It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

itskindofafunnystory_nedvizziniIt’s always tragic when one takes their own life. Ned Vizzini, the author of this highly acclaimed novel, did so at age 32. His death lends so much more meaning to this book about a 15-year-old battling depression and suicidal thoughts. In the story, teen Craig Gilner has absolutely nothing to complain about in life. He’s got a good, loving family, great friends, and goes to one of the hardest to get into schools in Manhattan. Which is why he can’t figure out why he’s so depressed. He can’t eat, he can’t sleep, and every day is another waking nightmare. So finally, he decides he’s going to do something about it and kill himself. But Craig isn’t an idiot, he realizes something is very wrong with him. He calls the suicide hotline and checks himself into a hospital, where he is sent to the mental ward. While there, he learns about the truths behind the other patients, and more about himself than he’d ever known. Written in a tone of humor mixed with tragedy, this incredible story brilliantly illustrates how severe depression really is, and how to try to beat it.

You feel as if you know Craig personally, and are constantly rooting for him. This is because he talks to the reader casually, as he would a close friend, making him all the more relatable. When I read this book the first time through, I had unfortunately skipped the forward and didn’t find out that the author had actually killed himself until someone I had recommended it to told me. This was devastating, as I grew so close to the main character (who was based very closely on the author). This story is incredible, not only because of how well-written it is and how relatable the characters are, but because shortly before writing this book, Ned Vizzini, himself, was admitted into a mental hospital for suicidal thoughts and wrote It’s Kind of a Funny Story based on his real-life experiences there. This is a book that should be read by everyone, old and young, depressed and not, because people need to wake up and seriously look at this issue. I would, however, keep this book out of the hands of children twelve and under. As many of my friends struggle with depression, this book really helped me to understand. Highly recommend!

Evan G., 8th Grade

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

The Martian by Andy Weir

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If you’re one of the ten people who didn’t see the movie, The Martian is a book about an astronaut who gets accidentally abandoned on Mars and his efforts to make his way home. In this perfect blend of Cast Away and Interstellar, Mark Watney (portrayed in the movie by Matt Damon) must survive adversity after an explosion strands him on the red planet. The story of his survival on Mars is told to the audience through daily logs. It feels as if Watney is talking directly to the reader. The Martian truly illustrates how anything is possible, no matter how terrible the odds, and that humanity’s greatest virtues is its ability to overcome.

The Martian is the first interesting science textbook I’ve ever read. I know that it’s technically not a textbook, but it pretty much is, just written in the first person and with a story. Andy Weir literally explained every single piece of the science in the book in detail. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, it just probably goes over the head of anyone not extremely interested in Science. I think I learned more Science from reading this book than I have in school for the past three years.

The book The Martian doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. In fact, it was almost cheated by the movie. Not that the movie was bad, actually it was really good and followed the book really well. The issue is that, because the movie was so popular and so good, a much larger group of people just watched the movie and forgot it was even based on a book. Even I saw the movie first, so the book felt more like a movie novelization. That said, it is still 100% worth reading, and I highly recommend.

-Evan G, 8th Grade

The Martian is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

The Last Star by Rick Yancey

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The Last Star is the third installment of The 5th Wave, the #1 New York Times bestselling series by Rick Yancey. It takes main characters Cassie Sullivan: a girl who has only survived this long by shelving her own emotions for the greater good, Ben “Zombie” Parish: a high school quarterback turned strike team commander with nothing left to lose, Marika “Ringer”: a former human transformed into a super powered alien weapon who is nearly unkillable, and Evan Walker: an Other who has developed a conscience, through war upon death upon betrayal upon apocalypse as they desperately try to fight back against the god-like “Others” who have all but destroyed the human race. Together, the survivors must face impossible odds, risking the lives of not only themselves, but those whom they love to defeat, an unseen enemy they aren’t even sure exists. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, certain Others may have taken human form, and what remains of the human race can’t even trust themselves. To survive, each person must endure challenges and do deeds they would have never thought possible, including murdering an old lady in cold blood and going into mechanical warfare against a genetically altered priest. And the one question they must ask themselves remains the same: what is humanity if you take away that which makes us human?

I loved this book and the entire trilogy. It’s just such a uniquely written masterpiece that truly tampers with human emotion like no other piece of literature I’ve read before.  It brilliantly examines each piece of the story from different points of view with its four unique narrators, and twists the story upon itself so many times that it’s impossible to predict the ending, which was not at all disappointing by the way. My favorite part of this series is the way that it describes an alien takeover.  In real life, if aliens ever decided to come take over Earth, they wouldn’t land in dinky little ships and come out with little laser guns. In real life, the aliens would do exactly what they do in this series, which you’ll have to read to find out.  I wouldn’t change anything about this book, even if I could, it was just that well written.

I would and have recommended this book though I felt the first movie was a weak showing of the book. People who are fans of Sci-Fi, apocalyptic stuff, survival shows, or anything made by Michael Bay would enjoy this series.

-Evan G.

The Last Star is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

mistborn_brandonsandersonImagine a world without a sun. Where mysterious wraiths roam around in the constant mists. Where most of the population is controlled by a group of uptight nobles and a dark ruler. This is just part of everyday life for Vin, a girl abandoned to a thieving crew by her older brother at a young age. In this life, she must struggle to survive, occasionally calling on her strange, mythical Luck, an ability that allows her to soften the emotions of others. However, this all changes when a strange man wielding similar powers named Kelsier finds her with an insane plan to overthrow the oppressive Final Empire.

This is one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It takes you on a wondrous adventure through the possibilities of a dark future, and the constant presence of the true strength that all humans wield. More than anything else, though, Mistborn really goes into detail about the different aspects of the human personality, including who you can trust and whether or not it’s a good thing. In fact, the author, Brandon Sanderson, also wrote The Reckoners series, which goes just as deeply into the human psyche. Mistborn was given to me by a good friend and actually helped me get through some hard stuff going on in my life because it truly illustrates the point: there’s always something you can do.

This book should mostly appeal to teens (high school or middle)  who need a little motivation in their lives. I would not, however, recommend this story for younger audiences as it is not appropriate and mentions some “iffy” topics not suited for children under 12-13. This is not a quick read but it is worth 33 AR points! A very worthwhile read, however.

-Evan G., 7th grade

Mistborn is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library


Book Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

steelheartWhat would happen if suddenly, hundreds of random people across the world got incredible super powers including flight, control over the elements, invulnerability, precognition, and hypnotism?

David Charleston has spent his whole life researching these super humans, or Epics as they’re widely called, and may finally get his chance for revenge on the Epic who killed his father, Steelheart. But if it’s going to work, he needs the help of The Reckoners, a group of undercover agents who kill off Epics by using technology, wit, and sometimes their own two hands.  Oh, and it helps when they’re facing their imminent death with absolutely no chance of survival. But even so, Steelheart is the toughest target that they’ve ever gone after and it will take everything that they’ve got, and a little more, to have a chance at taking him down.

I enjoyed reading this incredible book, because, like Gone by Michael Grant, it provides many deep ideas with little explanation, giving the reader a larger impact over how they picture the story.  It was extremely fun to read and extremely hard to put down.  I loved this book so much that I finished it the day after I got it.  I recommend this book to comic nerds, and fans of Gone, Doctor Who, The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games, Divergent, I Am Number Four, The Giver, and any other science fiction novel.  The only problem is that, once started, it will be practically impossible to think about anything else until you’re done, and even then, you’re going to want the sequel!

-Evan G., 6th grade

Book Review: Hunger by Michael Grant

hungerThree months after all the adults disappeared in the blink of an eye, 15 year old Sam Temple is holding together what remains of the city, but as food starts to become scarce, the problems start to pile up.  From children developing superhuman abilities to a powerful entity hungry in the dark, what’s left of society is starting to crumble.

Sequel to the best selling novel GoneHunger is an emotional and deep story that deals with the stress of leadership and overall guilt.  The first book ended in major suspense and this book has followed its lead.  I originally picked up Gone because it seemed very similar to a book I loved called The Young World by Chris Weitz who had come to speak to us bloggers at the Mission Viejo Library/City Hall last year.

Hunger has been a fascinating sequel. It takes the reader away from everyday drama and stress by wrapping them up in this malicious world. This helps the reader to appreciate their own life so much more after they put this book down.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a temporary distraction from their own life as it is riveting, interesting and easy to get stuck in. I enjoyed this book and am already starting the next one in the series, Lies.

-Evan G., 6th grade

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

curious_incidentChristopher John Francis Boone has some “behavioral issues.”  These include social awkwardness, thrashing out when touched, a powerful loathing of the colors yellow and brown, constant irrational behavior, and being very racist toward France.  The story starts with Christopher staring out of his bedroom window in the middle of the night when he notices a dog, lying on the ground with a pitchfork sticking out of its side.  He decides then and there that he would find out who it was that murdered the dog. This is some of the “irrational behavior” that I mentioned above.   On his quest, he is arrested, threatened by a drunk, and finds out devastating family secrets that he was never meant to know.

This book is not for the prim and proper or easily offended and the many twists and turns will lead you to a conclusion that you would never expect.  This is not a book I would typically pick up because the title and cover page just shows an upside down poodle. It was given to me as part of the NPR top 100 recommendations list for teens so I took a crack at it and have to say I was pleasantly surprised and it is actually really good.  But seriously, the grownups throughout the story cuss, cuss, cuss throughout the entire book which I don’t think has anything to do with taking place in London. It is over the top cussing from these unsavory characters.  I am laughing as I write this because of the appalling use of language on every page.

-Evan G., 6th grade

Book Review: Spy Camp by Stuart Gibbs

spy_campHaving recently completed his first semester at spy school, spy-in-training Ben Ripley is planning to enjoy his summer break hanging out with friends at home.  All of this changes, however, when he is informed of a mandatory spy summer camp.  As bad as spy school was, Ben now must face a death threat, an incompetent super spy, and an evil organization seeking nothing other than Ben’s recruitment.  As long forgotten secrets rise and old enemies appear at every corner, Ben must find out who is behind the SPYDER organization and stop them before it’s too late, or pay the ultimate price.

An inspiring sequel to Spy School (see my review), this novel -contains all of the same heart stopping action and witty retorts that we’ve all come to expect from Stuart Gibbs.  Be warned, this book is highly classified and, should it fall into the wrong hands, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) would have a big problem on their hands.  Most people think that spies live an exciting life of amazing missions, but that’s all tourist stuff.  Real spying is hard work, and this book shows just how hard it can be.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery from time to time.  It’s always exciting when you can guess the ending before the characters do (I had solved the mystery by chapter 12, see if you can beat that record).  The author makes you believe one thing, then a revelation makes you believe something else, and then finally the author reveals that it was the first thing the whole time.  This is my third Stuart Gibbs novel and this one does not disappoint.

-Evan G, 6th grade

Book Review: The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

eye_of_mindsThere is reality and there is virtual reality.  In the real world, life is dull and boring for high schooler, Michael.  Virtual reality, however, is the excitement of life times a million, you can do anything…be anything…and the more rules you break, the more fun it is.  The bad part of this virtual world is that a gamer named Kaine has found a way to trap people in the VirtNet and the authorities know that he has to be stopped.  That’s where Michael comes in.  In order to stop Kaine, Michael and his two best friends that he met inside the VirtNet must go on a wild journey through the internet and hope that they will make it home alive.

James Dashner seems to enjoy killing off his characters in gruesome ways.  In the Maze Runner series, people die from a sickness that kills their brain and in this series people’s minds die in the virtual world but not their bodies.  This completely original novel has bizarre, gory and disturbing twists and turns which kept my attention but made me lose my appetite, literally.

I hesitantly recommend this book to teenagers.  You may want to read the Maze Runner series first so that you will be prepared for his brilliant writing style and gore.  If you’ve already read it, then you understand exactly what I’m talking about.

-Evan G., 6th grade

Book Review: Spy School by Stuart Gibbs

spy_schoolThings are not always what they seem.  This certainly describes the “science school” which is actually an undercover CIA training base.  Ben Ripley, a twelve-year old math prodigy, aka “Smokescreen,” gets an invitation to attend the spy school for the second semester of 6th grade as a mysterious spot opens up and because of his amazing math skills and the strange project linked to him known as “Pinwheel.”  He trains to become a CIA agent for one school semester although he may not live that long.  As if spy school wasn’t hard enough, Ben must survive an assassin, find a mysterious mole, and make sure he looks good while doing it.  However, he’s not alone. He finds friends in other students, Erica AKA “Ice Queen,” Murray AKA “Washout,” Zoe, and Warren.

I recommend this book to fans of Alex Rider, Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl because of the humor and action.  The way the story is written make you second guess everything as it unfolds in this suspenseful mystery novel.  Be warned, this book is not for the easily frightened or timid population as it contains confidential, top secret government secrets. Buy it at your local bookstore or rent it at your nearest library and you won’t be disappointed. Although, don’t expect any James Bond or anything, spying is a dangerous job, and is only accomplished by the best of the best, the cream of the crop, you get the idea. Spy school has all of the same things as normal school: bullies, boring teachers, bad cafeteria food, and occasionally someone tries to kill you.

This message will self destruct in ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…

-Evan G., 6th grade