Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Dystopian science fiction is one of the most popular and appealing genres to readers of all ages, especially teens. Novels such as The Hunger Games and Divergent just don’t disappoint. And Pierce Brown’s Red Rising certainly doesn’t either.

Red Rising introduces a society much different from other dystopian settings, containing social classes ranked by color, with Gold at the top and Red at the bottom. When main character Darrow, a Red, witnesses his wife’s unjust hanging by the oppressing dictatorship of the Golds, he decides to act and avenge his loved one’s death. To overthrow such a massive power, he plans to take on the impossible task of becoming one of its own Gold leaders and overthrow the government from the inside.

What will Darrow have to do to succeed?

  • Darrow must physically and mentally become a Gold – think, act, and perform as a superior, perfect human being.
  • Darrow must enroll in The Institute, a government school that teaches its students the nature of conquering others for power. It tests them with a life-sized game similar to capture the flag, where killing opponents is permitted and highly advised. There will be only one graduate from The Institute who will be granted an apprenticeship to eventually become one of the society’s top leaders.
  • Darrow must not show his true identity as a Red and failure to do so means death.

Red Rising is an astounding novel displaying how trust can quickly turn friends into enemies. The creativity and imagination incorporated by Pierce Brown makes it such a brilliant and fantastic work of science fiction. As the first book of a trilogy, the plot really captures my attention, and I cannot wait for what the next two books will bring to the series (Golden Son, Morning Star).

I would rate this book a 9 out of 10 and would recommend it to high school audiences and above. Its use of violence and romance makes it a more mature read than other science fiction novels.

-Riley W.

Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott, is a fantasy novel with both medieval European history and mythology from all around the world woven into it. The story follows Sophie and Josh Newman, two normal teenaged twins spending the summer in San Fransisco while their parents work at an archeological dig in Arizona. Little do they know that their lives are about to be changed forever. 

Sophie and Josh experience one shock after another as they come to realize that the world is full of magic. But not the type of magic we think of straight away. In their world, it is believed that, over time, the human race has neglected the full use of all of their senses. When people are Awakened, when the full extent of the capacities of their senses are activated, what they have the ability to do seems like magic. 

But magic isn’t the only thing that they discover to be true. Famous historical figures, like Nicholas Flamel and his wife, Perenelle, are still alive and have been living on this earth under different aliases for hundreds of years. And even more intriguing, the twins find that figures straight from fairy tales and myths roam the earth. 

Sophie and Josh are dragged into a thrilling and dangerous chase when they unwittingly witness the Book of Abraham the Mage being stolen from Nicholas Flamel. This book, the Codex, contains the recipe for the Elixir of Life, and without it, Nicholas and his wife will age rapidly and perish within the month. But the book also contains another spell. A spell that could compromise the liberty of the human race. Sophie and Josh must assist Nicholas in retrieving the book, else risk the existence of the world as they know it. 

What I admired most about this book was that it introduced mythological characters, creatures, and places from from a variety of different countries. In the world that Scott has created, all of these mythological figures live in the same world and interact with one another. I also enjoyed the historical content that Scott weaves into the story. European history has always piqued my interest, what with all the drama and their heavy belief in the gods. This book provided a sound union of history and mythology and was a very compelling read. 

This book is definitely not monotonous, and in fact is very fast-paced and filled with adventure. It was also easy to relate to the main characters (the twins) and what was going through their minds as their eyes were opened up to the world of magic before them. I enjoyed this book very much, and look forward to reading the remainder of the series. (There are five more books: The Magician, The Sorceress, The Necromancer, The Warlock, and The Enchantress).

-Elina T.

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, and the rest of the books in the series, are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

My Favorite Fictional Characters!

Sodapop Curtis from The Outsiders: After I finished reading the book (The Outsiders), I was absolutely obsessed with it! I loved all the characters very much, but Soda is, by far, my favorite. He’s kind, funny, friendly, and most importantly, he’s a good brother. He protects and stands up for Ponyboy, and does everything he can to help Darry to pay the bills.

Fred Weasley from Harry Potter: (*Spoilers!) Don’t ask me why it’s Fred and not George cause I have no idea why. I do love George too, but for some reason, while I was reading the series for the first time, I decided that Fred was my favorite character. Mind you, I had decided this before I had finished the series, so I was completely heartbroken when he died in the seventh book, as I’m sure everyone was. I just love the twin’s constant bantering and jokes. Despite the fact that I’ve read the series a million times, they never fail to make me laugh.

Percy Jackson from Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus: I think it’s safe to say that this is the only series wherein my favorite character is the main character! I love Percy so much! In a way, I grew up with him as I read the books, and I think that really helped me grow to love him even more. Percy is so endearingly humorous, likable, and just… a fun guy! Even though he’s a very powerful demigod and his father is Poseidon, he acts, for the most part, like a normal teenaged guy.

Newt from The Maze Runner: (*Spoilers!) A Glader, and second-in-command to Alby, Newt is kind yet firm, and grows to be a good and loyal friend to Thomas. Perhaps not as fiery as Minho, Newt brings a more leveled personality to the story and is a very prominent character whom I grew to love and care about while reading the series. I was devastated when Janson (a.k.a. the Rat Man) read out the list of munies and Newt was not on it. It was very sad to see him lose his sanity, but I think he did contribute a lot to the team, and was sorely missed.

Azriel from A Court of Thorns and Roses: Quiet, dark, brooding, and mysterious, he doesn’t talk much, but when he does speak up, everyone pays attention because they know that whatever he has to say is important and significant. He’s an Illyrian warrior! Skilled in combat, he would make a deadly enemy. But he also has a sweet and gentle side. He’s very caring and respectful and enjoys having a laugh with his brother, Cassian, once in a while.

-Elina T.

The Road By Cormac McCarthy

Image result for the road by cormac mccarthy

Anyone who has read Lord of the Flies, or seen the Walking Dead television show, knows that when the world comes to an end, people are going to do whatever they can to survive (ie cannibalism, children killing other children). This is the same with The Road- people shouting “You would have done the same!” as they try to steal and murder each other. But wouldn’t it be just nice if even in this dystopian world, everyone was nice to each other?

An unnamed father and son travel down a road to the sea and try to survive amid the thieves and not knowing who to trust. We don’t fully know what caused the world to be like this- earthquake? extremely hot temperatures? But we do know that rations are limited and they must keep traveling in order to survive. The father always seems to try to resort to a dark side- giving up food for his son, trying to kill everyone who crosses them- but the son keeps him on the road- noticing when the father tries to give the son bigger portions, begging the father not to kill anyone.

All in all, it is a very pleasant story to read, especially since it gives a theme that man will not fully go down the evil side even when there is no hope. However, there are a few writing styles that will turn a few people down. First of all, there are not quotation marks- whenever the character speaks it is either its own separate paragraph or embedded in another paragraph, which makes the reader go back a couple of times in order to figure out who is talking. Additionally, most of the book is written in camera style- the story’s plot moving along because of dialogue, not because of what they thought. This narration is often considered boring by some readers.

However, the story is beautifully written to me, with a compelling message and a heartfelt plot. It is also a quick read compared to some other books. For those who are looking for a twist on the dystopian genre, it is a worthwhile read.

Megan Villagracia, Eleventh Grade.

The Road By Cormac McCarthy is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Harry Potter – Foreign Language Edition!

This summer, my family and I took a vacation to Italy. We had so much fun, but one of the key things I remember about the trip was the different language, and how hard it was to understand things. One day while we were walking through Rome, we came across a bookstore. It was so cool to see all of these books that I recognize, but in a whole new language.

Most importantly, was the Harry Potter series. These books had their own little section at the back of an enormous bookstore. It took me a while to find them because everything was in Italian. I began to read little excerpts from each book, and even though I couldn’t read the native language, I knew these books like the back of my hand. This made it easy for me to tell what is going on without reading and understanding word for word what the pages said. Instead, I would get the general idea from what I knew was going on in the book at the time. This was helpful to improve my ability to understand Italian a little better by translating my version of Harry Potter memorized in my brain against the Italian text. I was soon able to recognize words and their meanings in Italian just by remembering who said what, what was happening, and where they were in the books.

After all this time, Harry Potter is still helping me and teaching me so much.

-Kyle H.

Luna Lovegood Meets Rolf Scamander

I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and I absolutely love Luna! She’s one of my favorite characters. I also really loved the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, so I decided to write out a scenario in which Luna and Rolf (Newt Scamander’s grandson) meet. They do actually meet and end up getting married, but this is an idea that I had of their first encounter.


“Oi!” 

Luna crept forward, gently pushing away some leaves to reveal a young man dashing about. It appeared as if he was searching for a lost possession. 

“Come back here!” He moaned, poking half-heartedly at a knot in a rather gnarled-looking tree. 

He jumped backward immediately, gasping as a flock of birds flew angrily from a branch far above. Luna peered past the shrub she was crouched behind, watching the figure before her as he restlessly ran his hands through his wavy auburn hair. After a few more minutes of searching through the underbrush and surrounding trees, the man sat on the forest floor, and reached out to bring a case toward him. 

Luna squinted-she hadn’t noticed the case before. She watched curiously as the box rattled slightly, as if something was trying to get out. The man simply sighed, leaning forward, and resting his arms on his case. 

Suddenly, Luna felt something tugging at her patchwork bag. 

“Oh!” She exclaimed, immediately clapping a hand over her mouth. 

Her protuberant eyes widened as she watched the man look up, jump to his feet, and pull out his wand. 

Thinking quickly, she decided upon revealing herself. She stood up, pulling the squirming creature from her bag. 

The man stopped short at the sight of her, tilting his head to the side as if deciding whether or not to trust her. 

“Who-?” 

“I’m sorry,” Luna said quickly, maneuvering around the shrub, and holding out the niffler. “I was out collecting freshwater plimpies, and thought I heard something. Is this yours?” 

The man nodded. “Freshwater plimpies prevalent around here?” He asked, stowing his wand back into his coat, and taking the niffler from Luna’s hands. “Thank you, by the way,” he added, indicating the niffler. “He’s always getting into trouble.”

“It’s quite alright,” said Luna, smiling serenely. “And yes, they are. I come down here to collect them every weekend. There’s a stream just down there,” she pointed back in the direction she had come, then looked at the man’s face more closely. “I feel like I’ve seen you before.”

The man, who had crouched down and unlatched the case, paused, studying Luna’s face, his sage-green eyes narrowed and his brows furrowed. 

“Well, I did go to Hogwarts. I’ve been out for a few years though,” he said, remembering he still had the niffler in his hands, and gently placing him into the case. 

“Oh! I went to Hogwarts as well. I was in Ravenclaw,” Luna exclaimed. 

He nodded slowly. “I thought I recognized you! What’s your name?”

“Luna Lovegood,” she said, holding out her hand. 

“I’m Rolf. Rolf Scamander,” he said, grasping her hand. “Pleasure.”

“Likewise,” replied Luna. “Oh, watch out!” She crouched down, catching the little niffler who had made another wild attempt at escape. 

Rolf shook his head, his wavy hair dangling just above his eyes. “He’s always doing that,” he said, once again taking the niffler from Luna and putting him into the case. 

“Hold on,” said Luna, rummaging through her bag and fishing out a few golden galleons. “Here you go!” She held the shiny coins out to the niffler, who nimbly plucked them from her outstretched palm and retreated back into the case. 

Rolf grinned and looked up at the peculiar girl. “Thanks Luna.” He straightened, clutching his case, which was now securely latched shut. “Need any help with the freshwater plimpies?” 


-Elina T.

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

Kaffir Boy, the autobiography of Mark Mathabane, is the haunting story of Mathabane’s life in South Africa under apartheid. In a world where his very existence is frowned upon, and his every movement is monitored by cruel regulations, Mathabane accomplishes feats deemed impossible by the powerful white minority of South Africa. You see, although Mathabane was talented, smart, and athletic, he was black, which, according to the laws of his country, should have sentenced him to a life of poverty and servitude in the ghettos of Johannesburg. However, in a twist of fate, Mathabane enrolls in school and discovers tennis, the sport which changed his life. The rest, up until the publication of his book, is a rollercoaster ride of revolution and rebellion that you will not want to put down for an instant.

The book begins with Mathabane’s childhood, which as you would probably assume, allowed very little room for play or fun. The opening of the book details a police raid in which multitudes of his neighbors were arrested for petty crimes, and sent to work in the countryside for unspecified amounts of time. Later, his family battles starvation. Just when you begin to wonder if times will ever look up for the Mathabanes, they gather enough food to scrape by for another day. Event after event occurs, and you begin to wonder how Mathabane, called “Johannes” in the book, even survived long enough to write the book that you hold in your hands. However, hope comes to the family in the form of education, against all odds.

As a disclaimer, I will say that Kaffir Boy is not exactly a feel-good story. However, it is wonderfully written, triumphant, and eye opening. The book is a look into a world that we tend to glance over. You probably know what apartheid was, but this book is a look into the life of a person oppressed by it. It is also exciting, and shocking in many ways. It is a must read, and I definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.

-Mirabella S.

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library