Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a short, yet classic allegorical novella of dystopian and political fiction. The book takes place on Manor Farm, a large farm where animals constantly feel oppressed by humans. Their anger towards the human race motivates them to rebel against rulership by kicking their farmer out of the farm and running the farm on their own. In Animal Farm–where all animals are supposedly equal–the lives of the animals turn upside down when pigs and dogs begin to rise in power through manipulation and propaganda. Throughout the novel, there’s a gradual progression where the pigs of Animal Farm begin to resemble humans both physically and psychologically.

Although this novel can be a fictional book for children, adults and teens are able to look past the plot and truly understand the story’s meaning. I, myself, am grateful to have read this at an older age so the themes are more prominent and prevalent to real life. Considering that George Orwell himself was a democratic socialist, the novel was a direct form of criticism towards communism, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, and two infamous dictators–Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Orwell also includes various ways in which the ruling class ridicules and manipulates the working class. The working class is often seen giving up energy and resources for the benefit of the ruling class, yet they’re brain washed into feeling content with their lives, believing that all their hard work is contributing to the farm as a whole.

After reading the novel, I was amazed by Orwell’s writing. I’ve never read a novel which thoroughly portrays the political maneuvering of totalitarianism. The message woven into the book was strong and clear, yet also written in a disturbing manner that will stick to readers for quite a long time. Personally, I enjoy these heavy topics, so it’s interesting to see Orwell’s light twist on the topic so the novel seems more kid-friendly. I also admire the author’s creativity when writing the book. It’s rare to see a writer eloquently convey a revolution. However, it’s more unique to see an author write an ironic revolution that comes back in a full circle and leaves the characters in the same position as they started. The symbolism of personified farm animals surprisingly pushes the plot forward as well, allowing readers to understand and connect with the characters more than humans ever could.

Would I ever recommend this to a child? Definitely not. I believe that it’s important to understand the true message of the novel, regardless of how dark the message may be. Even though many of us don’t live under a totalitarian regime or a communist society, it’s important to understand how we as individuals play a role in our current society and political system. Are we idly standing by, waiting upon others for a better future? Or are we making our own decisions for the future we want to achieve?

– Natisha P.

Animal Farm by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Library Of Souls (miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children) (hardcover) By Ransom  Riggs : Target

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs is the third installment of the wildly popular fantasy series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

This review contains spoilers for the previous two books! I highly recommend you read them before reading this review. You can find a review for the first book here.

This book picks up where the previous one left off. Jacob, Emma, and Addison the peculiar dog travel across London in an attempt to find the kidnapped Misses Peregrine and Wren (and all their peculiar friends) and rescue them from Miss Peregrine’s evil wight brother, Caul. However, Caul has secret plans that no one could have expected- and as Jacob’s ragtag group travels through the dregs of peculiar society, the battle for the soul of peculiardom brews in the distance.

I really enjoyed this book! I actually prefer this book to the one previous to it, Hollow City– I enjoyed the overall plot and especially the ending of this book a lot more than the one previous. Author Riggs does a perfect job of blending humor with vivid descriptions, and the world of Miss Peregrine and Jacob really seemed to come to life in this book. I found myself at the edge of my seat, especially in the last quarter of the book. If you read the first two books and found yourself bored, don’t worry- this book picks up the pace again! You definitely won’t be disappointed. In fact, I would highly recommend this book and series to any reader!

-Vaidehi B.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Summer Programs for Current Juniors

As a junior in high school, the college application season is right around the corner. Although applying to college may seem like a daunting and overwhelming tasks, there are many resources and programs designed to help students achieve their dreams and be accepted to their top schools. Personally, as a first-generation student, I had no guidance from my parents or siblings on how to apply to college or what to do in order to be seen as a competitive applicants. As a result, I would like to share some of the programs that have helped me through this difficult process and even boosted my college applications.

Hispanic Scholarship Fund Youth Leadership Institute

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Hispanic-American students succeed in college and beyond. As a junior, one is given the opportunity to be a part of this amazing organization by applying to their Youth Leadership Institute, which is a five day program that takes place over the summer. The requirements for this programs are that the applicant must have at least a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, be of Hispanic Heritage, be a current junior, and plan on applying applying and attending a 4-year university after high school. The program is a highly selective one given that it has around a 10% acceptance rate and has a national pool of applications every year. The program selects students that have demonstrated amazing academic achievement and leadership in their communities. The YLI is currently sponsored by two schools, the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California.

I had the amazing opportunity of attending the YLI at the University of Chicago this past summer and met many incredibly driven and talented individuals. Although the program is usually in-person at the sponsored colleges, because of COVID, the program was online this year. Nevertheless, the spirit of the YLI was definitely felt. I was able to receive invaluable guidance and information regarding the college application process through my mentor as well as the various presentations given throughout the program. My favorite part of the program, however, was being able to speak with high-achieving Latinx leaders, executives, and professionals. Their stories were very inspirational and allowed me to see people with similar backgrounds as me that have been very successful. Overall, this program was life-changing and allowed me to see myself as a competitive applicant at top institutions. I highly recommend that any ambitious Latinx juniors apply to the program.

