The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Extraordinarily crafted and presented, Donna Tartt’s 2013 novel The Goldfinch tells the story of Theodore Decker, a young man plagued by memories of his experiences in an act of terrorism, the loss of his mother, and one piece of artwork that alters his life — and history — forever.

Deemed a Dickensian-style coming of age novel, for its poetic air and substantial length (771 pages, beginning to end), “The Goldfinch” recounts a large sequence of Theodore’s life from his point of view, as he moves from New York to Las Vegas and back again, and ages from thirteen to mid-twenties. The novel stretches broadly across a grand array of emotions, written in descriptive and illustrious sentences: orchestrations of edge and tension, raw reflection and self-discovery, dreamy chains of events.

Tartt presents a diverse and complex cast of characters accompanying Theo in his spiraling search for answers, including his informal guardian and (eventual) business partner Hobie and his risk-taking Ukrainian friend Boris. Each character — individual in their own stories, mannerisms, beauty — pulls new aspects into the course of Theo’s life and leads to the ultimate fate of the story.

Theo’s desire for control and hunt for resolutions to his long-standing questions remains central to the heart of “The Goldfinch.” Still utterly infatuated with Carel Fabritius’s painting, the namesake of the novel, Theo expresses his connection to the painting and the fact that it acted as a piece of joy, a piece of history that he had an impact on: “And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost…” (Tartt 771).

The Goldfinch is brought to a close in the midst of loose ends; what happens between the characters is still unclear, left at the hands of the audience to decide the character’s stories. And, after pages and pages of Tartt’s beautifully written masterwork, we can’t help but imagine our very own endings for the characters we’ve grown so fond of.

-Keira D.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles is a modern re-telling of The Iliad through the eyes of Achilles’ closest companion, Patroclus. After being exiled to Phthia, Patroclus, an awkward boy of a prince, finds his place living in the shadow of Achilles: “the best of the Greeks”. Achilles is strong, beautiful, destined to be a god. Together they make the most incongruent pair. Despite this, they form a steadfast friendship that grows into something much deeper, much to Achilles’ mother, Thetis’ dismay, who will do anything to ensure her son achieves his destiny of becoming a god.

Achilles and Patroclus grow into strong young men, masters of war and medicine under the watchful eye of their teacher, Chiron. News of the Trojan War forces the companions to return to Phthia where they learn of a terrible prophecy foretelling Achilles’ death in battle. Achilles, drawn by honor and glory heads to the war. Fearing the plans Fate has lain for his friend, Patroclus follows. Together they join the fight, waiting for the day Patroclus must surrender his friend to his destiny, never once questioning what Fate might have in store for him.

A devastatingly beautiful, painfully moving, tale of romance, war, and the whims of gods and Fate that explores what Patroclus really meant to Achilles, and the battle between immortal fame and the wants of the human heart.

-Lauren R. 

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is a realistic fiction novel about two teenagers who suffer from cancer.

The story begins with Hazel, who is seventeen and suffering from advanced thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer limits her ability to interact with others, so she mostly stays home, watching television and reading. As a result, her parents and doctor believe she is suffering from depression, so she is forced into a cancer support group.

At this support group, she encounters Augustus Waters, another teenage cancer survivor who lost a leg. Hazel and Augustus instantly click with one another, discovering that they both love literature.

After the support group, Hazel introduces Augustus to her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction. The two are frustrated since the novel offers no closure; it ends in mid-sentence as if the author died. They continuously attempt to contact and meet the author, who lives in Amsterdam, which is the novel’s main plotline.

Over the course of the novel, both characters begin to bond with one another, discovering what they have in common, and their relationship eventually develops into a sad, but bright romance.

The Fault in Our Stars is a great novel, filled with slight humor and relatable characters, it is heartbreaking at the same time since it causes the reader to realize that real people suffer from cancer. The Fault in Our Stars opens the reader’s eyes to the world of cancer survivors and people who suffer from disabilities, which is why I’d recommend it.

-Josh N

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

From the author of the well-known The Three Musketeers comes The Count of Monte Cristo, a classic tale of romance, adventure, and overarching revenge.

In 1815, Edmond Dantès, a talented sailor on the cusp of marriage, finds his golden life stolen away from him when he is cruelly betrayed by his supposed comrades. Branded a traitor and sentenced to life in prison, Dantès, innocent and heartbroken, has no idea the scale of the conspiracy presented against him. Of the three co-conspirators, all were considered the unfortunate man’s “friends”: M. Danglars, a fellow sailor who was desirous of supplanting Dantès as captain of their ship; M. Fernand, who loved the woman Dantès was to marry; and M. de Villefort, who ignored his duty as a man of law and sent a faultless young man to prison to protect his murderous father.

However easily they may have gotten away with their crime in round one, they certainly did not keep up their success in round two. After spending fourteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Edmond Dantès sets himself at liberty, and returns to France as the enigmatic Count of Monte Cristo, the man everyone knows yet no one does.

Receiving wealth beyond belief from a fellow inmate, the count, tenacious and patient, not only avails himself of the opportunity to exact revenge on the malicious men he blindly trusted, he also uses his immense wealth and munificence to benefit the lives of those who helped him in the past.

In the midst of all this, however, life goes on, and romantic intrigues, marriage refusals, and the like all continue on in the background of a slow-moving chess game only the Count of Monte Cristo knows is being played.

Mind racing, excitement overtaking, any reader, no matter what genre they prefer to read, will root for the vengeful Count of Monte Cristo, and condemn his enemies to their given punishments.

-Mahak M. 

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Overdrive

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising, written by Pierce Brown, was the last book that I finished before President’s Holiday. The story follows Darrow, a brave and loyal Red. Reds are the lowest “color” in the futuristic society of humans. The story follows Darrow’s adventures in becoming a Gold ( the highest ranking color) and destroying the rulers of the unfair Society form the inside.

Once a Gold, Darrow goes to an academy where all other Golds attend. There, they learn to fight, command fleets, etc. Darrow hopes to graduate, become a well known and trusted fleet leader, and eventually destroy the Society. At the academy, the students are split into houses, each named after a Greek god. Then all of the houses are put against each other in an all-out war; the winning house will then graduate. In the end, Darrow’s house wins, and one of the most powerful leaders of the Society decides to train him in becoming a fleet leader.

All in all, I thought that Red Rising was really good. There was a good mix of intense violence and strategy. The house wars reminded me of a mix of Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Currently, I am reading the sequel to Red Rising and it seems really good! Overall, I would rate the book a strong nine out of ten and would recommend the book to any middle schooler.

-Daniel C.

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

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey is the second book from the 5th Wave series. This book focuses on everything that happens after the explosion of Camp Haven. Cassie, Ben, Dumbo, Ringer, Poundcake, Nugget, and Teacup are all holed up in an old hotel. They have nowhere to go and are running dangerously low on supplies. Ringer refuses to believe Cassie about Evan Walker and how he survived the explosion at Camp Haven.

Tired of staying in the hotel, Ringer and Teacup set off to explore and look for caverns to hide in. After they have been gone for an unusually long time, Ben starts to worry.  Then Evan appears and sends everybody into a panic not knowing whether they can trust him. Then they hear the sounds of a helicopter over the hotel, which makes their worries worse. As the helicopter goes farther and farther away, a child appears in the hallway. She repeats over and over saying her throat hurts. She is taken into a hotel room to get rest and once inside, they see that her throat is extremely swollen. They look inside her throat and find what has caused it to swell. The Others had inserted a bomb into her throat which would detonate when it detected carbon dioxide. They quickly take the bomb out of her throat and leave the hotel. Meanwhile, Ringer had been captured by Vosch and was being implanted with the 12th system. She kills the nurse who is taking care of her and escapes with Teacup.

-E. Vargas

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is about George Milton and Lennie Small trying to find a job and settle. The reason that this is such a difficult task is because Lennie has what seems to be memory loss. He constantly forgets what George tells him. He also doesn’t understand what is right compared to what is wrong.

[Editor’s Note: Spoiler Warning]

This book tells of George and Lennie trying to find work in Soledad. They go to a ranch and speak with the boss before being told when to start working. When they are shown where they will sleep, they encounter the boss’ son Curley. Curley immediately starts trying to pick a fight with Lennie. As soon as Curley leaves, George warns Lennie about avoiding Curley at all costs. Curley’s wife, who Lennie is attracted to upon seeing her, is also a big problem.

After working for some time and getting to know other ranch hands, George and Lennie believe that they may be able to finally buy a house just for them. However, one day Curley’s wife finds Lennie alone and starts a conversation with him. She tells about how she could have gone to Hollywood and about her hair. She lets Lennie feel her hair, and he starts pulling on it. Curley’s wife cries out in pain, so Lennie covers her mouth out of fear of getting in trouble. He pulls on her hair more and more until he accidentally snaps her neck. When Curley finds out he goes to kill Lennie. George gets to Lennie first, and painlessly kills him so that Curley wouldn’t shoot him and let him bleed to death.

-E. Vargas

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.