The Memory Book by Lara Avery

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

The Memory Book, by Lara Avery, is the story of a girl who is diagnosed with Niemann-Pick C (NPC). I’m not the biggest fan of books based on illness. But this book was charmingly extraordinary and ideal for crying at 2:00 a.m.

The book is written by our main character, Samantha/ Sammie McCoy. She writes about having NPC. Which is a rare, life-threatening disease that will affect her motor functions, metabolism, cognition, and eventually it will steal her memories. In order to combat this, Sammie carries a laptop everywhere and writes down everything in her life. From talking to her guidance counselor about college to her long time crush, Stuart Shah. 

Sammie is a smart girl, who has won countless debate awards and plans to graduate as Valedictorian. Her dream is to eventually move to New York and attend university there. She’s determined to overcome her illness and not let it stop her. She makes lists about “Future Sam”, who is a mature and successful young woman, who is living out her best life. But instead of looking forward to “Future Sam”, we slowly watch Sammie deteriorate. She starts to forget things, At first, she loses the debate championship, after forgetting where she is. And decides it’s best not to tell her debate partner/ best friend, about her disease. But she does tell her old childhood friend, Cooper Lind. 

Even though she lost the debate championship, she is determined her life will be fine. Starting off with telling Stuart that she likes him and eventually becoming his girlfriend. This is great until Sammie is forced to tell him about her disease which she’s been hiding for months. Stuart handles it greatly and is attentive and caring. But he’s stressed about it and feeling less like a boyfriend and more like a caretaker.

As this is happening, she begins to have more frequent episodes. She forgets about her little sister’s existence, the names of her pets, and even where she is while driving to a party. You can feel her frustration and confusion in her writing. And it’s completely heartbreaking. Especially, reading about her family seeing all of this. Watching how her little brother’s confused when she brushed her teeth 3 times in a row, or her parents crying in the living room. But the upside of all this happening is that she’s grown closer to Cooper. They even manage to rebuild their friendship and admit their feelings to each other. 

This resulted in a fight between Stuart and Cooper, when Stuart found them sleeping together. This was my least favorite part since cheating (even if you’re sick) is not okay. But you can feel Sammie’s emotions, and how this disease is making her unsure of who she loves and who she thought she loved. She eventually breaks up with Stuart and goes to Cooper. There’s this huge scene, where she shows up at his work. Then goes on the intercom and tells him how she’s sorry and that she loves him. It’s a light-hearted and satisfying scene. It almost feels like the book should end right there.

But it doesn’t. Instead, we are cheerfully greeted by Cooper, who is writing a few pages explaining how he fell in love with Sammie. And how she had a seizure and was sent into shock. This part made my stomach drop. But luckily, Cooper wrote that Sammie woke up and is talking. There are a few cute pages of Cooper and Sammie leaving each other notes via computer/memory book. But there are also some parts, where Sammie doesn’t even recognize Cooper and asks why he’s there. But she eventually remembers and leaves the line “Coop I don’t know what I would do without you. I’m really happy- Sammie”

The next pages are characters writing in the book their favorite memory with Sammie. Again I thought the book was over, and that Sammie is okay. But then my eyes froze on the last page. It’s a single paragraph, a note really, from Cooper. It talks about how Sammie is now gone, and how his favorite memory is this entire book since it’s a recording of her life. My heart shattered when I read this and I started sobbing. Because the emotions you feel during this book are so genuine. You feel as if you watched Sammie grow, and learn to experience her life. You watch her chase after her dreams and connect with her friends. You watch her fix her mistakes and become a better person. Although you don’t see Sammie dying in her entries. You can put it together from Cooper’s note. 

This book is definitely a tragic, romance book. But I felt as if the romance and “love triangle’ were a bit too forced. I also felt like her death was so sudden and how we barely saw Sammie at this point. But I understand why the author didn’t do that. This is Sammie’s book. It’s Sammie’s life, and she can’t document her own death.

-Ashley Y.

The Memory Book by Lara Avery is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

ACT or SAT?

What made you choose the test that you would have to take? I think the best advice is to take a practice test for each and see which you do better at. There are books to check out with practice tests and books you can purchase as well.

You could also just go in to each test and take official ones just to see how you score, but you have to pay for the actual tests. You may do so well in one that you could find this the fastest way to be done with it.

You could also decide based off researching each test. There are four sections in the ACT and three in the SAT. The ACT is described as being more heavily a reading comprehension test. You have a reading, writing, and science section and the science section does not require a lot of outside scientific knowledge, just the ability to read the questions and answer based on what they present on the test. This makes it another reading section, in effect. The SAT just has the traditional Reading, writing, and math. This makes math worth 33% of your grade where on the ACT math is 25% of your grade. This can help kids make the decision as well.

The UC schools, like UCLA, UCI, etc., no longer look at these test scores which makes your GPA and extracurriculars more important. If you are only planning for these schools, I wonder if you will even bother with these tests anymore. If you want to keep options open, many schools either require the scores or list them as optional.

Best of luck as you make decisions on your future.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, is one of the most well-known and classic plays ever written. Centered around the thrilling love story of Romeo and Juliet, the story has comical, romantic, and adventurous elements. 

The two lovers hail from two enemy families and are not destined to ever meet, let alone fall in love. However, despite their fate and differences, they meet and fall in love at first sight. Immediately after they meet, they make plans to get married and are wedded the next day. Shortly after the wedding, Benvolio and Mercutio encounter Tybalt. Romeo arrives, and Tybalt challenges him. However, Romeo politely declines because he just got married to Tybalt’s cousin, so he did not want to fight with his kin. Instead of fighting Romeo, Tybalt starts a brawl with Mercutio, which results in the death of Mercutio. At the sight of dead Mercutio, Romeo chases Tybalt down in a fit of rage. This results in the death of Tybalt, and Romeo flees the scene. The Prince approaches the scene and orders that Romeo should be banished. The two lovers, Romeo and Juliet, are separated from each other just as quickly as they got together. Romeo leaves for Mantua after spending just one night with Juliet on Monday, while Juliet’s father, who is ignorant of her marriage to Romeo, tells her that she is to marry Paris on Thursday morning. Paris converses with Friar Laurence about his wedding to Juliet the next morning, and Friar Laurence concocts a plan with Juliet to get her out of it. They agree that Juliet will take a drug that will cause her to look deceased so that she could sneak away with Romeo eventually. The plan foils when the news does not reach Romeo in Mantua, and instead, Romeo is told that his bride has passed away. When he reaches her tomb, he consumes a poison concoction, which kills him. Dramatically, Juliet awakes just a moment after his death, and she wakes up to her dead lover. In an act of rashness, Juliet stabs herself with a knife, and the whirlwind romance of Romeo and Juliet dramatically ends after 5 days. 

This story, written by William Shakespeare is very iconic and has been adapted to fit with popular culture and trending times through history. It has been made as several movies, countless stage plays, and numerous book adaptations. The basic plot of the story is captivating to audiences of all ages, and it proves to be a successful and entertaining story to this day. 

-Karis K.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Revisiting Harry Potter

If you are a teenager today, you have either read some or all of the Harry Potter series or you have seen the Harry Potter movies. Today, the novels gave way to a Universal Studios theme park, endless merchandise, and now a Broadway play. Why was this possible and why should you go back and read the series if you haven’t read the whole thing in its entirety?

The Harry Potter movies did not do the books justice, so if you enjoyed the movies even a tiny bit, you will thoroughly enjoy the books. The series begins with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It is not that this book is just easy to read. It is the longest book you will read in the shortest time. All of the series is like this, but the speed with which you will go through this book leaves you surprised and wanting more. The world is established, the characters are introduced, the reality that exists within the Harry Potter realm are all really well done in a super easy, accessible read.

You cannot stop at one book, nor should you read just a few and decide it is enough. There are seven titles, and you should read them all if you enjoy the first book. It is entertaining, intertwined, and really clever to stay with the series through the end. The titles go like this: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (called the Philosopher’s Stone in most other countries) (1), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (3), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (4), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (5), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (6), and finally Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (7).

There is an eighth book of sorts that gave way to a play I saw on stage when my family traveled to London three years ago: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The play is basically a 5 hour play and you can choose to watch it all in one day or over the course of two days as two regular length plays. We saw it over the course of two days and that was the right choice. Each play can stand alone and the stage, actors, dialog, and music are all made better if you have read the series. You won’t pick up all of the nuances if you have only seen the movies. You do not have to read this book before the play, in fact, this is one I would suggest to read after.

No matter your age, this series is one to go back to if you skipped it. If you are bored, there is plenty here to keep you entertained and reading.

-Preston v.

The Harry Potter series is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Total Tank Simulator Game Review

Total Tank Simulator, made by 505 Games, is a military strategy game. Players command huge armies to fight against other nations. Players can pick from a wide variety including the USA, Germany, Poland, Italy, etc. After choosing a nation, players can play campaigns, online, or sandbox. For my playthrough, I decided to play as the United States and chose to play the campaign game mode. In this game mode, you will go through multiple battles, each level having different enemies for you to face. Each of these new enemies will use different troop types as well as different strategies.  In order to defeat these enemies, players must strategize and attack plans. Players must decide where they are going to attack, and what they will use for the attack. 

On my first mission, I was still getting used to the controls and strategies. I decided to send all of my troops in a certain direction. My troops did not last that long, and I had to redo the mission. I replanned and attacked from multiple locations, and was able to defeat my enemies. I continued to play the campaign missions, and I was able to unlock more and more troop variants. 

Total Tank Simulator reminded me a lot of a Totally Accurate Battle Simulator. In each game, players choose different types of troops and vehicles to try and battle against other players or enemies. Both games have very similar playstyles and animation. In Total Tank Simulator players could choose from a large variety of troops and tanks. Players would unlock these different troops the further they progressed in the campaign. Each variant of the tanks had strengths and weaknesses, and players needed to balance out the different troops they used on the battlefield. There were also different “buildings” that players could place down. These buildings continuously spawned troops or vehicles. These buildings were very valuable, and I tried my best to defend mine.

After playing the campaign for a while, I decided to try out sandbox mode. I found this game mode to be extremely fun, and it definitely was my favorite. This game mode unlocked and gave you every single troop in the game. It also allowed you to change the game settings and give you unlimited money. This game mode can help players try out and choose their favorite troops. It also is a way for players to mess around and spawn in huge amounts of fo enemies. I really enjoyed the giant warfare aspect in the sandbox mode, making it my favorite game mode in Total Tank Simulator. Overall, I really enjoyed Total Tank Simulator. The game was extremely fun and exciting. I found both the campaign and sandbox game mode to be very addicting, and I could see myself playing the game for hours on end. I hope Total Tank Simulator adds a feature to be able to play with your friends. I can not wait to see what is added to the game and would rate it a solid 9 out of 10.

-Daniel C.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

We All Looked Up is probably one of the books that I’ve read the most during quarantine. “we all looked up” tells the story of the entire world having two months- two months to live, two months until the asteroid would inevitably collide with Earth. We All Looked Up follows four main people, Peter, Eliza, Andy, and Anita. Peter, the stereotyped jock, wants to become a better person and make an impact. Eliza, the typical shunned rebel, finds companionship in others, one being Andy, a person who’s only passion seems to be music. Finally, Anita, who’s parents put immense pressure on her to be the best, finds peace in singing.

I enjoyed We All Looked Up because it felt real and not sugar coated. We All Looked Up covered many topics, such as suicide, but also didn’t have to have a miracle ending to be a good and entertaining read. We All Looked Up feels raw, capturing the emotions that are experienced during intermediate/high school, the fear of growing up, the drama that can happen, and the fear of the unknown. I highly recommend We All Looked Up to those who enjoy realistic fiction and young adult novels.

-Kelsie W.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

My Brother Sam Is Dead by Christopher CollierJames Lincoln Collier |  Scholastic
This is the cover of the book My Brother Sam is Dead

My Brother Sam is Dead is a historical fiction novel that takes place from 1775 to 1779. This book is all about the Revolutionary War and how it impacted the daily lives of those living in the Colonies. The story revolves around a young boy named Tim Meeker, and his brother Sam. Sam believes in the Patriots and longs for freedom from England, while Tim, being the ripe age of 12, is not quite so sure.

As the story progresses, It becomes painstakingly clear how difficult war makes life for the innocent. With the growing gap between Tim’s father and brother and Tim’s growing curiosity, this gorgeous tale evolves into something deeper than just a book. As the economy falls and hardship after hardship is forced upon the Meeker family, Collier and Collier make it apparent as to how they feel about war.

This story touched me deeply. After I finished, my whole perspective on the war changed, which is what I think the authors wanted. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a short but deep read. It is truly astonishing how much a book can impact us.

– Apoorvi S:)

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

Aru Shah and The End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

The novel Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi is a story about a young girl named Aru Shah’s adventure through Indian mythology. Aru is a somewhat mischievous girl. All of Aru’s classmates from her private school go vacationing at exotic locations, while Aru is stuck at the museum in her Spiderman pajamas. As a result, Aru also has a bad habit of lying. 

The story begins at the Museum of Ancient Art and Culture which Aru’s mom curates. One day, three of Aru’s classmates show up at the Museum’s front doorstep, not believing that the Lamp of Bharata is cursed. Aru makes the poor decision of lighting the lamp, and turns her classmates into frozen statues. 

With the help of an annoying talking bird, Aru discovers who her biological father and her soul’s father is. Both are quite astonishing! The talking bird also introduces her to a girl named Mini (short for Yamini) who is just like her. With Mini’s help, Aru fights off demons, collects the items needed to reverse the spell of the cursed lamp, and even buys some Oreos from a Costco in another dimension. 

What I enjoyed about reading this book were the consistent references and allusions to Hindu mythology. Similar to how the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan is based on Greek mythology, this novel and its succeeding books are adventures based on Hindu mythology. I believe that both fictional and nonfiction books can teach readers something, and this novel is a wonderful example. With both humor, adventure, and an interesting plot line, I would recommend this novel to both children and adults!

-Ayati M.

Aru Shah and The End of Time by Roshani Chokshi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Pollyanna is an orphan. Her mother died of sickness when she was very young, and her father also died shortly before the story begins. After these traumatic events, Pollyanna is sent to live with her Aunt Polly, her only remaining family member (her mother had two sisters, Polly and Anna). Aunt Polly is very mean, and does not seem to care much about Pollyanna. This is easy to see why, as Aunt Polly’s sister (Pollyanna’s mother) moved to the West Coast of the US to be with Pollyanna’s father from the East Coast of the US against the will of her family. Polly never wrote to her sister after that, not even when the surviving child was named after Pollyanna’s mother’s sisters, Polly and Anna became Pollyanna.

Aunt Polly continues to be upset through this great novel. However, will Pollyanna be able to reverse her aunt’s negative ways?

Pollyanna gets to know most of the people living in her village within a short period of time. Her friendly, cheery ways affect many others as well. Everyone adores her company, even Mr. Pentleton, who has rarely spoken for the past decade.  

I enjoyed reading this book because of Pollyanna’s positive way of dealing with problems and how she can quickly find a way out of every situation she is faced with. Pollyanna’s positive mental attitude made this novel even more enjoyable to read. Another reason I liked this book was because of the wide variety of characters. I appreciated that the author included so many characters because meeting a lot of different characters throughout the book made the story more interesting, as all of them have a different personality and the author is able to develop that so well.

You should read this book because it is a very fun book to read and the events are thoroughly captivating. I really liked this book, and I think you will too. 

-Peri A.

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The 100 TV Show Review

The 100 is a Sci-Fi show consisting of 7 mind-blowing seasons. The show starts off in space when the station’s resources start running low. As a solution, they decide to send 100 juvenile prisoners back to planet Earth to see if it’s survivable. As they get sent to Earth, the 100 battle all sorts of problems. At the start of the show, we get to know the characters well as they arrive on Earth. Throughout the seasons, we get to watch the characters progress and push themselves out of their comfort zone, doing the unthinkable while facing the unpredictable. To truly understand the evolution of the plot, it’s much better to watch the series since I wouldn’t want to spoil it. The battles kick in immediately in the show as it’s a violent series. Despite all the violence, there is an emotional side to the show from all the sacrifices, deaths, stories, etc. It really gets you thinking of what’s out there and shines a light on how people change to survive. I would rate this show a solid 10/10. It’s full of surprises and really got me into the Sci-Fi genre. The details in the show are unexplainable and the plot line is something I’ve never seen before. 

– Kaitlyn Y