Book Reviews

What was the last book you read? Did you like it or loathe it? Email us with your opinions and we'll share your reviews with other readers.

We're always happy to hear what you think about your latest read. Send us your thoughts and we'll share your book reviews with other readers. It can be one line or a few paragraphs - but make sure you tell us the book title and author.

You can also add a rating and review to any of the books in the library catalogue by using the ADD A REVIEW button at the bottom of the information page for each book.

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Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm Book Cover
© Penguin Books

Review by Olivia

After a rebellion at Manor Farm, certain animals rise and take control. There are many disputes and horrifying events, and the thought of all animals being equal is soon dismissed. Freedom is no longer a goal as it was when they overthrew the human farmers, and their society soon disintegrates into a savage one.

Animal farm is a great read because it can be interpreted in multiple ways, and has applications in the real world. It is a short, succinct read so is good for people without much time, and for people who just don't want to read or analyse a large book like so many other classics. The language is again very understandable and modern, and written in such a way that you feel as if you are on the farm as one of the animals.

Review by Anas

Animal Farm is a historical novel, set in England, but dealing with events leading up to and after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Animal Farm is George Orwell's satire on equality, where all barnyard animals live free from their human masters' tyranny. Inspired to rebel by Old Major, an old boar, animals on Mr. Jones' Manor Farm embrace Animalism and stage a revolution to achieve an idealistic state of justice and progress. A power-hungry pig, Napoleon, becomes a totalitarian dictator who leads the Animal Farm into 'All Animals Are Equal / But Some Are More Equal Than Others' oppression.

The book presents a classic blueprint for an individual’s rise to power and illustrates the idea that power corrupts; this abuse of power can be demonstrated by Napoleon’s actions in the book. Animal Farm seems to be a dream betrayed as it begins with hope and ends with despair.

The animals let the pigs lead the farm, thereby placing them in a position of power. This power corrupted them as they became more and more greedy and their ideology became more and more corrupted. Although a stream of different events happen throughout the book, the most important thing remains the same. Life for the animals only gets worse.

Whilst Orwell uses the character of Snowball to explore ideas about leadership, it can also be argued that the character of Napoleon represents a more dictatorial and violent style. For the most part, Snowball follows the principles Old Major initially laid out for Animalism. Though he seems like the ideal leader for Animal Farm, Orwell's message that power corrupts hints that regardless of who the leader of Animal Farm would be, the revolution was doomed to fail from the beginning.

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Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables Book Cover
© Virago

Review by Olivia

Anne Shirley is an orphan, and adopted by the Cuthberts of Green Gables. She soon adapts to it and makes friends, but not without obstacles to overcome. She manages to face these and overcome her past, and regardless of what people think of her, stays true to herself.

Although Anne of Green Gables is commonly thought of as a children’s book, I would recommend it to everyone. It’s a lovely, light read with lovable characters and beautiful writing that makes you want to visit the farm. I think it’s also a good book to read when you’re feeling sad or discouraged because of the humorous tone of the book.

Review by Anas

Anne of Green Gables was a novel written in 1907 and published in 1908 by author Lucy M Montgomery. Suited to all ages, it has been considered a children’s classic since the mid twentieth century.

It tells the tale of a red-headed orphan girl named Anne Shirley who lives on Prince Edward Island. She then gets adopted by Matthew and Mary Cuthbert, elderly siblings who live on a farm named Green Gables. Anne brings unexpected adventure into their lives with her never ending curiosity and strong imagination.

Hope and perseverance are the overarching themes of the story, however ‘Anne of Green Gables’ dominant theme focuses on how mistakes help people grow into good people.

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The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

The Art of Being Normal Book Cover
© David Fickling Books

Review by Emily, Year 11

The Art of Being Normal is about 2 teenagers who long to be able to live in a world as themselves without fear or judgement. An unlikely friendship forms between them but as rumours and secrets spread around their school, things start to get out of control.

Although written by a cisgender author, it has received praise from many sources for being an incredible book about transgender experiences and has been endorsed by Amnesty International UK.

The Boy Who Made the World Disappear Book Cover
© Simon & Schuster

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The Boy Who Made the World Disappear by Ben Miller

Recommended by Karen

A boy gets a balloon that’s a black hole that he feeds with things that annoy him but what happens when he takes it a bit beyond yucky school dinners…

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Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman

Call Me by Your Name Book Cover
© Atlantic Books

Recommended by Olivia

The book takes place in 1980s Italy and explores the relationship between a 17 year old and a 24 year old academic who comes to stay in the summer. It’s written from the perspective of the 17 year old - Elio - and explores the different aspects of a relationship, especially the secrecy involved with their relationship due to the stigma against gay relationships. Both boys also know the relationship cannot last and the end of the novel explores their relationship after the 24 year old leaves.

I loved the writing of this novel, I thought it was so beautiful. There are multiple moments where it’s written very poetically and focuses on very abstract ideas. The setting is also very beautiful and creates very pretty images. Overall, I’d recommend this to someone who wants to live as another person because the author manages to convey the emotions perfectly and makes the reader feel as if they are there, with the characters.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Hard Luck Book Cover
© Puffin Books

Recommended by Tiongi

The plot of the book is that Greg has started to get even more work from school and life has got a bit difficult. On top of this his best friend Rowley has got himself a girlfriend and is spending less time with Greg and since he does a lot for Greg (some examples are him carrying his books to and from school and scouting for dog poop on the way to school) it's made things a lot worse.

I’d recommend this title for ages 10-14. It is quite funny at times and also an easy book to get into. The humour never gets old. I've probably read it three times now and still get the same enjoyment as I did when I first read it.

There are at least 12 other books to choose from in the series and they can be borrowed at any Milton Keynes Library.

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The Grand Tour A-Z of the Car (Non-Fiction)

The Grand Tour A-Z of the Car Book Cover
© Harper Collins Publishers

Recommended by Sanjay, Year 10

This may be a biased opinion as I am a fan of both Top Gear and The Grand Tour, but I truly believe this book is a joy to read! It outlines facts about motoring related items, and does so in a fun manner.

Of course reading an encyclopaedia about cars would be boring and that’s exactly what this is not. I have learnt about the history, heritage and demise of many manufacturers, associations and more.

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Harry Potter (series) by J K Rowling

Harry Potter Series Book Covers
© Pottermore Publishing

Review by Olivia

When Harry Potter receives a letter inviting him to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he accepts, but not without difficulty. Over the course of the series he finds out more about himself and his destiny, all whilst the feared wizard Voldemort rises again. He makes friends and enemies, faces troubles and develops his views and perception of the world before the very basis of his life is threatened.

Harry Potter is a classic children’s novel and always a throwback to the past. It has some very positive messages about persistence and determination but is far more than that. I love to re-read it every now and then to revisit the beautiful world and incredible characters.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J K Rowling

Review by Anas

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Book Cover
© Pottermore

This story is set nineteen years after the events in the novel 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'. It follows Harry Potter, now Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry Magic, and his youngest son, Albus Severus Potter, who is about to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The story follows an unusual friendship formed between Albus and Scorpius Malfoy, son of Harry’s former enemy, when both are sorted into Slytherin, thus breaking the tradition of Potters being sorted into Gryffindor.

Suspicion arises when Harry’s scar starts hurting - and when a time turner is mixed into the dilemma, things become much more complicated. Follow along with Albus and Scorpius’ adventures during their first year at Hogwarts to see what happens next!

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J K Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Book Cover
© Pottermore

Review by Akshita

Harry Potter is an orphan, just about to go to secondary school, and oblivious of his parent's story, their legacy and the brand new life in store for him. He discovers answers to questions he never knew existed, and dives into an unknown fantastical world.

The reason I am recommending this book is because it engulfs you and transports you into an alternate reality, and you forget everything in the world of magic. It's an amazing escape from daily life and you discover new twists and turns along with the characters, who are new to magic just like you are.

Review by Anas

On the night of his eleventh birthday, Harry Potter, an orphan boy, suddenly discovers he is a wizard and is invited to study at Hogwarts; a magic school for witches and wizards.

As he escapes from his previous terrible life and enters a new magical one, he finds friends and people who treat him like family, but there’s a price that comes with being the son of one of the most powerful wizards ever; Voldemort. As Harry navigates his way through his first year and starts to discover what his magic can do, he also learns just how dangerous Voldemort can be.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give Book Cover
© Walker Books

Review by Olivia

This novel follows Starr’s experience with the media and public outcry after she witnesses her friend being murdered by the police, and her life as a black girl. It explores police brutality and the outright racism she encounters in everyday life, as well as the different attitudes people have toward the different parts of town.

This is a great novel to learn about racism and police brutality, as well as being simply a great novel with an interesting story. I found myself enthralled by the characters and rooting for Starr, and emotionally invested by the story (which doesn't happen often!).

Review by Anas

The Hate U Give is a novel written in 2017 by Angie Thomas. This novel highlights the blatant issue of racism and inequality within our world, and helps to raise awareness of the bias in our system.

