Solstice by P.J. Hoover

solstice_pjhooverDo you like dystopias or mythology books? What about books that are both?

Solstice combines a dystopian-end-of-the-world atmosphere with a core plot that connects to mythology. Meet Piper. She’s just your average teenage girl with an overprotective mother living in a world that hasn’t seen winter for as long as she’s been alive. The heat waves that threaten the world are getting worse, which makes Piper’s mom more protective causing Piper to rebel all the more. She gets a tattoo with her friend and plans on moving away as soon as she finishes high school.

When Piper’s mom goes out of town, Piper finds herself pulled towards freedom and romance. But will it be with Reece who breaks rules for fun or Shane who makes her heart beat faster when she sees him? As she learns more about gods and the battle for the underworld, it’s hard for Piper to know who to trust. But whoever she is with, Piper can tell everyone is keeping secrets. Will she find a way to stop the world from dying and even find out who she is?

The romance here is a bit cliche with the insta-love-triangle. It isn’t bad per say, just nothing that new or special. I think I enjoyed more of the idea of the plot, how the mythology and dystopia blended together more than the characters. If the premise seems interesting enough, give it a read because it’s an interesting take of gods dealing with the end of the world.

-Nicole G., 12th Grade

Solstice is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Fahrenheit 451

fahrenheit451_bradburyFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury tells the tale of fireman Guy Montag. Read by many people since 1952, it is considered as a modern classic. Taking place in the future, society is obsessed with their television sets and radios. Nobody reads books anymore because of society’s obsession with technology. Firemen are sent to the houses of people who possess books in order to burn them. Guy Montag is a thirty-year-old man who burns books for a living. He does not think too much about this until one day he meets Clarisse McClellan. A seventeen-year-old girl, Clarisse starts up a conversation with Montag, and asks if he is happy.

This simple question causes Montag to rethink his life, and the righteousness of his job. He also wonders what the books he burns actually contain. Taking a book to his home, Montag tries to reason with his wife, but it does not work out. Eventually, his boss, the fire captain, discovers Montag’s secret and comes to arrest him. On the run, Montag is considered a fugitive.

A perplexing tale like this one is hard to forget after finishing. Bradbury’s way of writing is beautifully crafted. The ability to integrate so many different ideas at once was very interesting. I also enjoyed how Bradbury used imagery to convey some things instead of naming them directly. Also, the complex building of Guy’s character was really fascinating. Despite being written over fifty years ago, this book still resonates after turning the last page. I would recommend this to anybody looking for an interesting view on a technologically obsessed society.

-Anmol K.

Fahrenheit 451 is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available digitally through Overdrive

The Devil’s Intern by Donna Hosie

It all started the day Mitchell died. Actually, just kidding. It all started when “Medusa”, Mitchell’s frenemy/sort-of-girlfriend died forty years ago in San Francisco. No, it probably started back in 1666, when Mitchell’s British friend (who received a pin in Hell because of that year) died in a fire. Actually, it should probably start during Viking times, when Mitchell’s other friend died in battle. Confusing? Well, this is a book about time travel. And death. And Hell.

Mitchell, being dead for four years, wonders why he died. He knew that he died because he didn’t look when crossing the street (and that kids, is why looking both ways to cross is very important), but he wonders what made him not remember. Now, he’s stuck in Hell because of it, with his every day life being an intern to the Devil’s Secretary in Hell. Amidst the crowdedness of Hell and his three best friends in tow, he learns of a time machine being stored right near where he works. And it was Medusa, after all, who gives him the idea to change his death. Along with his three friends who want to change their deaths too. But death isn’t so easily changed, as Mitchell and his friends soon find out by paying the price.

I love the humor in this book. Mitchell is the typical hero who tries to make everything awkward but messes up. Hell, at least the interpretation of it, is my favorite since Hosie purposefully makes it not like the stereotypical Hell. Sure it’s overheated a lot, but other than that, it seems like a regular Earth, with the exception of the Devil’s daily tantrums and the fact that Hell’s going bankrupt.

It is also well thought out. I’m pretty sure that there are a multitude of books where the hero tries to think about what would happen if a certain death didn’t happen (ex: Harry with Dumbledore), but there are few that actually go into the consequences (ex: Dumbledore would’ve still died, and instead died in a way he wanted), and I like how Hosie goes into it.

Overall, if you like comedy or time-travel, I highly recommend this book.

-Megan V, 10th grade

The Devil’s Intern is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Sun + Science = Fun

What started as a dreary, overcast morning in Mission Viejo later turned into a warm, lovely sunny afternoon. Perfect conditions for sun printing! On Saturday, March 19th, teens gathered at the Mission Viejo Library to make crafts using a product called Inkodye. Right out of the bottle, the fluid is translucent and bland in hue but when set in the sun for about twelve minutes, the dye reacts and releases its true, vibrant color! Using photo negatives and paper cut outs, our group made some really creative pieces of art. See for yourself!

The Program by Suzanne Young

theprogram_suzanneyoung“But the psychologists say that suicide is a behavioral contagion. It’s the old adage ‘If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you, too?’ Apparently the answer is yes” (9).

In Sloane’s world, nothing is as it seems. Any sign of depression, even just crying in public, and a teenager risks being sent to The Program, a “solution” to the suicide epidemic. Here, teenagers’ minds are wiped clean so they can start their lives again. The handlers medicate them to erase all their pain and memories, leaving all the returners “empty,” as Sloane might say.

Sloane, her boyfriend James, and their friend Miller do not agree. They would prefer to die than be sent to The Program, which makes things slightly more complicated.

Overall, I found this book to be a compelling read. I would definitely recommend it, yet keep in mind that it discusses a sensitive topic. For that reason, I would recommend this book for a slightly older audience. Even at my age, I was a disturbed by the repetition of suicide in the novel.

On a brighter note, however, the narrative was sentimental. The Program is definitely one of those books where you sympathize with the characters. From the perspective of a critic, the storytelling leaves readers with questions which are left unanswered until the very end, which makes me want to read the rest of the series.

– Leila S., 10th grade

The Program is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

lifeofpi_yannmartelLife of Pi, by Yann Martel, is perhaps one of the greatest books on philosophy ever written, delving heavily into themes of faith and hope, all while telling the exciting story of a boy and a tiger.

The story goes like this: Piscine Patel is a young Indian boy who lives on a zoo. There, surrounded by animals and the beauty of nature, Pi develops a fascination with religion, exploring and questioning every aspect of it. When his family is shipping the zoo across the ocean, a storm sinks the ship. As the sole survivor, Pi is cast to sea on a lifeboat, with only a Bengal Tiger as his companion. While drifting on the Pacific Ocean, Pi survives and slowly creates his own perception of faith and hope.

From the surface, Life of Pi seems like another tale of adventure and survival, much like Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet. However, I personally think that Yann Martel was more writing about the concept of religion. Even the themes of hope and survival are all linked back to Pi’s faith in God, or Gods.

Right from the beginning of the book, Pi establishes himself as an extremely religious person, becoming a devout Christian, Muslim, and Hindu all at once. When the truth comes out, all of his religious leaders and parents push him to settle on one religion. Pi replies, “‘All religions are true.’ I just want to love God” (Martel 69). Whether he is correct in saying this is unimportant, because the purpose is to show the frivolous nature of rivalry between religions. At the same time, he felt that atheists were his “brothers and sisters of a different faith” (28). Of course, when his situation spirals into survival on the ocean, Pi’s faith is shaken, but he finds his own peace with his God.

Life of Pi surpasses an average philosophy textbook because Martel doesn’t monotonously write about philosophical concepts. Instead, he weaves a beautiful story with elements of philosophy introduced alongside Pi’s experiences on the ocean and in his zoo. In this way, the story’s excitement and thoughtfulness work in tandem, each making the other more meaningful.

In conclusion, Life of Pi is a beautifully written book that will leave you questioning your existence without having to endure the boredom of a typical book of philosophy. Perfect!

-Philip X.

Life of Pi is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available digitally from Overdrive.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

killamockingbird_harperleeTo Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is a story about the injustices served to blacks in the 1930s. Jean Louise Finch, more commonly known as Scout, is the main character of this novel. The majority of the novel is focused on the idea that a man who lives down the street is crazy, his name being Boo Radley. Scout, her brother Jem, and their friend Dill. Over the course of the summer, Scout, Jem, and Finch become fascinated with crazy theories such as the idea that Boo comes out in the middle of the night to hunt. As the book progresses, the main idea temporarily shifts to a court case regarding a black man, Tom Robinson, raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. Atticus Finch, Scout’s father, defends Tom despite the fact that the majority of their community is against Tom Robinson. As the trial progresses, Scout seems to gain a better understanding of the horrors blacks face in this time period. She gains an understanding for the injustices in their country.

Through the course of the story, Scout learns about Boo Radley and reaches an unexpected conclusion about him. On the other hand, Scout also learns a lot about the discrimination black people receive, the different treatment they receive, and the different social standards set for them. All in all, I think that this is a piece of literature that everyone should read because of the striking reality of discrimination. Not only that, but there are many valuable lessons underneath the character of Boo Radley. In the end, this is not only a classic, but it is also a book that contains a great mixture between pleasure and entertainment.

-Melika R.