The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien is a science fiction, dystopian novel. It takes place in the Forge School of the Arts, which is the site of a reality TV show. The school had 100 kids enter in each year, but 50 of them are cut, and do not receive this world-class education. The cuts are based on each person’s ranking, and these ranking are determined by the viewers, who watch the kids 12 hours a day. They vote, and the ones with more votes rise in rank, and make the cuts. The rest of the 12 hours are for the kids to sleep because it is believed that more sleep allows them to have more creativity. Each kid is given a pill to take, and its purpose is to help them sleep better and allow more creativity.

The main character of the book is Rosie Sinclair. She is in the school for film editing, and is ranked very low days before the cuts. Because of this, she skips taking her pill one night and goes out to explore because she does not have any regard for the consequences. In her exploration she finds a whole new world beyond the cameras. This encourages her to put more effort into staying up in the ranks in order to unearth the dark secret that the school is covering.

The premise of the book for me was interesting enough to pick it up off the shelf. I started to read it, and it was a bit difficult to get into. The story started with a pretty simple plot line, and a lot of the beginning was what I already read from the book summary. However, I loved to read about Rosie’s backstory because it made me root for her. Then, a few expected “turns” happened, and the story sort of plautead. I continued to read, and was happy to see the action pick up again. This propelled me to read the rest of the story, and I enjoyed the ending. Even though the beginning was a bit difficult to get through, I would recommend this book for an interesting, thought-provoking novel.

-Anmol K.

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Andy Weir

On July 18th, Andy Weir, author of The Martian and Artemis, visited the Norman P Murray center. After his introduction, he talked about how he “accidentally “ became an author. As a child, his Father had many science-fiction novels on his bookshelf. Weir, reflecting on this, said  he was “doomed to become a nerd.” He read those novels, and fell in love with those books because of the extensive focus on science in them.

At 15, he was hired by Sandia labs to be an intern. There, he was introduced to computers and fell in love with them. His passion for writing also kept increasing at this time. When the time to choose a college came, he wanted to write, but “wanted regular meals,” so he chose to pursue software engineering. In college, he was in debt and was not able to complete his degree. Fortunately, the software industry was desperate for engineers, so Weir was hired. Eventually, he landed a job at aol, but was laid off. He had enough money from stocks to pursue his dream of writing, but was unsuccessful, and went back to software engineering.

In the early 2000s, Weir made a website to publish his stories on. He would publish longer stories, and post a chapter at a time. His fanbase loved one in particular: the one about a man stranded on Mars. Dubbed, The Martian, it rose to popularity among his dedicated core group of “nerd readers.” One day, he got an email requesting him to create downloadable versions of his writing. So, he proceeded to self-publish on Amazon.

Initially, he was hesitant about that because of the minimum purchase price because he always wanted his work to be free. However, people did not mind paying the price, and he had people who wanted to donate to him. He said he did not want any donations because he was comfortable in his life. People, however, “donated” to him by purchasing his ebook on Amazon. Eventually, it rose to do the top ten in the science fiction category on the Amazon bookstore.

From there, he was approached by an agent and The Martian was eventually published by Random House. Once it was released, it was #2 on The New York Times Bestseller List, and the movie deal was confirmed with 20th Century Fox. After the immense success of The Martian, Weir wrote Artemis. This novel is about the first human establishment on the moon, and it is in the perspective of a 26 year-old women, and how she is entangled within various struggles.

As a writer, Weir aims to write 1000 words a day, and states that the “hardest part of writing is writing.” For aspiring writers, he has three pieces of advice: 1) In order to be a writer, you have to write. Sitting there and thinking about your story is not the same as writing. 2) Resist the urge to tell your story to other people until it is done because it saps your own will to finish the story. 3) There has never been a better time to self-publish. Because of this, there is no need to spend so much money on an agent, and by self-publishing, one can see how their book does without any risk of losing money. Seeing Andy Weir was a great opportunity, and I loved hearing him talk about his life and writing. I can’t wait to see what will happen with Weir;s future works, and if there are more movies adapted from his work.

-Anmol K.

The works of Andy Weir are available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library

Where I Live

Where I Live by Brenda Rufener tells the story of high schooler Linden Rose. When you read high schooler, you may have pictured someone who has a typical life with friends, homework, and a family. Linden Rose has all of these things, but no family. Homeless for about a year, she lives at school; no one knows about her secret because she does not want anybody to know.  Her two closest friends, Ham and Seung, are under the impression that she lives with her constantly absent Father at a nearby trailer park. Linden works hard in school to keep up her guise in order to have a shot at the future.

Flying under the radar is all she wants to do, and she does just that until she meets Bea. On the surface, Bea is the popular girl everyone admires. However, she comes to school one day with a bloody lip; everyone thinks it is from her boyfriend, but she vehemently denies this. This is hard for Linden to fathom because her place in life is due to domestic violence because of the various men beating up her mother, who eventually died and left Linden to live with her grandma, but she also died. In her gut, Linden knows that she needs to tell Bea’s story, but is unable to do so without revealing some secrets of her own.

This story was an emotional journey, but one thing that the reader will keep doing is rooting for a better life for Linden. Linden is portrayed in a way that she feels to be real, and the reader is able to connect to her. The story was slow-moving, but I do not think there was any other way for the story to be told. By building the story slowly, but surely, the author was able to depict the journey of Linden. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a book that takes on a different about high schoolers.

