The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

There seldom comes a rare time such as this where I discover a well-executed novel combining the art forms I love the most: writing and music. Author Aja Gabel’s stunning prose collides head-on with the novel’s subject, four entangled musicians in a string quartet who always choose each other despite the warring world each lives in. Featured in this quiet yet nostalgic tale are:

  • Jana, the determined first violinist with a stern face and high ambitions,
  • Brit, the orphaned second violinist whose love for the picturesque transcends all,
  • Henry, the prodigy violist who stays despite growing tendonitis and offers for a light-flooded future,
  • and Daniel, the embittered cellist, whose lack of money is made up for by his dark charisma.

There are times where Gabel’s beautiful wording seems to reverberate with vitality—you are caught up in the swiftness of Brit’s bow, the biting in Daniel’s words, the electricity passed along each measure of music. Without hearing a note, you’ll discover the triumph and the loss that comes with the reward of being in an ensemble.

Each member of the quartet vibrates on their own different frequency, but produce sound waves in the same key. The novel itself, while not full of action or climax, holds in it a quiet strength and the wisdom of its author. The flux of time and gravity on people is captured in such a specific and wondrous way that you cannot help but feel is magic.

You’ll find the way their comradery and friendship morphs over time to be bittersweet. You’ll root for them, cry with them, relate to their struggles. While revolving around adults and therefore carrying some adult themes, it’s a novel most people can find within their own selves: something aching and pulsing, something in the soul.

—Esther H.

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Wings by E.D. Baker

Tamisin Warner was always a bit different from everyone else. She had sparkly freckles that she called spreckles, pointy ears, and always danced outside when the moon was full.  Ever since one fateful Halloween, she had been able to see strange human animal hybrids no one else could.  Jak, a new boy at Tamisin’s high school, seems to realize Tamisin is different and knows more about her than he lets on.

However, when actual fairy wings emerge from her back, Tamisin sets out to find the answers to who she truly is with Jak by her side.  Tamisin encounters many mysterious, magical creatures and strange new places during her journey and isn’t prepared for what the answers to her questions hold…

I enjoyed this book very much because it was set in present day but was still mysterious, magical, and whimsical all at once.  It’s interesting to read from both Tamisin and Jak’s point of views as you get to learn about both characters’ background stories and their seemingly separate worlds that are actually intertwined.  This is another great book that is reminiscent of a fairy tale by E.D. Baker!

-Kaitlyn S.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Wonder is a book about Auggie Pullman. Auggie was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome which affects bone development.  Because of this, Auggie is always the odd one out. On his first day at Beecher Prep, Auggie’s new middle school he gets a tour of the school with Jack, Julian, and some other kids. Straight away Julian is rude and mean towards Auggie, but Jack is nice. As the year progresses, the students get used to how he looks and befriend Auggie. But shortly after a rumor spreads that touching Auggie will give you the plague. This makes the kids avoid Auggie once again. Then Halloween, Auggie’s favorite holiday, comes around. Auggie decides to dress up as Bloody Scream. As he’s walking into class, he hears Jack say that if he looked like Auggie he would kill himself. Jack had no idea that Auggie heard him. Auggie stops talking to Jack, and so Jack asks Auggie’s new best friend Summer why he’s mad. Summer response is Bloody Scream. Soon Jack realizes that he had seen Auggie in a Bloody Scream costume standing at the door to the class. Jack immediately regrets what he said and apologizes to Auggie. Then one day Julian tells Jack that being friends with Auggie isn’t worth it. This makes Jack angry and so he punches Julian in the face.  Because of that incident, after winter break Julian turns all the boys in their grade against Jack and Auggie, launching some kind of war. After a while however, kids get tired of their little war and become friends with Auggie. The book ends at a three day nature retreat. One day at night Jack and Auggie go into the woods because Jack has to pee. While in the woods, Auggie and Jack run into kids from a different school. The kids make fun of Auggie until three kids from Beecher Prep that normally also make fun of Auggie stand up for him. Then later on back at the school Auggie wins an award for courage and kindness. Everyone wants to be Auggie’s friend now and he’s no longer the odd one out.

