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The student news publication of Bryant High School in Bryant, Arkansas

Prospective Online

The student news publication of Bryant High School in Bryant, Arkansas

Prospective Online

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2023 Fall Book Reviews

A Prospective staff member unpacks popular book selections from this fall.
Graphic drawn by Paley Honeysuckle.

As we enter the midst of autumn, Arkansas has noticeably transitioned out of the hot summer weather. Now we are met with a cool breeze, leaves of radiant colors and porches decorated by pumpkins when we step outside. Personally, there’s nothing I’d rather do than immerse myself in a good book, especially while being surrounded by the fall atmosphere. So that’s exactly what I did. I read four books that I felt either fit the fall theme or were just good fall reads, and I rated them based on several factors.

Plot (5 Points): How engaging is the storyline?
Characters (5 Points): Do the characters have depth? What do they add to the story?
Writing (5 Points): How is the author’s use of language?
Setting (5 Points): What is special about the world that the author creates?
Creativity (5 Points): Did the book add something different to the genre?


Stephen King’s The Institute:

(Content Warning: Anxiety, Bodily Harm, Abuse, Murder, Suicide)
The first story I read was by one of the most successful and well known authors in the horror genre, Stephen King. His novel, The Institute, is about a young boy, Luke Ellis, who is, by definition, a child prodigy. At 12 years old, he had plans to attend two colleges and had just taken the SAT. All of a sudden Luke’s dreams are put on hold after he is taken from his home in the middle of the night and brought to an isolated facility in the woods of Maine. The Institute has been kidnapping children in order to use their telekinetic and telepathic abilities for their own benefit. After the children he befriends begin to vanish, it is up to Luke to outwit the institute for his and his new friends’ sake.

The plot was by no means bad. I was left on edge for the majority of the book, which was exactly what I was looking for. The only thing about the plot that left me a little disappointed was the predictable storyline. I’ve seen it in literature countless times; the kids in a dystopian environment have to work together in order to overthrow their oppressors, so I wasn’t surprised when that was exactly what happened. Despite the lack of originality, I gave the plot a score of three because, overall, I thought his execution was pretty good.

As for characters, which I believe are a big reason why King’s novels are so iconic. I enjoyed the characters in this book, but they weren’t my favorite of his. I had no problems with the adults; they do a good job of infuriating the reader with their blatant cruelty. My issue lies with the children in this story because, in my opinion, they act more like young adults with their frequent unnatural interactions. To be fair, King was in his 70s when he wrote this story, so it’s not surprising that the dialogue was awkward. His attempted use of slang was completely inaccurate and out of date, but I still found myself sympathizing with the characters and their situation. Because of that, I gave the characters a score of three.

King’s writing in this novel was, unsurprisingly, very good. His buildup did a great job of creating suspense, and his strong use of diction engrossed me in the story. Overall, I was impressed with King’s writing and gave it a four. Again, my only issue was with the uncomfortable dialogue.

Moving onto the book’s setting, which was pretty simple, it was literally a building located in the woods of Maine. The setting was very eerie; don’t get me wrong, but I think that plays more into his writing. The average setting gets an average score, or, in other words, a three.

As for the book’s creativity, like I said before, the story was predictable and didn’t add anything new to the genre; therefore, I gave it a two.
Due to the lack of originality, but an impressive redemption, King’s novel receives a modest three. This score reflects a book that I wouldn’t mind reading again, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.


Rainbow Rowell’s Pumpkinheads:

The next book I read was a graphic novel. Pumpkinheads is a feel-good story where two teenagers, Deja and Josiah, spend their Halloween working at their favorite place, the pumpkin patch. It happens to be their last night working before they have to go off to college, so instead of working on their final night, the two friends decide to make it memorable by doing everything that they’ve wanted to do on the patch but didn’t have the chance to. This includes Josiah building up the courage to talk to the girl that he’s been crushing on for an embarrassingly long time.

The plot was absolutely adorable! The reader gets to explore the pumpkin patch while Deja and Josiah are dedicated to tracking down his crush. They get distracted often and end up in conversations with other characters or do something silly, such as getting caught up in a hectic maze chase. Deja and Josiah’s antics keep the reader entertained and make for a good and simple plot which I gave a score of three.

This story was on the shorter side and I definitely took that into account when reviewing the characters. It’s harder for books that aren’t very long to create detailed character development, and for that reason, I gave them another three. The story’s formatting also impacts writing.

Considering that this book is a graphic novel, the majority of the writing is dialogue. I can’t expect there to be a complex use of diction, that just doesn’t make sense. However, they compensate for the lack of complexity through the comfortable conversations between the characters. Therefore, I gave them a four.

Next is the book’s setting, which I believe is difficult to beat in terms of coziness. The entirety of the story takes place on the pumpkin patch which is illustrated beautifully. Each drawing brought back fond memories of when I spent my fall navigating corn mazes and going on hay rides. I don’t think that the setting of a story can get much better than this, and for that reason, I gave them a five.

This storyline has been seen time and time again so the distinctiveness revolves around it being a graphic novel. Because of that, I decided to give them a score of three on creativity.

The final rating of Pumpkinheads was a 3.6. This book is perfect for anyone who is looking for a quick and comfortable fall read.


Rachel Hawkins The Kiss Curse:

The Kiss Curse is a romance novel between rivals and magic users Gwyn Jones and Llewellyn “Wells” Penhallow. Gwyn was perfectly content with her life as a witchcraft shop owner in Graves Glen when Wells showed up to town and opened an opposing witch shop right across the street. One thing leads to another and now Gwyn has to find out why she’s losing her magic, even if that means asking her nemesis for help.

Personally, I was not a fan of this book and did not get the hype whatsoever. This story was supposed to have a rival trope, but the tension was nonexistent. The romance was so predictable that it was actually painful. The storyline felt incomplete, and there was no chemistry between the characters.

They started out disliking each other, which escalated into a little bit of flirting, and then they were completely and utterly in love. The only part of this book that actually interested me was when a new witch showed up and added a little mystery.

Overall, this plot did not do it for me so I gave it a two. The characters were kind of fascinating and actually had some differences between them, but I wasn’t invested. I immediately knew that Gwyn and Wells were going to get together and I didn’t care at all. The characters get a three.

Another thing that irritated me in this book was the writing. The dialogue wasn’t meaningful, and every single time a character spouted a curse word just to be edgy, I wanted to hit my head against the wall. I will say that it was easy to read, which may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your preferences. The writing gets a two from me.

The only thing that I enjoyed about this book was the setting, which was a cute and witchy small town. Graves Glen reminded of Stars Hollow from “Gilmore Girls” because of the adorable yet interesting shops and houses. I really liked the setting and gave it a four.

Was this book creative? No, it wasn’t. The only component that differentiated this book from every other romance book were the witches and magic, but that wasn’t even the main part of the story. The creativity of this book deserves a solid score of two. This means that the overall score is 2.6.


Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder:

While this book may not be centered around fall, I believe that this small town mystery is the perfect fall read for anyone who loves suspenseful storytelling. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder follows Pippa Fitz-Amobi, who investigates a local closed case for her final year project. The entire town is convinced that Sal Singh murdered Andie Bell five years ago, except for Pippa, who is determined to find out the truth.

To be completely honest, mystery books have never really been my cup of tea. I thought that they were all basically the exact same story in a different font and didn’t add anything new or exciting to the genre. This novel changed my mindset completely.

The plot of this book is so well thought out that when the reader thinks that they’ve already solved the murder, another twist occurs that changes their minds entirely. The engaging storyline kept me guessing throughout the entirety of the book; I felt like I was alongside Pippa, solving the mystery with her. I absolutely loved the plot and gave it a perfect score, a five.
Similarly, the characters in this novel were full of depth. Through Pippa’s interviews, the reader sees that everyone has something to be guilty about, even if they weren’t the murderer. Even Pippa herself has flaws that unravel as the story develops. It’s refreshing to finally see characters that aren’t perfect in every single way because those types of characters just aren’t relatable. My only issue with the characters were the occasional awkward interactions, so they got a four.

To move onto the writing, it was so incredibly creative and well thought out. We see Pippa’s research progress through interviews and transcripts which is such a fun way to develop the plot. In general, everything about the writing was well executed, so I gave them another five.
For the setting, I didn’t think anything was very special. Jackson didn’t make a point of developing the setting as it wasn’t super relevant to the story. It took place in a small town where everyone knows each other, but that isn’t something new to the mystery genre or just novels in general. I gave the setting a score of three because while it wasn’t necessarily bad, it wasn’t unique either.

Finally, I’m rating the book’s creativity, which I can happily say was very impressive. Jackson took a new approach to the main character’s reason for investigating by making her research it for her final project. This wasn’t the only new component that I saw, however, as the interviews and transcripts are something pretty unique as well.

I was very impressed with the way this story kept me on my toes the entire time. That isn’t a feeling I experience every time I read a book in the mystery genre. I haven’t seen another book quite like this one, so I gave the book’s creativity a five. This leaves A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder with a final score of 4.4.

Throughout the short period that I spent reading these books, whether they were good or bad, I can happily say that it made my autumn much more enjoyable. While I was on my fall reading adventure, I realized that experiencing the season in fiction and in reality is very satisfying. Personally, I wouldn’t spend these fall months any differently.

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About the Contributors
Kinley Little
Kinley Little, Reporter
Meet Kinley. Kinley is a sophomore this year, as well as a reporter for The Prospective. She’s an aspiring member of FCCLA and Beta Club and wants to be involved in the school community. This is her first year as a part of the Journalism program and she’s very excited for the opportunity to learn and improve as a writer.
Paley Honeysuckle
Paley Honeysuckle, Reporter
Meet Paley, a senior on The Prospective staff. Paley is a member of the Legacy Colorgaurd and a club officer for BHS Art Club. Art is her favorite hobby and she spends most of her free time drawing. After graduation, Paley intends to major in Art and Design, though she has not decided where yet. She loves reading and creating new things.

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