It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

itskindofafunnystory_nedvizziniIt’s always tragic when one takes their own life. Ned Vizzini, the author of this highly acclaimed novel, did so at age 32. His death lends so much more meaning to this book about a 15-year-old battling depression and suicidal thoughts. In the story, teen Craig Gilner has absolutely nothing to complain about in life. He’s got a good, loving family, great friends, and goes to one of the hardest to get into schools in Manhattan. Which is why he can’t figure out why he’s so depressed. He can’t eat, he can’t sleep, and every day is another waking nightmare. So finally, he decides he’s going to do something about it and kill himself. But Craig isn’t an idiot, he realizes something is very wrong with him. He calls the suicide hotline and checks himself into a hospital, where he is sent to the mental ward. While there, he learns about the truths behind the other patients, and more about himself than he’d ever known. Written in a tone of humor mixed with tragedy, this incredible story brilliantly illustrates how severe depression really is, and how to try to beat it.

You feel as if you know Craig personally, and are constantly rooting for him. This is because he talks to the reader casually, as he would a close friend, making him all the more relatable. When I read this book the first time through, I had unfortunately skipped the forward and didn’t find out that the author had actually killed himself until someone I had recommended it to told me. This was devastating, as I grew so close to the main character (who was based very closely on the author). This story is incredible, not only because of how well-written it is and how relatable the characters are, but because shortly before writing this book, Ned Vizzini, himself, was admitted into a mental hospital for suicidal thoughts and wrote It’s Kind of a Funny Story based on his real-life experiences there. This is a book that should be read by everyone, old and young, depressed and not, because people need to wake up and seriously look at this issue. I would, however, keep this book out of the hands of children twelve and under. As many of my friends struggle with depression, this book really helped me to understand. Highly recommend!

Evan G., 8th Grade

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

Book vs. Movie: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

fantasticbeastsposterThe book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was originally just a textbook in the Harry Potter series and, in the series, written by Newt Scamander. So, Rowling took this textbook and wrote it up (as Newt) for all of us Muggles to read. Rowling also wrote the film adaptation’s screenplay based on the textbook

The book is almost like a encyclopedia describing many of the beasts and creatures in Harry Potter. It also has “notes” written by Ron, Harry and Hermione. It is really cool book and it teaches you a little more about the creatures in Harry Potter.

The movie, however, is a completely different script written by J.K Rowling. It is about Newt Scamander who comes to America to research the one beast he has yet to see. But, one of his creatures gets out of his suitcase which results in him using magic in front a Muggle. This act gets him summoned before the Magical Congress of the Untied States of America (MACUSA) where he meets Porpetina and Queenie, two ministry workers. These two girls, Newt, and the Muggle Jacob end up having to hunt around the city for all of Newt’s lost creatures. Their search brings them in confrontation with a mysterious magical entity that is wreaking havoc in the city. It is revealed that Credence, an orphan under the care of a vindictive, magic-fearing woman bent of rooting out magic, created an Obscurus which manifested out of his hate for his adoptive mother. Newt and his gang were able to calm Credence down and stop him from wrecking any more of the city.  Within all this havoc Percival Graves, an Auror, is revealed to be the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald is disguise. This movie is a really great addition to the world of Harry Potter and it really gives you insight of the wizarding world in America.

The book and movie are both really wonderful and very enjoyable. The only elements they share are the named character Newt Scamander and many of the creatures mentioned in the original book. So, there really is not that much to compare because they are so different, one being an actual story while the other is more of a textbook. In fact, the script of the movie was a totally new story line written by Rowling.  I recommend reading the book and watching the movie to anyone who has the time.

-Ava G.

J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

allthelightwecannotsee_anthonydoerrNormally, books about World War II are excruciatingly sad, desperate, and hopeless. Yet All the Light We Cannot See comes a hopeful theme and relief from the classic WWII historical fiction novel. Told in a series of sections from different parts of the war, switching between the past and the present, this novel tells the story of Marie-Laure and Werner and the people they encounter throughout the years.

Marie-Laure, a young French girl, lived with her father, the locksmith of the Natural History Museum in Paris. At a young age, she lost her vision, so her life was completely dependent upon her father. Her father took this to heart, building a mini scale model of their city for Marie-Laure to memorize, to the point that she could get around the city unaided.  She even counted storm drains as she walked the museum every day. When the war started, Marie-Laure and her father evacuated, bringing them closer to the action of the novel.

Werner, on the other hand, grew up an orphan in the Zollverein, having the whole responsibility for his younger sister. In order to prevent his future being consumed by working in the coal mine, he applied and received acceptance into one of the government’s schools on account of his extraordinary talent for working with radios. The novel tracks how Werner felt and reacted to what the Nazi party committed during the war, providing a unique perspective on Nazi life.

The novel’s plot is thick with questions, as the novel follows many characters other than Marie-Laure and Werner. With stories about Marie-Laure’s father, a German Sergeant, Werner’s friend from school, and the infamous Sea of Flames diamond, the novel is crafted in an original way that carries the story forward but provides enough details to immerse the reader into the action.

This is certainly a book that is difficult to put down. With so much going on, it was hard to leave one character’s story for a chapter to catch up with the other characters. I would definitely recommend this novel though there are some parts that are sentimental.

– Leila S., 11th grade

All The Light We Cannot See is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

Film Review: Rogue One

rogueone_onesheetaSpoiler Alert!

I recently saw the film Rogue One, the latest film in the Star Wars franchise. I have to say, it was pretty amazing. The basic plot for the story takes place right before Episode IV A New Hope and follows the actions of the main character Jyn. Her dad, Galen was a well known engineer who was taken by the Empire to complete the Death Star. Galen hid Jyn away to save her from the Empire. Many years later the Rebel Alliance finds out who Jyn is and rescues her, as she was being held by the Empire for some small crimes. Their plan is to use her to gain the trust of her long time friend Saw Gerrera, who leads his own rebellion but it is much more chaotic and has been causing problems.

She gets there with the aid of a Rebel Intelligence agent named Cassian Andor, however the Empire decides to test out their newly constructed Death Star while the Rebels meet with Saw. Jyn and Cassian barely manage to get away, and receive a transmission from Jyn’s father (the main engineer on the Death Star) saying he hid a undetectable flaw in the space station as a chance for the Rebellion to destroy the evil weapon. They organize an attack on the archives that have the Death Star plans, which combined with the information Jyn’s father told them would be enough for the Rebellion to attempt the Death Star.

This obviously leads into the plot of A New Hope, and it is done very well. I felt like you really got to bond with the characters, but unfortunately they had to kill them all off because none of them show up in A New Hope. It really explained how the Rebels did get the plans for the Death Star, and the sacrifices that it took to get there. This was a outstanding spin-off movie which definitely should set a standard for any other spin-off movies.

-Max G.

Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

endgame_jamesfreyAs a prominent novel of thriller and fiction, Endgame: The Calling brings a simple treasure hunt to a whole new and different level. With teens fighting teens, the entire world has no chance but to rely on the victor.

In a modern day setting, twelve teenagers carry on with their normal lives until each of them are by a meteor, a warning sign to these twelve “players” for the beginning of what may be the world’s end. Representing the twelve so-called original lines of humanity, these teenagers must play in Endgame, a hunt for three significant artifacts (this book is on the first one) that will save their lines from chaos and disaster while condemning the other eleven.

Through the eyes of each of the twelve players, authors James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton incorporate adventure, action, romance, and much more all into just a three book series. Characters like Sarah Alopay, Jago Tlaloc, and Christopher Vanderkamp share their perspectives on their journeys throughout the continents and how they must survive when problems and troubles arise. As clues are hidden inside the novel itself, readers are recommended to try and solve the mystery themselves, being part as one of the players on a mission to save all of humanity.

Endgame: The Calling is a suitable read for young adults ages 13-16, and with my rating of 8.5 out of 10, this may be one of the very best plot lines that I have read.

“Will exuberance beat strength? Stupidity top kindness? Laziness thwart beauty? Will the winner be good or evil?”

…I guess you will have to read and find out.

-Riley W.

Endgame: The Calling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Bob Dylan Receives Nobel Prize for Literature

bob_dylan

Bob Dylan is an American songwriter and singer who has sold over a hundred million records with influences from civil rights to philosophy. Now, he has once again been recognized for his five decades of work. In December 2016, the Nobel Committee awarded him with a Nobel Prize for Literature, making him one of the most controversial Nobel Laureates. The public was divided over whether a songwriter was eligible for a literary award.

The committee explained that Bob Dylan was selected for “creat[ing] new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” but many critics and novelists denounced the supposed cheapening of the Nobel Prize. Dylan further agitated the public by maintaining silence for two weeks after the announcement while the committee grew increasingly agitated. Finally, he accepted the prize but stated that he was unable to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. Instead, he sent a speech that was read aloud by Azita Raji, an American ambassador.

In it, Dylan expressed his humble thanks and the honor to be among the literary greats. He addresses the debate of lyrics and literature by comparing his situation to that of William Shakespeare. What was going through Shakespeare’s mind while writing Hamlet? Perhaps: “ ‘Are there enough good seats for my patrons?’ ‘Where am I going to get a human skull?’” Bob Dylan states, “The farthest thing from Shakespeare’s mind was the question ‘Is this literature?’… Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, ‘Are my songs literature?’”

Professor and Nobel Committee member Horace Engdahl asked in his speech, “What matter the rank of a work when its beauty is of the highest rank?” …That is the straight answer to the question of how Bob Dylan belongs in literature: as the beauty of his songs is of the highest rank.” Engdahl continued on, proclaiming Bob Dylan “a singer worthy of a place beside the Greeks’ ἀοιδόι, beside Ovid, beside the Romantic visionaries, beside the kings and queens of the Blues, beside the forgotten masters of brilliant standards.”

Bob Dylan is truly a step forward for the Nobel Prize for Literature, and his works will have a lasting influence on music culture.

The works of Bob Dylan are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They are also available for download through our new Hoopla service

Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki

pandorahearts_junmochizukiOz Vessalius is fifteen years old, which means that it is time for his coming of age ceremony for the Vessalius family. Being the head of a powerful family, he doesn’t have to worry about in his future and his days are spent teasing his servant Gil, playing with his younger sister, and trying to woo the beautiful Sharon. That is, until he and Gil stumble upon a grave and Oz starts to have weird dreams about a girl in a twisted dollhouse who wants to kill him. The erratic Baskervilles send Oz into the “Abyss”, a prison thought only to be be a scary bedtime story. But why is the girl from his dream suddenly helping him get out of the Abyss? More importantly, when he finally gets out, has the world changed? Or did the Abyss change him?

Pandora Hearts is a completed manga series, with 104 chapters in 24 volumes and it’s a very worthwhile read. The series has very beautiful artwork, with each panel being a masterpiece and scenery that perfectly sets the tone. Additionally, characters are drawn in a way that perfectly suits their personalities. They have incredible backstories that lead the plot towards incredible twists and turns. The plot is woven well into the overall theme, from one scene about madness, to the next being completely comedic and the next being a thrilling action scene.

For Alice in Wonderland fans, it is nice to see many references to the book, with many scenes of madness, a character named “Alice”, and many characters having nicknames such as “Mad Hatter” or “B-Rabbit”. However, younger teens should be cautioned because some scenes of madness and action can be quite gruesome and twisted.

This is an amazing manga series, and I hope that everyone can take the chance to read it.

-Megan V., 11th Grade

Pandora Hearts is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.