My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

My Brother Sam Is Dead by Christopher CollierJames Lincoln Collier |  Scholastic
This is the cover of the book My Brother Sam is Dead

My Brother Sam is Dead is a historical fiction novel that takes place from 1775 to 1779. This book is all about the Revolutionary War and how it impacted the daily lives of those living in the Colonies. The story revolves around a young boy named Tim Meeker, and his brother Sam. Sam believes in the Patriots and longs for freedom from England, while Tim, being the ripe age of 12, is not quite so sure.

As the story progresses, It becomes painstakingly clear how difficult war makes life for the innocent. With the growing gap between Tim’s father and brother and Tim’s growing curiosity, this gorgeous tale evolves into something deeper than just a book. As the economy falls and hardship after hardship is forced upon the Meeker family, Collier and Collier make it apparent as to how they feel about war.

This story touched me deeply. After I finished, my whole perspective on the war changed, which is what I think the authors wanted. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a short but deep read. It is truly astonishing how much a book can impact us.

– Apoorvi S:)

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

Cracked Up to Be is yet another example of a book this year that fails to disappoint me. After reading Sadie by the same author, once Cracked Up to Be was re-released in a new edition, I jumped on the chance to read it. (Pro tip: you can find the novel on the Barnes and Noble buy one get one 50% off tables!)

Cracked Up to Be tells the story of a once-perfect high school girl Parker Fadley, who has fallen from grace after witnessing a traumatic event, which you learn more about as you continue on throughout the novel. 

Courtney Summers has a way of fully immersing you in her stories, and making you keep your eyes glued to the pages, wondering what will happen next. There is always something revealed or teased during the end of chapters that make you become completely addicted to the book. The fact that the novel is 214 pages long certainly doesn’t help as well, with short and straight to the point chapters that led me to complete the book in three hours filled with  

The story revolves around the characters more than the plot and was something I in fact, really appreciated. Don’t get too excited by the mystery though, because to be quite frank, it was slightly underwhelming as well as the ending. But I am willing to overlook that for the sole point of my love to hate relationship with Parker Fadley.

There is something so captivating about unlikeable characters that completely captivates you. I very strongly disliked the main character Parker, but at the same time I was obsessed to learn what her deal was, and I believe that was exactly the purpose of her character. Needless to say, I frequently caught myself laughing at the crass jokes she makes, but feel a sense of dislike for the snide remarks she makes afterwards. 

This novel isn’t suited to everyone’s tastes, and a better representation of Courtney Summer’s work in my opinion is Sadie (I have also published a review on this book!), but Cracked Up to Be was an undeniable great read for me that I encourage you all to read!

Trigger Warning: the following topics are discussed and portrayed throughout the book such as rape, suicide, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse.

-Asli B.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

The book starts off as Heidi is being brought to her constantly upset grandfather who has had nothing to do with her (yet) by her aunt Dete. Heidi, an orphan, was raised by her aunt after both of her parents died a long time ago. Heidi soon meets her grandfather, who seems to be very unhappy about this situation. He doesn’t want anything to do with the girl but nevertheless takes her in. 

Heidi is a very active and happy girl. This book is the story of her being raised in the Swiss Alps by her grandfather. ‘Heidi’ follows the main character and protagonist, Heidi. She attends school and plays in the mountains with her new found friend Peter the shepherd and her grandfather’s two goats.

I really enjoyed reading this book because of the amount of details that were put into it, like how something smells or feels. The book is definitely very interesting and I would highly encourage you to read it.

I would recommend you to read this book whether you do or do not enjoy reading classics. The storyline was great, the events that took place were exceptional, and the novel remains exciting throughout the whole story. 

This book remains as one of my favorite novels. It is a good book to read if you like calm yet active storylines and characters. I also liked that Heidi is very kind to everyone she meets, whether she knows them well or not.

I would rate this book 10/10.

-Peri A.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Love by Debbie Tung

Do you like books? How about graphic novels? If you are a bookworm who also enjoys graphic novels, this book is for you! 

This is an outstanding graphic novel. It is about a bookworm’s love for books. 

