The Three Theban Plays: Tragedy, Tragedy, and more Tragedy!

Image courtesy of Britannica.com/biography/Sophocles

Oh, Sophocles–the man, the myth, the legend. According to my English teacher, he’s arguably one of the greatest playwrights of all time (don’t worry, Shakespeare, we haven’t forgotten you either). But personally, I kind of…yeah, okay, I have to admit it…despise plays (insert drop the mic gifs here). I mean, reading about two people yammering on in verse to one another for three hundred pages, versus being immersed in a totally epic duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort? I think the choice is obvious here, but who knows, maybe it’s just me.

So how do you get an anti-play person to read one? Answer: assign it for English homework! Now, English Honors as a freshman is pretty fun; I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying it so far. Then, well, the tables turn big time when the teacher straight up announces, “Class, we’re going to reading Oedipus Rex from Sophocles’ Three Theban Plays!”

English took a pretty big plunge down the “Favorite Classes List” after I heard that one.

I’d started dreading going to class, and all because of one dumb play. When you start enjoying Honors Algebra 2 Trig more than English, you know you’ve run into a serious problem, because I was always sort of a bookworm (where are my Percy Jackson fans at? Just checking).

Anyways, we started doing some background learning about Greek plays, especially tragedies. The Greek part interested me a little, since I’m a total mythology fan, but the Theban Plays looked pretty boring to me. I’d never read tragedies before–again, the awesome sword-fighting stuff in fiction books literally kills me, no pun intended.

So anyway, I pretty much figured out (with a considerable lack of enthusiasm, may I add) that the main characters of the play were this guy named Oedipus, who’s king of Thebes, his wife Jocasta, a blind prophet named Tiresias, Jocasta’s brother Creon, a Shepherd, a Messenger, and friends. So yep, boring.

I figured Greek tragedies, how tragic can they get? Probably a lot of death and stuff, but super tragic, as in “oh nooo, what a poor guy!” sort of thing? No way.

Ha…ha…nevermind.

I’m not really going to go into detail about what exactly makes Oedipus Rex tragic, because it’s, um, really tragic. But if you do read it, whether for fun or for school, let this be a warning that this sort of tragedy is unexpected. You might expect to feel sad or something along those lines (at least, that was what I was anticipating), but I ended up being…disgusted. Revolted. The whole, “WHAT?!” moment.

I know this is infuriating, but no, I simply cannot tell you the crux of this tragedy. If you’ve already read this particular play, good for you! We can be mildly–or highly–disturbed together! Just a side note, though: I’d only recommend this play for older readers, as the content gets pretty icky as the play goes on.

So after this whole ordeal? I actually think the Theban Plays are a pretty good read (collective gasp). I think I was too stuck up on my own definition of tragedy–the whole cliche, feeling depressed afterward, stuff like that. Nah, Oedipus Rex was more, “WHAT NO WAY DID HE JUST–NO, EW, ARGH, THAT’S NOT POSSIBLE, HOW COULD–NO, STOP RIGHT NOW!”

But anyways, Sophocles himself wrote one rollercoaster of a play, which, yes, I would like to commend him on. The use of dramatic irony, keeping the audience in suspense as Oedipus’s life unravels and chaos falls upon the city of Thebes, is incredible. And, I have to admit, interesting.

Besides, Greek tragedies–despite all their horror–reveal important life lessons through the Chorus, our a group of singing, chanting men who represent the city’s citizens. Again, read the play for yourself to discover the ultimate moral; I’ll have to keep you in the dark again.

So if you do decide to read the Theban Plays, well, I wish you the best of luck. But for now, I’ve got a character analysis on Oedipus I’ve got to write, which I’m totally looking forward to…but anyways, happy reading!!!

-Katherine L

The works of Sophocles are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

In my opinion, Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna was one of my favorite reads this summer. I’ve been pretty content to say that my summer reading list has been comprised of some pretty awesome (for a lack of a better word) books, but this combination of a mystery and thriller book blew me away.

When you first realize the plot, it’s not the most exciting one in the world (not that it stays that way). Not one like Harry Potter, where you find out about Hogwarts, and the next second, everyone’s flying on broomsticks, and you really envied all those magical children out there that were casting spells and you were sitting at home reading about them. No, Two Girls Down is a whole other story.

The story is centered around two sisters, Kylie and Bailey Brandt, and their mother, Jamie Brandt. The story started off at an intriguing pace, leaving me turning the pages hastily to keep up. I was hooked from the very beginning. I loved how the author developed her characters right off the bat, letting everyone know the sister’s similarities and yet quite noticeable differences, too. This would become essential later in the story.

Things are pretty average at the beginning of the story. The two girls’ mother, Jamie, is leading a not-so-perfect-with-a-cherry-on-top life, but she manages. Their father left them a long time ago, claiming not to have the time or energy to raise two young girls. But one day, Jamie’s world shatters and tumbles into a whirlwind of chaos as her beloved daughters, Kylie and Bailey, vanish underneath her very eyes.

The girls are last seen in the parking lot of a mall, where Jamie left them to go shopping for a gift for Kylie’s friend’s birthday. When she gets back, no traces of them remain, and she begins to become frantic.

