Hamlet by William Shakespeare

We all know about Romeo and Juliet. The famous star-crossed teenage lovers and “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art that Romeo?” sort of stuff. Personally, I didn’t like the play. Romeo and Juliet, as actual characters, were plain and the best character is Mercutio, who not only dies halfway through, but is the reason why the play became a tragedy.

On the other hand, I really liked Shakespeare’s style of writing. He writes all about death, blood and of the era when stories of knights and magic were popular. So I thought, “gee, is there a story that is dark, has fantasy and a lot of blood and death, but also has a decent romance and lively characters? And I didn’t have to look any farther than Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

For those who like dark themes, like myself, there is a lot in this play from duels and poison to talking to skulls. Hamlet, the main character of this play, is told by the ghost of his father that he was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle, who is not only the new king of Denmark, but is married to Hamlet’s mother (a sinful act in its time). Hamlet spends the rest of the play not only facing the burden of a promise that he is not sure to keep, but additionally has to deal with the depression and suicidal thoughts leading up to the start of the play, something that a lot of teenagers could possibly relate to. And of course, it’s one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, so almost all of the named characters die by the end. There’s a lot of troubled minds to question and analyze, so fans of psychology would love this play. On top of that, despite the frequency of death, “Hamlet” is actually a better love story than “Romeo and Juliet.” Hamlet and Ophelia are the only link to each other’s sanity.

Finally, the characters are amazing. I loved their development throughout the play and how they appeal to the audience in their decisions. Ophelia, although a dutiful daughter in the end, sasses her father and brother when they tell her to stay away from Hamlet. Polonius, being the nosy parent, spies on everyone and knows their private business. Hamlet, who not only has the role of the emo teenager, but also is clever enough to make fun of every single character in the play. And poor Horatio, who wonders how he got caught up in this mess.

All in all I really enjoyed this play and hope that you get the chance to read it.

Hamlet, and all of its printed and film incarnations, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki

pandorahearts_junmochizukiOz Vessalius is fifteen years old, which means that it is time for his coming of age ceremony for the Vessalius family. Being the head of a powerful family, he doesn’t have to worry about in his future and his days are spent teasing his servant Gil, playing with his younger sister, and trying to woo the beautiful Sharon. That is, until he and Gil stumble upon a grave and Oz starts to have weird dreams about a girl in a twisted dollhouse who wants to kill him. The erratic Baskervilles send Oz into the “Abyss”, a prison thought only to be be a scary bedtime story. But why is the girl from his dream suddenly helping him get out of the Abyss? More importantly, when he finally gets out, has the world changed? Or did the Abyss change him?

Pandora Hearts is a completed manga series, with 104 chapters in 24 volumes and it’s a very worthwhile read. The series has very beautiful artwork, with each panel being a masterpiece and scenery that perfectly sets the tone. Additionally, characters are drawn in a way that perfectly suits their personalities. They have incredible backstories that lead the plot towards incredible twists and turns. The plot is woven well into the overall theme, from one scene about madness, to the next being completely comedic and the next being a thrilling action scene.

For Alice in Wonderland fans, it is nice to see many references to the book, with many scenes of madness, a character named “Alice”, and many characters having nicknames such as “Mad Hatter” or “B-Rabbit”. However, younger teens should be cautioned because some scenes of madness and action can be quite gruesome and twisted.

This is an amazing manga series, and I hope that everyone can take the chance to read it.

-Megan V., 11th Grade

Pandora Hearts is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

D. Gray Man by Katsura Hoshino

Allen Walker had been tossed around for most of his life. At just fifteen years old, he has faced the twisted Millenium Earl, watched his beloved Mana turned into the accursed Akuma, and has played so many poker games just to pay off his master Cross Marian’s debt. But finally, he can now become an Exorcist, the one and only group of people that serves to get rid of the Akuma and the Millemium Earl once and for all. Of course, so long as he can contain fully use the Innocence that inhabits his left hand and eye.

This is a really great story! Despite the fact that it goes on hiatus a lot because of the author’s health, I really enjoy the plot and how it can go from comedy to seriousness in a matter of seconds. There are also some very great fight scenes, with giant hammers and huge battles against the Akuma and the Noahs. Although there is no romance, there are still the important bonds of family and friendship that show how strong these bonds can be.

Additionally, I really like how there are not only physical battles, but emotional ones too, with one guy living with the fact that he is a vampire and another trying to hold on to the responsibilities of being a “Librarian.” Most importantly, I love how the author makes you fall in love with the characters. From one character loving his sister way too much to another being playful even though he is evil, each of the characters somehow worm their way into the reader’s hearts.

This manga, although still going on, is a very good recommendation for fans of action and fantasy.

-Megan V., 11th grade

Midwinter Blood by Marcus Sedgwick

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Eric Seven is just a normal reporter, reporting in the near future about an island that has no children, but everyone is healthy and never ages. How then is he involved in an obscure sacrifice despite never having set foot on the island? And why does he recognize Merle, a pretty young woman that he soon falls for?

Seven Erics. Seven Merles. All because of a promise to live seven times, yet sacrificed each and every time. A tale of love and tragedy that is thousands of years old.

At first, this book was confusing. However, Sedgwick only makes it confusing in the first story, writing six more short stories and an epilogue that ties everything together to properly explain the first story. Each short story also presents different kinds of love and how far one is willing to go for it. For example, one story talks about love when both people are the same gender, and the lengths one of the women goes just to see her love again. Another story shares how a man sacrificed his life to save another man, all for a stranger’s daughter that he never met.

This book is also one for fans of historical fiction. Each story takes place in some part of famous historical events twinged with fantasy, from vampires in the dark ages to a family that wants to be neutral in World War II. This book blew my mind with how incredible it was written, and I hope that you can have a chance to read it.

-Megan V., 11th Grade

Midwinter Blood is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Jacob used to believe in his grandfather’s stories. Stories of children who could lift boulders, be invisible. Stories of his grandfather fighting monsters, those that will one day be after him. Not anymore. Jacob doesn’t believe in them now that he’s in high school. The monsters? WWII nightmares of the Nazis. The children? Those photos were obviously faked.

He didn’t believe in them again until he saw a monster with tentacles killing his grandfather. But that couldn’t have been real, right? No way monsters were real, just like everyone said around him. But the more he dug into his grandfather’s stuff, the more he believed his grandfather.

He found out that his grandfather used to live on an island off Britain. He convinced his father to go there, and found that his grandfather’s stories were true. A land stuck in 1940, where every day is paradise, and no one ever dies. A place that can hold “peculiars”, children with powers, and keep them safe. And he met an invisible boy, a girl who could fly, and a pretty girl who could control fire, all who knew his grandfather. But he soon learned that if the children are real, the monsters must be too.

I really liked this book, and the sequels after it. Not only did Riggs create a remarkable tale just from looking at pictures, but adding the pictures made the characters seem more real. Jacob is your typical teenage boy, so he has a very funny side, especially when talking to the peculiars about the modern world, such as about email. Additionally, the plot is very well done and intriguing, with well depth ideas about the consequences of time travel and relative nature of crazy.

The powers of the peculiars are also all very interesting, with Hugh’s bees and Howard’s prophetic dream power. Also, there is also a bit of a feminist theme, as the leaders of the Ymbryne are all women, with men not having the ability to be leaders, which is the opposite as of on Earth. I would recommend this book to anybody who likes the idea of women being in power above men, time travel, craziness, fantasy, or historical fiction.

-Megan V., 11th Grade

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Monster by Naoki Urasawa

monster_naokiurasawaLet’s say that you’re a doctor. You have a choice to save either one of these patients: a ten year old boy who arrived at the hospital first, or the mayor of the city. You can only save one while the other will die. Who will you choose? Now, let’s say that you choose the child: congratulations, you have now unleashed a monster onto the world.

Dr. Kenzou Tenma, a Japanese doctor working in late 20th century East Germany, saved a ten year old boy named Johan Liebert instead of the mayor ten years ago. Because of that, he lost his trust with his colleagues, his fiancee, and his promotion. To top it off, the boy he saved had murdered two people before admitted to the hospital. Now, Dr. Tenma is a fugitive framed for the murders committed by Johan Liebert after seeing this monster again.

Throughout his run on his life, Tenma tries to figure out Johan’s past. And he must consider one question: if he knew ten years ago that the boy he wants to save will turn out to be a monster, would he save the mayor? And if Johan’s life were in his hands again, would he save him?

This manga is a very good psychological story. Dr. Tenma meets a bunch of so-called monsters along his run, and proves that all of them can be forgiven. For example, he meets a soldier and a young girl. The soldier had killed the girl’s mother, and worries that he would never be forgiven, as the girl never smiles or speaks to him. However, Dr. Tenma fixes this rift, and in the end the little girl holds the soldier’s hand as if he were her father. Additionally, we hear the police’s side of the story, and through their investigations even we start to wonder if Johan is just in Tenma’s brain or not.

Additionally, Urasawa accurately depicts the historical content and geography of East Germany and Czechoslovakia throughout the story: the beautiful city of Prague, the slums of major cities, and the brutality of the underground.

Urasawa’s characters are also incredible, and it is amazing what each of them does to get the job done: Johan’s insane plans, the detective that is chasing after Dr Tenma and what he thinks in order to chase after his patients, and the motivation of many, whether if it is chasing after Johan or living a daily life. The artwork is very beautiful, and you cannot tell it’s a manga from twenty years ago: each of the characters looks widely unique and well crafted. Additionally, the backgrounds are incredible, which each scene looking realistic as if you were there yourself, whether it was in a hospital room, a restaurant, or a prison.

This was a manga that made me just say “wow” at the end, and anyone into mysteries, action, psychological thrillers, or horror would be really hooked into this series.

-Megan V, 11th grade

Twin Star Exorcists (Sousei no Onmyouji) by Yoshiaki Sukeno

In every story, there are elements and themes that are often repeated but twisted in such a way that readers know what to expect while sitting on the edge of their seats. These elements may include the typical multiple girls liking the hero, an awesome heroine, a ditzy heroine, a kind of scary father in law, an anti-villian/anti-hero, or an evil brother. Oh, and did I mention the atypical manga “main heroine somehow ends up in the most awkward moments with the hero” trope? How about the “pervert teacher ends up to be actually super powerful”? Or the “government is evil and has ulterior motives”?

That’s what Twin Star Exorcists is all about: with mixes of manga Kekkaishi, Flame of Recca, and Blue Exorcist, young fourteen year Rokuro is trying to fight his destiny against becoming an “exorcist”.

Although Rokuro is actually very good at being an exorcist, a profession that works with destroying the “impurities” (monsters created by human’s dark desires/nightmares), he wants no part in it. That is, until he meets a girl about his age, named Benio, who hits him after falling from the sky. Then, because of a prophecy, he’s told by the perverted head of the exorcists that they have to marry and have the child that will supposedly get rid of all the impurities. However, he absolutely hates her. Mostly because she too wants to be an exorcist and is absolutely annoying to him.

Typical plot tropes aside, Sukeno weaves a fantastic tale from familiar themes that readers get excited about, such as the ditzy heroine being useless but wanting to root for her because of her determination. Additionally, the manga is a hilarious comedy, with one heroine just calmly being a kuudere (someone who is cold and indifferent to others) and the other getting mad all the time.

The best thing about the manga is the incredibly beautiful artwork. Sukeno makes great use of contrasts with black ink and white paper, and even a lot of gray, creating beautiful openings and amazingly drawn and colored fight scenes.

The manga has an excellent plot line that is easy to follow and beautifully drawn characters (although unfortunately, at least in my opinion, the recent anime doesn’t do it justice). Although there are only a few volumes out, it is an extremely recommended read for one wanting to try something new.

-Megan V, 10th grade