All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

allthelightwecannotsee_anthonydoerrNormally, books about World War II are excruciatingly sad, desperate, and hopeless. Yet All the Light We Cannot See comes a hopeful theme and relief from the classic WWII historical fiction novel. Told in a series of sections from different parts of the war, switching between the past and the present, this novel tells the story of Marie-Laure and Werner and the people they encounter throughout the years.

Marie-Laure, a young French girl, lived with her father, the locksmith of the Natural History Museum in Paris. At a young age, she lost her vision, so her life was completely dependent upon her father. Her father took this to heart, building a mini scale model of their city for Marie-Laure to memorize, to the point that she could get around the city unaided.  She even counted storm drains as she walked the museum every day. When the war started, Marie-Laure and her father evacuated, bringing them closer to the action of the novel.

Werner, on the other hand, grew up an orphan in the Zollverein, having the whole responsibility for his younger sister. In order to prevent his future being consumed by working in the coal mine, he applied and received acceptance into one of the government’s schools on account of his extraordinary talent for working with radios. The novel tracks how Werner felt and reacted to what the Nazi party committed during the war, providing a unique perspective on Nazi life.

The novel’s plot is thick with questions, as the novel follows many characters other than Marie-Laure and Werner. With stories about Marie-Laure’s father, a German Sergeant, Werner’s friend from school, and the infamous Sea of Flames diamond, the novel is crafted in an original way that carries the story forward but provides enough details to immerse the reader into the action.

This is certainly a book that is difficult to put down. With so much going on, it was hard to leave one character’s story for a chapter to catch up with the other characters. I would definitely recommend this novel though there are some parts that are sentimental.

– Leila S., 11th grade

All The Light We Cannot See is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki

pandorahearts_junmochizukiOz Vessalius is fifteen years old, which means that it is time for his coming of age ceremony for the Vessalius family. Being the head of a powerful family, he doesn’t have to worry about in his future and his days are spent teasing his servant Gil, playing with his younger sister, and trying to woo the beautiful Sharon. That is, until he and Gil stumble upon a grave and Oz starts to have weird dreams about a girl in a twisted dollhouse who wants to kill him. The erratic Baskervilles send Oz into the “Abyss”, a prison thought only to be be a scary bedtime story. But why is the girl from his dream suddenly helping him get out of the Abyss? More importantly, when he finally gets out, has the world changed? Or did the Abyss change him?

Pandora Hearts is a completed manga series, with 104 chapters in 24 volumes and it’s a very worthwhile read. The series has very beautiful artwork, with each panel being a masterpiece and scenery that perfectly sets the tone. Additionally, characters are drawn in a way that perfectly suits their personalities. They have incredible backstories that lead the plot towards incredible twists and turns. The plot is woven well into the overall theme, from one scene about madness, to the next being completely comedic and the next being a thrilling action scene.

For Alice in Wonderland fans, it is nice to see many references to the book, with many scenes of madness, a character named “Alice”, and many characters having nicknames such as “Mad Hatter” or “B-Rabbit”. However, younger teens should be cautioned because some scenes of madness and action can be quite gruesome and twisted.

This is an amazing manga series, and I hope that everyone can take the chance to read it.

-Megan V., 11th Grade

Pandora Hearts is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.