The main character, Debbie, leads a very interesting lifestyle. Books surround her everywhere and almost always. She sometimes finds herself walking into a book store saying things like, “Just a quick browse”, but then comes out looking like she bought a whole shelf of books. She is a huge bookworm. 

It dives a lot deeper into how some people have a different style than others, like how Debbie loves books, but other people prefer other activities. Here is one of my favorite comic strips from the book:

This story is filled with humor, while at the same time putting together an outstanding graphic novel. The main character loves to relax and unwind with a good book. It reduces her anxiety! Also, at certain times, Debbie must decide between either having something else, like food, or books. Her reactions to these situations are amusing!

Book Love is written and illustrated by Debbie Tung. Debbie Tung has also written Quiet Girl in a Noisy World and also recently published Happily Ever After (and Everything in Between). She is an introvert, similar to the character Debbie from her books. 

I really enjoyed reading this book because I love to read a lot. It made me feel happy and I liked how it is funny and easy to read but at the same time filled with great lessons.

I would recommend you to read this book. This is a perfect book for you to read, since it tells the funny and amazing story of a bookworm.

Also, here are some great reading tips:

Happy Reading! 

-Peri A.

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

This is an amazing story. I highly recommend you read it. 

When Suzanne Swanson learns about how her former best friend, Franny Jackson, drowned during the summer, she is immediately convinced that there was something else that caused her death. Her mother’s explanation, “Sometimes things just happen”, Suzy believes, is not the truth. 

Suzy stops talking to everyone. She begins to think that silence is better than talking. It sometimes means more than someone’s words. 

Her search for an answer leads to many interesting facts and a possible suspect: jellyfish. Especially when she finds out so much about them during a school field trip visit to the aquarium. I also loved how this book features lots of amazing facts about jellyfish.

During Suzy’s research, she finds lots of different experts on jellyfish and decides that she should visit one of those experts and ask them to help her prove how her former best friend really died. More fueled than ever, Suzy is determined to help bring the truth into the light.

The book follows Suzy as she tries to find out the whole story and grieves this loss. She is devastated that, as she calls it, ‘The Worst Thing’ took place before she was able to make up with Franny for the terrible scene that unfolded thanks to Suzy.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and I hope we can watch the movie soon. 

The Thing About Jellyfish has an amazing story and succeeds in making the reader want to keep reading more and more of the book. Filled with valuable life lessons and a wide range of character personalities, this best-seller is a novel you should read.

-Peri A.

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brenden Kieley

With all that has been going on in the world as of late, I thought it would be a perfect time to recommend one of my favorite books.

Similar to The Hate U Give, All American Boys is a captivating story about racial injustice and while it was released quite a while ago, it has always maintained its relevance especially in today’s current social climate

Written by two authors and two different perspectives, All American Boys is about two teenagers, Rashard and Quinn, and how they will stand up for the racism that Rashard faces once he gets falsely accused of stealing in a grocery store and the many injustices he faces afterward. 

From the beginning, this book had something that as different from other fictional books I’ve read about racial injustice and one of which is dual perspectives. I absolutely adored the different points of view and the fact they were each written by different authors made them all the more enjoyable. With the dual perspectives, it gave the book a deeper meaning and showed how one part of the community could stay silent about the issues of injustice (Quinn’s) and how another community rallied for it. 

One of the main themes of this book is loyalty. From the catalyst event moving onwards Quinn deals with the fact that maybe his loyalty lies in the wrong people. For example, his best friends brother was the police officer that cruelly manhandled Rashard and escalated the situation that shouldn’t have even been an issue in the first place. Throughout the book Quinn is trying to hold onto the trust and security not only with his best friend but his brother, who he also has a close bond with. 

This story is so captivating and powerful that I finished it in one sitting. From start to finish I was hooked, and I can almost guarantee that you would as well. 

Though Rashard’s story though fictional is very much a reality for what a lot of people of color face. But in most cases, the victim doesn’t get justice. This book shows the privilege some people live in for their lives to continue as though nothing has happened. It also serves as a reminder that when something isn’t right to speak up about it. Advocate and speak out about stories of people like Rashard who can’t do it for themselves because “Rashard couldn’t come to school today.” 

