Anything But Okay by Sarah Darer Littman

Anything But Okay by Sarah Darer Littman is about Stella Walker, a junior in high school. She is like most other teenage girls, but her whole life is shaken up once her older brother, Rob, returns from serving as a Marine. Her brother is suffering from PTSD, and a lack of resources from the VA means the family has to wait for counseling. Unfortunately, Rob gets agitated and punches a boy in the face at the mall after the boy was harassing a worker by saying “go back to your country.” In the politicized climate of the town mayor running from election, many say that Rob is a terrorist sympathizer. This extreme dialogue affects her best friend and family, who is Muslim.

Dealing with the turmoil of all this by running for class president, Stella must tell the right side of the story and be able to diffuse the tension. Anything But Okay is a powerful novel for teenagers to read because of the topics explored are a reflection of the ones in our community today. By telling the story in the point of view of Stella, the novel gives young adults someone  they can relate to and learn from.

This novel was different because of how relatable it is to society today. It gives a hypothetical, but startling, scenario, where lies fueled by speculation can spread like wildfire and do almost as much damage as one. I would recommend this book not only to teenagers, but adults as well to understand a fresh perspective about the political turmoil in the news.

-Anmol K.

Anything But Okay by Sarah Darer Littman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

This story follows 12-year-old Miranda through a unique and interesting tale about time travel and how every moment in time is connected.

Miranda’s story is a narration about everything in great detail that has happened the past fall and winter.  The letter, aka the story she is telling, is the strange request of a mysterious individual who has left her notes and seemingly can predict the future.  This person tells Miranda in the notes that he is coming to save a person she cares about and himself, but to find out if this person succeeds, you must read this book!

I really enjoyed this book because of how you know nothing about the character, exposition, or setting, but slowly find out as you go on. There are also interesting descriptions of how each moment in time exists at once that makes you think in a whole new way. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves A Wrinkle in Time because it’s similar in its ideas of time travel and doing anything for those you love.

-Kaitlyn S.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is available for checkoout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expéry

The Little Prince, known as Le Petit Prince in France, is a best-selling novella by French aristocrat and writer Antoine de Saint Expéry. The narrator, a pilot who crashes in the Sahara Desert, is repairing his plane as he is approached by a young boy, the little prince. The prince claims to come from an small asteroid, where he lives with a rose that he loves dearly, and the little prince wants to explore the universe..

The prince first asks the pilot to draw him a sheep, but the pilot is not able to draw a satisfactory sheep for the prince, so he merely draws a box and tells the prince that the sheep he desires is hidden inside. Over the course of a week, while the pilot fixes his plane, the little prince recounts his interesting life story. The prince says he has visited six planets on his journey, which each housed one person: a king, narcissist, alcoholic, businessman, lamplighter, and finally, the last planet had a geographer. The prince also tames a fox, which teaches him that important things can only be seen with one’s heart, not one’s eyes. The book has quite an interesting end: the prince supposedly commits suicide by letting a snake bite him, but claims that he is returning home to his asteroid. The prince finally tells the narrator that it will look like he has died, for his body is too heavy to bring with him. However, the next day, the pilot is unable to locate the little prince’s body.

Ultimately, The Little Prince is a very interesting and touching story with deep lessons behind it. The six people the prince met on the planets each represent a different negative aspect of society, and the reader is left to conclude whether the prince returned home to his rose or died. The Little Prince can be enjoyed by all people of all ages, and it has a different meaning and interpretation for everyone.

-Josh N.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expéry  is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.

To My Poisoned Rose

A beautiful, yet insane mind you had,

To me my rose, you never would revel.

The wind would blow, but you were mad,

You would show your thorns and hide your petals.

Someone tried to yank you from your strong roots,

But your fierce thorns had gotten in the way,

The person’s hand had bled, while you would hoot,

Why would something as beautiful as you enjoy others pain?

Oh, but one winter, you died and withered!

No blood was shed, only a heart and soul.

I embraced you, but you struck a blizzard,

I bled, you laughed, screamed, “Peasant!” with control,

I loved you so, but you couldn’t love anyone,

I grabbed a knife and stabbed myself, you won.

-Kimi M.

Theater Review: Dear Evan Hansen

The Tony-winning Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen is currently on tour around the US, and I was lucky enough to snag tickets for a show in Costa Mesa. I had already listened to the soundtrack more times than I could count, but I was ridiculously excited anyway. Dear Evan Hansen is one of my favorite musicals of all time, and it is the second musical ever that I have seen live. And, let me tell you, it was a treat.

This musical addresses one of today’s biggest issues: teen suicide and anxiety. The main character, Evan Hansen, has extreme social anxiety, and his therapist tells him to write positive letters to himself. However, when he prints a failed version one of these letters (it was very pessimistic) out in his school’s computer lab, Connor Murphy, a fellow student, snatches it from him and shoves him. Later, the characters find that Connor has committed suicide, and they find Evan’s letter in his pocket. They think that the letter is Connor’s suicide note, addressed to Evan, and them Evan and his family friend, Jared, get dragged into a huge mess of lies and deception. Evan and Jared write fake emails to Connor to “prove” that they are friends, and they start a huge project to spread awareness for Connor’s death. Evan even gets together with his long-time crush, Zoe Murphy, who also happens to be Connor’s sister.

However, nothing this perfect can last, especially if it is based on a lie. Evan’s mom finds out about the Connor project and how he has been spending almost every night at the Murphys’ home. The whole charade falls apart, Evan eaves the Connor Project, and he and Zoe break up. Although he and Zoe do make peace at the end of the musical, I was still in tears throughout the entirety of Act 2.

Although the soundtrack was very differet from the actual live musical, both are thoroughly enjoyable. Dear Evan Hansen is one of my favorite musicals of all time for its storyline and beautifully written characters, and seeing it live is not something that I will ever forget. This musical is truly fantastic, and I would definitely encourage seeing it if possible.

-Arushi S.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval, by Stephanie Garber, begins with Scarlett Dragna, who lives on a secluded isle with a cruel father who uses his daughters’ love for each other to control them. Whenever Scarlett does something wrong, her father punishes her sister, Donatella (Tella), instead. Scarlett banks her and her sister’s safety on her upcoming arranged marriage to a count whom she has only conferred with through letters. 

For years, Scarlett has written to Legend, the mysterious master of Caraval, hoping that he will bring his extravagant performance to her isle. Finally, when Legend writes back with three tickets to Caraval (which will be taking place on a magical island this year), Scarlett thinks she Tella would be better off not going. However, Tella has other ideas.

Far more bold and far less of a worrier than her protective sister, Tella and a strange sailor, Julian, conspire to bring Scarlett away from their father to the island where Caraval will be that year. When Tella suddenly disappears, Scarlett, who would do anything for her sister, begins to find that Tella has a greater part in Caraval than Scarlett had known. The only way Scarlett knows of that will reunite her with Tella is to win Caraval.

Caraval is Legend’s once-a-year performance which takes place over the course of five nights. Ticket holders can choose to either watch or play the game. The year Scarlett plays, the stage is a village, where the audience members who have chosen to play the game stay. Each night, Caraval fills with magic and illusions, and the players search for clues to guide them to the final prize. Scarlett finds herself in a performance where reality is blurred; it becomes difficult to differentiate the real people from actors who are simply playing parts in the game.

With Stephanie Garber’s beautiful descriptions and elegant characters, Caraval is one of my favorite young adult books. I particularly enjoyed reading from Scarlett’s perspective because her personality is not necessarily standard of a fantasy novel’s heroine, but her love for her sister motivates her throughout the book. By the end of Caraval, she has noticeably grown. Scarlett also describes senses and feelings with color, and the vivid imagery that results is magical. 

The story of Scarlett and Tella is continued in Legendary, which is written from the perspective of Tella. 

Caraval’s fantastic characters, vivid descriptions, and unanticipated turns make the book so difficult to set down. Stephanie Garber’s exquisite writing is a wonderful gift to read, and I highly recommend Caraval.

– Mia T.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey is the second book from the 5th Wave series. This book focuses on everything that happens after the explosion of Camp Haven. Cassie, Ben, Dumbo, Ringer, Poundcake, Nugget, and Teacup are all holed up in an old hotel. They have nowhere to go and are running dangerously low on supplies. Ringer refuses to believe Cassie about Evan Walker and how he survived the explosion at Camp Haven.

Tired of staying in the hotel, Ringer and Teacup set off to explore and look for caverns to hide in. After they have been gone for an unusually long time, Ben starts to worry.  Then Evan appears and sends everybody into a panic not knowing whether they can trust him. Then they hear the sounds of a helicopter over the hotel, which makes their worries worse. As the helicopter goes farther and farther away, a child appears in the hallway. She repeats over and over saying her throat hurts. She is taken into a hotel room to get rest and once inside, they see that her throat is extremely swollen. They look inside her throat and find what has caused it to swell. The Others had inserted a bomb into her throat which would detonate when it detected carbon dioxide. They quickly take the bomb out of her throat and leave the hotel. Meanwhile, Ringer had been captured by Vosch and was being implanted with the 12th system. She kills the nurse who is taking care of her and escapes with Teacup.

-E. Vargas

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.