The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

Written by Robert Sharenow, The Berlin Boxing Club is the complete package. For those of you who love a good coming of age story mixed with a historical background, this one is for you. Even if you aren’t a fan of boxing, like me, this novel helps to show that such a sport as boxing teaches important lessons and can change lives.

Taking place in Nazi Germany (1934-1939), fictional teenager Karl Stern engages in boxing lessons with real life boxing champion, Max Schmeling, after being beaten up. Despite having Jewish background, Karl doesn’t sport a Jewish appearance, allowing him to find comfort and shelter behind the Berlin Boxing Club’s walls. Before he is discovered to be a Jew, boxing is his source of relief. His mentor and idol, Max, shows Karl what it means to be a proud German citizen while staying away from the political world. Karl gains confidence and strength physically and mentally. He learns how to defend himself and how to win and how to loose. He learns how to be humble and hardworking, all thanks to Max. However, as Max becomes more famous and the face of Germany, Karl looses his faith in Max. Karl wonders if Max is really who he said he was or if Max put on a mask for the entertainment world.

With a boxing future in focus, Karl encounters challenges he never would have expected to come across. Hitler’s reign becomes stronger and wider, polluting areas of Karl’s life such as school, home and boxing–his only escape. Troubles slowly consume the Stern family such as losing their family art gallery and home. Karl’s father is constantly angry and desperate to uphold his family while his mother battles with depression. His little sister also comes of age as she comes to terms with who she is and how Germany has changed. All around him, Karl’s life is like a whirlwind and confusion takes over his mind.

This novel focuses on the growing maturity of a Jewish teenager during the reign of Hitler. It gives a glimpse into life during this time period and showed me that all teenagers experience the same things. We all come of age, we all find adventure in romance, we all face problems and we all learn how to solve them. As a teenager, I believe that The Berlin Boxing Club is an entertaining and eye-opening read.

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Imagine if aliens lived among us. Not the aliens you might think of immediately (like E.T.), but aliens who cloud blend in, who look just like us. We would never know, they could be anyone: your next-door neighbor, your own best friend.

John Smith, to everyone around him, appears to be a typical teenage boy beginning his sophomore year of high school in Paradise, Ohio. But in actuality, John Smith is but one of many of his fake identities. His real name, if you could even really call it that, is Number Four. He comes from a planet far, far, away called Lorien. He is one of the nine powerful children who were taken to Earth about ten years ago, before Lorien was attacked by another alien planet: Mogadore.

Before the nine children were sent to Earth, they were each assigned a number (one through nine), and a Loric elder cast a charm, making it so that, should the Mogadorians ever go after these nine remaining Lorien descendants, they would only be able to kill them in order of the their numbers. Thus far, numbers one through three have been hunted down and killed by the Mogadorians, and John Smith, who is number four, knows that he is next.

When I first heard of this book, and was told that it was about aliens, I honestly didn’t have very high expectations for it. That probably wouldn’t have been the case for everyone, I just don’t typically like stories/books that are about aliens. But, when I started reading it, I immediately knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop. Luckily for me, this is a series, and three of the books were out when I started. Now, there are a total of seven in the series, the most recent having come out last year.

I can’t really pinpoint what it is about this book that sets it apart from other stories about aliens. Maybe it’s because the Loric look like us? I really don’t know, but I do really love this series, and I love all the characters that are introduced later on in the series as well. Despite the fact that three different authors have contributed to this series (all under the pseudonym of Pittacus Lore), the story flows very smoothly, and I could never wait for the next book to come out.

I don’t know how many times I’ve re-read this book, but it must be a lot because my copy’s falling apart (the only thing that’s holding it together is scotch tape). It’s definitely a great read, but don’t start unless you haven’t got anything planned for the rest of the day because trust me, you won’t be able to put it down.

-Elina T.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (series) by Sarah J. Maas

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the saying: “don’t judge a book by its cover”. This is something I generally try to abide by, but if I’m being honest with myself, it doesn’t always work out that way.

If I were to go into a bookstore or library looking for a book to read, this definitely would not be one I’d consider choosing. (Now since I’ve read the series, the covers have kind of grown on me). Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to have friends who love reading as much as I do who recommended this book to me.

The story follows a mortal girl named Feyre (fay-ruh) who lives with her father and two older sisters. Her town lives in fear of the immortal faeries who live beyond the forest and the invisible wall that separates the faerie realms from those of the mortals. They’re a poor family, and Feyre’s father, who is crippled, has given up hope and has stopped supporting his own family. It has become Feyre’s duty to go hunting every day to keep her family alive.

One day, while hunting, Feyre encounters a wolf, and shoots it. This proves to be a grave mistake, and Feyre gets taken off to Prythian (a realm on the other side of the wall) to live with immortal faeries. The immortal faeries she’d grown up fearing and hating.

I absolutely loved the first book! It’s based off of Beauty and the Beast, so the story is kind of familiar, but it’s also very different. The second book was even better! And don’t even get me started on the third one. I don’t know how many times I’ve read series were the first book is great, but it just goes downhill from there. I’m telling you, this series starts off great, and just gets better and better.

I don’t really want to talk too much about the individual characters because I might spoil something, but I’ll just say that Sarah J. Maas (the author) is so skilled at creating characters that readers will love and care about (this doesn’t even do her justice, you won’t really know until you read the series how amazing, funny, and lovable the characters are!). I also love how she describes the settings so vividly. I would do almost anything to be able spend time in Prythian (the world that this book takes place in) and hang out with all the characters!

So if you’re looking for a fantasy book filled with adventure, romance, humor, and emotion (I almost cried while reading the last book which is saying something because I practically never cry while reading), I highly, highly recommend this series.

-Elina T.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Come Back To Me by Mila Gray

Come Back To Me by Mila Gray is a New Adult romance book, set in today’s time. The two main characters are Jessa and Kit. Jessa’s brother, Riley, has known Kit and has been his best friend since elementary school. Now they are going off to join the marines, and Jessa has had a crush on Kit since she was 14. Every year Jessa’s mother hosts a beginning of summer barbecue and Kit comes every year. This year Jessa talks to Kit on her own. They spend the rest of the summer together. But something happens one morning after Kit and Riley get deferred again, you need to read the book to see what happens!

The best part of this book is the fact that Kit may just be the best boyfriend ever. He always stood up for Jessa, even when she was against him, he pushed her out of her comfort zone, and he protected her, at all costs. But he isn’t one of those characters who seem too perfect to be real. He is just a genuine sweet person. When you read the book and see how he treats Jessa, it makes you fall in love with him, you wonder to yourself, “Why can’t I find someone like this?”.

The author, Mila Gray just has a sort of magic to her writing. She hooks you in, and if you read like I do, you’ll find that writers now-a-days just can’t really do that anymore. They may be able to keep your attention span for a few pages, but after awhile you lose interest or just forget what’s going on. Mila Gray doesn’t do that. Once you crack open the book, you’ll be hooked. Mila Gray can also write really good romance scenes. Another cool thing about her is that she can write dual POV. When you read most books with dual POV you find that the character’s “voices” mix together too much, it is hard to tell whose voice you are actually reading. With Mila Gray’s writing, you can always tell who is the speaker and that’s another thing I love about this book.

This book (and it’s sequel, Stay With Me) are available at the Mission Viejo Library.

 

Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress

Steal Across the Sky, by Nancy Kress, is a sci-fi book about the effect an alien race, the Atoners, have upon humanity.  Showing up in the not-very-distant future, they state that they have committed a crime against humanity, and ask people from all over the world to submit applications for the opportunity to go to space in order to witness their crime. A few dozen people are chosen, and of them, only about six come back to Earth having actually witnessed the crime. The story focuses mainly on four characters and how they deal with the revelation. When they had returned from space, those who had witnessed the crime inform their governments and people of what they had witnessed, and this although leads to radical and terrorist groups springing up, for the most part, it does not greatly affect the society that the characters are living in or how it runs. Interspersed throughout the book are ads and, at some point, an email, that take the scope of the story away from just the characters and show the Atoners’ impact on (mainly) the U.S..

Personally, I found that the book started off strongly, and at first I was going to stop reading, but I wanted to find out what crime the Atoners had committed. Then, after I found out, I kept reading because the author didn’t reveal what remedial action the Atoners had promised to take for their crime until the very end of the book. The one thing that really bothered me about the book was that the author never revealed why the Atoners had come to Earth and committed their crime, but otherwise, I thought the plot was unique and well-written.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

In Challenger Deep, written by Neal Shusterman, Caden Bosch is a teenager who struggles with mental illness. This story is told from two perspectives where it switches from his point-of-view of his life and his fantasy world. In his fantasy world, he has become a part of a voyage with a man who calls himself the Captain and his parrot to explore the Marianas Trench, Challenger Deep, to find the bottom of it.

In Caden’s daily life, he begins to show signs of his mental illness. His friends, family, and teachers begin to notice his anxiety, his random thoughts, and his new hobby of pacing and walking. At first, they shrug it off thinking it’s only a phase, but everyday Caden falls deeper in his mental illness.

Caden’s story is an emotional one about a boy going through his first mental breakdown. There were some funny moments, but it’s a sad story of a teen going through a mental illness.

Although it took me some time to read this book, I highly recommend reading it. This book gave me some new insight about how people with mental illnesses feel. The author did a fantastic job in capturing Caden’s emotions and of his family and friends emotions.

There are some curse words ( no F-bombs though) and no sexual content (Yay for those who don’t want to read smut!). This book has little to no romance since it mainly focuses more on the friendships of Caden and his recovery from his mental breakdown.

This is a good book for older teens, I don’t recommend kids ages 13 and younger reading this because of the mature themes. Also, it can be a bit confusing because it’s from Caden’s perspective, but it’s entertaining.

*Spoiler alert* In one scene, some of the patients talk about what happened to them before they were hospitalized. The author doesn’t go into detail, but it’s a little disturbing. 

-Ash A.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Eleven year old Harry Potter knows little of what he is capable of. After all, he’s lived with his Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and their son Dudley Dursley ever since the death of his parents in a supposed car crash. Living under the cupboard in the Dursley household is the miserable life Harry has become familiar with- nobody to celebrate his birthdays with, nothing to call his “own,” and on top of all this no one to call his mother or father.

All this changes the day he receives a mysterious letter, via owl, inviting him into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In that moment, he finds out he is a wizard! Harry, eager to leave his aunt and uncle, accepts the gesture. He befriends Hagrid, gamekeeper of Hogwarts, who assists Harry in gathering the necessary materials for his first year at school.

In a single year at wizards’ school, Harry has had more fun than all his eleven years combined! He is acquainted with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, two other first year students at Hogwarts. In addition, he uncovers his natural ability of flying on a broom! Harry joins the Quidditch team, where he is able to fly around the field to his heart’s content. Not only this, but he also learns much about the history of magic, potions, and even spells! There is still much for Harry and his friends to uncover as they discover what magic lies within the walls of Hogwarts.

J.K. Rowling has whisked me into the mythical journey of Harry Potter. I haven’t read a book so quickly in such a long time; I couldn’t seem to put it down! I am very excited to see what other adventures unfold for Harry as he discovers his true talents.

-Skyler K.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive