The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful novel about patience, faith, and the transcending power of love.

The novel focuses on three main characters and their intertwining stories. Aibileen Clark is an African-American housekeeper in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. Tormented by her mistress and haunted by her son’s recent death, Aibileen begins to seek change. Minny Jackson is Aibileen’s best friend. She’s been fired from job after job because of her smart mouth. With five mouths to feed and an abusive husband, Minny is hardened and bitter. However, when she goes to work for Celia Ray, she discovers something new. Eugenia Phelan has been different her entire life. She’s never exactly fit in with her parents’ wealthy, white friends: she longs to be a writer and find true love on the side. As she navigates the treacherous minefield of high society and tentative love, she meets Aibileen and Minny, and the three unite to write a book that may very well get them killed.

The Help is about so much more than the complicated race relations in the mid-90s South. At its heart, it’s a coming-of-age, an opening-of-heart story. Over the course of the plot, the three women learn to find themselves in the blank noise of society, to stay true to themselves when everyone else is telling them to lie. At the end of the day, that is what the novel is about. The enormous power of opening your heart and mind is realistically and hauntingly portrayed here. The hauntingly heartfelt writing style employed by Miss Stockett is perfect- the book reads like a letter written to an old friend. This is a thought-provoking novel that will elicit tears and laughs in equal measures.

-Vaidehi B.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded online for free from Overdrive

The Roar by Emma Clayton

The Roar by Emma Clayton is a dystopian science fiction book that re-examines what it really means to be human.

In the (not so) distant future, the entire human population is squeezed into a third of the land that it once occupied, behind an impenetrable gray wall. Society’s distinctions are more emphasized than ever, with all the rich living in the Golden Turrets, and those not so fortunate shoved underneath, deprived of sun and water, into the Shadows. An animal plague has destroyed the rest of the Earth. 

So they think.

Hybrid Mika Smith has his doubts about everything, even about his sister Ellie’s suspicious death. But when a mysterious dream, a podship competition, and The Roar come into play, Mika must prepare to rethink everything he has ever known about the dying and corrupted world he lives in. 

One quote from the book really struck me: “A few people started riding bicycles and others reused their plastic bags and meanwhile Earth was gasping its last, desperate breath.” This quote really summarizes what the main idea of this book is. In this book, the Earth has been polluted beyond recognition, and humanity is desperately warring against nature, believing that only one can survive. This quote is gripping on an intrinsic level, making us question the validity of our motives, however well-intentioned they may be, and raises an inquiry into the basic human nature of greed and power. It stresses the need for substantial action and unity against some of the pressing problems facing our world.

The Roar by Emma Clayton is one of the best books I have ever read. The plot is just interesting enough to not be boring but suspenseful enough to be a nail-biting thriller. Although the plot is a bit too slow at times, the book still remains an excellent read. Emma Clayton has created a fictional masterpiece but added perfect undercurrents of real issues like climate change that pressure us all today.

-Vaidehi B.

 

Scat by Carl Hiaasen

Scat, written by Carl Hiaasen, is a humorous but insightful novel about family, forgiveness, and the power of love.

The plot focuses on Nick, a teenager desperately struggling to pass biology with his fearsome teacher, Bunny Starch. To make matters worse, his father just returned from Afghanistan with no left arm. When Miss Starch goes missing on ‘family business,’ he and his best friend Marta don’t buy it. No, they assume the class delinquent, Smoke, has something to do with it. And he does! Just not in the way that they think. There’s a whole lot more going on than anyone player in this twisted tale can see…

In this book, Hiaasen expertly crafts a twisting, turning, crooked plot that captivates you until the very end. The main characters excellently portray the simultaneous confusion and excitement of ignorance, and the book itself holds great relevance to our world today.

The theme and motifs paint both a fantastical and realistic portrait of forgiveness, our earth, and the innate humanity in each and every one of us. The seriousness of the lesson is tempered well by the simplistic, yet effective humor of the characters. Using suspense and mystery in strange ways, this book will draw you in and keep you laughing until its conclusion.

-Vaidehi B.

Scat by Carl Hiaasen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Book Without Words by Avi

The Book Without Words by Avi is a strange, chaotic novella set in a medieval and gothic time period in an alternate universe.

An eccentric old man named Thorston has devoted his entire life to look for the two greatest secrets of life- the making of gold and immortality. Seconds away from a breakthrough, he keels over, dead. His servant, Sybil, and talking pet raven, Odo, decide that their only hope is to discover the two secrets and build a better life for themselves.

The ultimate theme of this book plays on human nature itself, as the two secrets themselves represent man’s greatest flaws- greed and the desire for immortality. 

This morally-charged storyline coupled with Avi’s odd, emotionless, and almost creepy narrating style makes for an intriguingly gruesome novella that turns the happy-go-lucky magic of youth into something curiously corrupted and cruel.

-Vaidehi B.

The Book Without Words by Avi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.