Narrated by Starr Carter, the book tells a story of a 16-year-old black girl from a poor neighbourhood who attends a private school in a primarily white, rich part of the city. Starr becomes involved in a national news story after she witnesses a white police officer shoot and kill her best friend, Khalil. She speaks up about the shooting in lots of public ways via social media and within her school, and after a grand jury decides not to charge the police officer for the shooting, it sparks protests by the public.

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Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies Book Cover
© Faber and Faber

Review by Emily, Year 11

Lord of the Flies is a novel set on a desert island after a plane crash. The only survivors are a group of British schoolboys who must work together to live on this island until they are rescued. At first the boys get along, but then petty fallouts turn into fights and gangs and it all falls apart.

It is a highly symbolic book exploring themes of dictatorship and democracy, nature vs nurture and whether mankind is inherently evil. Although this book is fairly well-known for being a book studied at GCSE level, I recommend it for reading in your spare time as it makes you think about philosophical themes while you read a gripping novel about people descending into madness and chaos.

Malamander Book Cover
© Walker Books

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Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Recommended by Karen

A mystery to solve that revolves around sea monsters, ghosts, bad guys and fish and chips!

(Okay, so the fish n chips fixation might just be me.)

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Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Review by Ana

Percy Jackson, who has dyslexia, finally finds a camp where he belongs.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief Book Cover
© Puffin Books

During a game of Capture the Flag, Percy is claimed by his godly parent, Poseidon. However, later, he finds himself faced with a quest to return Zeus’ Lightning Bolt after it was rumoured to be stolen.

He accepts the quest to become a Hero and with two comrades, Annabeth, daughter of Athena, and the help of Grover, a satyr, they journey across the United States and face The Furies, the Minotaur, Medusa, Echidna and her deadly pet Chimera, Procrustes, and finally the three headed dog, Cerberus, on their way to the underworld to confront Hades, who is believed to have stolen the original weapon of mass destruction; Zeus’ Lightning Bolt.

Review by Tymon

Summary: The story starts with a normal teen, who lives in a normal neighbourhood and goes to a normal school. One day, he accidentally vaporises his pre-algebra maths teacher, and is suddenly accused of stealing a lightning bolt that he does not even know about.

Review: This is the first book of an amazing series. I highly recommend this book because it takes the idea of gods and goddesses to a new level. The Greek gods that were once considered a myth are now being seen in everyday life. Fantastic!

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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray Book Cover
© Bloomsbury

Review by Olivia

After a portrait is painted of him, Dorian Gray sells his soul in return for eternal youth and beauty. Time passes and Dorian Gray descends further and further into moral corruption as the portrait ages and grows hideous to look at. The novel explores multiple themes, such as how ethics and morality vary between both individual characters and groups in society, and larger topics such as hedonism and aestheticism.

I recommend this novel because of the beautiful language and writing style of Wilde, as well as its commentary on society and the beauty.

The book was also received quite badly when initially published, so it’s interesting to look at how the book offended the public in contrast with the popularity of the book now in modern society.

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Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

Rooftoppers Book Cover
© Faber and Faber

Review by Akshita

Sophie is out on a search to find her mother, who was rendered missing following the sinking of the ship they were both on. Charles Maxim takes her under his care, and takes her to Paris, with only the memory of Sophie's mother's cello leading them. Feeling suppressed by society and procedure, Sophie liberates herself by climbing out onto the rooftops of Paris and finds a whole new world, taking the search for her mother into her own hands.

I enjoyed this book because it presents determination in an empowering way, and the emotions as well as the setting are beautifully picturised through Rundell's words.

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Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Review by Emily, Year 11

Sapiens Book Cover
© Vintage Books

Sapiens is a non-fiction book about the history of humankind. It explores the cognitive revolution, the agricultural revolution, the unification of humankind and the scientific revolution in an easy to digest way.

The use of analogies and comedy throughout the book makes sapiens a great way to learn about where we came from as a species. When I first picked up the book I thought it would be boring, hard to read and that I would never finish it. But I learned to never judge a book by its cover (literally!).

It was fun to read, and I had quickly made my way through the first few chapters. It made me think about our place in society. It's also a good book to read if you want to impress all of your friends with your knowledge of how we ended up with the society we have today!

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The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown

The Swish of the Curtain Book Cover
© Pushkin Children's Books

Review by Akshita

A group of children are determined to transform a dilapidated, unused building into a beautiful theatre, where they can establish the Blue Door Theatre Company and hold performances, showcasing their love for acting.

I enjoyed this book because it demonstrates that anything is possible if you want it enough, and big things can be created from small beginnings.

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Last Updated: 9 September 2021