Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is an educating, eye-opening novel about two sisters, Pearl and May, whose unbreakable bond is put to the test as they leave their war-torn home of Shanghai, China, and immigrate to the United States.

In 1937 Shanghai, which Pearl refers to as the Paris of Asia, the sisters are accustomed to a luxurious life of wealth and extravagance. Pearl and May even pose as ‘beautiful girls’ for calendars and magazine advertisements, defying what it means to be a traditional Chinese young woman, much to their mother’s dismay. One night, as Pearl and May are getting ready for an evening of fun and partying, they receive terrible news from their parents: their father has gambled away their wealth.

Consequently, their father sells the girls as brides to a man by the name of Mr. Louie, who is journeying with his wife and two sons to America to find opportunity. Pearl and May do everything they can to avoid leaving with Mr. Louie and his sons, Sam and Vern, and even miss the boat they are supposed to be traveling on. The girls realize this was the wrong decision, however, as more bombs fall on Shanghai and the second Sino-Japanese war continues to ensue. Pearl, May, and their mother flee Shanghai to Hong Kong in hopes they can catch a ship to San Francisco. Unfortunately, before they are able to board the ship, their mother dies, and Pearl and May are forced to be strong enough to endure the long journey by themselves.

When Pearl and May finally arrive in America, they encounter Angel Island, an immigration station, where they are interviewed vigorously by government officials to see if they are spies. Pearl and May stay at Angel Island for a significant amount of time, and eventually, Pearl realizes May has been answering the questions in her interviews incorrectly. When Pearl asks her why she has been doing this, May tells her she is pregnant. This news shocks Pearl and she knows she must protect her sister and stall their time on Angel Island so she can have her baby in America. Pearl and May decide that Pearl should take the baby, Joy, as her own child. Once they leave Angel Island, Pearl and May head to Chinatown to find their new family. Almost immediately upon their arrival, Pearl and May begin to work at Mr. Louie’s shops and formulate a plan to earn enough money so that they can run away and start their own, independent life. These plans change quickly, though, when Pearl and May discover that Sam is a paper son, and the only legitimate son of Mr. Louie is Vern.

After hearing this news, Pearl and May decide not to run away and realize their new family is trying their best to build a new, successful life in Los Angeles, and they need all the help they can get. As Joy continues to grow, the conflict between Pearl and May starts to form. This conflict only deepens when Pearl gets pregnant and loses her baby, realizing she will never be able to have children. The United States’ suspicion of the Communist movement in China also adds to this familial controversy, and as Joy grows older, she begins to fall in love with communist ideals. Joy’s suspicious activities result in the government finding out her father is a paper son, and she flees the country out of guilt. Pearl plans to follow after her, and the book ends with her plan to go save her daughter. 

-Adriana A.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

One of Us is Lying is about four high school seniors, who are all quite stereotypical people in a high school, the jock, Cooper Clay, the prom queen, Addy Prentiss,  the “nerd”, Bronwyn Rojas, and the delinquent, Nate Macauley. However, when the four of them meet in an unfair detention, along with Simon Kelleher, the self-proclaimed “omniscient narrator” and person in charge of the gossip app named “About That”, which talks about the school’s gossip, although only using initials. 

However, the detention quickly turns into a crime scene when Simon dies due to a peanut allergy, with all the epi-pens in the nurse’s office mysteriously gone. All four of them are later questioned, when the police find that Simon had drunk a large amount of peanut oil prior to his death. They all deny knowing anything, though. Later, all four students are separately called to the police station and told that before his death, Simon had queued up a post which details each of their secrets- Cooper used steroids for his baseball performance, Bronwyn stole tests, Nate is dealt drugs, which violates his parole, and that Addy had cheated on her boyfriend. With the police putting pressure on them, and more and more media coverage, the four of them band together and take the investigation upon themselves. 

The novel is very interesting, and I thought that there were many plot twists and it’s quite fun to try to piece together the mystery as more and more information is revealed. It’s also enjoyable to see the different characters grow as people, seeing Addy become her own person, and see Nate and Bronwyn grow closer together. I definitely recommend One of Us is Lying for those who enjoy murder mysteries and those who enjoy piecing together different pieces of information throughout the book.

-Kelsie W.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Amazon.com: I, Robot (The Robot Series) eBook: Asimov, Isaac: Kindle Store

I, Robot, a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov, tell the tales of artificially intelligent robots held in check by the Three Laws of Robotics, which are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;

2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; and

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

With these three simple directives in mind, Asimov successfully creates a world in which the behaviour of robots is governed, allowing the humans (and the reader) to watch as the robots evolve from their primitive origins to eventually reach ultimate perfection in a future where humanity is on the cusp of being rendered obsolete.

While not technically classified as a novel, the stories have been ordered in such a way as to preserve continuity. Within a frame narrative of an interview of a soon-to-be-retired division head of the U.S. Robot and Mechanical Men Corporation, “robopsychologist” Dr. Susan Calvin, stories are told depicting the key members involved in humanity’s development of a range of robots from infantile to hyper intelligent ones. An especially appealing part of the stories is that most of the characters are kept the same, and while it may seem dull to read about the same few people, the character development in each story produces well rounded characters that are interesting and realistic.

Of the 9 stories in I, Robot, my personal favorite was “Little Lost Robot,” in which Dr. Calvin and her associates lose a robot with a diminished First Law (meaning that it can harm humans), and they must find it again before it can escape to Earth and wreak havoc on the planet, resulting in a loss of support for the robot initiative. However, all the stories were definitely thought-provoking ones, and I would recommend the entire collection to all readers, sci-fi fans or otherwise.

-Mahak M.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Thunderball by Ian Fleming

Thunderball (novel) - Wikipedia

There’s no rest for Agent James Bond, code-name 007, especially after taking down the Russian counter-intelligence agency SMERSH. It has only created a new power vacuum, one that an even more dangerous organization seeks to fill in Thunderball by Ian Fleming.

The Prime Minister of the UK and the President of the US both receive a secret message from SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion), detailing their latest plot. The agency, led by criminal mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld, has successfully hijacked a plane carrying two nuclear bombs, which it will use to destroy two major cities in the West unless an exorbitant ransom is paid.

To avoid this, the Americans and the British launch Operation Thunderball to retrieve the two weapons of mass destruction. M, however, decides to act on a hunch of his, and, believing that the SPECTRE operative is working from the Caribbean area, and thus sends his best operative, James Bond, to eliminate the threat.

Once at the Bahamas, Bond wastes no time integrating himself with the suspected SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo by seducing the beautiful Domino Vitali, Largo’s current mistress. However, alone in the Bahamas with a lone man for backup, Bond may find himself in over his head, with Largo proving to be a more powerful nemesis than any before him…

In Ian Fleming’s Thunderball, the reader is introduced to the newest set of Bond villains, as well as one of the best action sequences in the Bond storyline. Fans of Agent 007 should not miss the ninth installment in the tale of one of the most celebrated series in history.

-Mahak M.

Thunderball by Ian Fleming is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott’s most well-renown classic, Little Women, has been well-loved by readers everywhere for decades, and it’s easy to see why.

 Not only is the book filled with warmth and the beauty of family and childhood, but its characters and plot are incredibly believable, more so than most books you may read. It is because the story is in fact simplistic, regarding the lives of the March sisters and what happens in their beautifully ordinary life, that it so easily draws in the reader. Many stories go above and beyond what can be believable when it comes to the plot and therefore can disconnect the reader from the book because the sense of relatability is then gone. However, such is not the case with Little Women, as the story takes place on a smaller, simpler scale, seldom varying away from what goes on in the March family home, and is, therefore, all the more lovable and sweet.

Though I will not skip over the fact that yes, there were some slower, less interesting parts, overall the book was a sweet read filled with moral lessons that can still be understood and implemented today, and lovable, though humanly flawed characters. No such one character is perfect or entirely likable within this book, as is almost always the case for the protagonist, who is always the unassuming yet nearly perfect hero. Each of the March sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy), all have their own fair share of flaws and imperfections, and this is clearly depicted from the beginning of the book, adding a level of realism and humanity to what otherwise would have been a rather slow-paced story. 

Little Women is indeed a very long book; but a worthwhile, cozy read, the length being attributed to the fact that it spans over a long duration of time, as the book first begins in the midst of childhood and ends many years later. I highly recommend this book, especially if you are a big fan of other classics or simply want a book that is a good, light-hearted read without losing any of its lifelike qualities.

-Aisha

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is a must-read. An absolute must read, no doubts about it. 

Told in the first-person perspective of Jane herself, it’s a story about her life, written almost in an auto-biography style, though the book is indeed fictional. Beginning during Jane’s loveless childhood where she lives with her cruel, unfeeling Aunt and cousins as an orphaned little girl and then later transitioning to her life in a strict girl’s boarding school, Jane then goes on to become a teacher for a couple of years before applying herself to become a governess. She then finds herself a good job as the governess of a young French girl in a manor named Thornfield Hall, home of the brooding, seldom-seen owner, Mr. Rochester. 

Though there can be no doubt that the book does revolve around the romance that takes place in Jane’s life, the book is about Jane and her as a person more than it is anyone else. Her beautiful reflections and mature understandings of life are insightful and filled with deep wisdom and truth, often taking center stage in the book. I found myself admiring Jane many times as I read through the book simply due to how steadfast she is in staying true to herself and her beliefs. Jane exhibits this often throughout the book, refusing to step down in the face of opposition, to cave under pressure, even when it pains her greatly to do so, and instead, constantly striving to adhere to her values.

Due to this trait, Jane as a character can be described as altogether independent, brave, and steadfast, but also someone who has a heavy feeling and emotive heart, a desire for purpose, and a quiet, contemplative exterior. 

Jane is the perfect embodiment of a strong female character, but even in being so, she is not un-feminine or unfeeling, but quite the opposite, with a garnered heart that loves and is inclined to serve and care. 

With everything that makes up Jane and who she is, this masterpiece of a character feels too real to be fictional. This is much accredited to  Charlotte Bronte’s beautifully descriptive, explanatory way of writing which is what breathes life into the story. The beautiful language, the common appearance of beautiful places in nature, the slow-moving get captivating plot along with the different characters that you meet along the way altogether creates the perfect read. 

But the true heart and soul of the story lies within Jane. The book is titled Jane Eyre, for what I believe is the sole purpose being that Jane is the story. And I promise you, Jane is worth every single page of reading this book.

-Aisha

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

This is an amazing story. I highly recommend you read it. 

When Suzanne Swanson learns about how her former best friend, Franny Jackson, drowned during the summer, she is immediately convinced that there was something else that caused her death. Her mother’s explanation, “Sometimes things just happen”, Suzy believes, is not the truth. 

Suzy stops talking to everyone. She begins to think that silence is better than talking. It sometimes means more than someone’s words. 

Her search for an answer leads to many interesting facts and a possible suspect: jellyfish. Especially when she finds out so much about them during a school field trip visit to the aquarium. I also loved how this book features lots of amazing facts about jellyfish.

During Suzy’s research, she finds lots of different experts on jellyfish and decides that she should visit one of those experts and ask them to help her prove how her former best friend really died. More fueled than ever, Suzy is determined to help bring the truth into the light.

The book follows Suzy as she tries to find out the whole story and grieves this loss. She is devastated that, as she calls it, ‘The Worst Thing’ took place before she was able to make up with Franny for the terrible scene that unfolded thanks to Suzy.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and I hope we can watch the movie soon. 

The Thing About Jellyfish has an amazing story and succeeds in making the reader want to keep reading more and more of the book. Filled with valuable life lessons and a wide range of character personalities, this best-seller is a novel you should read.

-Peri A.

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Cellar by Natasha Preston

The Cellar by Natasha Preston is a novel about a teenage girl who is abducted by a man with psychological issues. The girl’s name is Summer; she has a great life with a loving boyfriend. One night, she was out walking alone when she was captured by the man who called himself Clover. Clover had an obsession with flowers and women. He spent much of his life after his mother died trying to “collect” his pure flowers. He would abduct young girls and force them to live in a cellar and call them his flowers. The girls who lived in the cellar had been there for years or months. They were giving up on escaping. Summer who became Lily was confident her boyfriend would come to find her. However as days turned into months, she felt her identity as Summer slip away and had lost all hope.

This novel is a fantastic read; it keeps you on your toes the entire time. I find that the backstory for Clover is fascinating and shows how he ended up becoming a monster. His underlying insecurities from his mother’s treatment of him as a child prove how people often learn their behavior from others. This novel also brings to light the importance of friendship, family, and courage. It shows how women can come together in the roughest of times and support each other. Despite the dark story behind Clover, it still highlights the goodness we have in this world.

Overall, I recommend this novel to people who enjoy stories related to mystery, psychology, and friendship.

-Ellie B.

The Cellar by Natasha Preston is available as a free download from Overdrive.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brenden Kieley

With all that has been going on in the world as of late, I thought it would be a perfect time to recommend one of my favorite books.

Similar to The Hate U Give, All American Boys is a captivating story about racial injustice and while it was released quite a while ago, it has always maintained its relevance especially in today’s current social climate

Written by two authors and two different perspectives, All American Boys is about two teenagers, Rashard and Quinn, and how they will stand up for the racism that Rashard faces once he gets falsely accused of stealing in a grocery store and the many injustices he faces afterward. 

From the beginning, this book had something that as different from other fictional books I’ve read about racial injustice and one of which is dual perspectives. I absolutely adored the different points of view and the fact they were each written by different authors made them all the more enjoyable. With the dual perspectives, it gave the book a deeper meaning and showed how one part of the community could stay silent about the issues of injustice (Quinn’s) and how another community rallied for it. 

One of the main themes of this book is loyalty. From the catalyst event moving onwards Quinn deals with the fact that maybe his loyalty lies in the wrong people. For example, his best friends brother was the police officer that cruelly manhandled Rashard and escalated the situation that shouldn’t have even been an issue in the first place. Throughout the book Quinn is trying to hold onto the trust and security not only with his best friend but his brother, who he also has a close bond with. 

This story is so captivating and powerful that I finished it in one sitting. From start to finish I was hooked, and I can almost guarantee that you would as well. 

Though Rashard’s story though fictional is very much a reality for what a lot of people of color face. But in most cases, the victim doesn’t get justice. This book shows the privilege some people live in for their lives to continue as though nothing has happened. It also serves as a reminder that when something isn’t right to speak up about it. Advocate and speak out about stories of people like Rashard who can’t do it for themselves because “Rashard couldn’t come to school today.” 

In terms of reality, Rashard’s story would only be the tip of the iceberg. Racial inequality is still very much alive and is being brought up not only in fiction but in daily life. So stay aware and advocate!

-Asli B.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brenden Kieley is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written by the well-known Robert Louis Stevenson, is a dark story that has a very intelligent meaning behind it. 

The story begins with a respected lawyer named Mr. Utterson, listening to his friend Enfield tell a chilling story of assault. The story describes a figure named Mr. Hyde, who tramples a young girl, and disappears into a door on the street, only to make an appearance when the onlookers call him out to pay his respects to the girl and her relatives. They agree not to discuss the situation further because they do not approve of gossip. However, it happens that one of Mr. Utterson’s clients, Dr. Jekyll, has a written will transferring all of his property to the same Mr. Hyde. Out of curiosity, Utterson does his own research by first making a visit to Dr. Lanyon. Lanyon reports that he no longer sees much of Jekyll ever since their dispute over Jekyll’s research, which Lanyon refers to as “unscientific balderdash”.

Then, Utterson encounters Mr. Hyde at the home in which he trampled the young girl, and he is amazed at how ugly and deformed the man seems. A year goes by with not much commotion over the situation until a servant girl witnesses Hyde brutally beat a member of Parliament and a client of Utterson to death. The police contact Utterson, and he immediately suspects Hyde and leads the police to Hyde’s personal address. However, upon arrival at the apartment, the murderer has vanished, and the police search proves futile. Shortly thereafter, Utterson again visits Jekyll, who now claims to have ended all relations with Hyde. He shows Utterson a note, allegedly written by Hyde, apologizing for the trouble he caused and saying goodbye. That night, however, Utterson’s clerk points out that Hyde’s handwriting bears a remarkable similarity to Jekyll’s own. Over the next few months, Jekyll acts very sociably and friendly until he abruptly cuts off ties with all people after the suspicious death of Lanyon. Then, one day, Jekyll’s butler, Poole, storms into Utterson’s house, pleading for help with his master. The two travel to Jekyll’s laboratory where they are shocked to find the body of Hyde, wearing Jekyll’s clothes and dead by suicide, and a letter from Jekyll to Utterson promising to explain everything. Jekyll opens the letter from Lanyon at home to find a chilling message that his death was caused by the shock of seeing Mr. Hyde metamorphose into Dr. Jekyll. The rest of the story dives into Jekyll’s dilemma about metamorphosis and his cry for help. As much as he tries to control it, Jekyll starts to subconsciously turn into Hyde. Jekyll understands that his other persona, Hyde, is a danger to society, and he debates committing suicide, and the novel closes with the end of Jekyll’s letter. 

This story, by Robert Louis Stevenson, can be very chilling and mysterious. Behind the complicated story that Stevenson wrote, there is actually a deeper meaning behind it. The author was trying to get into the concept of brain duality, which is why he emphasized the contrast between Jekyll and Hyde so heavily. Overall, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a very entertaining and mysterious story, which has a deeper meaning behind it.

-Karis K, 9th grade

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.