Coping with Stress and Emotions

Lately, in my personal life, I’ve been experiencing a lot of stress and emotional mood swings, so I thought I’d share how I’m dealing with it. As a teenager growing physically and emotionally every day, I’ve recently been feeling a lot of confusing and unexplainable emotions. I’ve also been extremely stressed with school and the excessive workloads I’ve had to deal with, especially as the school year begins to come to a close.

With the help of all my loved ones, I’m doing much better now and I’m really enjoying myself amidst all the homework and stress. Without further ado, here are four ways to deal with stress and difficult emotions.

1. Write it down! When you are feeling stressed or confused, try writing it down on paper, whether it’s in a long paragraph of thought, a free verse poem, angry bullet points, or indecipherable scribbles. It feels great to release your thoughts and emotions, and you can really get creative with a pen to paper. Also, you can just throw away or shred up the paper later!

2. Talk to someone about it! One thing I’ve realized is that keeping secrets to yourself will not help. Bottling up emotions just consumes you and makes you feel so much worse, and you will feel disconnected or isolated from your loved ones. Mine have always been there for me, and I’ve found that they definitely have my back, and I can trust them and just have a nice long talk about my life with them. Talking to someone you love is a huge help.

3. Do something/find something you love! One of my favorite ways to spend my free time is listening to music. I love music because it puts me in a good mood and takes my mind off of whatever is going on at the moment. Do something that makes you happy, like reading a book or watching a nostalgic movie!

4. Don’t get distracted from your work! When you’re doing homework or trying to get something done, don’t let yourself be distracted. I’ve found that in the past, having my phone beside me when I’m working is an extremely unproductive arrangement. Every time I get a notification, I pick up my phone and can’t put it down for a long time. Recently I have been putting my phone far away from me when I work, and I’ve been so much more productive. Also, in the cases that I am productive and get a lot of work done, I’m really happy with myself and I allow myself to feel good and have a good day.

I hope this helps! Good luck!

-Lam T.

Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers

When twelve-year-old Ruth Quayle uses a face-recognition app to search for images of herself online, she finds plenty of photos of herself, as she expected. Then she stumbles across a couple images of a complete stranger—yet one that resembles Ruth almost identically. Ruth soon comes to the conclusion that the stranger, Ruby, is her identical twin!

Ruth and Ruby communicate over the Internet, learning more about each other, themselves, and their families. They share many differences and similarities—Ruth is an extroverted American adoptee, while Ruby is a shy English girl living with her single mother.

Yet both carry lives bursting with family, friends, and blooming romances. Together, Ruth and Ruby investigate the truth about their birth and separation, all the while balancing their busy lives and learning how to navigate them.

Ruth and Ruby’s story turned out to be one of my favorites! Throughout the massively complicated shift in Ruth s and Ruby s lives, they are still only twelve-year-olds learning to deal with the small changes in their lives that come with growing up.

I absolutely loved that this novel was written only in emails, handwritten letters, Tumblr entries, and film scripts. The way the characters wrote their emails and letters really helped embody their personalities, and this format was such a unique, inventive, and expressive way to write a novel.

Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers is a creatively crafted story of family, friendship, and love. I truly enjoyed it so much, and I found myself rereading certain scenes over and over after I had finished the book. I’d definitely recommend Finding Ruby Starling! Happy reading!

-Lam T.

Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

In a city near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, lives a twelve-year-old girl named Charlotte. Over a thousand miles away, in the small town of Lanester, Louisiana, lives an eleven-year-old boy named Ben.

Charlotte’s and Ben’s lives intersect through only an online Scrabble game. At first glance, they seem drastically different—Charlotte possesses a rock collection and aspires to be a geologist, while Ben loves anything related to presidential history, recycling, and Harry Potter.

Yet somehow, as the story escalates, Charlotte’s and Ben’s lives begin to tie together in completely unexpected ways. Throughout their journeys, similarities between the two rise to visibility. Charlotte and Ben learn more about each other, and even more consequentially, themselves, as they figure out the obstacles and challenges thrown into their lives.

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly is a truly touching, inspiring, and reflective novel. The parallels drawn between the two main characters’ lives are skillfully crafted, and it is even more so when it is considered how different they really are. You Go First truly impressed me, and I’m sure I’ll be rereading this story countless more times, as readers may if they decide to give this one a try.

