Outcasts of River Falls, by Jacqueline Guest

Guest Review by Hannah Grant

Sequel to Belle of Batoche, this novel follows the adventures of Kathryn Tourond through the death of her parents and the changes in her lifestyle that result from it. Kathryn was raised as an upperclass white girl, uninformed of her father’s Métis roots. Now an orphan, she is sent to live with her Aunt Belle, a dark-skinned Métis woman. Kathryn is disdained to find out that her aunt owns a small run-down home on the outskirts of the white territory, has to work hard for everything she has, and is treated differently from the white people. She is even more disgruntled when she realizes she must help with the household chores.

As time passes, Kathryn sees the struggles of the Métis and how unfair it is that they are treated as trash, but for a long time she doesn’t think of herself as one of them. She thinks of her time in River Falls as temporary and hopes to return to her school in Toronto and go on to become a lawyer.

One aspect of River Falls, however, Kathryn finds intriguing: the story of the mysterious Highwayman who brings justice and fairness to the Métis. She hopes to solve the mystery of the Highwayman, but soon finds out that her aunt is involved. When the Highwayman is framed for a murder, he and Belle could be in danger, and it is up to Kathryn to help them.

This story details the hardships faced by the Métis in the early 1900s and the changes in Kathryn’s perspective towards her people. A good read for both children and adults, this book is the tale of a girl coming to love her family for who they are and cherish a simple country life in River Falls.

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Horse Power, by Ann Walsh

Guest review by Hannah Grant

Callie, a young city girl, has just arrived home from visiting her father when her mother whisks her away to protest the closing of her cousin’s school.

Callie is a bit annoyed with the protest at first. She is not fond of camping out in the school parking lot or of her cousin’s horse, Radish, but she understands the importance of the rural school and wants to help save it. When Callie’s cousin dares her to ride Radish, an unlikely turn of events and an unlikely friendship provide a solution to the problem.

This book is a great read for young adults and people who love horses. Callie’s humorous perspective makes it difficult to put this book down. She actually had me laughing out loud!

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Guest Post by Mary McClusky

One of the best-selling novels, The Fault in Our Stars, has recently been made into a movie that millions of people all over the world are obsessing over. The novel, written by John Green, was published only in 2012, and is now a must-read novel for teenagers and young adults. It is a story about a young girl, Hazel Grace Lancaster, who is forced to attend a support group for cancer patients. She meets this happy, adventurous boy named Augustus Waters, and before they know it, they fall in love. Augustus teaches Hazel how to live life, and not let the cancer affect her. In the end of the novel, Augustus reveals to Hazel that his cancer has spread to his entire body, and he will soon pass away. This book is an inspiration to everyone who is fighting something in their life, as Augustus tells us that pain is inevitable in the world. I highly recommend this novel to everyone as it tells a story of romance, hope and happiness.

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakuer

Guest Review by Mary M.

Over the past few years I have been forced to read many books for school, some good, and some bad. It was not until this year that I came across a book that actually captured my attention and made me think about life in a different sense. Into the Wild, written by Jon Krakuer, is an inspirational novel about a young boy, Chris McCandless, who abandons his life and heads out into the wild. He searches for purpose and meaning to his life, something that he lacked before. It is not until the end of his journey that he realizes that true happiness is only real when shared with others. By the time he makes this realization, it is too late, as he is left alone in the wilderness, with no chance of surviving. This novel opened my eyes to the possibilities and adventures in life, and to ultimately enjoy life while we still can

Americus, by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill

This substantial graphic novel is about book-banning, libraries, the power of fiction (of fantasy in particular), fitting in at high school, losing friends, making friends, and figuring out who you really want to be … for starters. Neil and his best friend Danny graduate from grade eight and start high school with some trepidation. Both are devoted readers of a fantasy series, “The Chronicles of Apathea Ravenchilde”, finding it in both inspiration and escape. However, Danny’s religious-fanatic mother begins a campaign against the books. To say only that much makes it sound like a simplistic children’s tale in which everyone will learn a nice lesson about tolerance and the importance of reading, but it’s a complex, multi-layered story, with well-developed characters and evolving relationships, intended for teen readers and with lots of appeal to adults as well. The problems faced by the several protagonists of Americus go beyond book-banning: religious intolerance, homophobia, bullying, poverty, loneliness, friendship, and first love all form important elements of the plot. There are no simple endings.

Unlike some American graphic novels, the art is very sharp and clear. Snippets illustrating the Apathea Ravenchilde series are interwoven through the story as characters read the books, but these snippets also echo some emotion or event the primary world characters are experiencing, subtly illustrating the way that the characters are able to take strength to endure their real-life problems from the fantasy world in which the stories immerse them. At the end, the stories of the main characters, like that of their hero Apathea, are left in a safe place, but continuing. We know that they, too, will have new battles to face in the years to come, but that they will take strength from their past small victories.