Night by Elie Wiesel

The book Night by Elie Wiesel is an inside look at the holocaust through the eyes of a young Jewish boy. It is the real story of the author, which is why it is so astounding. I believe that his purpose for writing it was to shed light on how devastating the holocaust was, the concentration camps, and what it means to be broken as an individual. It is filled with so much pain and suffering, and yet that was what made it undeniably real. His life during this period of time was so horrible that he longed for death as opposed to the darkness of the world around him.

Without the basic human needs for food, water, shelter, and warmth, the spirit begins to weaken. This caused him to be angry at God and his initial strong beliefs to falter, which was heartbreaking, as now, without his family or religion, he was utterly and completely alone.

Though the book could be dark and upsetting due to its raw storyline, it was also very eye-opening for me, as I learned many new things about the holocaust and also perceived it through the eyes of a young boy. Although he endured the worst struggle of his life during that time and lost the ones he loved most, him telling his story can be an inspiration for people to never give up.

-Aisha E.

Night by Elie Wiesel is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again is a fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien. The book is set in a world filled with elves, dwarves, orcs, magic, and all sorts of strange creatures, known as Middle-Earth. In The Hobbit, a company of dwarves, along with a wizard, attempt to reclaim their lost kingdom and gold, which have been taken by a dragon.

The book’s protagonist is a hobbit, a race similar to humans, but shorter than dwarves, named Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo lives a quiet, ordinary life inside his hobbit-hole, until one day a mysterious wizard named Gandalf the Grey and a company of thirteen dwarves show up at his doorstep, asking him to join their quest to reclaim their gold and slay the ferocious dragon Smaug. Bilbo initially refuses, but eventually gives in to temptation, and soon he, the dwarves, and wizard are thrown into an action-filled adventure.

The Hobbit mainly shows Bilbo’s growth and transformation into a hero as the dwarves are traveling towards their goal. Against obstacle after obstacle, Bilbo begins to prove his usefulness and worth, as he saves the dwarves from countless threats, from elven kings to deadly spiders.

The Hobbit is a great book that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is filled with adventure and there is action at every turn. Overall, The Hobbit is a classic novel that should be read by everyone.

-Josh N. 

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

When by Victoria Laurie

Everyone knows that they will one day die, and yet we live our lives trying our best to ignore it, as death is a dark subject for most. However, the main character Maddie in the book When by Victoria Laurie, has no choice but to see death everywhere she goes. The death date of every person she sees is imprinted upon their forehead.  Living alone with her mother, money is tight, and so her mother arranged for her to earn money by telling clients who come to their home their death date.

One day a client comes in and Maddie informs her that her son’s death date is next week. Shocked and confused( as the woman had initially come in regarding the death date of her daughter who had leukemia) she leaves angrily. Of course, the woman’s son ends up dead upon the very date that Maddie predicted. After this, the FBI begins to suspect Maddie as well as her best friend Stubby for murdering the child. The book is a thrilling mystery that I enjoyed immensely, and it is the kind of book that kept me up late reading, anticipating what would happen next. 

Buried beneath the fast-paced storyline, however, is the question to the reader of what you would do if you knew the day you would die. It was something fascinating to ponder as I read, and even one of the characters in the book whom Maddie had told his death date to had turned his life around due to that. He wanted to make sure his family was supported financially and knew they were loved, as well as enjoy the last years of his life. And the meaning I found within the book as well was that death is not something to try to run away from, but rather something to remember every once in a while, to put everything into perspective and allow you to live life beautifully.

~Aisha E.

When by Victoria Laurie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane

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This is perhaps my favorite story written by the short-lived but legendary author so far. It even surpasses his most well-known novel The Red Badge of Courage. Maybe because despite my great interest in the Civil War, the main character in this story touches me the most: Maggie Johnson.

Unlike her common name, Maggie is not a common girl. Just by reading the description of her family, it was pretty easy enough to tell that she detested her family. Her mother, father, and brother Jimmy all had their own life going on. They blame the obstacles in life on her. Mary Johnson, her mother drinks and fights and curses after their father passed away. Jimmy seemed unwilling to acknowledge his family as he thought it as a burden and a disgrace to his life. And Maggie was no different. Since from a young age, her violent reactions including how she trembles and hides under the table show her extreme fear for the people she’s supposed to love the most-her parents. Everything changed when Pete came.

Because of her childhood trauma, Maggie craved more than ever to find a man who is well educated and rich, mainly to save her from her diabolical family. Pete was Jimmy’s friend, I could tell he was being like a casual friend to Maggie by taking her to see plays and eat at luxurious restaurants since he owned a saloon. However, Pete was not a person who holds a serious attitude toward love or relationship, he was simply a player. And this is when Maggie gets really hurt by his rudeness later on when they met Nell, Pete’s old sweetheart. From this point on, Maggie’s imagined glorious life starts to deteriorate.

Moreover, Mary Johnson couldn’t forgive Maggie’s not coming home every night since Pete came along. In my opinion, Mary is very absurd for her requirement for Maggie as a pious daughter when she doesn’t even qualify a single bit to be a mother. Her daughter is an adult, so it’s her right to stay wherever she wants if she doesn’t feel like going home today. Besides, the wrecked condition of the house and her manner toward Maggie, of course, disengages her desire to return home after a grueling day at the clothing factory she works at.

Lastly, this story mainly just reflects how the death of our protagonist at the end proves parental failure to be a severe issue a lot of the children face even in our present society.

-Coreen C. 

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Black Like Me, a memoir written by John Howard Griffin, tells the true story of Griffin’s time spent in the segregated south in the 1950s as a black man. Griffin, however, was not biologically black. In fact, he was a white journalist with a focus on racial equality- a white man who wanted to experience the truth of black life in a land supposedly “separate but equal”, a sugar-coated line which people knew even then to be a lie. In order to truly understand the plight of African Americans in the southern states, Griffin chemically dyed his skin black using pills normally reserved for treating vitiligo. With black skin and a deep-rooted curiosity, Griffin ventured into the south. What he found horrified him, and became the subject of his memoir.

In Black Like Me, Griffin addresses the dehumanizing conditions which were caused by segregation in the American south. Most people are aware of the immediate impacts of segregation. Black people and white people were physically separated from each other, barred from drinking from the same water fountains, using the same bathrooms, eating at the same restaurants, or even using the same seats on the bus. It served as a barrier, keeping black men and women from attaining education, or those with education from obtaining jobs which could provide livable wages. These are things taught in school, considered to be common knowledge. What fewer people are aware of, however, is what Griffin portrays to be the true result of segregation and racism: the very denial of the right to humanity. When no person affords you even the slightest common courtesy when people deem it unnecessary to look at you on the street, when you need to work hard each and every day to prove to the white man that you mean him no harm- what does that do to a human’s spirit? According to Griffin, the true horror of segregation is the degradation of humanity which naturally ensues from it. The result is a book that is hard to read without taking on the pain of the oppressed- a reaction which is not only desired by Griffin but which makes this book a truly unforgettable, essential read.

There is no specific demographic which I would recommend this book to. The truth is, everyone should read it. It is one of those once in a lifetime books which makes you think just as much as it immerses you in its story. Further, if you enjoy this book and would like to read another like it, I would highly recommend Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane (I wrote a review about this book, too).

-Mirabella S.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm takes place on a mismanaged farm in England. The animals, upset with their treatment, prepare a rebellion to take over the farm. Once the farm is taken over, the animals attempt to validate their rights by painting seven commandments on the wall; these commandments are known as “animalism,” and they set the basic laws for the farm animals. These laws are: whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. no animal shall wear clothes, no animal shall sleep in a bed, no animal shall drink alcohol, no animal shall kill any other animal, all animals are equal, and whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. In addition, the farm, known as the Manor Farm, is renamed into Animal Farm.

Soon after the animals seize control of the farm, the pigs, the leaders of the farm, run into management issues. The two leaders of the farm, Snowball and Napoleon, can not decide how they want to run the farm; Snowball wants a windmill to be constructed in order to reduce work hours, while Napoleon believes a hard-working, simple farm is the happiest lifestyle the animals can work.

Day after day, the pigs become more human than animal, and they begin to slowly change the seven commandments, in order to manipulate and dominate over the other animals. For instance, the law “no animal shall drink alcohol” is changed into “no animal shall drink alcohol to excess,” and as time goes on, the pigs even begin to purge the farm of opposition to their reign.

Animal Farm reflects history since it shows even a government with the noblest intentions can be corrupted. Snowball represents the idea of capitalism, while Napoleon represents communism. Napoleon controls the farm through the belief that the animals are their own rulers, and that they are better off ruling themselves than they were under the reign of humans. The reality is that Napoleon is simply deceiving the animals with words and numbers, as the pigs slowly force the other animals into submission until the animals cannot differentiate pig from human.

-Josh N. 

Animal Farm is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

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The year is 736 PCE – over seven hundred years after the former colonies of Earth across the solar system rebelled against their mother planet and won. Now, the world has been divided into rigid social classes that depend on the color of one’s skin, from the ruling Golds to the slaving Reds. 

Darrow, a Red Helldiver who risks his life daily to procure helium-3 from the bowels of Mars to make its surface habitable for human life, does not suspect what truly lies above the surface of the planet. But when circumstances force him to fake his own death and join the rebel group on Mars, Darrow quickly realizes that his entire life is a lie – there is already a city of Golds on Mars, and the Reds are merely slaving away beneath the surface to provide a life of luxury and comfort for the higher colors.

Furious at this deception, Darrow agrees to infiltrate the Mars Institute for Golds as a student by changing his skin color in an arduous and painful process called the Carving. However, once the now-Gold Darrow arrives at the Institute, he quickly understands that to become the best of the best requires courses of action .that he would not have dreamed of taking while he was a Red. As Darrow progresses on his journey to become the Primus of House Mars, he unearths the deep corruptions within Gold society, as well as the horrifying truth behind the power of the Golden people.

Pierce Brown’s Red Rising holds a slight resemblance to The Hunger Games, but it is only a slight one – this novel takes the idea of colonization to an entirely new level, and questions the idea of a “perfect” society of social classes. This book is definitely recommended to fans of science fiction and adventure novels.

-Mahak M.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive