Amelia didn’t actually feel like a middle-grader and there was next to nothing going on. And when things were happening, they were weird to the point where I couldn’t take the plot seriously. For this one, I would recommend reading a sample before buying or borrowing. 1 star.

Review: The First Last Day by Dorian Cirrone

the first last day by dorian cirrone

The magic of summer comes to life in this enchanting middle grade debut about an eleven-year-old girl who must save the future by restarting time after she realizes that her wish to relive the last day of summer may not have been such a great thing after all.

What if you could get a do-over—a chance to relive a day in your life over and over again until you got it right? Would you?

After finding a mysterious set of paints in her backpack, eleven-year-old Haleigh Adams paints a picture of her last day at the New Jersey shore. When she wakes up the next morning, Haleigh finds that her wish for an endless summer with her new friend Kevin has come true. At first, she’s thrilled, but Haliegh soon learns that staying in one place—and time—comes with a price.

And when Haleigh realizes her parents have been keeping a secret, she is faced with a choice: do nothing and miss out on all the good things that come with growing up or find the secret of the time loop she’s trapped in and face some of the inevitable realities of moving on.

As she and Kevin set out to find the source of the magic paints, Haleigh worries it might be too late. Will she be able to restart time? Or will it be the biggest mistake of her life?

Description taken from Goodreads.

This concept has been multiple times over, most notably in my mind with the movie Groundhog Day, but I think The First Last Day does a good job of keeping it fresh. After all, Kevin and Haleigh are just kids, and they end up foreseeing a huge tragedy with the option to never face it. The actual plot was much more compelling than the premise gave it credit for, and I think Cirrone did an amazing job of displaying the emotional aspects of this book.

What I was even more impressed by was the magical realism. It’s easy to make average magical worlds and average realistic worlds and bring them together, but it’s difficult to make great magical worlds and great realistic worlds collide. In the story, there’s next to no disappearing parent syndrome. Kevin and Haleigh both depend on their parents a lot, and they both have really supportive adult figures in their lives. In a world where middle-grade grows increasingly unrealistic, The First Last Day was a breath of fresh air.

All in all, this was a great book that I would recommend. The writing wasn’t exceptional and the beginning was weak, but certain elements to it were fun and well thought out. The world-building and the characters were done very well, and I ending up loving the concept way more than I initially thought I would. It tugged on my heartstrings without being overly emotional, and all in all, I thought it was a well-rounded story. Will be recommending. 3 stars.