In terms of reality, Rashard’s story would only be the tip of the iceberg. Racial inequality is still very much alive and is being brought up not only in fiction but in daily life. So stay aware and advocate!

-Asli B.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brenden Kieley is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Educated by Tara Westover

With overwhelmingly positive reviews from Bill Gates, Barak Obama, as well as consistently winning the best memoir of the year in 2018 by multiple institutions, I had to see if this book lived up to all the hype it seemed to be receiving from everywhere. 

Needless to say, it went above and beyond my expectations. 

Educated is the author’s own story of growing up in a survivalist family that did not allow anyone, least of all Tara, an education. It is the journey of her breaking free from the destructiveness of her family and ending up studying at Cambridge and Harvard.

This memoir is easily one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, if not only for the powerfulness of it. Throughout the memoir, you go from pitying Tara, to pride for all that she’s accomplished. 

One trait I love about Tara is her determination. As she starts studying for the SAT, she knew almost nothing and had to learn almost all of it by herself. For example, when she started practicing trigonometry for the first time, she had the math level of a 5th grader. But as she studied more and more, and was so driven that she passed the SAT without receiving any instruction other than her brother Tyler and some books. 

This book affected me in such a deep way that I feel as if it will resonate with me forever. Now whenever I’m doing my schoolwork and feeling unmotivated, I think about Tara and how hard she had to work to just prove she had what it took without proper schooling to get into high prestige schools. She was very independent and as someone who is striving to do so, Tara is someone I look up to.

Now because of her upbringing she did have a lot of mental health issues. After discovering herself, she was pushed away by her family. Even though she had spoken out to her other family members about how manipulating and damaging her childhood was, almost no one believed her. Because of this, her family ignored her, and even though they have been the root of almost all her problems, she finds herself heartbroken over this. 

But the main thing her family has done to her was the manipulation of ideals they have put upon her. As she was growing up she was taught that the government and all of its institutions were part of the illuminati and were out to kill them. The only thing Tara’s parents willingly taught her about was religion. In fact, when she attended college she couldn’t write the way other student did because she learned to read and write only from mormon texts, she had almost no idea of how to function in a normal society. When going through with all this manipulation her parents justified it in their name of their faith, but it is clearly radicalism, and it is so, so frustrating to read about. 

And with that I leave with you a quote from the memoir that perfectly encompasses the idea of finding your own truth:

“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create.”

-Asli B.

Educated by Tara Westover is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Although the name of this book originally had me skeptical, as soon as I read the first page I couldn’t stop. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a novel by Holly Black that was published in 2013. Its genres include Drama, Horror fiction, and Young Adult Fiction.

This novel is about a girl named Tana and her journey to a Coldtown, where she is always one step away from death, or even worse, a vampire. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it was a heart-wrenching novel that was one of the most difficult to put down.

Tana’s world is centered around vampires, who are the apex predators. Without vampires, the news would be ‘boring’ and America, the only place where the spread of the vampires is somewhat contained, would have little to none to pride itself on. Coldtowns are where vampires or humans that are in the process of turning are sent. With boarded-up homes and bloodthirsty vampires rampant, the only way to describe the towns spread across the United States is… cold.

Although our current worries are far from turning into vampires, I find the characters in this book relatable. While trying to contain the virus known to them as vampires, today’s society works hard to contain Covid-19. Tara worries for her sister’s safety more than almost anything else, the same reason why I yell at my sister to put on shoes instead of flip-flops when going outside in the hopes that she doesn’t trip and fall.

As Tara is forced to journey into the deep center of a Coldtown, she makes friends, gets stabbed in the back, loses her sanity, and finds it again through the power of love and the undeniable fact that you are only as strong as you believe yourself to be.

-Apoorvi S.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is a graphic novel/comic that was adapted into a movie. The novel is an autobiography with true events that happened in the late 1900’s. The black and white panels of the novel can effortlessly grab the attention of any reader and make it entertaining.

