Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The reason why I began reading this novel was because of school requirements. Contrary to what I imagined as a typical romance genre, Jane Eyre incorporates elements of horror, fantasy, and even gothic. Jane Eyre actually has a similar background as Cinderella. Her parents died. Their marriage was not supported by her mother’s family because her father’s social status did not match her mother’s. However, even after being disowned by her family and friends, Jane Eyre’s mother did not give up on her family. Jane Eyre was actually raised by her aunt along with her cousins. But because everybody except for a governess treated her so horribly, Jane Eyre decided to leave for a boarding school built just for orphaned girls.

After years of learning and eventually becoming a teacher there, Jane Eyre was bored with her repeating life. Hence, after much effort, she received a recruitment letter from an old mistress at a mansion to be the governess of Adele, an 8-year-old French girl who barely speaks English. And it was from here that Jane Eyre met Mr. Rochester, a very serious and reticent man. Nonetheless, they fell in love shortly and were at the point to be married when Jane Eyre found that Mr. Rochester was married to a crazy woman. She ran away from him and eventually was taken in by a preacher’s family in a faraway village. Jane Eyre was eventually able to unite with Mr. Rochester even after he has gone blind due to a fire. She not only denied the pastor’s wish to marry her and make her a missionary’s wife in India, but she gave birth to a boy with Mr. Rochester.

Although this book has a happy ending, the plot and characters are fickle and unpredictable. I recommend this book to readers who like romance but are tired of the traditional plot and setting.

-Coreen C. 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet is a unique and eccentric book about fitting in and standing out.

The whole world is in turmoil. A mysterious art scholar-turned thief is questioning whether some 37 paintings attributed to famous artist Johannes Vermeer were truly created by him. The thief has stolen Vermeer’s most famous painting, A Lady Writing, and says he will only return it when the shroud of mystery surrounding this painter’s life was eradicated. Meanwhile, Calder Pillay and Petra Andalee are regular New York sixth graders starting a new year with an eccentric teacher, Ms. Isabel Hussey, who has strange and revolutionary ideas. Soon, Calder and Petra are swept up in the rising tide of unrest and uncertainty, and they must shoulder the task of finding the missing painting and revealing the thief. Along the way, they encounter coincidence, a coincidence that may not be a coincidence, and patterns of complex kinds.

The setting of Chasing Vermeer really helped set the mood for the story. For example, the exciting and complex atmosphere of Hyde Park and New York City help set the mood for some later detective work and spying. The gloomy and oppressive, yet tense aura of Delia Dell Hall makes it a perfect location for the climax of the story.

On a scale of 1-10, I would rate this story a 9. The plot was slightly confusing, but it helped me see the world with new eyes, and understand other people better. It was also an eccentric book with a unique plot, the likes of which I have never read before.

-Vaidehi B. 

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Son by Lois Lowry

When an author can mirror the magnificence of their initial novel with a sequel of equal caliber, it is nothing short of magic. But to do it multiple times over is something that only the likes of Lois Lowry could do. After a sequel and third installment, Lowry does it again with her story, Son. (Please note that I will be building off of concepts already discussed in past reviews. If you are not familiar with the previous stories in The Giver quartet, please read the corresponding reviews)

Back in the good old community, there is a girl called Claire. As a birth mother, she has been artificially inseminated and will have a child, one of the three who she is fated to bear during her few short years before she is subjected to a lifetime of physical labor jobs. Much as the citizens of the community lack knowledge of numerous aspects of life, the birth mothers are oblivious to their pregnancy, and that they will have a child. It’s not like they woke up on e day and where all “What the heck? What’s this bump on my stomach?”. The understand pregnancy but don’t realize that it means they will have a child. They are told that they must carry a “product”, they are blindfolded during the birth, then it happens twice more. Despite being blindfolded, Claire can tell that something is going wrong with her delivery. It is due to this that Claire is given an early leave from her role as birthmother and condemned to work at the fish hatchery. However, she starts to gain knowledge of her child and eventually begins to volunteer at the child care center where she meets him, Gabe. Mind blown! Lowry does it again! Anyway, Claire deepens her and Gabe’s bond while she learns that he is being taken care of by Jonas’s family unit who has a deep affinity for him. BANG! Then, one night the community is all up and out of bed. All of the people are like “What could have disturbed me from my dreamless sleep in my grey Minecraft bed?” (I don’t know, that’s just what I always envisioned). Voices proclaim that Jonas has fled the community with a baby. Claire puts two and two together and goes “Oh shoot”. She runs onto a nearby shipping ship which sets out for the sea and becomes a sunken shipping ship (say that five times fast!).

Breathe, end of part one!

Claire is struggling and half hallucinating in the water because due to the emotional strain and, ‘cause she has like never swam before (reason number #2,567, 898 why the community sucks). She ends up on the shore of a rural town where she is adopted (‘cause like guys, she is still a minor at this point) by a woman called Alys. Alys is like the co-chief of the village and also the nurse and midwife. Under Alys’s guidance, Claire basically goes through preschool (she learns about colors, feelings, trigonometry, rocket science, you know, basic things that they did not have in the community). She also grapples with an immense feeling of loss and she can not understand why. It’s like that feeling when you go to school and your all “I feel like I’m forgetting something” then you sort of forget, but it resurfaces “What was it?”. Then class starts and the teacher’s like “Okay, I’ll collect all your homework” and you just go “Oh shoot”. That’s exactly how Claire felt when she had the consciousness to remember her son.

Then she starts going really mad. Before the news got out to the town, Claire was pretty hot stuff. There was this guy named Andres who was totally into Claire but after the news spreads, he’s like “Nah” ‘cause Andres is a sucky dud like that. Basically, in this little seaside village, premarital sex is a big no no and once you are no longer a virgin you sort of depreciate in value. This town is super traditional like that. Also, ‘cause they are like simple farm people living off of the Earth, they don’t get the concept of artificial insemination and that Claire did not technically hook up with anyone. All the ladies stay at home, silent in the kitchen and all the dudes do stuff like fishing or farming, stuff like that. The whole town is basically a bunch of Baby Boomers if you catch my drift. So, she is reduced to the laughing stalk of the village. The only ones to stick by her are Alys and Einar, a sheep herder.

Einar is such a sweetheart. He is so genuine and kindhearted with everyone, and the sheep which he has memorized all the names of. He is not a “macho man” like all of the other village men. He also has a depressing past. Einar’s mom died in childbirth. Therefore, his “macho man” father who was super upset about losing his wife who was like the best part of his dull “macho man” fisherman life, blamed it on his son and therefor made life sucky for Einar. This dude was a jerk, on steroids. On top of verbal and physical abuse, his father emotionally abused him in a way. Due to a, uh, lack of a female presence, Einar was subjected to fill his mother’s role in a few different ways, i’ll let you fill in the blanks. One day Einar got so fed up with his sucky life that he decided that he was going to scale the massive cliff that loomed behind the village. No one had ever gotten to the top before, some people tried but turned back, others died. Einar did it. But he might as well not have.

One day Claire tells him her story and how she needs to set out to find her son. She does not want to go back to the sea (don’t blame her) so she asks Einar to help her get over the cliff. If you have had visions of scaling Mt. Everest and their is a full camera crew waiting for you at the top and like a ton of money and food and a mansion or something (I don’t know what is in your fantasy!), I don’t think that a creepy dude was part of it. Like, I bet that you wanted anything but a creepy dude. Especially when that creepy dude wants to steal your soul. Putting two and two together, it’s Trademaster, (sarcastic yay!). So when Einar got to the top and was really for the cameras, Trademaster’s all “Hey dude, was there ever anything that you wanted real bad but you just could’nt get it?” and then Einar goes, “Nah brah, I’m good, I’m on top of the world right now, literally”. Then, Trademaster’s like “For realzies?” and Einar’s like “Yah dude, can I get you anything? Like a water or something?” After that Trademaster is like “Skrew you and your niceness!” and attacks Einar’s leg like a big fat jerk face. Then Einar’s like “Uh, I gotta bounce” and shimmy’s back down the cliff.

Now, Einar is crippled for life. When Einar tells Claire this, she agrees that she is willing to under go something of a similar category for the chance of seeing her son again. Einar agree’s to help her train to climb the cliff. After a few years Claire builds up enough endurance and strength to reach the top. Then, before she goes she and Einar kiss, ‘cause like why not and Claire gets to the top. When she gets there, she goes to sleep. You probably think that your alarm clock is a crappy thing to wake up to, waking up to Trademaster is worse. Trademaster’s all, “OMG, your hair is like totally adorbs, what conditioner are you using?”. Then Claire’s like “Oh thanks-wait a sec”. Then Trademaster’s like “What brings you to my neck of the woods?” and Claire goes, “Oh, ya know, stuff” and then Trademaster’s like “I know about the kid from all of the stalking that I’ve done of you on the intedwebs” and Claire’s all “Oh shoot”. Then Trademaster’s like, “Give me your hair, your beauty, your youth and I’ll tell you where he is”. Einar has told Claire that she should make the trade, whatever it was just to get it over with. So, she did it. He told her to go straight through the woods to which she said “It was that simple?” and she turned into an old lady. As she approached a town, she saw a group of boys and felt a connection with one of them, Gabe. She longed to see her sweet child but she realized what a fool she would look like, an old woman emerging from the wood claiming to be his mother. It was then that the full evil of Trademaster’s deal struck her.

Water break, part two!

Now that her plans of reunion with Gabe have been foiled, Claire moves into a quaint little place on the outskirts of the town. This town however, is the town in which Jonas and Gabe ended up at at the end of The Giver and the town in which Seer lived after he was blinded and the town which almost had a complete wall built around it due to the corrupt Trademaster. After Matty died in Messenger, all of Trademaster’s wrongdoing in the town where undone and he fled to the forest. That should be the end of the story, at least many of the citizens of the town thought so… duh, duh, duh. Anywho, Claire sort of stalks Gabe for a little while and begins to assimilate into the town. She starts getting sick and dying because she is now an older woman. She confides in the town leader her story and of her and Gabe’s connection. The town leader is Jonas who also plays somewhat of a father figure roll in Gabe’s life. Don’t get any ideas about him and Claire though because Jonas and Kira are married with two kids name Mathew and Annabelle. At first when Claire tells Jonas her story, he is like “Whatever old lady” but then he realizes, “Oh, shoot. Trademaster must really still be out there!”.

So, because this is the super logical thing to do, Jonas decides, “Yah know what, let’s send Gabe, a little kid, out into the forest to fight this dude”. Also, as Jonas is loosing his abilities to see beyond, Gabe is only discovering his ability of feeling what other people feel, basically sympathy. All the while, Gabe has been working on building a boat. He researched boats in books which he borrows from Jonas’s extensive library. He gets all pumped up about the boat, actually. He gets all his friends to carve their names in the oar that he will use to paddle and everything. But, the boat fails. When he goes into the forest to fight Trademaster though, he brings the oar with him. He finds Trademaster who challenges him to a duel, offering him an assortment of weapons to choose from but Gabe’s all “Nah, I’m good”. Trademaster insults Gabe telling him how he has traded with people far more worth while and how insignificant he is. Gabe refuses to fight Trademaster so, he tries to make a trade with Gabe, who turns it down. Gabe uses his ability to feel on Trademaster. He gets a bunch of hungry vibes back. Gabe then realizes that Trademaster is starving. But not starving like “Bruh, I could eat this whole pizza I’m so hungry” but starving for his victims sadness. He feeds off of their misery. Then Gabe’s all, “Hey, remember Mentor?” and Trademasters like, “Yah, I ruined his life” and then Gabe’s like “No way Jose, he is happy now. He is living every day like a boss”. That was like the equivelent of Gabe punching Trademaster in the stomach. He lurches and is like “Dang, that hurt”.

Then Gabes all “Remember Einar, the one who turned you down?” and Trademaster’s all, “Uh yah, I made him miserable” and Gabe’s like “Nah man, he’s doing great. Plus, this supper hot girl is totally into him”. That was another punch. With each punch Trademaster got more hungry for some kind of crappy ending. Then Gabe was like “And you remember that girl to, that babe in the story was my mom, Claire! She was looking for her son who, by the way, is just as hot! And she found me. You took her youthfulness away but we found each other so it didn’t even matter. You will never love anyone, and I feel bad, but also, screw you, I hope you starve!”. With that, Trademaster turned into a pile of sloppy gush because he was never really human, he was evil. Gabe buried the oar to commemorate the place where evil died and went back to the town where Claire was revived as a young woman and everyone lived happily ever after (for real this time)!

-Ainsley H.

P.S. The book never says anything about this but I am totally curious about it and I think that other people are to: I just really want to assume that this happened and for the sake of putting it out there, in the Ainslican version of the text, Claire and Einar live together in the village where Jonas and Gabe and all them live. That makes the happy ending happier!

Son by Lois Lowry is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson

The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson is a gruesome dystopian book about the cold and calloused scientific curiosity seeping through our world.

The year is 2086. In a bloodstained dystopian world, the ozone layer is gone, making the sun a daily enemy. Antarctica is no more, the ocean having swallowed up its icy coasts. 

Pollution. Radiation. Death.

These are normal words in 18-year old Owen Parker’s vocabulary. Headed to Camp Eden, a safe bio-dome, he worries about normal things a teenager should: how to fit in, and how to impress the cryptic and beautiful lifeguard, Lilly Ishani. But when he nearly drowns in the Eden lake, and somehow grows gills, he realizes that Eden is not what it seems. Along with the rest of the “Gill Gang” including Lilly, he sets out to investigate the mysterious death of a young girl at Eden. As Owen spirals deeper and deeper into a tale of hope and sorrow, of love and hate, of yin and yang itself, what he finds will change him forever.

This book is set in a dark dystopian world of 2086, after the ozone layer is severely depleted and Antarctica has melted, raising the sea level. The world is divided into the American Continent, the Northern Federation, and Eurasia. There is also a literal giant island of floating trash where some of the story takes place, called Floatia. The story mainly takes place inside the giant bio-dome of Eden, which is the polar opposite of the dark polluted world outside.

On a scale of one to ten I would rate The Lost Code a nine out of ten. Overall, it was an amazing, albeit scary book. It was slightly terrifying because our world is well on the way to becoming the shattered, hopeless world described in the book. This book is also for slightly mature audiences as well, which I was not prepared for. It wasn’t necessarily bad, I just wasn’t prepared for it.

-Vaidehi B.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Seventeen-year-old Mia Hall has everything other teenagers her age would want; a loving and relaxed family life, great grades, a charming boyfriend, and a supportive best friend. As a cello-prodigy, Mia awaits her soon-to-be acceptance letter to her dream university.

One snowy day, Mia and her family jam to their favorite songs in the car on the road. They had planned the perfect day-off. However, all goes wrong when an incoming car skids and crashes straight towards them. The moment stops and the reader waits eagerly, with palms sweating, to know what happens next through all of the author’s heart-wrenching details.

The novel follows Mia, in an out-of-body experience, as she has flashbacks on her life and loses the ones she loves. Her flashbacks are followed by heart-breaking scenes of her family and friends visiting her in a hospital while she is in a coma. The unspoken love between the Mia and her close ones makes the novel much more emotional.

The author’s style of switching between the past and present unfolds the significant purpose of a human life. The importance of sacrifice, family, love, death, and life all wrap up to tell Mia’s story. The conflict between choosing to fight endlessly to stay alive or fading away to the afterlife remains a mystery until the end.

Overall, this novel really opened my eyes and made me realize that life can change in an instant. No matter who we are, what we are going through in life, or where we are, death can take its toll. The author truly makes an important point about how fast life moves for the youth and the old. We should never take life for granted because this is all we have and there is only one shot at it.

Mia’s story emphasizes the importance of living in the moment. Our problem are just as big as we make them. However, just like Mia, our worldly problems are nothing in the face of death. Not all the readers of this book can realize that, but anyone who can relate will find its meaning. The novel, as well as the movie of If I Stay, moved me to tears and is one that sticks with you forever.

-Zohal N. 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency is a short book of just over one hundred pages.  This is a very funny and quirky book written by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by his wife, Jill Pinkwater.

The story is about a giant chicken named Henrietta.  Henrietta is over six-feet tall and weighs 266 pounds.  A young boy named Arthur Bobowicz buys Henrietta while desperately searching for a turkey to eat with his family on Thanksgiving.  Arthur’s family ends up eating meatloaf instead, so his father allows him to keep the colossal bird.

Arthur and Henrietta get along just fine, until Henrietta runs away and causes terror and confusion throughout the city of Hoboken.  The people are shocked to see such a large bird roaming the streets.  They make various attempts to get rid of the bird until finally someone comes up with an idea to put an end to the crisis.

Daniel Pinkwater’s books are all very ridiculous and funny, and this one is no exception.  He has also written two sequels to this book, entitled: Looking for Bobowicz and The Artsy Smartsy Club.  These books are about a group of children living many years after the events of The Hoboken Chicken Emergency.  I enjoyed the sequels very much as well.

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency is quite absurd but enjoyable to read.  I would recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a good laugh.

-Oliver H. 

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Dawn Undercover by Anna Dale

Dawn Undercover by Anna Dale is an intriguing and fun book about the intricacies of being thrust into the spotlight.

Dawn Buckle has one of those faces that you can forget within an hour. So when the wholly unspectacular girl is recruited into S.H.H, (Strictly Hush Hush) a part of P.S.S.T, (Pursuit of Scheming Spies and Traitors) she feels a little… rushed. Soon, she finds herself in the English countryside trying to find spy-gone-bad Murdo Meek. Along with her friends Trudy and Felix, Dawn delves into a riddle far more complicated than anyone here can see at first.

This book is set in London in the twenty-first century. Some of the book is spent in Kent, Dawn’s hometown, but more than half of it is set in Murdo Meek’s village, Cherry Bentley. Some other minor locations include an old abandoned castle, where Dawn and Felix find some incriminating evidence, and Bentley Pond, the scene of the climax.

What mainly motivates Dawn to do what she does is money. She grew up in a poor family. Her mom works all day everyday to provide for her, her dad, and her grandpa. S.H.H promised her a lot of money if she could uncover Murdo Meek, and Dawn wants her family to be able to make ends meet.

On a scale of one to ten, I would rate this story a 10 out of 10. It was well-written, and it had a lot of matter-of-fact humor that I loved. Also, the book contained a lot of puns and plays on words, which also fit in with the theme well.

-Vaidehi B.