The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

testing_joellecharbonneauDo you like standardized testing filled with hours of questions you have to fill out with a number two pencil? Wouldn’t it be more interesting if wrong answers resulted in your death? Welcome to The Testing.

Set in a dystopian future, this is the life of Cia as she is chosen for the testing. She’s from a small town, but is very smart and wants to be a mechanical engineer. There are several stages of testing, the first few standard things that you’d expect: math, history, etc. A question about categorizing plants between poisonous and nonpoisonous really showcases the intensity of the testing. Everyone had to eat the plants that they categorized and nonpoisonous. If they were wrong, well, death ensued.

What I found disappointing was that this book did not feel original to me. Maybe I’ve just read too many dystopian novels at this point, or this book borrowed too many similar ideas (aside from written standardized testing as far as I know) to feel new to me. There is a mostly average girl from an underrated location who goes somewhere new to survive and prove her worth. The underestimated idea from district twelve as well as a physical aspect of wilderness survival reminded me of The Hunger Games. The idea of a test where anyone can die at any time felt like Divergent. And the ominous government hiding everything from the public can go back to almost any dystopian work.

That isn’t to say it wasn’t a good book. Cia is a strong female character who uses her brains and even weapons when the events call on her to defend herself. She has a love interest, but he’s not really the focus. I didn’t really feel that Cia was really interested in him too much either because the situation she’s in took precedence in the plot. If you aren’t sick of dystopias at this point and don’t mind a few repeated themes, go ahead and give The Testing a try.

-Nicole G., 12th Grade

The Testing is available for download from Overdrive.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

animalfarm_georgeorwellAnimal Farm, a novella by George Orwell, is an allusion to the Russian Revolution and certain events in World War Two. The book begins with a boar named Old Major talking to the animals about his dream about revolution. All the animals on the farm want to overthrow their horrendous leader; Mr. Jones. As a result, when the idea of revolution is introduced, all the animals agree. A couple days later, Old Major died. However, the revolution continued. Two pigs took control when Mr. Jones left the farm: Snowball and Napoleon. Napoleon becomes power hungry and chases Snowball off of the farm. Over time, Napoleon becomes more and more corrupt and over the years he slowly changes the values of Animalism. At the end of the book, the animals can not tell the difference between the pigs and their so called better values and the humans that were ruling them before.

Having read this book as a homework assignment for school, I read it with a different approach and attitude. I put a lot of focus on what was happening and I analyzed the book much more than I would have if I was reading it leisurely. However, I believe this made the book more enjoyable due to the fact that I understood it better and I picked on interesting portions of the book that I wouldn’t have seen if I didn’t put so much thought into it. As a result, my recommendation for any interested readers is to read this book with care and thought because it makes the book much more enjoyable. All in all, I thought that this was a very well written book and I would recommend others to read it!

-Melika R., 10th grade

Animal Farm is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360

Witch and Wizard

witchwizard_jamespattersonIn the book, Witch and Wizard by James Patterson, the government has been taken over by a group called the New Order. Laws have been passed that ban certain things like art and books. They are forbidden! In charge of this government is a person with the title of The One Who Is The One. Because of the new government ruled by The One Who Is The One, magic is banned.

Captured in the middle of the night, the Allgood siblings are arrested by the police from their parents. They have been accused for possessing magical abilities. Both of them are sentenced to be executed. Because they are still minors, they are taken to prison, where they discover a whole group of other kids like them. The siblings had no idea about their magical abilities, but as the story continues they practice and get more comfortable with it. After finding out their parents have been captured, they use their newly discovered power to break themselves out of prison. With an ending sure to surprise you, check out this book today!

James Patterson is a great author and I have read his Maximum Ride books. Knowing his great sense of writing, I expected Witch and Wizard to be just as great. The premise of the story was exciting, but as the story continued, it fell a little bit short of expectations. The plot had great potential, and the vast majority of it was executed all right. As the story continued and the protagonists discovered more and more of their powers, the plot left me wanting more. Overall, an okay book, but I strongly suggest it for people who are big fans of the magic genre.

-Anmol K.

Witch & Wizard is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, and Overdrive.

Owari no Serafu (Seraph of the End) by Takaya Kagami and Yamoto Yamamoto

Modern Japan (and the rest of the world) has been ravaged by a virus, leaving almost everyone above the age of twelve dead.

Monsters called the Four Horsemen of John have come into the world, eating humans they cross. Vampires, afraid that their food supply would be lost, have come out and made human children as their livestock.

Yu, Mika, and the rest of the children of the Hyakuya orphanage are livestock to vampires. This has been the case for four years: living in a city made by vampires that they can’t get out of. Yu hates it, but the person that he feels like is his brother, Mika, feels that by giving his blood, his family (the orphanage) can escape. Something goes terribly wrong in the plan, and Yu is the only one who escapes, vowing to get revenge.

Four years later, at the age of sixteen, Yu trains to be in the Japanese Imperial Demon Army, made up with Japan’s last humanity that fights the Vampires. But what if he meets new friends who can become his “family”, knowing that he is haunted by his past? And what happens when he gets a demon to wield, who tells him that he is not totally human?

This manga is wrapped in chaos, fear, and mystery, making it a very good plot to follow and keep readers on the edges of their seats. Additionally, there is a lot of unexpected comic relief, so this is not a serious manga like Attack on Titan usually is. The characters in this dystopia world seem very real, as though they were people the reader would know. Finally, the drawings are amazing; both action scenes and scenes of down time (school, suspenseful scenes, etc.) are well done and very thorough.

If anyone is looking for an action manga that is not too serious, this is one to read. However, although it can be found in Barnes & Noble, it can not be found in the Mission Viejo Library.

-Megan V., 10th grade

Burn for Burn Trilogy by Jenny Han

burnforburn_jennyhanBurn for Burn, Fire with Fire, and Ashes to Ashes, is a trilogy by Jenny Han. This series is about a fascinating turn of events that leave the readers feeling haunted inside.

In Burn for Burn there are three main characters: Kat, Lillia, and Mary. Kat and Lillia had a history of friendship with Rennie until one fine day, Rennie backstabbed (not literally!) Kat, causing their friendship to fall apart. Lillia is the “it” girl, best friends with Rennie, on the cheerleading team, and right in the middle of the popular group at their high school. Mary is traumatized from an event that occurred years ago in her childhood, for the very reason she has come back to Jar Island is for revenge. All three of the girls meet each other at the right place at the right time, and cook up a pot full for homecoming night, an event that shakes all and changes the lives of few.

In Fire with Fire, the girls serve time for their actions, causing them to regret the decisions they made months ago. Homecoming night hurt a lot of people, but it also critically damaged one of them–coincidentally it was Reeve, who tragically haunted Mary years ago. The girls just wanted to show the rest of the school Reeve’s bad side, but things happened that night that weren’t planned. They’ve gotten away with it for now… but Mary needs to control her anger and it seems like she just can’t.

In the last novel of this trilogy, Ashes to Ashes, Lillia, Kat, and Mary lit a fire without even thinking. Their goal was to get even, but now the fire is spreading. In this last book, a huge plot twist comes our way, and I am talking amazingly enormous. Out of all of the books I have read throughout my life, the plot twist that the readers come to find out in the last book of this trilogy is the best most surprising twist I have ever read.

I would definitely recommend this series to any girl because it starts out as a normal high school novel, but really turns into something you never expected, and its just really interesting to see how the characters progress throughout the couple of years. Absolutely on the top of my list for my best reads.

-Nirmeet B.

Jenny Han’s trilogy and her other works are available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360

Inspire a Passion for Reading

We all love to read. And as a Senior Girl Scout, deciding what to base my Gold Award project on was a no-brainer: reading. The Gold Award is the highest level of achievement in Girl Scouts—the equivalent of reaching Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts. For my project, I wanted to take my love of reading and expand the opportunities reading has for children. With the help of my take action team, I created children’s library programs that provided working parents with a free and safe place for their children after-school.

Through my project I was able to share my love of reading with kids from our community. I am so glad that I was able to use my passion to inspire others. I can say on behalf of all the volunteers who participated in my project that teaching children to read was an invaluable experience. Completing my Gold Award has taught me to be a thoughtful leader by listening to the ideas of others on my team. I also learned what it must be like for librarians and teachers to see the joy and understanding on a child’s face. It is truly incredible to be a part of their journey learning to read and experimenting with different genres and ways of reading.

Now that I have completed my project, I definitely recommend teens in our community to create their own ways of encouraging reading. Get creative! Maybe just by writing a blog about how you wish to promote reading, someone will be inspired to do the same. If we all share our experiences and our thoughts on the importance of reading, I am certain that we will have an impact in our community. Interview a teacher or a librarian—they are some of the best examples of how teaching children to read benefits them in the future. Research the facts showing the impact that reading has on the lives of children. Whether or not you choose to take action, I hope that my review of my experience will inspire others to join me encouraging reading. Together we can share our love of books with the people around us. But don’t forget to educate and inspire others to follow your lead!

I encourage you to think about ways you can use your love of reading to benefit others. Whether it’s on a local, national, or global level, your ideas can inspire and motivate people to take action. Please leave me a comment telling me what ideas you have for spreading the love of reading and some ways you think we can accomplish it together!

-Kelsey H.