– Anmol K.

Where I Live by Brenda Rufener is avaiable at the Mission Viejo Library.

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen is a story that takes place in late 19th century Norway. The main character of the novel is Nora Helmer, and she is married to her husband, Torvald Helmer. She is treated like a doll by her husband, and has no say into any decisions that are made. She is there as a plaything for her husband, and has been molded by society to not have own identity as a person. Despite her characterization as a dim-witted doll, she is hiding a big secret. Nora borrowed money without any permission from either her husband or father in order to help her family while Torvald was sick. This kind of action was unheard of for a woman to do at this time, so she never told her husband from where she got her money from. Once her secret is threatened to be revealed, the course of the novel changes from the depiction of a typical, happy family of the Victorian time to something modern, but not normal for that time.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though it was not a typical read for me because it was a novel assigned to me by school. It was an easy read, but the story kept me hooked from the beginning. Initially, I was a bit wary of the way Nora was treated, and just thought of her as silly. However, when her secret was revealed, my opinion of her changed. The rest of the novel was now on a different, more interesting course of action. The ending was not only surprising, but very controversial for that time. I would recommend this novel, regardless if it is assigned or not,  for anyone in order to see the importance of this kind of novel at this period in history.

-Anmol K.

Henry Ibsen’s A Doll’s House is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian follows almost-16-year-old, Daria. Proudly Iranian-American, she is not ashamed of her heritage, which is different from the clique she and her friends have dubbed as the “Nose Jobs,” whose leader used to be Daria’s best friend. Daria and her friends nicknamed themselves  “the authentics” because they see themselves as real and honest. They have a great vibe in their group, and feed off each other very well. Daria’s family is another major part of this novel, and they also love and support Daria. Despite having normal, familial disputes, she values her parents. One day, she is researching her ancestry for a school project and this leads her on a journey that will forever change her life.

This novel had many different aspects, and these all came together in a beautiful way. Family was an important subject in this book, and was depicted realistically by Nazemian. He not only showed the celebrations and happy times of the family, but he included the hardships and troubled times the family faced as well. The way the family changes and grows throughout the course of the novel is done well. More than the family, Daria grew and matured into a young, intelligent lady. Facing hardship, I admired how she did not allow for anything to get to her on her self-discovery. In addition to depicting the coming of age of Daria, the author also includes commentary about Iran that enhances the novel. Overall, this is a great novel and provides the reader with an interesting outlook of life.  

-Anmol K.

The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be download for free from Overdrive

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

ings Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a fictional story, but has great significance in the literary world. Published in 1958, the novel follows the Okonkwo, who is one of the leaders of his tribe in the village of Umuofia.  In order to obtain such a prestigious position, he had to work twice as hard as the other men because he came from nothing. Okonkwo’s father was lazy and effeminate, according to Okonkwo, and only cared about playing his music. His music did not earn him any money, so Okonkwo resolved to be a better man than his father. His resolve did help him be successful, but it also hurt him because he would not accept any behaviors he considered “weak” and he was quick to anger. This tragic flaw led to horrific events in the novel and an inevitable ending.

Even though, this was a novel I read for school, I enjoyed it because it had a easy-to-follow plot line and an interesting story. Okonkwo was what made the novel interesting because his flaws made the novel intriguing. Despite his negative traits of abuse, quickness to anger, and his lack of empathy, the novel flows and the reader wants to continue reading in order to see where the story goes. Also, the reader starts to pity him because they see the struggles he is facing. The importance of the novel was to depict the exploitation of the Africans by Europeans, but this is revealed through Okonkwo’s actions and feelings. Even though some may be hesitant to read this, I would encourage people of all ages to read it because it has something for everyone.

-Anmol K.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Waste of Space by Gina Damico

Most children dream of becoming astronauts and going to space. Even though most of us do not go to the moon, the dream of going to space is always there. In the book, Waste of Space, the dream comes true for ten teenagers. The production company, DV8, needs a new television show, and they come up with Waste of Space.

The premise is to send ten teenagers to space in a spaceship, where they will live together for an indefinite amount of time, and will have to deal with everybody aboard the ship. In reality, however, the teens will be taken to a sound stage in the middle of the New Mexican desert. DV8 is own by an ambitious, young man named Chazz Young who would do anything for his shows to get views. Working with NASAW (a different group of scientists from NASA), Young is able to produce a show that leaves a lot of people wanting more along with a lot of questions.

Picking this book, I was enticed by the summary of the book. The book is not written like a normal novel because it is a compilation of evidence by an investigator. It is like this because contact with the kids is lost in the middle of their time aboard the “spacecraft.” Initially, I just thought it was going to be a story about the kids finding a way back to earth, but it was different from the typical story about people finding their way home. Instead of being an adventure in “space,” the novel is a mockery of American television and culture. The portrayal of the teenagers and the way Young handles the various issues of his show make fun of reality shows in America, and the seriousness some people have when watching them. Another layer to this story was the mysteriousness of the NASAW organization. This aspect made the story more complex and mysterious. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a satirical take on America with a layer of mystery and adventure.

-Anmol K.

Waste of Space by Gina Damico is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library