UCI High School Institute in Law

The UCI HS Institute in Law is a 5 day program designed to introduce high school students to the profession and study of law. The program is somewhat expensive ($1100); however, if you are really interested in attending and are unable to pay the full price, UCI has an application for a full scholarship. The program itself does not require an application. The only requirement is that one must be currently in high school.

Due to COVID and other complications, the program was unfortunately cancelled. They replaced it with a one-day preview of law school. However, I’m sure that the in-person and full program is very informational and have heard that it is great for those aspiring to pursue a career in law.

I completed both of these programs the summer before my senior year; however, there are many other programs that I wish I would have known about and would have loved to have attended. To name a few there is the USC Bovard Scholar program, Dartmouth Bound program, and College Prep Scholar program among others. I highly recommend applying to these programs and researching some do your own if you are interested in applying to top institutions. They are very inspirational, informative, and look great on college applications.

-Yvette C.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson is a fantasy novel, filled with thrills, twists and lies. The story is narrated from the point of view of the main character, Sage. Sage is a fourteen year-old orphan and thief. One day he is caught stealing from a butcher but is saved by a nobleman named Bevin Conner. Sage is then kidnapped by Conner to be used in his devious plan. Sage is to undergo training with three other orphans. They are forced to impersonate the long lost son of the late king; Prince Jaron. If they don’t, they will definitely be killed.

At first I saw the book as somewhat predictable, but as I continued reading, I found other twists and surprises in the story that you wouldn’t have been able to find out unless you read the whole book. I appreciated the main character; Sage. He was lighthearted, witty, clever, but sometimes rude and cheeky. He was sly but could be honest at times. I really enjoyed reading from his perspective and it really fit with the storytelling. I also enjoyed Mott. Mott was one of Conner’s assistants. He was loyal and kind, but had a tough exterior. He was smart and helpful. Many of the characters made impacts on the story, and they all had interesting personalities. The personalities of characters changed the story in different ways and I liked that they all had a sort of impact. At certain points in the story, I thought some things in the story were a bit far fetched and unrealistic but still enjoyable nonetheless.

The False Prince is a young adult and middle grade book with relatively short chapters and is a quick read. My expectations when beginning this book were low but as I continued reading, I really enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. I didn’t expect that I would want to finish the book when I had started reading, but I ended up finishing the book the same day I started it. The story captivated me and I couldn’t put it down.  After reading the book I looked into the series and found the Ascendance Trilogy. The False Prince is the first in the Ascendance Trilogy and I can’t wait to start reading the second book, The Runaway King.

-Nicole R.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Hollow City (novel) cover.jpg

Hollow City is the second installment of the wildly popular series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, authored by Ransom Riggs. There are mild spoilers for the first book ahead- I would highly recommend reading the first book before reading this review! You can find a review for the first book here.

Hollow City picks up where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (the first book) left off. Jacob and his friends are in a boat, heading for the mainland, desperate to escape the wights that had been chasing them and restore Miss Peregrine to her human self. Along the way, traveling in and out of time loops, constantly on the run, they discover new and exciting things- including a menagerie filled with peculiar animals, Gypsies with a peculiar son, and the firsthand experience of the impact of World War II on England. However, the wights chasing them are getting closer and closer- and ymbrynes around the world are fast disappearing, falling victim to the wights perverse experiments. The children head to London, hoping to find the last remaining ymbryne- and save the world as they know it.

I really enjoyed this book! While it is an action and adventure book, I liked the way it dealt with very real themes, such as the devastating impact of World War II on England and all of Europe. Even while dealing with heavy subjects, the book had some well-timed humor that really helped add to the depth. It was packed with twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting. Overall, I would highly recommend this book- in fact, this entire series! I’ll be starting the third book later today- I’ll keep you posted 🙂

-Vaidehi B.

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Diverse Books by POC and LGBTQ Authors

As much as I love the representation presented in Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Lunar Chronicles, and Six of Crows, I have learned while reading these books that they are written by white, heterosexual women. There is nothing wrong with this and should be a common occurrence among white writers but sometimes, these authors tend to overshadow queer authors and authors of color. Their stories are less likely to be heard, though these stories relate to their personal struggles and identities. So here are some that I would like to recommend some books by authors in the POC and LGBTQ communities.

  1. Casey McQuiston: This author has been known for writing Red, White, and Royal Blue and One Last Stop, two stories with both LGBTQ and POC representation. In Red, White, and Royal Blue, the main character is biracial and bisexual while his love interest is gay. In One Last Stop, the main character is a lesbian as well as her Chinese American love interest. Casey McQuiston themself is bisexual and nonbinary, using all pronouns. They are publishing a book in 2022 called I kissed Shara Wheeler, another book you could check out!
  2. Adiba Jaigirdar: This author has written 2 books called The Henna Wars and Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. These books are sapphic and show representation in the Muslim, Afro-Brazilian, Bengali, and Korean community. The author herself is Bangladeshi and lives in Ireland. She identifies as queer. Go check her books out!
  3. Hafsah Faizal: This author is known for writing We Hunt the Flame and We Free the Stars. Hafsah Faizal grew up in a household where Islam was an important practice in their life. She is of Arabian and Sri Lankan descent. The books stated above portray Arabian terminology that is normal in Arabia. We love to see it!
  4. Angie Thomas: This author has written many books but the ones people mostly recognize her for is The Hate U Give and On the Come Up. These two books are about how racism hinders and traumatizes young black people and how they live in a society that is constantly against them. But, nonetheless, they fight against them with all of the strength they have. Angie Thomas is also one of six authors who wrote Blackout, a collection of love stories between black people during a power outage in their city. Definitely check it out!
  5. Tomi Adeyemi: This author has written the Legacy of Orïsha trilogy: Children of Blood and Bone, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, and another untitled book she is working on. These books are inspired West African elements with Yoruba mythology. Though it is a fantasy book, it show many ideologies in our world (like racism) discreetly.

If you would like to expand the types of authors you read, please check these ones out!

-Saanvi V.

Schema Theory

A schema is a pattern of memory that is heavily influenced by pre-clustered ideas, and is known as the framework that organizes social information. Schemas are often used to interpret and learn information, as we are more likely to comprehend what we learn if it matches our schema. For example, if we always know that grass is green, then we will be able to comprehend the fact that the grass in Texas is also green much better than the (not-so-true) fact that the grass in New Mexico is purple: because purple grass does not match our schema of grass.

Another thing schema causes is stereotypes, or the idea that certain groups will have certain traits in common. This is because our schema of the particular group that we envision has been influenced by social/cultural norms. However, the most notable and fascinating thing that schema does is the distortion of memory. In the 1980s, psychologists Brewer and Treyens conducted an experiment, where participants were asked to wait in a waiting room that resembled an office (these participants were under the impression that they were waiting for an experiment, when in reality, the waiting room was the experiment). After a brief period of time in the waiting room, the participants were asked to name items that were in the waiting room. A lot of things were recognized correctly, but things that normally did not appear in an office were not recognized.

Even more interestingly, participants seemed to recall things that normally appeared in the office, but actually were not there at all. For example, many participants recalled seeing books in the office, even though there were no books in the office. That is attributed to the fact that there are usually books in offices. This area of psychology is very fascinating, and helps us understand human behavior better.

-Jeremy L.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” has been read in high schools for the past 70 years. What makes the Catcher in the Rye popular today? It is the way that teenagers can still find some sort of way to relate to the main character, Holden Caulfield. It tells the story of a 16 year old boy and his adventures in New York City after getting kicked out of boarding school. Holden stresses over having to tell his parents that he failed most of his classes. He decides to take off to New York City for a few days. 

I liked the book because it feels like Holden is having a conversation directly with you. The slang words are totally different to how people talk today. However, you can still relate to Holden because of his openness about his feelings of insecurity, struggles with anxiety and fear of the future. The story has a lot of themes from rebellion, belonging, family, grief and mental health. 

Everyone faces different issues in high school from wanting to excel academically to a desire to belong and connect.  Even though we communicate totally different today because of social media, some of the issues that Holden faces are the same. I would recommend this book to high school students because it talks about mental health in an honest way. You get the feeling that Holden eventually gets the help that he needs. The Catcher in the Ryes encourages those who are struggling to find a person that you feel comfortable talking to like a parent, teacher, counselor or friend.

-Austin S.    

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer

It was oddly surprising. I had read the entire Twilight series and even though I already knew the story, it was intriguing to read it from a different perspective. It gave a lot more depth to the story and allowed me to get a full picture. Honestly, it was a little creepy because you realize that you’re reading it from the view point of a blood lusting creature and not a teenage girl. I found it oddly thrilling and sickening at the same time.

It wasn’t a new story but the new perspective definitely made me change how I saw the relationship as a whole. It’s funny I use to be team Edward because I liked Edward. Then was team Jacob. Then became team Edward solely because I believed Jacob deserved someone 100% better than Bella. Now I think she shouldn’t have ended up with any of them. I believe that would have some how been a cooler ending now that I have perspective. However, still an interesting read, would for sure recommend.

-Coralie D.

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Charlotte’s Web is a children’s novel by E.B. White.  The story revolves around a lonely pig named Wilbur.  Wilbur lives in a barn owned by a farmer named Mr. Zuckerman.  Wilbur feels ostracized by the other farm animals, until one night when he is befriended by an unexpected stranger in the dark.  The friendly animal turns out to be a spider named Charlotte, who lives in a big web stretched across the upper part of the doorway to the barn.  When Wilbur learns that the farmer intends to kill him, Charlotte promises to find a way to save Wilbur’s life.

This book is very heartwarming.  I enjoyed reading about the development of the friendship between Wilbur and Charlotte.  The supporting characters are also quite memorable.  One character that I especially enjoyed was Templeton.  Templeton is a rat who will not do anything unless there is something in it for him.  Despite his faults, I found his personality to be amusing.

While this book is intended for children, I would recommend it to anyone.  The story is heartrending but beautiful.  Most of the characters are just farm animals, yet somehow the story is quite poignant and impactful.  This book is a quick read, but for me it generated surprisingly bittersweet feelings that make it hard to forget.

-Oliver H.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B White is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.