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Student Book Recommendations: Home

Curated list of book recommendations by students taking part in the Nicolet Reading Challenge.

The False Prince

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen is a fantasy novel with a strong theme of deception, as can be seen straight from the title. Nielsen is known for her award winning YA novels and has been writing stories since she was in elementary school. She has truly honed her craft; the writing style of The False Prince is fantastic, and the pacing is excellent.


The story begins “in a discontent kingdom, [where] civil war is brewing.” In the Kingdom of Carthya, the royal family has been assassinated, a detail that the public has not been told. To avoid the civil war, a nobleman named Connor has brought four young orphans into his plan: to crown one of them as the long lost heir to the throne. The book follows Sage, the clever, cunning, witty boy from the Kingdom of Avenia. 


The False Prince is the first in the Ascendance trilogy, and The False Prince’s ending sets up the rest of the series. I was left wondering what would happen next, and am excited to read the rest of the series. 


The False Prince is an excellent novel. The pacing is amazing throughout the book; it truly is difficult to put the book down. Sage is an unreliable narrator, leading to plot twists and mysteries throughout the novel. The deception theme is evident throughout the book: everything has something to hide, even Sage. Who do you trust, as a reader, if even the narrator keeps secrets? 


Despite possible confusion from the unreliable narrator, I found The False Prince very straightforward. The mysteries and deception in the novel doesn’t prevent the reader from understanding the plot. Instead, it enhances the intrigue of the story. 

This book was memorable and exciting. I followed Sage through every twist and turn of the book, and would highly recommend it to all fantasy lovers. It is somewhat reminiscent of the Narnia series, so I would recommend it to people who enjoyed Narnia or other similar fantasy style novels.

I give The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Carry On

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is a fantasy YA novel. Rainbow Rowell is an established YA author, and Carry On has roots in another one of her best-selling novels. In Fangirl, the main character Cath is a teenage girl who writes fanfiction for her favorite series --- the Simon Snow series. Similar to Harry Potter, the series revolves around teenage British wizards at a boarding school, saving the world and going to class. Carry On is Cath’s fanfiction from Fangirl, published as an actual novel.


According to Rowell’s website, “Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you'd expect from a Rainbow Rowell novel — but far, far more monsters.” As a fan of adventure novels, the monsters, mystery, and ghosts appealed to me (the love story a little less so). 


The story description begins with “Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen,” which is a completely true statement. Simon has no control over his powers and randomly “goes off,” causing magical explosions. His girlfriend, Agatha, breaks up with him not too far into the book. Simon and his best friend Penelope spend half the book waiting for war to break out, and Simon is on guard for his roommate-nemesis Baz to bother to return to school for his 7th year.


I really enjoyed reading Carry On. The one complaint I have with the novel is the pacing, chapter length, and point of view changes. There is no clear pacing throughout the novel. Chapters range from one sentence to 10 pages while switching point of view almost every chapter. It is extremely confusing for the reader, as not every character has a clear and distinct voice. With a larger cast of characters, this does not work very well.


Despite these criticisms, I did enjoy the book and was able to read despite the confusing style. I would recommend this book to Harry Potter fans, because of the similar premise of the novel. Additionally, I would recommend Carry On to anyone interested in magic-centric fantasy novels because of the interesting premise of magic in the book.


Magic is genetic, unlike in Harry Potter (where it is mostly genetic but possible to occur in the general population). To cast magic, mages use popular phrases for spells. Song lyrics, nursery rhymes, common phrases… as long as “Normals” use the phrase, it has magical power. It is an extremely unique and interesting approach to magic, and I enjoyed seeing how it built the world of Carry On.

I give Carry On by Rainbow Rowell 4 out of 5 stars.

Wayward Son

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell is the entertaining and quirky long-awaited sequel to Carry On. This YA fantasy novel takes quite a different tone than Carry On. Rather than a dark, mysterious, magical war story, Wayward Son is an adventure and road trip story.


According to her website, Rowell “always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they’re screwing up. And people who fall in love.” This book, even more so than her previous knowledge, exemplifies this description. 


Wayward Son has an odd beginning. Carry On had an ending that wrapped up the story nicely. The description of Wayward Son begins with “The story is supposed to be over.” The novel begins by re-introducing the main cast of the series, showing how they have changed since the end of the previous novel. Baz and Penny are thriving, but Simon has fallen off the wagon and Agatha is struggling to “fit in” in a new country. In order to break Simon out of this rut, Penny decides the crew should go on a road trip to visit Agatha. 


Throughout the book, anything that can go wrong, does go wrong. Their spells won’t work, they become terribly lost, they face enemies far stronger than themselves. The friends fight and argue their way across the American West, somehow managing to stay alive throughout the entire journey. 


Since Wayward Son takes place in a different setting, it allows for a much deeper exploration of what it means to have magic in the world of Simon Snow. The book introduces characters of all kinds, each with unique relationships to the magical world. It also explores the nature of magic itself, expanding the lore of the series exponentially.


I found Wayward Son entertaining, yet the book failed to catch my attention at a number of points. While interesting, the pacing wasn’t steady throughout the book. It would transition from fast-paced exhilarating chapters to slow-paced boring chapters, where I would get lost. Despite this criticism, I did enjoy reading the book. Unlike in Carry On, the much smaller cast of characters allows Rowell to switch point of view without leading to a confusing and chaotic novel.


I would recommend the book to anyone who was intrigued by the first book, Carry On. As someone who tends to be more interested by the lore than the story, Wayward Son was an interesting read. Additionally, this is “a book for everyone who ever wondered what happened to the Chosen One after he saved the day. And a book for everyone who was ever more curious about the second kiss than the first.” Rowell has written an interesting exploration of what comes next, after the world is saved and the battles won.


While reading Wayward Son, I was reminded of The Haters. The Haters is a realistic fiction road trip novel about a couple of band camp runaways. I would recommend The Haters for people who enjoyed Wayward Son because of several similar elements. First, the characters have a similar dynamic, are lost and resourceless on a road trip, and are developing as people along the way.

I give Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell 3.4 out of 5 stars.