Finding Dory Review

findingdoryOver the last 20 years, Pixar Studios has cemented itself as one of, if not the best animation studios in the business. This is due to their consistency and devotion to their franchises. One of the most successful of these franchises was Finding Nemo, which was a critical and commercial success for Pixar. After 13 years, the sequel Finding Dory has finally been released.

Set after the events of the first movie, it is now Dory’s turn to go looking for someone, with Nemo and Marlin to help. What I really liked about the film was that the characters still have the same voices after nearly a decade. Especially Ellen DeGeneres who reprises her role as Dory. She had a fantastic performance, making you truly care about Dory and her struggles. Marlin is as uptight as ever, and provides a great contrast to Dory’s recklessness. The new characters in the film are all well done also.

I found the film to be paced very well also, with fantastic writing and humor to wrap it all up nicely. There are some genuinely hilarious moments in this movie, more than I was expecting. At the same time, there are very heartfelt and emotional moments that stick with you.

However, one thing I didn’t like about the film was the lack of innovation from the first. It explored similar themes of family, forgiveness, and hope, and while different events take place, they weren’t as unique as I would’ve liked. After Zootopia, I would’ve preferred a less clichéd story along with some social commentary. But these are just small nitpicks for an overall excellent experience.

Finding Dory is one of the best animated films in years, bringing back everything we loved from the original and reminding us how great Pixar can be. Anyone who enjoys animated movies, is a fan of Finding Nemo, or wants to have a fun time should go see this movie. In fact, the last word of the entire film describes this sequel perfectly: unforgettable.

-Ahmed H, grade 12

Monster by Naoki Urasawa

monster_naokiurasawaLet’s say that you’re a doctor. You have a choice to save either one of these patients: a ten year old boy who arrived at the hospital first, or the mayor of the city. You can only save one while the other will die. Who will you choose? Now, let’s say that you choose the child: congratulations, you have now unleashed a monster onto the world.

Dr. Kenzou Tenma, a Japanese doctor working in late 20th century East Germany, saved a ten year old boy named Johan Liebert instead of the mayor ten years ago. Because of that, he lost his trust with his colleagues, his fiancee, and his promotion. To top it off, the boy he saved had murdered two people before admitted to the hospital. Now, Dr. Tenma is a fugitive framed for the murders committed by Johan Liebert after seeing this monster again.

Throughout his run on his life, Tenma tries to figure out Johan’s past. And he must consider one question: if he knew ten years ago that the boy he wants to save will turn out to be a monster, would he save the mayor? And if Johan’s life were in his hands again, would he save him?

This manga is a very good psychological story. Dr. Tenma meets a bunch of so-called monsters along his run, and proves that all of them can be forgiven. For example, he meets a soldier and a young girl. The soldier had killed the girl’s mother, and worries that he would never be forgiven, as the girl never smiles or speaks to him. However, Dr. Tenma fixes this rift, and in the end the little girl holds the soldier’s hand as if he were her father. Additionally, we hear the police’s side of the story, and through their investigations even we start to wonder if Johan is just in Tenma’s brain or not.

Additionally, Urasawa accurately depicts the historical content and geography of East Germany and Czechoslovakia throughout the story: the beautiful city of Prague, the slums of major cities, and the brutality of the underground.

Urasawa’s characters are also incredible, and it is amazing what each of them does to get the job done: Johan’s insane plans, the detective that is chasing after Dr Tenma and what he thinks in order to chase after his patients, and the motivation of many, whether if it is chasing after Johan or living a daily life. The artwork is very beautiful, and you cannot tell it’s a manga from twenty years ago: each of the characters looks widely unique and well crafted. Additionally, the backgrounds are incredible, which each scene looking realistic as if you were there yourself, whether it was in a hospital room, a restaurant, or a prison.

This was a manga that made me just say “wow” at the end, and anyone into mysteries, action, psychological thrillers, or horror would be really hooked into this series.

-Megan V, 11th grade

The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

devil's highway_luisalbertourreaWe have all heard the horror stories of the border and the Border Patrol, of human beings desperate to escape their lives of suffering and cross into the land of the free. As Americans, we may hold negative opinions about such illegal immigrants, but the stories we hear from the media barely scratch the surface about the struggles these people must overcome to gain the opportunity of a better life.

Desperate to improve their own lives and their families’ lives, thousands of men unknowingly fall into the trap of corrupt Mexican lords, who promise to smuggle them out and provide them with a guide known as a “coyote” who would lead them to freedom. In May 2001, twenty-six men set out on a journey that would change their lives forever. Scrambling across the border with a few personal possessions, some food, and one jug of water each, the men reach an area in the Arizona desert known as the Devil’s Highway. Only twelve made it safely across.

The Devil’s Highway, written by Luis Alberto Urrea, details the path taken by these twenty-six men from their homes in Veracruz to what they call “the north.” Their enemies are countless: US Border Patrol, the Mexican government, rattlesnakes, the desert, hypothermia, fear, and most of all, the sun, a “110 degree nightmare” that dries out their bodies, sucks out all life, and literally fries their brains to the point of insanity.

I am personally not a fan of nonfiction, yet Urrea’s artful prose is captivating, drawing me in with the story of how only a dozen men survived and how fourteen others, labeled by the US media as the Yuma 14, did not. However, The Devil’s Highway is not just the telling of a fateful event; it is also Urrea’s way of shining a light on what he believes is a backward Mexican and US border policy, which does little to decrease the flow of immigrants. A strict border policy forces people to make the crossing in increasingly forbidden, dangerous areas, which contributes to the harsh conditions that kill those who dare to attempt it. While this book most likely will not influence immediate change in the border policy, it does bring attention to and educate the public about a serious political issue. I would highly recommend this book to those over the age of fourteen (as some descriptions can be graphic) who may be skeptical toward the nonfiction genre, as this book is highly informative and reads just like a story. Urrea certainly weaves first-person testimony, geographic descriptions and illustrations, cultural and economic analysis, and poetry into an award-winning masterpiece.

Kaylie W., 11th Grade

The Devil’s Highway is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Harmony House by Nic Sheff

harmonyhouse_nicsheffThis horror story takes place in a old manor in New Jersey. Jen Noonan and her father move to a quiet town to enjoy a fresh start after an unfortunate incident with Jen’s mother. At first, the move didn’t seem so terrible. Jen meets new friends and finds her place among the people. But as her stay at Harmony House continued, it becomes clear that anyone that stepped foot in the house was no longer safe.

The house holds dark secrets which are slowly revealed to Jen in visions and dreams beyond her control. These flashes into the past help her put together the history of the manor and discover how she is connected to it. Towards the beginning, Jen’s father is introduced as a believer of God, and as the story continues he acts in a way that even the main character fights against because it is absolutely ridiculous.

As annoying and extreme as his personality may be, it is crucial to the development of the story, so I painfully endured the character because I was interested to see where it would lead. The book was very well thought out and is a captivating read. I, personally, would not choose to read it again because when I pick up a horror story I expect to be scared and Harmony House didn’t do that for me. However, I would still recommend this story to a mature audience that enjoys this genre.

-Sabrina C., 11th Grade

Harmony House is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Twin Star Exorcists (Sousei no Onmyouji) by Yoshiaki Sukeno

In every story, there are elements and themes that are often repeated but twisted in such a way that readers know what to expect while sitting on the edge of their seats. These elements may include the typical multiple girls liking the hero, an awesome heroine, a ditzy heroine, a kind of scary father in law, an anti-villian/anti-hero, or an evil brother. Oh, and did I mention the atypical manga “main heroine somehow ends up in the most awkward moments with the hero” trope? How about the “pervert teacher ends up to be actually super powerful”? Or the “government is evil and has ulterior motives”?

That’s what Twin Star Exorcists is all about: with mixes of manga Kekkaishi, Flame of Recca, and Blue Exorcist, young fourteen year Rokuro is trying to fight his destiny against becoming an “exorcist”.

Although Rokuro is actually very good at being an exorcist, a profession that works with destroying the “impurities” (monsters created by human’s dark desires/nightmares), he wants no part in it. That is, until he meets a girl about his age, named Benio, who hits him after falling from the sky. Then, because of a prophecy, he’s told by the perverted head of the exorcists that they have to marry and have the child that will supposedly get rid of all the impurities. However, he absolutely hates her. Mostly because she too wants to be an exorcist and is absolutely annoying to him.

Typical plot tropes aside, Sukeno weaves a fantastic tale from familiar themes that readers get excited about, such as the ditzy heroine being useless but wanting to root for her because of her determination. Additionally, the manga is a hilarious comedy, with one heroine just calmly being a kuudere (someone who is cold and indifferent to others) and the other getting mad all the time.

The best thing about the manga is the incredibly beautiful artwork. Sukeno makes great use of contrasts with black ink and white paper, and even a lot of gray, creating beautiful openings and amazingly drawn and colored fight scenes.

The manga has an excellent plot line that is easy to follow and beautifully drawn characters (although unfortunately, at least in my opinion, the recent anime doesn’t do it justice). Although there are only a few volumes out, it is an extremely recommended read for one wanting to try something new.

-Megan V, 10th grade

The Gospel According to Larry

worldaccordingtolarry_janettashjianThe Gospel According to Larry is a novel about a teenage boy who wants to change the world. He creates a blog on which he shares his views of the world. His fan base calls his blog posts “sermons” and say he preaches to them. In reality, his name is Josh Swenson and his ideals are spread all over the Internet until he becomes famous all over the country.

Keeping his identity a secret, Josh continues to “preach” about the problems of the world while offering helpful solutions to bloggers. Going about his life, he spends his time with his friend, Beth, and he often directs his posts around her life so that she seems to really connect with “Larry”. In addition to preaching, he lets people guess who he is by posting pictures of his possessions on the blog. Josh only owns 75 possessions, and he states this as he posts each picture.

After a few months, a fan discovers his identity and releases it to the world. Becoming famous in a few days after, Josh is now swarmed with the press; unknowingly pushing away his friends. Unable to live like this anymore, he fakes his own death and moves away. This book was actually quite good. Normally I wouldn’t read anything other than Harry Potter; however, this book not only was enjoyable but it also opened my eyes to many problems in the world discussed in “Larry’s” sermons. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading. It wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but it was a nice change from all the wizards and dragons!

-Kyle H.

The Gospel According to Larry is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Hatchet

hatchet_garypaulsenHatchet, a Newbery honor book by Gary Paulsen,  is a young adult novel about a boy, Brian, surviving in the wilderness with only one tool; the hatchet he was given to him by his mother.

Brian Robeson was an ordinary child hit with the difficulties of having his parents divorce. He had a hard time with facing this miserable reality but had to learn and try to make space for it in his every day routine. The story began with Brian being sent to visit his father for the summer who had moved to Canada. While in the air, he and the pilot talked and interacted for hours with conversations ranging from being a pilot to their everyday lives. Their satisfying discussion soon turned into a treacherous journey for Brian, testing his limits and skills. Unexpectedly, his standard life turns upside down into a fight for his life against Mother Nature. He finds himself stranded in an unknown forest. He faces wild animals such as moose, bear, and porcupines. His choice to dive into the lake where he could have drowned in the hazardous plane crash, that almost took his life, had not just given him hope but had given him a new beginning. This crash teaches him all the skills he needs to know to be independent and live on his own.

The main ideas of Gary Paulsen’s book are survival, learning to be independent, and solving problems on your own. I recommend this story to people who love to read books where one overcomes their biggest obstacles they never thought they had to face. This story teaches you to be strong and independent.

-Anmol K.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library