Book Review: The Giver, by Lois Lowry

giver_coverAuthor Lois Lowry does an amazing job in the unique, science-fiction novel The Giver. The highly-anticipated movie adaptation just released on August 15. Have you seen it?

In the novel, we are introduced to a boy named Jonas, who lives in a utopian society that has eradicated conflict, poverty, unemployment, divorce, injustice, and inequality. In the annual Ceremony, where every twelve-year-old gets a life assignment prearranged by the Elders, Jonas is selected to inherit the position of “Receiver of Memory.”

When Jonas spends more & more time with the Giver, he learns the power of wisdom. Even though the people in his community have been shielded from life’s many problems, Jonas realizes that they do not know about the things that give life meaning such as sunshine, color, music, and love.

Becoming wiser everyday, Jonas doesn’t want to bear all the memories, both joyful and painful, by himself. He wants to share the many freedoms with his community, even if it means disrupting the safe, current life of innocence and order. Together the Giver and Jonas formulate a plan that will have instant, severe outcome on the entire community, especially on Jonas himself.

Jonas, portrayed by Brenton Thwaites in the movie, is naïve in the story and I like how he matures during the course of the story. One main reason I liked this book is that it is unlike other dystopian novels I have read. The Giver is one of the books that I have read over and over again because it is so well written. This is truly Lois Lowry’s masterpiece and in my opinion she totally deserves the John Newbery Award for it. The ending of The Giver was not the best, but I have not read all the books in the Giver Quartet. It might make more sense in the latter books. I am especially excited to see the movie because I loved the book. It’s been hard waiting for the movie to be released, but I am going to see it for sure.

-Anmol K., 7th grade

Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle – as if you didn’t know the story

wrinkle_in_timeThe title is kind of weird, isn’t it? What kind of time has a wrinkle? In this book by Madeline L’Engle you get the wonderful combination of sci-fi and fantasy that is so hard to find.

Meg Murry’s father was on a mission for the president when he disappeared. No one knows where he is, least of all his family. Meg’s mother misses him dreadfully. Her brothers Dennys and Sandy have stepped up and become the family patriarchs. Her brother Charles Wallace is four years old and much smarter than she is. Meg herself is failing in school and feels awful all the time. However, things change when Charles Wallace meets Mrs.Who, Mrs.What, and Mrs.Which who take them and a boy named Calvin on an adventure through time and space to rescue their father from the terrible planet he is imprisoned on.

This book is absolutely amazing and it really is a classic. Sci-fi isn’t usually my thing but I have made an exception for this one book due to the fabulously written and extremely human characters. The language and the content have caused me to fall totally in love with this book and it has been one of my favorites from a pretty young age. If you have already read the book, there is a book called When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead which has a similar idea and takes a little bit of a more modern view while alluding to A Wrinkle in Time frequently. And if you like Madeline L’Engle, try some over her other books like A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

-Becka O., 8th grade

Book Review: The Giver, by Lois Lowry

giver_coverLois Lowry does a great job of completely engaging the reader in this story.  The meaning of the “precision of language,” the odd recalled memories, and the speaker telling everyone what to do is quite odd at the beginning of the story.  Jonas, an eleven year old boy, is living in a futuristic town and is feeling… apprehensive, as he would call it… for the Ceremony of Twelve.  For each year as the people in his Community grow up one year, there is a ceremony where something happens to them.  At eight years old, you get a jacket with pockets signifying maturity to hold onto your own things.  At nine, you get a bicycle with your name on it.  (Bicycles are the only transportation within the Community.)  At Twelve, you get assigned your job; that is what Jonas is apprehensive about.

The ceremony goes more quickly than he thought and when each twelve year old boy or girl is assigned his or her role, the community elders skip over him.  Only at the end they announce his assignment.  He is assigned something very special… to work with The Giver.  Jonas learns that not only will he have his lifetime job to be with The Giver and replace his job, but also experience the pain of the memories transmitted to him.  Two big themes I found important in this story were love and conformity, which always remind me of the song “All you need is Love” by the Beatles.  This conveys the message being told in the story—all you really need is love and a bond between you and someone else.

When I finished this book, I was not completely satisfied, but very moved.  I felt that this is not how our future should look.  The conflict between Jonas’s knowledge and the transmitted memories was very interesting.  I would recommend this book to any middle and high schoolers who have some time on their hands to really get the gist of the book.  Have fun!

Maya S., 6th grade

6th Grade

Book Review: Looking for Alaska, by John Green

looking_for_alaskaLooking for Alaska is a realistic fiction novel by the recently famous author John Green about an awkward teenage boy who finds love for the first time. Although the plot may sound cliché, Green adds relatable elements to the book that most authors don’t.

The book begins with a 16 year old named Miles Halter spending his last day at his home in Florida before he leaves for a prestigious boarding school located in Alabama. Upon arriving to Culver Creek Boarding School, Miles is introduced to plenty of his soon-to-be friends. But on that day Miles falls in love with the outgoing and crazy Alaska Young. Throughout the school year, Alaska and Miles share countless adventures when suddenly one day changes his life forever.

I thought the story had everything it needed to be overall an amazing book. It lets the reader connect with the characters and allows us to feel and experience the troubles the characters are going through. This book proves to be funny, emotional, and captivating as the reader takes a journey to Miles’ version of a “Great Perhaps.”

I would recommend this book to any teen looking for an engrossing yet simple read and hope to see it someday made into a movie.

-Sara S., 10th grade

Book Review: Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

speak_coverHigh school should be one of the greatest experiences in freshman Melinda’s life, but instead it is twisted into a horrible nightmare as one secret rips her life apart. One party was turned into a complete disaster when she called the cops. However, there may be more than is seen on the surface.

Melinda finds herself rejected by her classmates and former friends, closed off from her parents, and unable to reveal the truth behind a trauma that has left her private and social life in ruins. As she faces more and more pain and harassment from school, she becomes increasingly isolated and soon refuses to talk at all. Melinda slowly loses touch with those around her, building walls around her to protect from the shame of what happened on that one fateful night. The safest place for her to be is her own head. But where can you run to escape from yourself?

Through her art class she finds some solace, and it is from an art project that she finally finds the  strength to face what really happened at that party– and this time Melinda fights back and refuses to be silent.

In this powerful Printz Honor novel, a realistic, believable heroine delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school with her ironic bitterness, and finally speaks up about her pain. She speaks for any teenager that feels like an outcast while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself

Warning: This book may not be appropriate for children 12 and under due to mature content.

-Julia D., 9th grade

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is an amazing book. Telling the story from Ivan (the gorilla)’s point of view, you find out the story of a gorilla’s care for a baby elephant. This book was just released in 2012, so it’s kind of new. It’s an easy read, with lots of short paragraphs. However, this book is very enjoyable.

This book is about a gorilla named Ivan, who has lived in a cage- or domain as he calls it- at Exit 8 Big Top Mall for 27 years! Ivan is a silverback gorilla, which means he’s in charge of protecting his family. But he has no one to protect since he’s all alone. But when the Exit 8 Big Top Mall gets a new member, Ruby the baby elephant, all of that might change.

Also, The One and Only Ivan is this year’s Newbery Medal winner. I think it clearly deserves this award, because it’s very well written. And I could just picture the story in my head while I was reading it, and in my opinion  that shows the signs of a good book!

I love this book very much. It broke my heart but then put it back together at the end. Ivan proves it’s not so easy being a gorilla.

-Danielle L.

Book Review: In Darkness, by Nick Lake

in_darkness_coverIn Darkness is a novel written by Nick Lake that recently won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. This award is the teen literature equivalent of the Newbery award, which honors the most distinguished book written for children each year. Having read this book, I can most certainly testify that this novel is worthy of the award.

This novel is categorized under the genre realistic fiction, but personally, I found it to be more historical fiction. I am not and have never been a fan of historical fiction, but I found myself really touched by this novel. The story follows Shorty, a Haitian boy, trapped underneath a hospital following an earthquake. As he nears death, he ruminates on his life, and all of the things that he has done that he regrets, and all of the things that he will miss if he dies. I found this to be one of the most touching portions of this novel- Shorty is a very relatable character to the teenage audience that Lake writes to. He is angry, passionate, lovable, and honest. He has the same interests most teens have today- music, friendship, family, and school. His life in Haiti is interesting and captivating, and mostly shocking, because it shows the extreme poverty and violence that these Haitians live with.

Shorty’s story is entwined with the story of Toussaint l’Ouverture, the slave who led the rebellion for Haiti’s independence two hundred years prior. Although both of the characters are so different, Lake writes their stories together with shocking ease. Both characters are undergoing a war, l’Ouverture leading Haiti’s independence from France, and Shorty’s involvement in the gang wars. Through their stories, you see how Haiti was shaped, and the similarities between the Haiti of the past, and the Haiti of the present. Many Haitian rituals and phrases are included in the novel, making it seem very authentic and showing Lake’s passion for this subject and his dedication to his novel.

In Darkness was touching and passionate. It took me a while to get used to the switching of the viewpoints from Shorty to l’Ouverture, but I found the exchanging of the viewpoints made me more invested in each story. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen in each of the characters’ lives next. Some readers might find this story desolate and hopeless, but there were various parts of the novel that shined with optimism, most notably Shorty’s angelic lost sister, Marguerite. Other reviewers have said that the novel is inappropriate for younger readers, because of the amount of expletives and violence, but I think that it is truthful and would be a great read for any young adult reader.

I highly recommend this novel overall, and I think it definitely deserves the Michael L. Printz Award.

-Brianna M., 11th grade