The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson

The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson is a gruesome dystopian book about the cold and calloused scientific curiosity seeping through our world.

The year is 2086. In a bloodstained dystopian world, the ozone layer is gone, making the sun a daily enemy. Antarctica is no more, the ocean having swallowed up its icy coasts. 

Pollution. Radiation. Death.

These are normal words in 18-year old Owen Parker’s vocabulary. Headed to Camp Eden, a safe bio-dome, he worries about normal things a teenager should: how to fit in, and how to impress the cryptic and beautiful lifeguard, Lilly Ishani. But when he nearly drowns in the Eden lake, and somehow grows gills, he realizes that Eden is not what it seems. Along with the rest of the “Gill Gang” including Lilly, he sets out to investigate the mysterious death of a young girl at Eden. As Owen spirals deeper and deeper into a tale of hope and sorrow, of love and hate, of yin and yang itself, what he finds will change him forever.

This book is set in a dark dystopian world of 2086, after the ozone layer is severely depleted and Antarctica has melted, raising the sea level. The world is divided into the American Continent, the Northern Federation, and Eurasia. There is also a literal giant island of floating trash where some of the story takes place, called Floatia. The story mainly takes place inside the giant bio-dome of Eden, which is the polar opposite of the dark polluted world outside.

On a scale of one to ten I would rate The Lost Code a nine out of ten. Overall, it was an amazing, albeit scary book. It was slightly terrifying because our world is well on the way to becoming the shattered, hopeless world described in the book. This book is also for slightly mature audiences as well, which I was not prepared for. It wasn’t necessarily bad, I just wasn’t prepared for it.

-Vaidehi B.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Seventeen-year-old Mia Hall has everything other teenagers her age would want; a loving and relaxed family life, great grades, a charming boyfriend, and a supportive best friend. As a cello-prodigy, Mia awaits her soon-to-be acceptance letter to her dream university.

One snowy day, Mia and her family jam to their favorite songs in the car on the road. They had planned the perfect day-off. However, all goes wrong when an incoming car skids and crashes straight towards them. The moment stops and the reader waits eagerly, with palms sweating, to know what happens next through all of the author’s heart-wrenching details.

The novel follows Mia, in an out-of-body experience, as she has flashbacks on her life and loses the ones she loves. Her flashbacks are followed by heart-breaking scenes of her family and friends visiting her in a hospital while she is in a coma. The unspoken love between the Mia and her close ones makes the novel much more emotional.

The author’s style of switching between the past and present unfolds the significant purpose of a human life. The importance of sacrifice, family, love, death, and life all wrap up to tell Mia’s story. The conflict between choosing to fight endlessly to stay alive or fading away to the afterlife remains a mystery until the end.

Overall, this novel really opened my eyes and made me realize that life can change in an instant. No matter who we are, what we are going through in life, or where we are, death can take its toll. The author truly makes an important point about how fast life moves for the youth and the old. We should never take life for granted because this is all we have and there is only one shot at it.

Mia’s story emphasizes the importance of living in the moment. Our problem are just as big as we make them. However, just like Mia, our worldly problems are nothing in the face of death. Not all the readers of this book can realize that, but anyone who can relate will find its meaning. The novel, as well as the movie of If I Stay, moved me to tears and is one that sticks with you forever.

-Zohal N. 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency is a short book of just over one hundred pages.  This is a very funny and quirky book written by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by his wife, Jill Pinkwater.

The story is about a giant chicken named Henrietta.  Henrietta is over six-feet tall and weighs 266 pounds.  A young boy named Arthur Bobowicz buys Henrietta while desperately searching for a turkey to eat with his family on Thanksgiving.  Arthur’s family ends up eating meatloaf instead, so his father allows him to keep the colossal bird.

Arthur and Henrietta get along just fine, until Henrietta runs away and causes terror and confusion throughout the city of Hoboken.  The people are shocked to see such a large bird roaming the streets.  They make various attempts to get rid of the bird until finally someone comes up with an idea to put an end to the crisis.

Daniel Pinkwater’s books are all very ridiculous and funny, and this one is no exception.  He has also written two sequels to this book, entitled: Looking for Bobowicz and The Artsy Smartsy Club.  These books are about a group of children living many years after the events of The Hoboken Chicken Emergency.  I enjoyed the sequels very much as well.

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency is quite absurd but enjoyable to read.  I would recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a good laugh.

-Oliver H. 

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Dawn Undercover by Anna Dale

Dawn Undercover by Anna Dale is an intriguing and fun book about the intricacies of being thrust into the spotlight.

Dawn Buckle has one of those faces that you can forget within an hour. So when the wholly unspectacular girl is recruited into S.H.H, (Strictly Hush Hush) a part of P.S.S.T, (Pursuit of Scheming Spies and Traitors) she feels a little… rushed. Soon, she finds herself in the English countryside trying to find spy-gone-bad Murdo Meek. Along with her friends Trudy and Felix, Dawn delves into a riddle far more complicated than anyone here can see at first.

This book is set in London in the twenty-first century. Some of the book is spent in Kent, Dawn’s hometown, but more than half of it is set in Murdo Meek’s village, Cherry Bentley. Some other minor locations include an old abandoned castle, where Dawn and Felix find some incriminating evidence, and Bentley Pond, the scene of the climax.

What mainly motivates Dawn to do what she does is money. She grew up in a poor family. Her mom works all day everyday to provide for her, her dad, and her grandpa. S.H.H promised her a lot of money if she could uncover Murdo Meek, and Dawn wants her family to be able to make ends meet.

On a scale of one to ten, I would rate this story a 10 out of 10. It was well-written, and it had a lot of matter-of-fact humor that I loved. Also, the book contained a lot of puns and plays on words, which also fit in with the theme well.

-Vaidehi B.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a novel about a group of young boys who have been stranded on an island, without any connection to civilization. They struggle to maintain order and peace on the island, as the group becomes split between two “tribes:” a violent, uncivilized tribe, and a more rational tribe dedicated to becoming rescued.

The novel begins with the boys recovering from an airplane crash. The boys discover that they are stranded on the island alone, without any grownups or methods of communication with the outside world. Ralph, a boy approximately twelve years old, befriends an intelligent, but physically weak boy nicknamed Piggy. Together they find a conch at the beach, which they blow into to rally all the other boys scattered about the island. The boys all decide to vote Ralph as “chief” since he possess the conch, infuriating Jack, who leads a group of choir boys and wants to lead all of the boys on the island.

Despite their struggle for power, Jack and Ralph initially get along, and they focus the group’s efforts on building a signal fire to contact ships for rescue and shelters for survival. However, the two being to drift apart as Jack begins hunting. Hunting causes Jack to reveal his more savage and violent nature, causing him to become less focused on the group’s priorities, which is mainly getting rescued. Furthermore, the group begins to collapse even further as they discover that there is a “Beast” who watches over their signal fire, panicking all the boys.

Ultimately, the Lord of the Flies is a classic novel, and I would highly recommend it. It is relevant today because of its themes on human nature. It reveals that despite what people appear like, beneath that civilized mask is violence and savagery, uncovered when people are forced away from civilization. The novel focuses on the boys struggle to remain order and peace as they drift apart.

-Josh N. 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

A Time to Kill by John Grisham

This is a legal thriller written by former criminal defense attorney John Grisham. The reason I thought that the first novel written by him is awesome is because it not only penetrates deep into the entrenched system of racism in America, it also describes the love and duty of a father. Carl Lee Bailey murdered brutally the rapists who harmed his twelve year old daughter teaches me how much a father can do to protect his little girl. Moreover, it also tells me how unfair the justice system was to blacks in general compared to whites. I was also very shocked at the Ku Klux Klan and how cruel they can be in terms of killing innocent African Americans and burning any traitors at the cross.

This novel serves as a reminder to people working in the legal professions today on how our justice system should conform with the foundation of democracy—racial equality. It also delivers a message to its readers in that laws can be interpreted in different ways and we should have sympathy for each other. Supposedly, Carl Lee Bailey should be charged with capital punishment, but because he killed the two rapists for the sake of his daughter, he was released at last. The jurors knew that every father would perhaps do the same for their own daughter, which is the reason they decided that Bailey was not guilty.

-Coreen C. 

A Time to Kill by John Grisham is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful novel about patience, faith, and the transcending power of love.

The novel focuses on three main characters and their intertwining stories. Aibileen Clark is an African-American housekeeper in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. Tormented by her mistress and haunted by her son’s recent death, Aibileen begins to seek change. Minny Jackson is Aibileen’s best friend. She’s been fired from job after job because of her smart mouth. With five mouths to feed and an abusive husband, Minny is hardened and bitter. However, when she goes to work for Celia Ray, she discovers something new. Eugenia Phelan has been different her entire life. She’s never exactly fit in with her parents’ wealthy, white friends: she longs to be a writer and find true love on the side. As she navigates the treacherous minefield of high society and tentative love, she meets Aibileen and Minny, and the three unite to write a book that may very well get them killed.

The Help is about so much more than the complicated race relations in the mid-90s South. At its heart, it’s a coming-of-age, an opening-of-heart story. Over the course of the plot, the three women learn to find themselves in the blank noise of society, to stay true to themselves when everyone else is telling them to lie. At the end of the day, that is what the novel is about. The enormous power of opening your heart and mind is realistically and hauntingly portrayed here. The hauntingly heartfelt writing style employed by Miss Stockett is perfect- the book reads like a letter written to an old friend. This is a thought-provoking novel that will elicit tears and laughs in equal measures.

-Vaidehi B.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded online for free from Overdrive