I would definitely recommend You Go First, especially for younger teenage readers. I absolutely fell in love with this book, and I’m sure you will too! Hopefully, you will enjoy this tale spun of friendship and family, humor and grief, growing up and breaking down, and finding one’s true identity. Happy reading!

-Lam T.

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

A Phở Love Story by Loan Le

Linh Mai and Bảo Nguyễn haven’t spoken since they were kids, when they met in a Buddhist temple and were shortly yanked apart by their silently enraged families. Their families own neighboring phở restaurants, but that’s not the whole story. They’re not just neighbors, they are rivals, and not friendly ones. The Mais and Nguyễns are in constant competition with each other; consistently gossiping, trash-talking, and spreading atrocious rumors about each other—aside from frequently calling each other’s phở “dở ẹc” (very, very bad).

But everything changes for Linh and Bảo on the Mais’ Phở Day, when Linh’s family will offer a two-for-one deal for their phở. Linh, a passionate artist, plans to attend an art exhibition, but she has no choice but to help her parents deal with the rush of customers. At one point, she becomes extremely overwhelmed and runs outside to an alley, where she encounters Bảo, who offers to secretly help. Linh and Bảo help make Phở Day a success—all without Linh’s mother knowing, of course! As the night ends and they escape triumphantly to the alley, both realize that everything has changed for them.

Coincidentally or not, Linh and Bảo are soon assigned a project to partner on. As they spend more time together and get to know each other, sparks begin to fly, and they embark on a secret relationship, which they are forced to hide from their families, who would no doubt break them apart once more.

In only a matter of time, Linh and Bảo come to realize that their families’ feud runs deeper than a silly restaurant rivalry, and that their situation is much more complicated than either of them could have imagined.

Throughout it all, Linh struggles to communicate to her parents her dreams of pursuing a career as an artist, as they wish her to become an engineer. Bảo, meanwhile, can’t seem to find something he is passionate about and is hesitant about who he wants to be in life.

This story uses a lot of Vietnamese cultural references, which is one of my favorite aspects of the novel. The author occasionally drops some Vietnamese terms into the dialogue and narration, and the story shows a lot of typical Vietnamese-family customs, tendencies, and conversations. As a Vietnamese person who grew up in the same environment, I found A Phở Love Story hilariously relatable, so I’d definitely recommend it especially to anyone acquainted with Asian culture. This book is also great if you are interested in or curious about Asian culture.

A Phở Love Story by Loan Le is a playful, serious, beautiful, and poignant read all at the same time, and I’m not kidding when I tell you that I started crying when I got to a certain part of the book. (I laughed out loud lots of times too!) I found this story to be very realistic and reflective on parents’ expectations of their kids’ career choices and other general plans for their futures. Definitely give this novel a try! I loved it so much and would no doubt recommend it!

-Lam T.

A Phở Love Story by Loan Le is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Code of Honor by Alan Gratz

Seventeen-year-old Kamran Smith is living the life—he’s the star of his football team; dates a popular, beautiful girl; and—though his family originally comes from Iran—has always felt like a 100% accepted American.

And then Kamran’s older brother, Darius, is accused of being a terrorist. Kamran can’t bring himself to believe any of it, but hard evidence has been exposed to the public—films of Darius threatening his country and implying a looming fatal attack.

Suddenly, in the whole world’s eyes, Kamran is labeled as a terrorist as well. His closest, supposedly loyal friends abruptly turn on him. Kamran is determined to prove to the world that Darius is not a terrorist.

Racing against time, Kamran discovers a sequence of clues and codes that he must unscramble to guide him to the truth about Darius and the dangers that lie ahead. As he puts his life at risk in saving his brother and the world, he never ceases to believe that his brother is not a terrorist. No matter what evidence there is, he knows Darius is innocent. No matter how much the world thinks otherwise, he is convinced Darius would never betray his country

Code of Honor by Alan Gratz, the story of Kamran Smith; is a thrilling, action-packed read that brings to light themes of loyalty, doubt, prejudice, and perseverance. Though it is slightly unrealistic, it’s still an incredible novel. I would definitely recommend Code of Honor, especially to those interested in historical fiction, current events, or action novels.

-Lam T.

