The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer

cemeteryboys_heatherbrewerStephen’s life is already bad enough, with his mom in the hospital and his dad going broke from paying the bills. It gets worse when his dad tells Stephen that the two of them are moving to the small town his dad grew up in. No one wants to live in Spencer, let alone move there, so to Stephen is very bad news. They are forced to live with Stephen’s grandmother who despises the very idea of them both. As much as they hate to live there, his dad promises it is just temporary, saying that he just needs enough time to get a job and get back on his feet. Then, they can leave Spencer for good. But as weeks drag into months, it’s clear the two won’t be going anywhere for a while.

However, things begin to get better when Stephen meets punk girl, Cara, who he may or may not have a huge crush on and her interesting and protective twin brother, Devon. As nights hanging out in the harmless “Playground”, also known as the town’s cemetery, Stephen starts to realize there is much more going on here than just a few drinks with some friends and he begins to suspect Devon may not just be a regular friend but a leader, leading them all to a fatal end. Stephen wants more than anything to get his life back to normal, or as normal as it will ever be. But what he doesn’t know is that nothing normal can come out of his move to Spencer, Michigan and that he may never know normal again….

I could not put this book down no matter how hard I tried. This amazing thriller will have you on the edge of your seats with every word. And the ending was something I never expected! Everything in this book was just so fascinating, that I couldn’t wait to find out what happens. Because of some mature content, I would recommend this to readers 13 and up. Be sure to look out for this book at the library. The town legends and beliefs will make you wonder that if you were there, would you believe them too?

– Sabrina C., 9th Grade

The Cemetery Boys is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

In a world where most people are loners comes a tale of two marvelous friends and the obstacles that cross their paths. It’s 1930’s California in the Salinas Valley. Most men who come through are looking for one thing: work. All of them travel from farm to farm, working alone.
This is not true for George Milton and Lennie Small. After being kicked out of Weed because of something Lennie did, they travel together on to the next farm with hopes and dreams of money to buy land: a few acre land with a small house and freedom from the bosses and a little patch for Lennie’s rabbits (he’s really obsessed with rabbits). There on the next farm they met people with hopes and dreams, and learn the basis for reality: dreams will get crushed.
This story is far by one of my favorites. Although (spoiler) the ending is quite sad, there are times when I laughed hard. By the way, the mice part is a metaphor: there is only one mouse, and it’s dead. The title comes from the poem “To a Mouse, On Turning up her Nest with a Plough”: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men” go astray, saying that we have hopes and dreams, but something shatters them (which describes the book very well).
Steinbeck worked on a farm once, so he knows, and describes very well, the life on a farm in 1930 or so. At times, it’s also a little hard to read because of the Californian accent. However, some good advice is to say it out loud. For example, “purty” is actually “pretty”. Even so, I encourage you to read this book! After I read it, I gave it a two thumbs up. Interestingly, the characters talk about a “cat house” a lot. It’s meaning is actually something different in modern times.
-Megan V., 9th grade

Pawn by Aimée Carter

pawn_aimeecarterPawn by Aimée Carter is a dystopian novel set in a future Washington D.C. On their 17th birthday, teenagers take a test that’ll determine the rest of their lives because they receive a rank in society based on how well they do on the test. Get a low rank, you will struggle for your life; on the other hand, if you receive a high rank, you are guaranteed a life of the privilege.

Disappointed with her rank of III, Kitty Doe is offered the chance of a lifetime to be a VII by the Prime Minister, Daxton Hart. Only the ruling family, the Harts, get this prestigious rank. Being a VII means basking in a life of luxury instead of cleaning sewers as a III. By being a member of the Hart family, Kitty will be famous and adored by millions of people. The catch? Kitty must give up her old life and appearance so as to replace the Prime Minister’s dead niece, Lila Hart. After being Masked (the process that Kitty goes under to become Lila Hart), Kitty is forced to act like someone she’s not. As Kitty’s life as Lila Hart progresses, she realizes it to be not as easy as initially thought. There’s also the unexpected drawback of Kitty extinguishing the flames of the original Lila’s secret rebellion. With many unexpected twists and turns, this novel is sure to delight anybody.

First looking at the cover, I was intrigued by the beautiful blue eye on the cover. As I started to read, I became more and more absorbed in the story. With a strong heroine like Kitty, I finished the book in two days. I admired her bravery, but there could have been more to her character development. Maybe the second book would be better? I would recommend this book for grades 8 and up. Overall a great read for anyone looking for a unique dystopian novel.

-Anmol K.

Pawn is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

unwind_nealshustermanWhat if you lived in a world where illness or disabilities weren’t the problem? An old war veteran could get a new hand, a paralyzed person could replace their spine, a blind man could get new eyes. But all these parts have to come from somewhere, right? What if your parents didn’t know what to do with you, didn’t want you…could unwind you? Your body parts could be useful to another person, if it felt like you weren’t making adequate use of them. When kids prove to be too troublesome or just useless to their parents, their parents sign a form to have them unwound. This way they can be made useful. And if you don’t prove your worth, it’s off to the harvest camps.