But here, in shining armor, rise the heroines of the thriller. A very, very unlikely pair. A retired officer named Max Caplan, and a former bounty hunter, Alice Vega, brought together by strange events that could only be the doing of fate, put aside their differences and share their knowledge with each other on a wild chase from town to town, desperate to find the missing girls.

Alice Vega proved to be someone who worked in a solitary way, not needing accomplices or friends, but a tough, hardened woman who could fight life’s problems on her own. But she realizes that she could have never fight alone again after meeting Max Caplan, who proves to be a kind, more logical figure in the mystery. It was one of the weirdest crime fighting pairs I’d ever read about, but once I started, they quickly rose to one of my favorites. They balanced each other out so well, and I really enjoyed the way the author chose to incorporate that.

To read the novel was like being a detective on your own part. I felt fully immersed while reading, feeling the pair’s frustration, their anger and pain, their sorrow throughout the journey (all while I sat motionless on my couch and my eyes burned holes into the pages). My heart pounded when fight scenes emerged, and later, sighing in disappointment as different leads fell away.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who’s wanted to read a mystery thriller, because I think it’s truly exceptional. I would have never guessed the ending, since the author gave nothing away. The leads and evidence tied together so perfectly in such an intricate fashion that I was never tempted to put the book down, even after I read it twice. I promise, you won’t be disappointed by this read!

-Katherine L.

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Summer’s Over!

We can’t deny the fact any longer: school is fast approaching. Whether it’s elementary, middle, or high, it’s inevitably…SCHOOL. How these 6 letters can make our eyes widen in dismay or whoop in excitement (the latter not my case, but still), the answer to this can only mean one thing.

Summer…is over.

No longer can we awaken and look at the clock and tumble out of bed and yelp, “What? It’s 11:30? How can this be?” Or smirk when we see our backpacks not bulge with the weight of millions of textbooks and those mountains of homework that the teachers claim are, “Barely enough.”

It’s all gone the moment the 1st period bell rings. When your new teachers step into their classrooms, with the desks freshly scrubbed and gleaming under the fluorescent lights, the sound as every stands in unison to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in homeroom. It’s all so familiar to us, from the day when we first toddled to school on unstable legs and clutching onto Mom’s hand, to many years later, walking or biking to school with friends, laughing and chattering among ourselves. It’s all the same, in essence.

But for me, it’s a goodbye. A final farewell to the school that I have seen for the past 8 years. Graduating from the elementary school next door to emerging into the hectic, bustling life of middle school, I have loved it all the same. Now, as an 8th grader (I feel so old…), it’s my final year here. A year that I’m certain that will be filled with love for my teachers that have guided and supported me, brimming memories with friends, and jokes that I’ll be sure I never forget for the rest of my life.

I’ll miss my friends as we part ways, scattering with the winds to different high schools. Who knows, maybe we’ll still be the best of friends when we turn eighty-five, or maybe we’ll just never come back in contact again. Although it pains me to think about it, it’s the way life works. I bet high school will be an even more amazing and rewarding experience that middle school has been, no matter which one we attend. In the end, school isn’t something that I really groan over. I would be lying if I said I loved it with all my heart (just take a glance at my Geometry homework and you’ll understand), but I’d be lying also to say I’d never miss it at all.

Ah, school. Something that has followed us since years after we were born to this day. Every single moment in the classroom we have been endlessly learning, absorbing new knowledge, although it can be quite tedious (want to compare notes, anyone?). No matter what happens in the future, I wish to make a memorable last year here as an 8th grader, spending one final year surrounded by all those I love most.

Adios, summer!

-Katherine L.

Sword Art Online Progressive 001 by Reki Kawahara

Okay, confession time: I’m not really into Japanese anime and manga, or things like that. That is, until I read SAO, or Sword Art Online by Reki Kawahara.

To be clear, there are basically three adaptations of this book. One of them is a graphic novel, but this book, SAO Progressive 001, is a fictional chapter book that’s about 300 or so pages long.

To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have picked up this book if it hadn’t been for my friends, who are obsessed with Japanese manga and stories. The cover art is really cool, but personally, I just wasn’t that interested. One of my friends, who had read the book cover to cover about thousands of times, allowed me to borrow it. At first I was doubting it, but since the cover looked awesome (I know, don’t judge by a book by its cover! Sorry!), I decided to open it.

And then I pretty much didn’t put it down. The story is centered around the main character, a dark-haired swordsman named Kirito, shown on the cover. Next to him is a fencer, named Asuna. Sword Art Online is a a “virtual-reality” world game, where the player is transported into the gaming world, filled with monsters on each level of the hundred floors of a floating, chambered castle: Aincrad. However, there is no escape. Once you enter the game, there’s no way you can leave it. And the death toll begins to rise. 2,000 players are dead, killed by the monsters in the game.

As Asuna the fencer says, “There’s no way to beat this game. The only difference is when and where you die…”

Kirito meets Asuna in the beginning of the story, and over the events happening throughout the book, they form a sort of friendship. They’re not exactly a team, for they are both solo players, only working to strengthen themselves. But when fighting alone means certain death, will Kirito and Asuna overcome their differences and fight together to survive?

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for high-action, intense combat scenes against bosses, and a story that keeps you hooked in every page. Would you wish SAO was a real-life game that we could play? Anyways, I can’t wait to read Sword Art Online Progressive 002! I’m sure Reki Kawahara won’t let me down!

-Katharine L.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Mountaineer Jon Krakauer had a long-lasting dream, ever since he was a little boy: to climb the world-famous Mount Everest.

Into Thin Air is, as Krakauer puts it, not exactly an autobiography but merely his own account of what really happened on the peak of Everest in the terrible tragedy in 1996.

Many people died on the expedition to Everest, like renowned guides such as Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. It appalled me to see the harsh conditions in which the climbers labored through, the various health conditions they had to endure, and just how difficult the fact of breathing was at such a high altitude.

I really enjoyed reading this book; usually autobiographies are not my favorite genre, but this one blew me away. Krakauer is very meticulous in detail, and he describes everything that happened on that mountain very specifically. I really appreciated that; I felt like I was there on the mountain with him and the other climbers, and knew exactly what he was experiencing.

The way he also described the feeling of being stranded and blinded in the middle of the snow storm on top of the world was superb. I mean, I was grabbing the book and frantically flipping through the pages, wanting to see if everyone made it out okay. They didn’t, to my horror.

In fact, in this book, I learned quite a lot of things that I had never known about mountaineering before, like these spikes on a climber’s boots known as crampons to help grip the ice, or how the climbers had to do acclimatization exercises before actually attempting to ascend the mountain.

Throughout the book, many brave climbers prevailed, and the cost of sacrifice and loss was sorrowful. Even though I had not known these people previously, I felt bad for their untimely fate. But many were brave and loyal enough to go back and and try to save their fellow climbers, and many that are alive today from the incident of 1996 thank those courageous climbers.

I’d highly recommend this book to everyone; this is one of my favorite reads! From action-packed to intense scenes, horrifying terrors to unthinkable grief, and courage and loyalty of many climbers on Everest in 1996, this book is truly excellent.

-Katharine L.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Bar Mitzvah!

Recently, one of my friends, Zac, turned 13 and explained to me that he was holding something called a Bar Mitzvah. I wondered what that was, because I’d never attended one; I was expecting just a normal birthday party.

After doing some research, I realized that traditionally a Jewish child would participate in a coming-of-age ceremony at 13, called a Bar Mitzvah. I finally understood what the event was now.

My friends and I attended the Bar Mitzvah to celebrate with Zac, and it was such a great experience. There were two parts: The Torah, and then the reception later in the evening. The way the Bar Mitzvah is held is actually really similar to that of a wedding, with the long tables, DJ, dance floor, flower assortments, lights, etc.

I was very impressed in the dedication that Zac put forth in the ceremony. He memorized long Hebrew passages and sang songs to praise Jesus. The ceremony lasted about an hour, where he underwent many different spiritual rituals, like one particular flag-bearing. He did really well, especially while playing his guitar and reading his well-prepared speech. It was also very touching when his parents gave a speech and recognized him as a truly worthy son. Zac told us that he’d spent almost two years, and all that hard work and dedication really paid off!

Finally, the reception was very well put together. There was a lot of dancing (Zac got lifted and twirled up in the air on a chair), and it was all fun. There was ice cream, and three courses that were extremely tasty. The family put a lot of effort in the arrangements and the whole event turned out really well. I really enjoyed this event, and had the time of my life!

-Katherine L.

The Third Twin by C.J. Omololu

Ever done something wrong, but then just totally put the blame on your sibling, or maybe an imaginary one? Of COURSE not, right? Just put that one out of your mind…

But what if that imaginary sibling became real?

Answer: Some really, really bad stuff would happen.

In C.J. Omololu’s thriller and mystery combined in one, The Third Twin is sure to leave you flipping the pages like there’s no tomorrow. If you’ve ever read Pretty Little Liars, or maybe you’re a fan of the TV series, this book is pretty similar, but with more of a haunting twist. Even the cover looks cool!

But anyways, everything started out as a joke. The main characters, identical twins named Lexi (Alexa) and Ava (they’re seriously identical, because you really can’t tell the difference between them at all), make up a third twin, Alicia, just for fun. Who forgot to take out the trash? Who totally smashed that new iPhone? Alicia! Duh. Lexi and Ava decided that that was a total no-brainer.

As they grew up, they used Alicia as a cover-up for doing things that they wouldn’t normally do in real life. Nobody needed to know about this secret Alicia. She only existed when they wanted her too.

Until Alicia becomes real. Now Ava and Lexi are up to their necks in hot water, and it may not seem like they can get away without some pretty hard consequences. Because a boy is found murdered, and all traces point directly at Alicia.

The girl who never existed.

Either Lexi’s sister, Ava, is the one responsible for this tragic accident…

Or perhaps Alicia is real.

-Katharine L.

The Third Twin by C. J. Omololu is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library