Pawn by Aimée Carter

pawn_aimeecarterPawn by Aimée Carter is a dystopian novel set in a future Washington D.C. On their 17th birthday, teenagers take a test that’ll determine the rest of their lives because they receive a rank in society based on how well they do on the test. Get a low rank, you will struggle for your life; on the other hand, if you receive a high rank, you are guaranteed a life of the privilege.

Disappointed with her rank of III, Kitty Doe is offered the chance of a lifetime to be a VII by the Prime Minister, Daxton Hart. Only the ruling family, the Harts, get this prestigious rank. Being a VII means basking in a life of luxury instead of cleaning sewers as a III. By being a member of the Hart family, Kitty will be famous and adored by millions of people. The catch? Kitty must give up her old life and appearance so as to replace the Prime Minister’s dead niece, Lila Hart. After being Masked (the process that Kitty goes under to become Lila Hart), Kitty is forced to act like someone she’s not. As Kitty’s life as Lila Hart progresses, she realizes it to be not as easy as initially thought. There’s also the unexpected drawback of Kitty extinguishing the flames of the original Lila’s secret rebellion. With many unexpected twists and turns, this novel is sure to delight anybody.

First looking at the cover, I was intrigued by the beautiful blue eye on the cover. As I started to read, I became more and more absorbed in the story. With a strong heroine like Kitty, I finished the book in two days. I admired her bravery, but there could have been more to her character development. Maybe the second book would be better? I would recommend this book for grades 8 and up. Overall a great read for anyone looking for a unique dystopian novel.

-Anmol K.

Pawn is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

unwind_nealshustermanWhat if you lived in a world where illness or disabilities weren’t the problem? An old war veteran could get a new hand, a paralyzed person could replace their spine, a blind man could get new eyes. But all these parts have to come from somewhere, right? What if your parents didn’t know what to do with you, didn’t want you…could unwind you? Your body parts could be useful to another person, if it felt like you weren’t making adequate use of them. When kids prove to be too troublesome or just useless to their parents, their parents sign a form to have them unwound. This way they can be made useful. And if you don’t prove your worth, it’s off to the harvest camps.

Connor, Risa, and Lev are brought together by chance and kept together by desperation. Connor is too much of a troublemaker and Risa is an orphan. The costs are too high to keep housing all of them. Lev has been an unwind, or tithe, since birth as part of his family’s strict religion. These three unlikely companions make a life-threatening journey to save their fates. If they survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed. But when every piece of them is wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems very far away.

This book is a real page turner. It had me on the edge of my seat, anxious to see what was going to happen. The reader has to have a good memory of things that happen in the beginning of the book, because although they don’t seem important when they are mentioned at first, they tend to play a big part towards the end. I love the way Shusterman writes, making sure the reader is paying attention throughout the story and adding twists in the story that you never see coming. My friend recommended this book to me and was so happy when I told her I was reading it. Thanks to her, I have a new favorite series. The next book in the series is UnWholly, but you might also want to check out the short story between the first and the second book called UnStrung. This book is definitely in the top ten for best dystopian series.

-Sabrina C., 9th Grade

Unwind is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

I Become Shadow by Joe Shine

ibecomeshadow_joeshineI Become Shadow is a story about a society called F.A.T.E. Now, I forget what that stands for, but it’s basically a government agency that captures children at the age of 14 and trains them to be human weapons. Once these kids become fully trained Shadows at age 18, they wait until they are assigned to a “link.” Links are people who will one day make astonishing breakthroughs in science and technology and indirectly protect them until he or she makes their discovery. These Shadows are there to see but not be seen, to hear but not be heard.

The story is told in first person by Ren, a girl and social outcast who is kidnapped and forced to become a Shadow. Following her training process, she comes to realize that it isn’t so bad, and that she is actually trying to become better. Excelling through all aspects of transforming into a human weapon, Ren is given her link: a college guy named Gareth. Because of certain circumstances, Ren is forced to make direct contact with her link, breaking the rules that define a Shadow. Over time, she becomes friends with Gareth, and encourages him as he creates a wheat seed that can grow without water.

While I was reading this story, I thought it would be cool to have the abilities that the Shadows have, but it wouldn’t be cool to be taken from my family in the dead of night at age 14 and forced to undergo 4 years of rigorous training to not be seen again. If you’ve read and liked this book, want to read it, or read something similar, post a comment!

-Kyle H.

I Become Shadow is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

scarletletter_nathawthorneI recently read the classic novel The Scarlet Letter. I really enjoyed the dramatic story of Hester Prynne and her daughter Pearl as they live in a strict Puritan society. Nathaniel Hawthorne was clever in his symbolic elements to highlight the importance of such things like the scarlet letter itself, her daughter Pearl, and Mr. Dimmesdale among others.

To give a brief description of the story: The novel opens with a woman named Hester Prynne being publicly scorned after her release from prison. The reader is informed that she was convicted of adultery and as punishment must wear a scarlett letter “A” sewn onto the breast of her dress. She is holding her daughter in her arms who we later find out is named Pearl. As the story progresses Hester and Pearl face challenges for being outcasts of their society. But Hester’s love for her daughter and her strength in character get them through along with the help of a sacrificial man (whose name I will not reveal because no spoilers!) The story ends dramatically but you will have to read to find out!

I loved how Hawthorne ended the book because he brought closure with a tiny cliff hanger that perfectly balance the other out. My favorite character is Arthur Dimmesdale-the adored priest of the town who saves Hester from having to give up her daughter. His charm and genuine heart carry off the pages and into the hearts of the readers. The dreary character of Robert Chillingworth gives an eerie vibe to the story when he sets out for revenge against his wife and her mysterious lover. The story and the characters come together in this Puritan society through love, revenge, and more, and it is definitely one of my favorite required reads so far.

All in all, this twisted love triangle story is a classic for a reason. I love the writing and though the vocabulary is tricky at parts, this book is definitely recommended by me!

– Kelsey H., 11th grade

The Scarlet Letter is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Overdrive.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

tuesdaysmorrie_mitchalbomI really needed another book to read so I asked my mom if there was a book in her library that I could read. She gave me a book called Tuesdays with Morrie and told me that it’s about life lessons and stuff like that. It really didn’t sound interesting but I decided to give it a shot. It was so worth it. Tuesdays with Morrie, is more of a life lesson book for sure, but it is heart warming. Typically I like read the adventure/dystopian type novel so this story was somewhat out of my comfort level. So if you don’t mind reading a slower book then you should check out this book.

Mitch Albom tells about his own personal, strong relationship between himself and his favorite college professor. After leaving college, 16 years later, Mitch gets a new job as a journalist for the Detroit newspaper. It is a well- paid job but empty and he begins to feel depressed. After meeting with his mentor to catch up, Mitch decides to have Morrie mentor him once again. They met up every Tuesday(hence the name).

Through their time together you grow to love old Morrie and take in his lessons too. I didn’t understand all of them because some were directed towards adults but I definitely learned a good deal of them. One is “Life is a series of pulls back and forth… A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. Most of us live somewhere in the middle. A wrestling match…Which side win? Love wins. Love always wins”  There are so many more meaningful quotes and lessons sprinkled throughout this book.

I really hope you check this book out because it is one of my favorites!

-Erika T.

Tuesdays with Morrie is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Overdrive.

Antigone by Sophocles

oedipus_sophocles“Antigone” is one play in the book of The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles. Antigone starts after Oedipus passed away in Colonus. It is a famous tragedy set in the disastrous city of Thebes. Some popular themes featured in the play are male vs. female, family ties vs. civic duty, and morality vs. law.

Antigone and her sister, Ismene, decide to return to Thebes to help their brothers, Eteocles and Polynices. When they arrive at Thebes, the sisters come to know that both brothers have been killed. Eteocles has been given a proper burial, however, Creon refuses to do so for Polynices because he thinks he betrayed the city.  Antigone disobeys the law and buries Polynices anyway, in order to honor her brother and the life he lived. Creon finds out about the illegal burial soon enough, and when he locks Antigone up in a jail cell, she kills herself. The blind prophet Teiresias, Haemon, which is Creon’s son and Antigone’s fiance, and the Chorus beg to release her from prison, without the knowledge that she is already dead. Creon eventually surrenders, only to realize that she has killed herself. At the end of the play, Creon is left sorrowful and lonely, since nobody believed that his actions were justified.

-Nirmeet B.

Antigone is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Who’s heard of Of Mice and Men? I don’t mean the band; I’m talking about the famous John Steinbeck book set in the life of the farmers who worked in California in the 1930s.

If you do of who I’m talking about, and also like Of Mice and Men, then you’re in luck. John Steinbeck wrote multiple books about people living in California including one of my personal favorites, Cannery Row.
This book is about the life of the people who lived along the streets of Cannery Row in Monterrey: drunks, a famous doctor, the Chinese man who owns a successful grocery store, even the gopher looking for a mate.
Most of the book talks about how each person goes about their life, but the main story is about a humorous group of men who travel from job to job, their plans to throw the famous doctor a party, and what goes wrong.
Along with a simple, no evil guys, slice of life story, there is comedy and a real life example of how people lived in the 1940s after the war. There are also themes of loners, but there is the lesson that someone is always there to support you.
It’s a little hard to read, but I found this book amazing and encourage you to read it.
-Megan V., 9th grade
Cannery Row is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library