Connor, Risa, and Lev are brought together by chance and kept together by desperation. Connor is too much of a troublemaker and Risa is an orphan. The costs are too high to keep housing all of them. Lev has been an unwind, or tithe, since birth as part of his family’s strict religion. These three unlikely companions make a life-threatening journey to save their fates. If they survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed. But when every piece of them is wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems very far away.

This book is a real page turner. It had me on the edge of my seat, anxious to see what was going to happen. The reader has to have a good memory of things that happen in the beginning of the book, because although they don’t seem important when they are mentioned at first, they tend to play a big part towards the end. I love the way Shusterman writes, making sure the reader is paying attention throughout the story and adding twists in the story that you never see coming. My friend recommended this book to me and was so happy when I told her I was reading it. Thanks to her, I have a new favorite series. The next book in the series is UnWholly, but you might also want to check out the short story between the first and the second book called UnStrung. This book is definitely in the top ten for best dystopian series.

-Sabrina C., 9th Grade

Unwind is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

I Become Shadow by Joe Shine

ibecomeshadow_joeshineI Become Shadow is a story about a society called F.A.T.E. Now, I forget what that stands for, but it’s basically a government agency that captures children at the age of 14 and trains them to be human weapons. Once these kids become fully trained Shadows at age 18, they wait until they are assigned to a “link.” Links are people who will one day make astonishing breakthroughs in science and technology and indirectly protect them until he or she makes their discovery. These Shadows are there to see but not be seen, to hear but not be heard.

The story is told in first person by Ren, a girl and social outcast who is kidnapped and forced to become a Shadow. Following her training process, she comes to realize that it isn’t so bad, and that she is actually trying to become better. Excelling through all aspects of transforming into a human weapon, Ren is given her link: a college guy named Gareth. Because of certain circumstances, Ren is forced to make direct contact with her link, breaking the rules that define a Shadow. Over time, she becomes friends with Gareth, and encourages him as he creates a wheat seed that can grow without water.

While I was reading this story, I thought it would be cool to have the abilities that the Shadows have, but it wouldn’t be cool to be taken from my family in the dead of night at age 14 and forced to undergo 4 years of rigorous training to not be seen again. If you’ve read and liked this book, want to read it, or read something similar, post a comment!

-Kyle H.

I Become Shadow is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

scarletletter_nathawthorneI recently read the classic novel The Scarlet Letter. I really enjoyed the dramatic story of Hester Prynne and her daughter Pearl as they live in a strict Puritan society. Nathaniel Hawthorne was clever in his symbolic elements to highlight the importance of such things like the scarlet letter itself, her daughter Pearl, and Mr. Dimmesdale among others.

To give a brief description of the story: The novel opens with a woman named Hester Prynne being publicly scorned after her release from prison. The reader is informed that she was convicted of adultery and as punishment must wear a scarlett letter “A” sewn onto the breast of her dress. She is holding her daughter in her arms who we later find out is named Pearl. As the story progresses Hester and Pearl face challenges for being outcasts of their society. But Hester’s love for her daughter and her strength in character get them through along with the help of a sacrificial man (whose name I will not reveal because no spoilers!) The story ends dramatically but you will have to read to find out!

I loved how Hawthorne ended the book because he brought closure with a tiny cliff hanger that perfectly balance the other out. My favorite character is Arthur Dimmesdale-the adored priest of the town who saves Hester from having to give up her daughter. His charm and genuine heart carry off the pages and into the hearts of the readers. The dreary character of Robert Chillingworth gives an eerie vibe to the story when he sets out for revenge against his wife and her mysterious lover. The story and the characters come together in this Puritan society through love, revenge, and more, and it is definitely one of my favorite required reads so far.

All in all, this twisted love triangle story is a classic for a reason. I love the writing and though the vocabulary is tricky at parts, this book is definitely recommended by me!

– Kelsey H., 11th grade

The Scarlet Letter is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Overdrive.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

tuesdaysmorrie_mitchalbomI really needed another book to read so I asked my mom if there was a book in her library that I could read. She gave me a book called Tuesdays with Morrie and told me that it’s about life lessons and stuff like that. It really didn’t sound interesting but I decided to give it a shot. It was so worth it. Tuesdays with Morrie, is more of a life lesson book for sure, but it is heart warming. Typically I like read the adventure/dystopian type novel so this story was somewhat out of my comfort level. So if you don’t mind reading a slower book then you should check out this book.

Mitch Albom tells about his own personal, strong relationship between himself and his favorite college professor. After leaving college, 16 years later, Mitch gets a new job as a journalist for the Detroit newspaper. It is a well- paid job but empty and he begins to feel depressed. After meeting with his mentor to catch up, Mitch decides to have Morrie mentor him once again. They met up every Tuesday(hence the name).

Through their time together you grow to love old Morrie and take in his lessons too. I didn’t understand all of them because some were directed towards adults but I definitely learned a good deal of them. One is “Life is a series of pulls back and forth… A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. Most of us live somewhere in the middle. A wrestling match…Which side win? Love wins. Love always wins”  There are so many more meaningful quotes and lessons sprinkled throughout this book.

I really hope you check this book out because it is one of my favorites!

-Erika T.

Tuesdays with Morrie is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Overdrive.