Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress

Steal Across the Sky, by Nancy Kress, is a sci-fi book about the effect an alien race, the Atoners, have upon humanity.  Showing up in the not-very-distant future, they state that they have committed a crime against humanity, and ask people from all over the world to submit applications for the opportunity to go to space in order to witness their crime. A few dozen people are chosen, and of them, only about six come back to Earth having actually witnessed the crime. The story focuses mainly on four characters and how they deal with the revelation. When they had returned from space, those who had witnessed the crime inform their governments and people of what they had witnessed, and this although leads to radical and terrorist groups springing up, for the most part, it does not greatly affect the society that the characters are living in or how it runs. Interspersed throughout the book are ads and, at some point, an email, that take the scope of the story away from just the characters and show the Atoners’ impact on (mainly) the U.S..

Personally, I found that the book started off strongly, and at first I was going to stop reading, but I wanted to find out what crime the Atoners had committed. Then, after I found out, I kept reading because the author didn’t reveal what remedial action the Atoners had promised to take for their crime until the very end of the book. The one thing that really bothered me about the book was that the author never revealed why the Atoners had come to Earth and committed their crime, but otherwise, I thought the plot was unique and well-written.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

I’m not much of a Marvel fan to begin with. Nothing against the movies, I was just never very interested in plots about superheroes saving civilians. My boyfriend decided to take me (on our very first date) to watch Spider-Man: Homecoming which came out this summer. To my surprise the movie is full of excitement, action, thrills, and most of all bravery.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is an American superhero film based on the Marvel comics franchise and uses actor Tom Holland to portray Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man. Now every super hero needs a mentor and that so happens to be Robert Downey Jr. also known as Iron Man. From a first time watcher’s opinion, I was very impressed with how the plot was put together. There was never a dull or boring moment while the movie played. Many laughs as well as “ahhs” were heard during the movie as it kept us all on the edge of our seat, eager to find out what will happen next.

I would totally recommend Spider-Man: Homecoming to anyone looking for a thrill at the movie theater and of course suggest it to the original Marvel fans. I can promise that all will leave with a smile on their face and an itch of curiosity while we all wait to see what Marvel can come up with next!

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

In Challenger Deep, written by Neal Shusterman, Caden Bosch is a teenager who struggles with mental illness. This story is told from two perspectives where it switches from his point-of-view of his life and his fantasy world. In his fantasy world, he has become a part of a voyage with a man who calls himself the Captain and his parrot to explore the Marianas Trench, Challenger Deep, to find the bottom of it.

In Caden’s daily life, he begins to show signs of his mental illness. His friends, family, and teachers begin to notice his anxiety, his random thoughts, and his new hobby of pacing and walking. At first, they shrug it off thinking it’s only a phase, but everyday Caden falls deeper in his mental illness.

Caden’s story is an emotional one about a boy going through his first mental breakdown. There were some funny moments, but it’s a sad story of a teen going through a mental illness.

Although it took me some time to read this book, I highly recommend reading it. This book gave me some new insight about how people with mental illnesses feel. The author did a fantastic job in capturing Caden’s emotions and of his family and friends emotions.

There are some curse words ( no F-bombs though) and no sexual content (Yay for those who don’t want to read smut!). This book has little to no romance since it mainly focuses more on the friendships of Caden and his recovery from his mental breakdown.

This is a good book for older teens, I don’t recommend kids ages 13 and younger reading this because of the mature themes. Also, it can be a bit confusing because it’s from Caden’s perspective, but it’s entertaining.

*Spoiler alert* In one scene, some of the patients talk about what happened to them before they were hospitalized. The author doesn’t go into detail, but it’s a little disturbing. 

-Ash A.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Eleven year old Harry Potter knows little of what he is capable of. After all, he’s lived with his Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and their son Dudley Dursley ever since the death of his parents in a supposed car crash. Living under the cupboard in the Dursley household is the miserable life Harry has become familiar with- nobody to celebrate his birthdays with, nothing to call his “own,” and on top of all this no one to call his mother or father.

All this changes the day he receives a mysterious letter, via owl, inviting him into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In that moment, he finds out he is a wizard! Harry, eager to leave his aunt and uncle, accepts the gesture. He befriends Hagrid, gamekeeper of Hogwarts, who assists Harry in gathering the necessary materials for his first year at school.

In a single year at wizards’ school, Harry has had more fun than all his eleven years combined! He is acquainted with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, two other first year students at Hogwarts. In addition, he uncovers his natural ability of flying on a broom! Harry joins the Quidditch team, where he is able to fly around the field to his heart’s content. Not only this, but he also learns much about the history of magic, potions, and even spells! There is still much for Harry and his friends to uncover as they discover what magic lies within the walls of Hogwarts.

J.K. Rowling has whisked me into the mythical journey of Harry Potter. I haven’t read a book so quickly in such a long time; I couldn’t seem to put it down! I am very excited to see what other adventures unfold for Harry as he discovers his true talents.

-Skyler K.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Interwoven by a single object, the three lives of children are forever changed by magical harmonica in the novel Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

The story begins with a young boy named Otto, who meets three sisters when he gets lost in a forbidden forest. Interacting with them, Otto realizes the mysterious nature of them. The sisters guide him home, and give him a harmonica with a special “M” seal. The harmonica makes its way to a young boy named Friedrich in Germany.

Hitler is rising, and the Nazi’s party influence is very prominent; resistance to it is very difficult. Discovering the special harmonica in the factory his Father works in, Friedrich plays it and realizes there is something special about it. Because of unforeseen circumstances, he is forced to get rid of the harmonica.

It travels next to Mike, an orphan, in Pennsylvania. Constantly taking care of his younger brother, Mike is looking for a break to help himself and his brother out of their destitute lives. Musically gifted with playing the piano, Mike discovers the special harmonica. He and his brother are eventually adopted, but there are some complications with their new guardian. The last child in the novel is Ivy. Receiving the harmonica, her special talent for playing is recognized by her teacher; her teacher chooses her to play a solo in a special concert, but Ivy’s Father receives a job, forcing her to move way. Her Father’s job is to take care of a farm of Japanese family, while they are in an internment camp. The neighboring farms are anti-Japanese, and some vandalize the property. The harmonica helps her adjust to the move. Each of the children’s lives have their own story with the harmonica, but the ending ties them all together beautifully.

Even though this book is intended for younger children, anybody of any age would enjoy this novel because of its simplistic nature and “feel-good” element. My favorite part of this book was how there were multiple stories, and they were told in such detail, that one was able to connect and understand the individual characters. It is also relatable because of the backdrop of the second World War, and how it impacted people differently depending on where they lived. The “magic” element made the novel all the more enjoyable because it captured the innocence of the young children.

I loved Echo, and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a light, quick read.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Film Review: Wonder Women

I was really excited when I heard that DC had finally made the iconic Wonder Women into a movie. And I wasn’t disappointed. DC did a great job with the movie keeping Wonder Women the iconic female superhero that everyone remembers.

Diana is just a little kid who wants to fight. Who wants to be just like all the other Amazons on Themyscira, even though she is the only kid on the island. But her mom, Hippolyta doesn’t want her to. So she trains in secret.

But one day, Steve Trevor crashes into the island. Not far behind him, an entire army of Germans. The amazons, defeat the army, but they lose many and Steve explains the raging war, World War 1, the war to end all wars.

Only Diana believes this is the war, created by Ares, that the Amazons were created to defeat.  So she sneaks out, with Trevor, and they sail to Europe.  Where she finally sees the full-scale of what she is dealing with. As well as how different modern life is compared to life on the Amazons island.

She fights. Becoming the hero everyone needed. Helping give courage to those around her. Until she finds Ares.

I really loved this movie. And I would recommend this movie to anyone who loves superhero movies.

-Ava G.

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

It’s said that a mother is one of the most important people in a person’s life. To Maya Angelou, her mother, Vivian Baxter, was no exception. As Maya Angelou said about her mother, “You were a terrible mother of small children, but there has never been anyone greater than you as a mother of a young adult” (197).

Mom and Me and Mom follows Maya Angelou through her journey learning to trust and love herself and the people in her life. After being abandoned and sent to live with her grandmother until her early teenage years, Maya was astounded that she would have to live with her “movie-star” mother. Maya just could not get used to Vivian Baxter; she was so different than her grandmother. It would take years before Maya would call her mother Mom, frequently referring to her as Lady or Mother. Also, though Maya asked for advice from her mother, she took no charity and moved out to live on her own as soon as she was able.

But thanks to her mother’s guidance, Maya led an extraordinary life, raising her son and working so many unique and varying jobs that took her all over the world.

This novel was incredible! Maya Angelou is such an inspiration, with what she made of her life, despite some of the situations she was dealt. My favorite part of the book was how easy to read it was, even when dealing with tough topics. Maya Angelou told it as it was, with a level of grace that was amazing.

I heard about this autobiography through Our Shared Shelf on Goodreads. Emma Watson, in tandem with her work for UN Women, created Our Shared Shelf to promote feminism and equality. Their current recommended novel is The Handmaid’s Tale, which I can’t wait to read next!

– Leila S., 11th grade

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.