Persepolis follows a young girl named Marjane who lives through the revolutionary changes in her home country of Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The most interesting part is that the ongoing crisis and corruption is viewed from a child’s perspective despite how complex it is. In a way, the reader grows and learns more about the government and cultural contexts along with the maturing Marjane.

Satrapi does not fail in grasping the reader’s attention and making them feel the rollercoaster of emotions along with the main characters. The series visits very critical and mature topics during the late 1900s that the Iranians/Marjane face. Thus, more mature readers should be able to handle these topics. 

Satrapi’s series is emotional and very moving. The oppression and government conflicts can be seen as a parallel to our world today. Just like Marjane who speaks up against the corruption of her government to maintain her rights, many of us participate in rallies or protests to uphold our values. 

Similar to Marjane who is facing a revolutionary change in her nation, many of us are currently facing a new change in our nation as well. Before Marjane knew it herself, her world changed for the better! Thus, just like Marjane, we must find the will to stay strong, inspire others, and survive. 

Ultimately, Marjane’s spirit and growing perspective of the world around her is inspiring. This series is not only a best-seller but also studied in academic literature courses all over the world as a work in translation. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is struggling to pick up a book during quarantine or in their free time (ahem, I know that’s some of us). It also opens up your ideas of Iranian culture and Islamic politics during the 1900s. 

I also recommend it for anyone who wants to try a new format of reading: comic-style. The panels are very easy to read and the black and white colors are used in such a captivating way. In fact, I read this entire novel in one sitting. I definitely hope others feel the same way as well. 

-Zohal N. 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita: Nabokov, Vladimir: Amazon.com: Books

Most of the book is the confession of Humbert, a death-row prisoner, recounting the love story between a middle-aged man and an underage girl. The novel was initially rejected for publication in the United States and was first published in 1955 by Olympia in Paris. Finally published in the US in 1958, the book rocketed to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. Lolita has been adapted into a film.

In the novel, Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged French immigrant to the United States, had a first love affair with a 14-year-old girl Annabel when he was a teenager. In The end, Annabel died early from typhoid fever, which led to Humbert’s transformation to a pedophile. He defined “goblin” as “nine to fourteen years old”. First abandoned by a wealthy widow, Humbert later falls for Lolita, the 12-year-old daughter of landlady Charlotte Haze, calling her a goblin. Unable to break away from Lolita due to the shadow of his childhood, Humbert marries his landlady and becomes Lolita’s stepfather in order to get close to the precocious and passionate little girl. The girl in the novel is Dolores Haze, or Lolita or Lo, as the Spanish-sounding nickname for the book’s title.

The landlady in her husband’s diary later found out his secret and was very angry that he cheated on her. Humbert later picks Lolita up from camp and travels with her, thinking that by drugging her in her drink he can unknowingly molest her. The drug had no effect on Lolita (because it wasn’t really a powerful sleeping pill), and instead, the next morning, Lolita flirted with Humbert and had an incestuous relationship. Humbert then informs Lolita that her mother is dead, and with no choice, Lolita accepts that she must live with her stepfather. Humbert takes Lolita on a father and daughter tour of The United States, using pocket money, beautiful clothes, and delicious food to control Lolita and continues to satisfy his desire for her. As Lolita grows up, she begins to dislike her stepfather and starts dating boys of her own age. She takes the opportunity of a trip to break away from her stepfather. Humbert searched frantically at first, but eventually gave up.

Three years later, Humbert receives a letter from Lolita. It says that she is married, pregnant, and needs financial help from her stepfather. Humbert gave her $400 in cash, a check for $3,600, and a $10,000 deed to the house that he had sold. He asked Lolita who is the man who took her away from, and Lolita told him that the man is Quilty who is a professor of performance at her school. She told him that she ran away from Quilty because she rejected Quilty’s request to her and the other boys for making pornographic films. Humbert begged Lolita to leave her husband and go with him, but she refused, and Humbert was heartbroken. He tracked down and shot Quilty. Humbert died in prison of a blood clot, and Lolita died in childbirth on Christmas Day 1950 at the age of 17.

-Coreen C.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive.