Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, Tobias Iaconis, and Mikki Daughtry

Stella, a teenager that has Cystic Fibrosis whose entire life has been very routine-like is approached by a boy named Will. The catch is that Will also has Cystic Fibrosis and they must stay six feet apart at all times in order to stay safe. Hospital trips, medications, and nurses have been a huge part of Stella’s life, but to Will, this is all new. Ironically, their personalities clash. Stella could be described as a good kid, but on the other hand, Will likes to act out, giving the book an adventurous side. Fortunately, this doesn’t get in the way of them catching feelings for each other. Five Feet Apart is a book about their influence on each other with appearances made by other vital side characters.  

Even though I read this book a couple of months before the movie came out, I still watched the movie. I figured that some of you may have already heard of, or seen the movie, but I’m here to tell you to give the book a shot as well! It made me bawl my eyes out and allowed for more emotion to be felt. Will really added a fun and exciting element to the book that kept me on the edge of my seat and the impact they both had on each other really touched my heart. It’s a 10/10 for me!

-Kaitlyn Y.

Five Feet Apart is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Film Review: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

“Punch it!”

The Empire Strikes Back, aka Episode V, is the second installment in the original trilogy and the fifth episode of the “Skywalker Saga”. Three years after the Death Star’s destruction, the Galactic Empire hunts the scattered Rebel Alliance throughout the galaxy. Darth Vader pursues Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca while Luke studies the ways of the Force and trains under former Jedi Grand Master Yoda in preparation for his inevitable duel with Vader.

Despite the first’s film surprise success in the box office, ESB became the highest-grossing film of 1980 with $440 million. Considered to be the best Star Wars film, it’s the second highest-grossing sequel of all time and has been labeled as “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant”. The film’s climax, Vader revealing his parentage to Luke that he is his father, is credited as one of the greatest plot twists in film history.

Watching ESB from my perspective, I too believe it’s the best Star Wars film besides Revenge of the Sith. The choreography and pleasing sound effects of the lightsaber battles are always jaw-dropping. Watching Vader confront Luke about Obi-Wan was a shocker to me the first time I watched Star Wars. (I gasped out loud)

-Bree K.

The Empire Strikes Back is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Six Traits Blog - Word Choice: An Excerpt from The House ...

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a poignant coming-of-age book centered around a young Latina girl, Esperanza, in 1960s Chicago.

In a series of vignettes, or short stories, Cisneros examines themes of maturity, belonging, poverty, and femininity. The vignettes are told from Esperanza’s point of view, laden with rich imagery and symbolism, and hazy- like they are being told in a dream. Each vignette focuses on small events in Esperanza’s day to day life, and provides insight into her thoughts and desires.

Cisneros skillfully presents the dichotomy of Esperanza and her family’s life- many of the vignettes center around happy moments in their lives, like playing outside with friends, getting a first job, or going to a neighbor’s party, but even so, the abject hopelessness and desperation of their situation lurks just below the surface. The entire book is a masterful study of not only Esperanza’s situation, but the human condition- a careful examination of ritualistic maturity, traditions, gender norms, and youth. 

Cisneros writes in a simple, easily understandable vernacular, complete with sentence fragments and a lack of quotation marks that makes each vignette easy to read. Nonetheless, the book contains a depth of emotion and, often, desperation that was immensely heart-wrenching to witness. I grew up in circumstances close to those of Esperanza’s, so reading about her experiences took me back to my own childhood, to times when I felt the same way she did. Personally, I would rate this book a 10/10. 

This book contains some mature themes.

-Vaidehi B.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Geometry Dash Game Review

Geometry Dash is a game developed by a Swedish developer by the name of RobTop, and it was released in 2013. It is a rhythm-based platformer game that includes 21 official levels and over 60 million user-created levels. This game can be found on the app store, google play store, and Steam.

Geometry Dash is known for being a rage game, as whenever one dies within a level, they have to start all the way back in the beginning. This process can become very tedious and frustrating for many players. However, the feeling one gets from completing a difficult level overrides all the frustration caused by it. 

Levels in this game follow a rating system that ranges from easy, normal, hard, harder, insane, and demon difficulties. The hardest rating, demon, is divided up into easy demon, medium demon, hard demon, insane demon, and extreme demon. These hard demon levels have been the main cause for one of the largest parts of the Geometry Dash community: the demon list. The demon list is a list of the top 150 hardest levels in the game. If one has over 64% on any one of these levels, their name is displayed on the level’s leaderboard. This has prompted many players to start grinding out hard levels that take a lot of skill and patience to beat. 

Although Geometry Dash is not a multiplayer game, it has definitely brought me and some of my friends closer together through playing it, and even after over seven years since the game’s release and nearly four years since the latest update, millions of people still actively play the game to this day.

-Jeremy L.

Literary References in Taylor Swift Songs

Taylor Swift is undoubtedly a spectacular songwriter and an outstanding singer, but what if she wasn’t? In Vogue’s 73 question interview, Taylor states that if she were a teacher, she would teach English. It’s no surprise that this is the subject Swift would choose, because she’s referenced many literary classics in her songs. Here are some of them:

Romeo & Juliet: It would be hard not to know this one, unless you’re living under a rock of course! in Swift’s song “Love Story” from her sophomore Grammy winning album Fearless, the song follows a romance similarly to that of Romeo and Juliet’s. However, Swift ends the song with a happy ending, allowing the two lovers to get married. The song, Swift said to the Los Angeles Times, was inspired by Romeo & Juliet, and Swift states that “I was going through a situation like that where I could relate.” Though her inspiration from Shakespeare, Swift was able to release a chart topping and timeless hit which peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Scarlet Letter: Swift references this novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne in two of her songs, one of them being “Love Story” once again and the other being “New Romantics”, a track on the deluxe version of Swift’s fifth and Grammy winning album 1989. In “Love Story”, Swift describes her romance as a scarlet letter because of the fact that it is kept secret in shame with the lyric “Cause you were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter.” In “New Romantics”, which peaked on Billboard”s Alternative Streaming Songs at #5, Swift sings “We show off our different scarlet letters, Trust me, mine is better.” Using the scarlet letter as a symbol of one’s problems, Swift explores the mindset that many people have where they believe that their issues are worse than everyone else’s. So the use of this novel in Swift’s two songs interestingly contrasts one another, as in one, the scarlet letter is a symbol of shame, and the other a symbol of resilience and proud struggles. This interestingly fits the novel’s depiction of the letter “A”, which is at first a shameful symbol which represented adultery, but then was later a symbol of the protagonist’s, Hester’s, strength and ability to endure all the pain she went through. Hawthorne’s novel provided a framework for Swift’s ideas, as she states in an interview, “I was a big fan of a fairy tales growing up, and you’ll see a lot of references to like Romeo and Juliet and The Scarlet Letter, and that’s from my reading.”

The Great Gatsby: Swift makes references to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel in two of her songs, one being from “happiness” , Swift’s 7th track in her 9th album Evermore, and the other being “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”, Swift’s 13th track on her 6th album, Reputation. In “happiness”, Swift references The Great Gatsby in a lyric saying “I hope she’ll be a beautiful fool.” This parallels Daisy Buchanan’s line in the Great Gatsby where Daisy acknowledges that there is no hope for her daughter because of the fact that she is a girl and not a boy. Swift uses the line a little differently, telling her past lover that whoever loves him next is “a beautiful fool.” Swift knows that this next lover will have no luck with this man, and she uses the reference from the Great Gatsby to introduce more context into the song. As for “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”, the ode to Fitzgerald’s novel comes in the first verse, as Swift says “Feeling so Gatsby for that whole year,” while describing an extravagant party scene which she hosts just as Gatsby did. This song explores a very similar theme to the Great Gatsby, both being about how being kind to others makes them skeptical about you. In the novel, when Jay Gatsby throws parties for his guests, generously gifts them expensive things, and is willingly kind to them, they do not seem to appreciate him but rather just speculate about his past and make offensive assumptions about him. Swift, who tried her best to be generous with others, let her friends come on stage with her on tour as a nice gesture, threw parties for them, and got them gifts. However, many of her friends turned their backs on her, and when discussing the song, Swift states “It’s about when people take nice things for granted. Like friendship, or trusting people, or being open or whatever. Letting people in on your life, trusting people, respect – those are all really nice things.”

Taylor Swift is clearly a well read singer and songwriter, as these are just three of many literary references in her 100+ songs. Some more of these include:

Rebecca: “tolerate it” “no body, no crime”

A Tale of Two Cities: “Getaway Car”

Alice in Wonderland: “Wonderland”

The Road Not Taken: “illicit affairs”

Jane Eyre: “invisible string” “mad woman”

All’s Well That Ends Well: “Lover”

-Chan T.

Kingshunt Game Review

Kingshunt is a tower PvE/PVP game made by vaki games. In Kingshunt, players will go head to head in a five vs five battle. The game features a wide variety of characters, attacks, strategies, and more! 

The first thing that I want to talk about is the main objective. You and your team of five will be assigned one of two teams. You will either be attacking the castle or defending it. Once assigned a team, you and your friends will be able to pick from a wide variety of characters and classes. Each class has different strengths and weaknesses such as the tank having more health, and the support being much faster. In these classes will be different heroes that you can pick. Each hero will have different abilities, weapons, and attacks. I really liked the customization and variety you had while playing, and I definitely think it helped make the game more exciting.

As for the gameplay itself, Kingshunt was a very fun game. In all of the games I played, I was defending. In the game, players will earn tokens that they can spend to buy items that will help them on the battlefield. Whether it be more health, damage, etc, upgrading these skills was extremely important. While defending, players could also put down barricades, archer towers, etc. These towers would attack the incoming attackers as they tried to siege the castle, and added a new element of surprise. What I really liked about Kingshunt was the actual objective itself. Instead of sieging a certain objective or castle, the attackers had to kill a giant monster inside the castle. In total, defenders had 20 minutes to defend two of these giant monsters. What I found was cool was the monsters actually helped defenders, and resisted against the attackers.

I only had a few problems while playing Kingshunt. Since the game is in a pre-alpha state at the time I played, getting into games took a very long time. I would say that getting into the games took about 20 minutes, while the games only took 10-15. Hopefully when the game comes out the servers will be much more active. Due to the long queue times, my friends and I had to go onto the EU servers. I went into a Kingshunt discord, and everyone said the NA servers were completely down. I do not know what was going on there, but hopefully, they are fixed upon the release of the full game. My last little complaint about Kingshunt was the graphics and animations. When picking characters, fighting, etc, the graphics and animations seemed choppy and somewhat delayed. Obviously, these small problems are not that big of a deal, and will hopefully be fixed on the release date. Overall, I really enjoyed playing Kingshunt with my friends. This game is exciting and strategic at the same time. I hope the small problems are fixed, and that the game continues to keep growing! I would rate Kingshunt a nice out of ten.

-Daniel C.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World: Aldous Huxley: 9780060850524: Amazon.com: Books

One of the most prominent dystopian novels of all time, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World explores a horrifyingly relevant potential society in which all individuals are in a perpetual state of bliss and “innocence,” and are unaware of pain or unhappiness. However, like all seemingly utopian worlds, there is a dark side.

In the World State, people are no longer born – they are “decanted” and treated according to their predetermined place in the extremely rigid caste system, from the intelligent Alpha Pluses to the Epsilon Semi Morons who have their development stunted.

Rather than contemplate the morality of this, the citizens are brainwashed to not care through sleep hypnosis techniques, which convince each class that they are best suited for said caste, and that they should not challenge it, completely eliminating free will from a young age.

Additionally, to keep the citizens complacent with the control of the World State, they are encouraged to participate in activities that bring pleasure, while at the same time discouraged from getting pregnant or becoming parents (a slur in the World State). The people continue to be submissive through an excessive consumption of soma, a drug that induces feelings of happiness and bliss.

When Alpha Plus Bernard Marx and his date, Beta Plus Lenina Crowne, travel to a Native American reservation and meet John, a “savage” with connections to the World State, their lives are changed forever. John’s inability to reconcile his idealistic notions of love and life, obtained from old copies of Shakespearean works, and the reality of the World State causes conflict between himself and Lenina, who he loves.

All in all, Brave New World is a fascinating read, not only for those who enjoy dystopian fiction, but also as a warning for an overly mechanized future, in which individuals are not treated as such, and are instead manipulated into becoming perfect cogs in a reproductive machine.

-Mahak M.

A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Love and Luck by Jenna Evens Welch

The novel Love and Luck by Jenna Evens Welch tells the story of overcoming a broken heart and finding one’s self.  

The story stars a young Addie, the youngest of her large family. Addie and her family are on a trip to Ireland for her aunt’s extravagant destination wedding. But the only thing on Addie’s mind is the recent events that led to her heart being broken. 

No matter how hard she tries to forget, the images keep replaying in her mind- and it does not help that her brother Ian keeps reminding her of it. In fact, the two fight over the aftermath of the heartbreak situation for most of the story. However, things start to look up when Addie finds a guidebook titled Ireland for the Heartbroken. On a whim, she takes the book, hoping to escape her nagging thoughts-and her nagging brother.  

When an unexpected change in plans occurs, Addie ends up in a tiny car with Ian and his new Irish friend Rowan. The three of them take a fun-filled adventure around Ireland visiting all sorts of beautiful landmarks. Addie hopes her guidebook can help her find the peace she longs for, and, surprisingly, Rowan joins in. Along the trip, Addie works to mend her heart as well as mend her relationship with Ian. Love and Luck is an exciting read full of self-discovery, friendship, adventure, and of course, love!  I would highly recommend this book to any teen who enjoys a cute story that features travel! 

-Hidaya R.

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Reviewing Advanced Placement Classes

As the we approach Spring Break, the long awaited and very much dreaded AP season has begun. It’s time to bring out the Princeton and Barron’s review books and cram the last eight months of knowledge into our brains. As a high school junior, those feelings of stress, panic, and anxiety that accompany the months of April and May have become very familiar. I have taken a total of eight Advanced Placement classes, four of which I am currently taking. As the school year comes to a close and incoming students are deciding on their course selections for the following schools year, I would like to review some of the Advanced Placement classes that I have taken in hopes of aiding some of you in your decisions.

Human Geography

This class was by far the most eye-opening and useful AP class that I have ever taken. I took this class my freshman year, as most students do. This course is the foundation for all AP history courses. So, if you’re thinking about taking European, United States, or World history, I would highly recommend taking Human Geography. The books used for European, U.S, and World History assume that the reader has taken Human Geography or has knowledge of the terms and concepts that are central to the course. All in all, this class was super interesting and was fairly easy. The AP exam is one of the easiest that College Board offers since it is mostly taken by freshman. If you are an incoming freshman and want to try out AP classes, I would highly recommend taking Human Geography.

European History

European History has been my favorite history class so far. Not only is the history of Europe itself extremely fascinating, but I had an excellent teacher. Unlike U.S. history, the time periods and units in the European History are easily distinguishable and easy to remember. The course covers a variety of areas, including a study of European art and literature. Because the course has a strong emphasis on European art, I would highly recommend taking Europe History in the same year as Art History. The two go hand in hand and expand on the curriculum taught in each course. Because of he Documents Based Question, Long Essay Question, and Short Answer Questions, European History is definitely a huge step up from Human Geography. I enjoyed the challenge that it presented; however; if you’re not a fan of writing and reading, I would not recommend this class. Due to the pandemic, I did not take the European History exam as normal. Instead, we were given a single DBQ, which was fairly. Overall, I would recommend this class if you like to read, write, and are excited about history.

Art History

Art History was a very interesting class. My teacher formatted the class very differently from most art history teachers; however, his method was much more engaging and fun. To be completely blunt, I am not artistically inclined and have never been. I’m sure others love to appreciate art for its beauty and meaning, but I found the material somewhat boring at times. I felt that this class was somewhat useless for me. On the bright side, I can now identify works of art when I am out in public and can tell you the school of art, artist, and the materials that the artist used. I would recommend this class to anyone looking to boost their GPA or to those that need to fulfill their VAPA requirement but are artistically challenged. It is a fairly easy class that mostly requires memorization.

Chemistry

AP Chemistry is by far the hardest class I have ever taken. Up until this class, there had never been a class that I truly thought was impossible at times. Although it may seem impossible, AP Chemistry is totally doable with great deal of studying and hard work. I would recommend this class to those that are more mathematically and logically gifted. If you performed well in Honors Chemistry and are looking for a challenge, I would definietly recommend this class; however, do be warned that Chapter 17 is horrible.

Spanish Literature and Culture (Spanish 5)

Unlike Spanish 4, this class is primarily reading and writing. Basically, every week, we are assigned a new story, discuss the story, respond to questions, and write and essay on the story, all in Spanish. I would recommend this class to you if you have very strong skills in Spanish, specifically in writing and reading. As the year progresses, the stories become increasingly more challenging and complex in language and meaning. Even as a Spanish speaker, sometimes these stories seem a bit difficult to comprehend. However, if you dedicate time to understand these stories, you can definitely do well in this class.

All in all, I have had a great experience with with Advanced Placement classes and would recommend them to anyone looking to challenge themselves. They are a great way to learn, obtain college credit, boost your GPA, and look great on transcripts for college applications in the future.

-Yvette C.

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur's The Sun and Her Flowers

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur is a heart-wrenchingly cathartic and beautiful book about love and the journey of healing from it. Kaur explores the themes of trauma, loss, vulnerability, and self-love in simple, but unique prose pieces and thoughtful, evocative sketches. The book is divided into five sections- wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming– comparing the progression of the book to the life cycle of a flower.

Her words are deeply intimate and often emotional; she delves into difficult themes- such as womanhood, self-hate, and abusive love- with grace and poise. The approach to poetry shown in this book is unique- Kaur doesn’t utilize flowery language or excessive adjectives to get her point across, but her work is deeply moving nonetheless.

I first came across Kaur’s work when I myself was at a vulnerable point in my life. Her writing spoke to me on not only an emotional, but a spiritual level- the anecdotal nature of each piece makes her feel like a friend or an aunt speaking to you directly, rather than an aloof author miles away. If you are looking for a helping hand or a listening ear, I could not recommend this book more.

Rupi Kaur has also written Milk and Honey, and her new book, Home Body, is set to be released on November 17th, 2020. 

-Vaidehi B.