Book Review: The Mighty Miss Malone, by Christopher Paul Curtis

mightymissmalone_coverThe Mighty Miss Malone is a historical fiction novel by Newbery Medal winning author Christopher Paul Curtis. This story is about twelve-year-old Deza Malone and her family.

Deza has a loving and caring mother and a brother who has a gifted voice. The Great Depression has caused tremendous trouble for black men like Deza’s father, so he leaves their home in Gary, Indiana in search of a job. One month later they still have had no word from him, so Mrs. Malone decides to leave Gary in search for her husband along with her children.

On the search, they find shelter in a camp in Flint, Michigan. Deza starts to attend school, although she encounters racial prejudice. A few weeks later a man at camp hears her brother Jimmie’s singing voice and convinces him to leave the camp so they can find work in Chicago or New York. That same night, Mrs. Malone and Deza leave camp to find a more permanent home.

At last, Deza finally receives a letter from her father. What does the letter say? What
happens to Jimmie? Will she and her mother finally find Deza’s father? Will
they live happily together as a family? Read the book to find out.

I think Deza is called “Mighty Miss Malone” because she is strong and stays positive through hard times. I loved the fact that she is caring and compassionate for her family. I think girls her age can relate to her. I highly recommend this beautifully-crafted book.

-Anmol K., 6th grade

Book Review: How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

house_reinhardt_coverThis book review is first in a series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes. We’re pleased to showcase these reviews on the Mission Viejo Library Teen Voice.

Have you ever wanted to run away from reality? Dana Reinhardt took me on an inspiring adventure with one of her five books, and a 2012 Abraham Lincoln Book Award nominee How to Build a House. This novel was written in the perspective of a teenage girl, Harper. Harper is sadly familiar with the term loss; her mother had died, and her beloved step mom had left, along with her two step sisters. She faces many struggles and heartache, yet she finds ways to get back to life past her losses.

Harper was only two years old when her mother passed away. I guess you could say she had been hiding behind her dad until the day he introduced her to his “special” friend. Harper came out of hiding. Along with Jane, her to-be step mother, came two daughters, Tess and Rose. They would become Harper’s sisters. Harper thought nothing could ever be better. When Harper was 17, she came home from school on one ordinary day and received the news from her dad that Jane and her daughters were gone.

Everything had come to sudden stop. There were no more family dinners. No more family movie nights or coming home to homemade cookies. No more slumber parties with her sisters. No more talking to her sisters at school.  Anything with the word family in it made Harper’s heart jerk. But most importantly the thought of there being no more Jane, Rose or Tess was what hurt her the most. What had she done to deserve this?  Harper had to get away. Someway, somehow just as long as she got away from this feeling of ultimate betrayal.

Then there was a charity trip she read about in the newspaper. Recently there had been a tragic tornado in Tennessee, leaving most of the homes ruined. The Homes from the Heart Program for Teens was an organization designed to rebuild houses for families who had lost their own. At first it did not sound appealing to Harper but she thought of the main reason she was doing it… to get away.

“We’re landing now.  Dusty brown has morphed into lush green” (8).  Harper had settled in, met her roommate, and the next morning they began to build. The summer friendships began to form. Harper met Teddy Write, the oldest son of the family they were building the house for. They told each other everything and he welcomed Harper into their family’s temporary home like she was part of it. This made Harper realize what she had lost. This family had lost so much more, but they still had the one thing Harper did not have, a family. Her body began aching “… Not for what they don’t have, [but] I ache for what they do have.”

Harper arrived home from that summer trip learning something no one could have taught her but herself. Dana Reinhardt captured me with this intriguing novel about a teenage girl overcoming one of the hardest things anyone could go through. What is the valuable lesson that Harper taught herself? You must read the book to find out. One of the truest and most heartfelt books I have read in a long time.

-Amelia E., 7th grade

Book Review: Double, by Jenny Valentine

double_coverThe mysterious pages of Double, by Jenny Valentine, will keep readers in suspense every twist and turn.

This mystery book is centered on a boy known as Chap, a sixteen-year-old runaway. After living on the streets for several years, one event changes his life forever. When police detain him for fighting, they discover an ad in the newspaper for a missing boy named Cassiel Roadnight. After realizing he has nothing to lose, Chap takes on a new identity with the caring family and home he never had.

Every minute is a challenge for him; Cassiel’s family could discover the truth at any moment. However, nobody realizes the truth, except for a friend of Cassiel’s named Floyd. Slowly, the two begin to piece together what really happened on the day Cassiel disappeared. Will Chap find out his true identity, and finally find a family of his own? This highly dramatic and thought-provoking story is sure to keep anyone at the edge of their seat.

Chap is a very intelligent and thoughtful person. His every motive is clear and simple, so readers can understand his every subtle or bold action. His emotions and thoughts really show through as he struggles to cope with his life spiraling out of control. As if building a house of cards, Chap is now forced to add layer after layer of deception, knowing that in the end it will all come tumbling down.

