The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if your family left behind everything you knew and moved to a remote African village? Probably not, but that is the scenario that the Price family faces as they embark on their missionary trip to the Congo in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Poisonwood Bible. There are five members of the price family. Nathan Price is a firm willed Baptist pastor, determined to right the “evils” of Africa. Orleanna is Nathan’s wife, and is lost in the identity of her husband. Their daughters, Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May each react to their new home in different ways- and to the tragedy which soon befalls them. The family gets more than they bargained for when their Baptist evangelist mission is swept up in the Congolese revolution, and the government- and their world- falls apart around them.

The Poisonwood Bible deals with a topic that is all too often glanced over in modern society: the effect of European colonialism. The Congo that the Price family visits is broken politically and economically. Additionally, it explores the idea of gender through Orleanna, who has lost her own identity and lives for her husband instead. The idea of voice is also thoroughly explored by Kingsolver, who rotates the book’s narration chapter by chapter. Sometimes the story is narrated by materialistic Rachel, other times by dedicated Leah, sometimes by five year-old Ruth May. The only member of the Price family who does not narrate is the father, Nathan Price, whose character can be vividly constructed through the insight of all of the Price women. Because such a diverse cast is narrating the story, not only is the book engaging, the reader is able to see every facet of the trials of the Prices in Africa- and see how each character reacts to a tragedy which befalls them, whether that be through denial or guilt.

This book is so valuable, and reading it is an experience in itself. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a good read that is steeped in nuance and artfully written, in which political and religious references abound.

-Mirabella S.

The Posionwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

Turtles all the Way Down, a novel by John Green, tells the story of a teenage girl named Aza who struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder. After one day becoming involved in the search for a fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, she is reunited with an old childhood friend: who happens to be the aforementioned billionaire’s son. Despite the search for Pickett taking the spotlight as the guiding force of this powerful novel, the resulting work of fiction depicts a battle with mental illness sharpened by author’s personal struggles with OCD.

As Aza balances her fear of the human microbe, school, a budding relationship, and a criminal hunt, she begins to discover that in her own struggles, she has withdrawn from the world around her. The entire work highlights the value of life, much in the way past John Green novels tend to do. However, Turtles all the Way Down stands out from the rest of Green’s work. It obviously rings with his unique writing style and emotionally moving qualities, but also coursing through the veins of this work is a level of authenticity that makes it relatable to our very human nature.

As a personal fan of John Green, I came across this book expecting it to be incredible. I was not let down in the slightest. I could talk about the character development that enriches the plot of the story. I could talk for hours about how the comic elements of this novel are balanced with sharp, relatable reality in a way that triggers emotion within the darkest recesses of your brain, even as the main character discusses Star Wars fanfiction. I could even talk about how despite the obvious focal point of the novel being a criminal investigation, every other element of the novel becomes a tapestry of woven word and plot, with each string tugging and guiding the next into forming a textile of humor and sadness. But I digress. Simply, this book is a must read anyone who wants to read a funny, emotional, page turner of a novel.

-Mirabella S.

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Fall Life Hack: Back to Time Management Habits

As a high school student, I know how hard it is to stay on top of your work, keep up your grades, and juggle multiple extra curricular activities. Sometimes, it seems like there just isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything that needs to get done. Key word: seems. Albeit difficult, time management is possible for everyone, regardless of your number of weighted classes or extracurricular activities. Here are a few tips to get you started on your path to a more organized and relaxed life.

To begin, take some time every Monday to schedule out your week. Know that any major assignments that you have are going to take up a considerable amount of time, and also count on minor assignments adding up to become time consuming tasks. Then, display your schedule in a planner or in another prominent place. I have a few whiteboard stickers on the wall above my desk to help me stay organized, but you can use whatever system works for you.

As your week goes on, try not to procrastinate assignments, big or small. Sometimes, this is impossible. Whenever you can, do homework that isn’t due the next day. Remember that in a world where homework is continuously assigned, you can’t always count on being physically able to do a project in a single night, especially if other teachers assign homework to you on that specific day. Also, remember that all of those small assignments add up! Try not to let them get the best of you.

Finally, reward yourself! Being a student is hard work, and if you study a lot like me, you still deserve to feel like a teenager. Take time after school to unwind, even if this just involves eating a snack or browsing your social media for ten minutes. This seems like it would be counterproductive, but if you let yourself take a break, you will be more productive when you go back to work.

I will admit that my word on this subject is by no means final, these are just a few habits that help me keep myself in check. Procrastinating never leads to less stress, it just compounds the stress you feel at a given time to a later date. With finals edging closer, staying on top of your work becomes even more important! To all of my fellow students, good luck, and I hope that this article helps you feel a little bit more in control of your school life.

-Mirabella S.

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

Kaffir Boy, the autobiography of Mark Mathabane, is the haunting story of Mathabane’s life in South Africa under apartheid. In a world where his very existence is frowned upon, and his every movement is monitored by cruel regulations, Mathabane accomplishes feats deemed impossible by the powerful white minority of South Africa. You see, although Mathabane was talented, smart, and athletic, he was black, which, according to the laws of his country, should have sentenced him to a life of poverty and servitude in the ghettos of Johannesburg. However, in a twist of fate, Mathabane enrolls in school and discovers tennis, the sport which changed his life. The rest, up until the publication of his book, is a rollercoaster ride of revolution and rebellion that you will not want to put down for an instant.

The book begins with Mathabane’s childhood, which as you would probably assume, allowed very little room for play or fun. The opening of the book details a police raid in which multitudes of his neighbors were arrested for petty crimes, and sent to work in the countryside for unspecified amounts of time. Later, his family battles starvation. Just when you begin to wonder if times will ever look up for the Mathabanes, they gather enough food to scrape by for another day. Event after event occurs, and you begin to wonder how Mathabane, called “Johannes” in the book, even survived long enough to write the book that you hold in your hands. However, hope comes to the family in the form of education, against all odds.

As a disclaimer, I will say that Kaffir Boy is not exactly a feel-good story. However, it is wonderfully written, triumphant, and eye opening. The book is a look into a world that we tend to glance over. You probably know what apartheid was, but this book is a look into the life of a person oppressed by it. It is also exciting, and shocking in many ways. It is a must read, and I definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.

-Mirabella S.

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Book Review: Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Farewell to Manzanar is Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s personal, non-fiction account of life inside the Japanese internment camps that the US government put in place during World War ΙΙ. Although many Americans acknowledge the injustice that was done to Japanese Americans during the period that they were relocated to camps along the western interior of the US, less Americans understand the full truth of what life was like inside these war relocation camps. In Farewell to Manzanar, Wakatsuki tells the story of her family’s time in Manzanar, their assigned camp, as well as detailing the repercussions that this experience had on her family.

One of the most interesting parts about Wakatsuki’s story is that she puts a great deal of focus on her life pre and post war. She does not talk only about her family’s incarceration, but also of their home before the turmoil of the war. She laces the chapters with memories from before her time in Manzanar. Wakatsuki also taps into the memories of her family in chapters where she is not the narrator. This story is not simply one about war; it also talks about a young girl growing up and discovering her interests in a place far from her home.

-Mirabella S.

 

Farewell to Manzanar is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

 

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm is an allegorical novel by George Orwell that tells the story of the Russian Revolution through farm animals. At first glance, the book is nothing more than a fairy tail, but behind this façade is the barely concealed rage from Orwell, who grew disillusioned with the ideals of communism after watching how its system of government played out for Russia. The book follows Joseph Stalin’s rise to power as a dictator in a society that, in theory, was supposed to be shared among all of the working class. In spite of the cruel treatment that the ruling class dishes out to them, the working class remains oblivious of the freedoms being stripped from them until it is too late to fight back against it.

As I mentioned before, the book is about Stalin’s rise to power. However, the story is about animals. So, which animal represents Stalin? Finding out is half of the fun of reading the book. With minimal knowledge about the Russian Revolution, you can deduce which animal represents each political figure or societal class, as well as which events in the book represent major turning points in Russia’s history.

When reading Animal Farm, I could not help but be in awe of how flawlessly Orwell seamed each historical event into the book. Every turn of the page brings new excitement, and I found myself actually getting emotional throughout some points in the story. It is a strange experience to watch as a group of people, or “animals”, slowly become oppressed by a government that they thought would save them from their oppressors. Whether this cycle of power is told through the eyes of animals or humans, the disturbances that it can cause can shape the course of history, as we have seen it do time and time again. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys history, or simply wants a read that will make them think.

-Mirabella S., 9th grade

Animal Farm by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Hoopla.

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Anthem, a dystopian novel by Ayn Rand, is certainly a unique piece of literature. Described by herself as not a book, but a poem, and with a plot lasting less than 50 pages, Anthem is an ode to Objectivism. Written in 1937, imagined in the Soviet Union, Rand wrote the book in a time of political turmoil, which is reflected in her writing.

The story follows Equality 7-2521, a man who lives in an entirely collectivist society. Forbidden to think individual thoughts or exercise free will, Equality knows that something is wrong with the world he lives in. Since he was a child, he was different than his peers: he was always curious. When it is time for him to be assigned a job, he is not given the job of a scholar, as he wishes, but is sentenced to a life sweeping streets for this essential sin. However, this dark future opens up to light, quite literally, when he makes a revolutionary discovery.

Without spoiling the plot of the story, I can say that the book praises the human ego. Ego seems today to have a negative connotation, like a person obsessed with themselves. It can almost be confused with narcissism. Whatever picture that you have in your mind of “ego”, put it out. In this context, Rand praises man’s control over his own mind, man’s independence, and man’s freedom to learn, be successful, and make choices for himself. As shown in the book, ego is a beautiful thing that society falls apart without. Anthem is the perfect, short read for anybody who wants to have more food for thought than even some average length novels can provide.

-Mirabella S. Grade 9

Anthem by Ayn Rand is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive