RENT, the Musical

A playbill from the Original Broadway Cast of RENT.

RENT, the musical by Jonathan Larson, is one of my favorite musicals of all time. I’ve listened to a lot of musicals—and at this point, I can’t really name them all. But RENT makes it near the top of my favorites, because of its music, plot, and beautifully fleshed out characters. 

RENT tells the story of a group of starving artists living in Lower Manhattan’s East Village, from 1989 to 1990. During this period, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was wiping out thousands of people not only in the US, but all over the world. It was a devastating epidemic, and even today, around 35 million people have passed due to HIV/AIDS since 1981. This epidemic plays a huge role in the story of RENT, as different characters—Roger, Mimi, Angel, and Collins—are living with it, and one of them eventually passes away during the musical. 

The main characters include Mark, a filmmaker; Roger, his roommate and a musician; Mimi, a dancer at the local club; Angel, a drag queen and performer; Tom Collins, a professor; Maureen, a performer and actress; and Joanne, a lawyer and Maureen’s partner. All of them struggle to achieve their dreams, and this musical shows the struggle and the cost of wanting to achieve those dreams. RENT shows the discrimination and the stigma that surrounded HIV/AIDS during this time. This same stigma caused the real life deaths of so many people around the world. A disease that could’ve been stopped and prevented sooner, wasn’t, all because of discrimination. And the cost? Countless human lives. 

This is what Jonathan Larson set out to do when he wrote RENT. He lived in the same village the characters lived in, and he wanted to put out something that people could relate to. He based the experiences of the characters, especially the ones living with HIV/AIDS, on some of his own friends. Although, this was very controversial and experimental at the time. He wanted to write a rock musical, and those were rare—even never done before. It took him so many years and work to complete RENT and eventually have it produced and performed. The most heartbreaking thing about it all is that he passed away the night RENT was going to be debuted. He put in all his work, and never got to reap the fruits of his labor. 

But even so, RENT continues to be one of the most beloved musicals in the world, and a classic. So many productions have been performed around the world, and its been translated into so many languages. It also became a movie in 2005. The reason why RENT became so popular and beloved was because it was so real. You could feel the pain these characters were facing, you could relate to their loss, and you could relate to the joys they experienced together. The message RENT is trying to tell us is that no day is promised. No day is promised, and we need to cherish our lives with the people we love, and that is such a beautiful statement. 

No day but today!

Another Day, from RENT

-Claire C.

Manga Review: Erased by Kei Sanbe

Many of the popular manga we see nowadays center around action and fantasy. Such famous mangas still have amazing reads and obviously attract readers around the globe for a reason, but they fall short of meaning or depth in their plots. Yes, there’s a lengthy plot, lovable characters, and other factors that appeal to minds of all ages. But do these mangas also talk about the reality of our world? Do they bring heart-throbbing events where the main character can’t gain hope from a 30-minute monologue? I admit, Erased may not be the best book to those looking for a light-hearted novel, but it’s definitely worth reading and allows readers to see both the beauty and cruelty of our real world.

Erased is also referred to as Boku dake ga Inai Machi (僕だけがいない街), which is directly translated as “The Town Where Only I Am Missing.” Written by Kei Sanbe, the series is filled with thriller, mystery, and a bit of science fiction. The story entails of a young man named Satoru. He enables the ability to time-travel before a life-threatening event and prevent it from happening, also known as “Revival.” One night, his mother is murdered by an unknown killer; the pain-staking event sends Satoru eighteen years back into his childhood. After discovering that the murderer is tied to his past, Satoru is now given the opportunity to prevent his mother’s death by discovering who the murderer is, as well as solve the case of three missing children in his home town.

To be honest, there are moments where the plot doesn’t make sense—especially since the author never mentions why Satoru is able to time-travel. Regardless, the plot of the book series remains absolutely phenomenal; the author quickens the plot’s pace when necessary and fills it with extreme twists and events that leaves the audience filled with emotions. The characters themselves are either loved or despised, and every character reaches their fullest potential, regardless of being a hero or villain.

But I digress—what is most enjoyable about this book is its uniqueness and how meaningful the story is. Time-travel itself is quite a cheesy plot factor, but the connection between reality and fantasy is what makes the series interesting. Overall, the plot remains realistic; characters often make mistakes and feel lost, some moments seem hopeless, and a glimpse of light that every reader looks for rarely shines. Sanbe weaves the cruel reality of our world into the plot with regards to child abuse and kidnapping. Yet he still gives signs of faith and hope through time-traveling and fiction, giving Satoru another chance at making things right, and a bittersweet ending. Such factors are simply not found in any typical manga.

Overall, the Erased series is truly underrated. Although it does fit those who prefer the gory over glory, Erased does what any manga rarely does—give hope and faith to the hopelessness of our real world.

– Natisha P.

Erased by Kei Sanbe is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

5th Annual Harry Potter Trivia by MVL: July 30, 2021

Hello trivia enthusiasts! I hope you all enjoyed the fun, zoom-based, summer season of pop culture trivia series, hosted by Mission Viejo Library. In case you didn’t get a chance to participate this year, make sure to keep a lookout for all future trivia hosted by Mission Viejo Library. They are super fun, engaging and the questions really challenge your knowledge in a fun way. Our energetic trivia host makes the activity more thrilling.

Mission Viejo Library saved the best for the last. Our 4th and final summer trivia, hosted on July 30, 2021, was also our 5th Annual Harry Potter Trivia. Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable trivia host covered the depths of the Harry Potter world. The trivia was designed in three rounds. Every round had 12 mind-boggling questions.  The host went through every round twice: once for the questions and once again for the answers.

Here are some of the questions he covered. See if you can guess them!

Round 1:

1. Name all the Weasleys from oldest to youngest.

  • Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny

2. What is the Dursleys’ address?

  • 4 Privet Drive

3. How many staircases does Hogwarts have?

  • 142 staircases 

Round 2:

1. Name all seven ingredients that create the Polyjuice Potion.

  • Lacewing flies, leeches, powdered Bicorn horn, knotgrass, fluxweed, shredded Boomslang skin, and a bit of the person you want to turn into.

2. Which spell is also known as the Thief’s Friend?

  • Alohomora

3. How much does a ticket for the Knight Bus cost if you include a cup of hot chocolate?

  • 14 Sickles

Round 3:

1. During Harry’s sixth year in Hogwarts, who is the instructor that taught the Apparition class?

  • Wilkie Tycross

2. Which ice cream flavor did Harry eat at the zoo when he went out with the Dursleys?

  • Lemon Ice Pop

3. What is the name of Draco Malfoy’s son?

  • Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy

Our Summer Trivia Program is now complete! If you joined us in any or all of the trivias, we hope you enjoyed it! If you missed it, come back next year! Hopefully we can even meet in person next year! 

-Anya P.

Name That Tune: Disney Edition by MVL: July 23, 2021

Hello trivia enthusiasts! I am sure you were enjoying the fun, zoom-based, summer season of pop culture trivia series, hosted by Mission Viejo Library. 

Our 3rd trivia, hosted on July 23, Name that Tune: Disney Edition was as exciting as it sounds. Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable trivia host covered an array of nostalgic Disney movie tunes. The trivia was designed in three rounds. Every round had 10 mind scintillating tunes. The host played every tune three times for the trivia enthusiasts. The host went through every round twice: once for the clips and once again for the answers. If the attendees didn’t know the tunes, they had an option of guessing the movie name. Our generous host then challenged his audience more with a bonus round based on Disney TV tunes. The bonus round had 4 questions and had the same rules as the regular rounds.

Here are some of nostalgic tunes/ movies he covered:

  • “When will my life begin”: TANGLED
  • “Almost there”: PRINCESS AND THE FROG
  • “Un Poco Loco”: COCO
  • “Kiss the girl”: LITTLE MERMAID
  • “You’re Welcome”: MOANA
  • “You can Fly”: PETER PAN
  • “Everyone wants to be a cat”: THE ARISTOCATS
  • “Friend like me”: ALADDIN
  • “Topsy Turvy”: THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
  • “Theme song”: PHINEAS AND FERB

I would totally recommend participating in fun family friendly events like these!

-Anya P.

Heroes and Villains Trivia by MVL, July 16, 2021

Hello readers! I hope you have already read my writeup on the first of the four zoom-based Summer Trivia Programs hosted by Mission Viejo Library in July 2021. By now, I hope you know how exciting and fun this summer season of pop culture trivia was!

Today I am writing about the second zoom based Trivia night that I attended on July 16, 2021. It was about Heroes and Villains! It consisted of some fun trivia questions from some of my favorite movies from Marvel and more: the Iron Man series, the Spider-Man series, the Batman series, and the Harry Potter series.

These were some of the questions. See if you can guess the answers yourself before checking the answers:

  1. In the film Captain America: The First Avenger, what is the name of the top secret project that turned Steve Rogers into a super soldier?
    • Project Rebirth
  2. In the Back to the Future trilogy, Marty McFly is antagonized by a member of the Tannen family. Name each iteration as they appear in the trilogy?
    • Biff Tannen, Griff Tannen, and Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen
  3. Which Hogwarts instructor was revealed to have erased the minds of witches and wizards while taking credit for their accomplishments?
    • Gilderoy Lockhart
  4. What is Dr. Octopus’ real name?
    • Otto Octavius
  5. S.T.A.R. Labs has a prominent role in numerous DC properties. What does S.T.A.R. stand for?
    • Scientific and Technological Advanced Research

These were some of the many fun questions we got to answer! The trivia nights consist of 3 rounds, and each round has 12 questions.

-Anya P.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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The first time I read The Book Thief was when the book was given to me by a family friend years ago. The second time was for school, to analyze it in English class. The third, and so far last time, was a few weeks ago. Every time I have read it, it has always been very enjoyable.

The novel takes place in Germany during the Second World War, a time of great tragedies and massive casualties for both soldiers on the battlefield and civilians at home. That tone is accentuated by the choice of the author Markus Zusak to have the narrator be the personification of Death himself. Death is not merely cold and unforgiving as society often perceives him. His character is far more solemn and sympathetic to the struggles of the characters.

And who are the characters? Well first there is the main one: Liesel Meminger, a young girl who is adopted by foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. There is also Max Vandenburg, a Jew who hides in the Hubermann household, and several other more minor but no less interesting characters. 

Zusak does an excellent job of developing these characters and making the reader develop an emotional connection with them. Even Rosa Hubermann, who often seems rough and abrasive at the beginning, grows on the reader as the book goes on. That emotional connection makes all of the struggles and tragedies that afflict the characters throughout the book all the more heartbreaking.

Along with the theme of mortality and struggle is the theme of reading. Throughout these hard times, Liesel often finds an escape by reading several books. Liesel uses reading to connect with the ailing Max Vandenburg. The Nazis, being the antagonists of the book, often burn books that question their regime. The theme of reading contrasts sharply with the theme of mortality. Reading offers hope to the main characters while they deal with the trials and tribulations they are faced with.

And how relevant is that theme? The past year has been a struggle for all of us, and we often found reading as an escape from the problems we dealt with. During the beginning of the pandemic, when it felt like society was shutting down, we used reading to give us a glimmer of hope and as an escape from the stress of world events, just as how Liesel uses reading in the book.

Thus, The Book Thief, a book written a decade and a half ago remains relevant to the struggles we face today, and remains one of my favorite books of all time.

-Adam A.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Nathan Pesta Biography

Nathan Pesta, going by the name of Npesta on Youtube and Twitch, is a famous content creator with a large following. Like many other content creators on these platforms, not many people know about his personal life. Pesta was born on August 1st, 2002 in Pennsylvania, where he would continue to live even today. His followers know him for streaming on Twitch and uploading stream highlights to YouTube, but the large majority of the internet knows him for having a very loud and funny reaction to beating a level in the game Geometry Dash. Ever since this reaction became a meme and was featured in a Pewdiepie video (a very famous Swedish Youtuber), Pesta’s Youtube and Twitch channels have been growing exponentially, with his Youtube having 160 thousand subscribers and his Twitch having 53 thousand followers. Along with Geometry Dash, he also loves to stream other games such as Super Mario Maker, Osu! Mania, Minecraft, and others. Pesta has also hired an editor who goes by the name Doggie on Youtube and Twitch. Unlike Pesta, Doggie only streams and uploads content related to Geometry Dash. Pesta hiring Doggie as an editor has contributed to his massive growth, as Doggie’s edits are really good at amplifying Pesta’s funny and vibrant personality. Today, because of the Covid-19 virus, Pesta has taken leave from college (due to online classes being expensive and therefore not worth it). This has allowed more time for Pesta to stream and make content, as he does not have to worry about school work.

-Jeremy L.

Authors We Love: Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones was a British novelist and children’s fantasy writer born in London on August 16, 1934 as the eldest of three sisters. In her early childhood, she was evacuated to Wales as a result of the bombings taking place during the Second World War. Throughout the war the family moved frequently before settling in 1943, but the result was a very complicated relationship between her and her parents, as she was largely left to care for her younger sisters. However, this only fueled Jones’s passion for reading despite struggling with dyslexia, and later transformed into a passion for writing as she wrote many short stories for her younger sisters.

She went on to study English at St. Anne’s College in Oxford, attending lectures by two very prominent authors, C.S Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. By the time she graduated from college, she married John Burrow and had three sons with him. She read to her children as many mothers do, but this also inspired her to create Children’s books of her own. Jones submitted her works to several publishers but they were ultimately rejected until she published the Changeover, one of her few adult novels.

Overtime, her most popular works included the Chrestomanci series, the Dalemark series, and especially Howl’s Moving Castle from the Moving Castle Series. Howl’s Moving Castle soon inspired the creation of the 2004 film Howl’s Moving Castle by Studio Ghibli and Japanese director Miyazaki Hayao. She would later go on to write dozens of many more works for both children and adults, along with winning multiple writing awards such as the British Fantasy Award, the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the Mythopoetic Award.

-Elia T.

The works of Diane Wynne Jones are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

What Should Schools Teach?

Education is considered a basic human right in today’s standards. Nearly everybody in today’s America has received at least a high school level education. However, a lot of the stuff people learn in high school ends up not helping them in life. Although it may not seem obvious at first, so much time sitting in class is wasted. 

To start off, so many pieces of information that we learn during our school days are never used. According to studies from Oxford University, the best way for the brain to store information and remember things is through repetition. Specifically, studying a certain thing for 10-15 minutes per day. The thing is, once that certain chapter test or quiz is over, there is no need to keep studying that subject, so we forget it. There is not a single job in the world that requires you to know how to graph logarithmic equations except for two: mathmetician and algebra teacher. So if these two occupations are the only ones that require to learn this skill, then why do schools bother teaching it anyway? Especially considering that students will forget these skills within the next couple of months really questions the importance of learning these in the first place.

So if schools should not teach these subjects, then what should they teach? Well schools do actually do some things right. When schools offer classes like computer science or band, it opens learning opportunities for kids that will actually be useful to them later in life, as there are actual careers based off these classes. However, as these classes may be useful, there are so many other classes that should be offered. One of which is personal management, specifically talking about finance. The way society sees it is that if you have money, you are considered successful. However, so many people waste their potential and hard work through poor financial management and decision making. Another class that schools should offer are social skills. Although schools already do offer some courses similar to this, they usually are optional and do not last longer than a semester. Some scientists on forbes.com have posted that “we share mirror neurons that allow us to match each other’s emotions unconsciously and immediately”. The problem is that so many people today have terrible social skills, either saying the wrong things at the wrong time or just straight up not talking at all. 

Everybody knows that education is one of the most important things in life. However, the important thing is that people need to receive the right education and skillsets.

-Jeremy L.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Dannie Kohan knows where she will be in five years. Or at least she thinks she does. Her path seems clear, realistic, achievable. In fact, she basically has her life planned out by the year, and so far her plans have worked.

However, the night of December 15, 2020, Dannie has a vision of the future exactly five years from the present–something more solid than a dream, and something so vivid that her logical, corporate lawyer-oriented brain cannot pass it off as a mere fragment of imagination. What frightens her is that the future she sees is farther from her planned version of the future than the earth is from the sun.

The rest of the book takes place primarily in 2025–during the months leading up to the vision of the future that Dannie saw on December 15, 2020.

What I particularly liked about this book was the setting. Dannie lives in New York, a little star in a thriving, pulsing sky of skyscrapers and fashion and business. The fashion, the food, the language, and the references were all relatable to today’s young generation.

I also loved Rebecca Serle’s voice. The book is full of beautiful, flowing words interluded with sharp, short sentences brimming with emotion. Her descriptions–of food, characters, emotions–are incredibly detailed and vivid, and I think they add so much richness to the book.

Lastly, the characters. From determined, rational, detail-oriented Dannie to joking-but-serious and caring David (Dannie’s boyfriend) to spontaneous, beautiful, loving, and imaginative Bella (Dannie’s best friend), the characters of In Five Years are all so endearing in their own ways. I loved how realistic they seemed–from their aspirations to their worries, their strengths to their flaws, their language to their quirks.

If you enjoy books that you just can’t stop reading until you’ve finished them, I would highly recommend this book. It’s fascinating to see all the pieces of Dannie’s vision enter her real life, to turn page after page wondering what will happen–wondering if Dannie’s vision will really come true.

I would recommend this book for older teens and adults, as it is a romance with characters in their early thirties. In addition, there are some intense parts when Dannie faces loss and heartbreak.

I think In Five Years is a beautiful, sad, inspiring book that will leave readers with a multitude of emotions and thoughts about how they live their lives. The story might also make readers think twice if anyone were to ask them where they see themselves in five years.

– Mia T.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.