– Emilio V.

Wonder by R.J Palacio is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Libary.

Let Me by Zayn Malik

This is a perfect song to set the summer mood. It is by ex-One Direction member Zayn Malik (who was the second most talented member and the second most successful member).  Whilee the song is such a carefree, fun song, it has a much deeper meaning.

In case you didn’t know, Zayn dated model Gigi Hadid for 2 years before splitting in March, this song was written before then, and for her, he states,

“I was in love—and I think that’s pretty evident. I was aspiring to be in love with someone for the rest of my life and the rest of theirs, as we all do.”

Here’s a bit of lyrics from the song:

Baby, let me be your man
So I can love you (I can love you)
And if you let me be your man
Then I’ll take care of you, you

For the rest of my life, for the rest of yours
For the rest of my life, for the rest of yours
For the rest of ours

You can really hear what a huge range of vocals Zayn Malik possesses. He is one of the few male singers that can actually hit a high note and it is very evident in this song.

A cool part of the song is the music video for it, it serves as a thriller. It is actually part two of a series of videos, part one being the music video for Dusk Till Dawn. In part one, Zayn is on the run with a suitcase, yet we aren’t sure what is in it, there is a huge explosion and a car chase. Zayn is much past his boyband One Direction days and anyone would enjoy seeing the video.

But now onto Let Me. In part two Zayn has finally reached a destination, but he is still on the run. I won’t spoil it for you, but there is a lot of action but the meaning of the song still hones true in the video (you have to watch it to see)

It is such a bop! It is sure to be a huge chart topper. Don’t believe me? Go and listen to it yourself, you’ll be glad you did.

Films of Character: Local Hero

The state of being one; oneness. That is the definition of unity and nowhere is it more prominent than in the city of Mission Viejo. From the Teen Voice blog to the Community of Character Committee, Mission Viejo embodies what it means to unite its citizens. Every month, the Community of Character Committee chooses an important character trait to focus on. This month’s theme was unity, January’s theme was perseverance, and March’s is integrity. For each character, the committee chooses what events to host that encompasses the idea.

The movie screening this month, Local Hero was about an oil company looking to buyout a coast of land perfect for an oil refinery. The company sent a businessman to represent them and make a bargain with the locals. The townspeople were ecstatic about the idea of so much money at their fingertips when the deal was said and done. What the locals did not understand was that they could’ve been rich but not have anywhere to call home, or they could’ve kept living their lives, just as content as they were before. However, there was a problem when the town found out that Ben, a beach hermit owned the whole beach. No matter how much money the oil company offered him, Ben did not give it up – the beach was his home. In the end, Ben ended up being the hero because he kept the town from their infectious feelings of greed.

In the film, the townspeople showed unity by trying to bargain as one. While Ben was still a part of the community, he stood his ground and didn’t let a little bit of money change his opinions. So why is unity important? It’s important because we are stronger together, as a whole, as one. Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” In any successful community, it is imperative that the citizens are united.

-Brooke H.

Local Hero is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

A Dog’s Journey by W. Bruce Cameron

The star of this book is the kind of dog who is so devoted he would follow his person to the ends of the earth.  This story is the sequel to A Dog’s Purpose, in which this dog had many lives caring for his boy, Ethan.  When he is Buddy in his later years of life, he meets Ethan’s granddaughter, a sweet girl named Clarity whom he protects around the Farm.  When he passes and is reborn, he finds Clarity again and works hard to find and be with her each reincarnation. This dog is her constant companion and guardian for her whole life.

I really enjoyed this book because it was very well-written with so much amazing detail.  It’s interesting to read because it is written from the dog’s point of view and helped me see the story in a new perspective.  This book is great for laughs and is heartbreaking every time the dog dies. It shows how incredibly loving, caring, and loyal dogs are to their people.

-Kaitlyn S.

A Dog’s Journey by W. Bruce Campbell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library