Valentine does a superb job with this murder mystery, skillfully meshing teenage emotions and the cold reality of the world. Double shows deep emotions about family and loved ones, and will have a profound impact on readers. Chap’s wit and quick thinking will aid him on his path to redemption as readers cheer him on. Double is a new, quick read that will definitely satisfy any reader’s crave for mystery.

-Phillip X., 7th grade

Manga Review: Loveless, vol. 1, by Yun Kouga

loveless01_coverLoveless is an… interesting manga. The story follows a sixth grader named Ritsuka whose brother is murdered before the book takes place. Some time later, a college student, Soubi, approaches him, telling him repeatedly that he loves him and that he knew his brother.

The middle of this manga is slow and kind of boring, but the start and end are very well done and kept my attention. It’s weird, it’s funny, it’s cute, and it’s engaging. The protagonist, Ritsuka, has a lot of emotional trauma which makes for an interesting character. Soubi has a lot of mystery around him and I hope it is revealed later, because that in my opinion is a great angle and I want to hear more about his life.

Note that there is some mature content in this manga. Though there is only one brief kiss between the two characters, there’s a certain amount of sexual tension between Soubi and Ritsuka that makes this story far more adult then most other manga series aimed at the same age group.  

Overall, if you can get through a couple awkward scenes, the first volume of Loveless has a lot of great concepts and I loved it. I give this manga an 8/10. The story is great and enjoyable, characters are lovable and frankly I can’t wait for more.

-Cameron S., 12th grade

Book Review: Love’s Image, by Debby Mayne

loves_image_coverThis is a great love story with some very powerful messages:

  • Beauty is not only skin deep.
  • What’s on the outside of someone is not as important as what’s  on the inside.
  • Have faith and never ever give up.

My great-aunt read it and thought I would like it. She was right.

Model Shannon McNab has been in a terrible car accident that wounded her face. Left with a long scar as a reminder, she knows that her career as a model is shot and her self-confidence has flown out the window. Her boyfriend leaves her because he no longer finds her attractive.

When one of her friends takes her to a singles group at church, Shannon is apprehensive about going at first. It is there that she meets Judd Manning, a kind, funny school teacher who makes Shannon smile once again. He makes her believe that she might be able to find someone who doesn’t judge her by her scar and will love her the way she is. She begins to feel better about herself again and falls in love with Judd.

As her scar fades over time, her love for Judd and God grows. She is confident again and finally happy, having found the true meaning of her life and believing that everything does happen for a reason.

This novel is definitely a favorite of mine and a real feel-good story. It shows how to have faith in God, other people, and yourself.

-Lauren B., 12th grade

Book Review: Matched, by Ally Condie

matched_coverThis book is a definite must-read that keeps one glued to the pages.

In a very controlled society, Cassia is getting ready for the biggest day of her life, the Match Banquet. Her best friend Xander, also has his Match Banquet, but after a little mix-up with who her match is, she finds herself debating over who she loves.

Once Xander’s face shows up on her card, Cassia is sure that they are the perfect match. But when another boy’s face shows up on the screen for a second she finds herself debating who she is truly meant for. Cassia finds herself falling in love with this other boy, Ky– which upsets the Society and puts herself and Ky in danger.

As Cassia begins to discover her true self, she finds herself caught up in life-threatening secrets and daring choices. At the same time she is trying to save the one she loves, while she keeps her family safe.

Matched is the first volume in a trilogy. Find out what happens to Cassia in the sequels, Crossed and Reached.

-Jenna R., 7th grade

Ebooks vs. Print Books

kindle2The ebooks vs. print books debate has created a controversy dating back to when electronic books were first invented.

Electronic books were created alongside the computer and the Internet. One of the oldest publishers of ebooks, Project Gutenberg, began in the 1970s and is still operating today. They publish works that are public domain which means that they are no longer copyrighted and are therefore available to the general public at no charge. An example of writing deemed public domain is the works of William Shakespeare.

Ebooks were originally intended to be subject or genre specific. They were also originally intended to be educational. Ebooks gained popularity in the late 1990s but were used primarily in libraries. Nowadays, ebooks are used by a wide array of people virtually anywhere. There are many devices suited for ebooks such as Kindles and Nooks.

I know that we live in the age of technology but I personally prefer the written word. I am a bibliophile! I cherish books. I love their scent, the texture of their pages, and their physical presence. To me, an ebook cannot compare. Ebooks are more accessible, but I enjoy searching for print books themselves. It is the romantic qualities of books that makes it hard for me to accept ebooks. There is just a special something about real paper books that I cannot articulate and that ebooks cannot emulate. I understand that this is the age of technology and that books can and most likely will become an antiquity but Johannes Gutenberg did not invent the printing press in vain!

I will always appreciate books, no matter how archaic they become. It scares me that the printed word might cease to exist because as an aspiring writer my dream is to see my stories live in ink and that dream might not come true. However, it’s important to remember that the vitality of books is their content– so regardless of the format you prefer, the importance is always placed upon the reading itself.

So read on, however you will!

-Sarah B., 11th grade