Code of Honor by Alan Gratz is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Refugee by Alan Gratz

From the publisher:

“Josef is a Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world…

Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety and freedom in America…

Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe…”

Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, but it is their similarities and connections that unite their experiences. After all, they were just young kids leading normal lives, until cruelty and torture tore them, their families, their homes, and their lives apart.

As these innocent children and their families are forced to leave behind everything they’ve ever known in search of safety, their harrowing journeys extend beyond the promised land they strive to reach—Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud have unknowingly begun another journey, the one within.These three are abruptly forced to grow up and make unthinkable risks and sacrifices to save themselves and their loved ones.

Read Refugee, because it is a beautiful story that will make you rethink your good fortunes.

Read Refugee, because it is a gorgeous, intricately crafted work of art.

Read Refugee, because it brilliantly ties different stories together in the most shocking ways.

Read Refugee, because it will make your heart stir in sympathy and hope for these three kids, who are so much like normal kids, yet so different—their lives have been destroyed by violence.

But most importantly, read Refugee, because it is important for readers to understand how different one’s life could be if an ancestor got lucky—or unlucky—when seeking a better, happier, and safer life away from home.

-Lam T.

Refugee by Alan Gratz is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius who loves gardening, diagnosing medical conditions, and most of all, the number 7. Willow is bursting with knowledge and curiosity on the inside, but when she enters middle school, she discovers that the only people she finds comfort in connecting with are her adoptive parents.

Until one seemingly normal day morphs into the tragic disaster that becomes the center of Willow’s world—both her adoptive parents die in a car crash. What are the odds of losing both sets of parents in a lifetime? Apparently, Willow is right on the edge of the graph, in the one percent of the one percent. Twice without parents, she feels more alone than ever, because who is she with no family?

Willow embarks on a journey to find a permanent family to surround her. On her way, she finds her voice and casts herself magically on others. She helps to create an entire garden at a drab apartment building, inspires a taxi driver to continue his education, and makes her mark on everything she is involved in. She discovers herself surrounded by her loved ones, her chosen family, those whom she met on her journey.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan brings fresh emotion to readers—warmth, tears, and joy. Willow Chance shows readers that family is truly important, but that those you meet on your journey are just as significant as those you have known since you were born. I was thoroughly touched by this unexpectedly beautiful story. Willow may be a genius who makes all her meals with food grown in her backyard garden; but in the end, she’s just a young girl with feelings and emotions who will make readers completely rethink everything they’ve been through and appreciate all they have much, much more. Readers will close Counting by 7s with more than a new story under their wings, because this book is a lot more than that—it’s a whole new understanding of our world.

-Lam T.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster is a medical miracle living on an oxygen tank and a drug called Phalanxifor. Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at thirteen, Hazel has been through many surgeries and treatments. At one point, dozens of drugs were flowing through her body, trying to keep her alive. Later, doctors experimented on her with Phalanxifor, a drug that didn’t work on around 70% of people—but it worked on Hazel.

Hazel is made of cancer, but The Fault in Our Stars is in no way a typical cancer story. Hazel’s experience with cancer has made her seem a lot older and wiser than she is. Her insights are so interesting to think about, readers will contemplate them for days afterward.

When asked why she doesn’t eat meat, Hazel explains simply, “I want to minimize the number of deaths I am responsible for.”

When a boy in her Cancer Kid Support Group says he fears oblivion (the state of being forgotten by the public), Hazel replies in her wise and honest way, saying that one day everything will be gone and oblivion is inevitable, leaving the group speechless.

But by this time, cancer has completely invaded her body and identity. Hazel’s story is cancer, how it has affected her, and how she has bought herself a couple more years to live. There’s no going back now, no wondering what could have been if cancer had never showed up in her life—Who knows? Who cares? Hazel knows it won’t change a thing. But when she meets Augustus Waters, her entire life is turned around.

In spending time with Augustus, both expose, find, and realize their true and inner selves. On the surface, both are cancer-influenced people who have grown mentally older, wiser, and stronger. Hazel and Augustus discuss the deepest subjects and throw around a whole lot of fancy words. But underneath, both are still naïve teenagers learning how to navigate life.

Intuitive, fearless, poignant, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a truly incredible story of life, death, and those in between. It will make readers smile, laugh, and cry all at the same time. I was not able to stop thinking about the story and its characters long after I finished reading, and the same will occur for you if you choose to read it. The Fault in Our Stars seems to reach beyond its pages, just like a pop-up book—but instead of paper figures popping out, it is the acute emotion that John Green paints painstakingly into his beautiful story.

“There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of the sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”

-Hazel Grace Lancaster, The Fault in Our Stars

-Lam T.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

At age twelve, Josh and his twin brother, Jordan, are teenage basketball phenomenons, radiant beasts, kings on the court. But when Jordan meets the new girl in school, everything unravels for Josh as the brothers’ bond comes undone and circumstances get progressively worse and worse for him than he could’ve ever imagined.

As Josh begins to lose his brother, he loses himself in his loneliness and jealousy, and what he does in a couple seconds changes their relationship dramatically. It worsens to the point where the bridge between the two is completely burned to ash.

Soon, pieces that have never made sense to Josh are suddenly fitting together to create the truth. Secrets are revealed to Josh and Jordan, and they present the dangerous possibility of changing their lives forever. As these possibilities transform into realities, they seem to suck all the light out of Josh and Jordan’s lives, leaving them darkened, deflated, and empty. Eventually, the brothers realize that they still have and need each other.

As ties are cut and secrets are revealed, Josh travels shakily through it all. There are moments when he walks proudly, straight ahead; stumbles forward with his head down; and even loses his footing and falls flat on his face. But even if it takes him a while to get back up and dust himself off, he always manages to continue marching ahead to whatever awaits him.

During the novel, I was really surprised by Josh’s incredible development throughout the story. In the beginning, he desires fame and glory. But later on, when he is presented with his father’s championship ring, which he has long wished to possess, he decides to share it with Jordan. His growth was gradual but eventually noticeable—readers watch and listen to him through his own eyes as he grows wiser and comes to realize that there are things in life more important than winning.

Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover tells the amusing, unfortunate, heartwarming, and heartbreaking story of Josh Bell and a sequence of unlucky events— entirely through free verse. It deeply moved me in a way that books usually don’t. If you have the time, please give this book a try—I promise you won’t regret it.

-Lam T.

Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

Imagine a community where life is idyllic: Citizens are assigned their partners, jobs, and family units. Everyone, being the same, obeys the laws. Those who are slightly imperfect are released from the community. Aforementioned community is one relieved of conflict, inequality, divorce, unemployment, injustice, poverty, disappointment, and pain—but all the same, deprived of true joy, color, music, sunshine, choice, and love.

Jonas, an incoming twelve-year-old, is of course extremely eager to determine his predetermined Life Assignment, just as the other soon-to-be Twelves are. However, during the long-awaited Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas is completely skipped over. The Elders, who assign jobs to the incoming Twelves, have carefully studied the children for years—yet Jonas has been skipped over.

And here, he learns that he was not assigned, but selected—for the most honored job in the community. Jonas was selected to become the next Receiver of Memory.

Jonas enters a new life, one where he is entitled to rudeness, questioning, and lying. He is also prohibited from discussing his training, dream-telling, applying for medication, and applying for release.

In training, a mysterious man called the Giver—the last Receiver before Jonas—begins to transmit memories to Jonas. Memories of the entire world, memories no one else in the community has experienced before. With these memories, Jonas is able to experience sledding downhill in snow, sunshine, rainbows, holidays, and family. On the other hand, he has also transferred memories of sunburn, fire, vomit, war, and other sources and results of pain. As the days go by, the burden of the memories Jonas carries transforms him into a much wiser person. He often becomes aggravated with his friends, as they do not understand him—they know nothing and feel nothing of what Jonas does.

The Giver, a tale of a utopia and its downsides, is unforgettable. In the part it plays in telling readers how important the little things in life are, I’ve realized how much we take for granted. Maybe those things won’t ever be taken away from us, but that’s no reason not to appreciate them. One part of the story that truly shocked me was the aspect of family—assigned Birthmothers would give birth to children, and two would be assigned to a couple to take care of. Citizens have no way of knowing their blood-related siblings, cousins, parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. Also, citizens are so shielded from pain and conflict that all seem to know nothing—all but the Receiver. Imagine!

Do not miss reading The Giver by Lois Lowry. This exceptionally perceptive novel tells of an unimaginable lifestyle in an unimaginable community through Lois Lowry’s powerful words, which craft a descriptive tale of law against love and safety against choice.

-Lam T.

The Giver by Lois Lowry is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive