1984 by George Orwell

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C’mon, admit it, you love dystopian novels. The Hunger Games, The 5th Wave, Divergent, all are popular teen novels that kids love reading these days. But how about older dystopian novels? Those ones that actually have the tragic end that they were promising from the beginning of a broken down world? Sure, I could be talking about Fahrenheit 451, another really great older dystopian novel, but I am talking about the one I enjoyed even more: 1984.

Although written in 1949, it talks about a world that has experienced wars ever since WWII, only to be pulled out of the dumpster by a totalitarian government that gave the people total war, slavery, and ignorance. The nation of Oceania controls this post war London, where there is never enough products, and everything already there, like houses, is over 50 years old. Winston, who works in the government, notices this but keeps on writing lies to public so that they would like the government more. After meeting a person he likes, O’Brien, and a person he hates, Julia, he starts to want to rebel.

I really liked the themes of the book. The government is always watching them, which is cool. We also sometimes take freedom for granted, but as Winston says, he doesn’t even have the freedom to say 2+2=4.

However, there is some adult things to be worried about, like a graphic torture scene or two, and a lot of themes of fertility. I also did not personally like the main character. Although he perfectly suited the themes of the novel, I kept screaming at him to not be stupid.

And, finally, this is a really great novel. Even if you don’t like old books, you’ll love the idea of corrupt governments, and a desire for freedom.

-Megan V

1984 by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

threemusketeers_alexandredumasThe Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas, was written in 1844. Set in France in 1625, it takes place during the reign of Louis XIII, with Cardinal Richelieu as his advisor. D’Artagnan leaves his home in Gascony and goes to Paris to join the Musketeers. At an inn on the way, he gets into some trouble and has the “letter of recommendation” his father had written for him stolen. When he gets to Paris, D’Artagnan visits the captain of the Musketeers, but is not admitted due to the fact that he does not have the letter. As the story progresses, D’Artagnan meets the three musketeers that he is to be good friends with, and gets caught up in political intrigues, of which some he involves his friends.

I liked this book because I remembered learning about this part of history at school, so it was a bit more enjoyable because I knew the historical background of the political characters (like the King, Richelieu, Queen, etc.). I also enjoyed reading it because the characters had distinct personalities and were not flat, and they each had their own flaws. Although I did not remember the description of each main character and their lackeys that was near the beginning of the book, I realized their personalities as I read so it was nice to not have to continually refer to earlier parts of the book to remember which character was which.

-Aliya A.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Hoopla

The Catcher in the Rye

catcherintherye_salingerThe Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger tells the tale of a 16-year-old-boy named Holden. Like every teenager, Holden has issues trying to find out who he is and what he wants to do with his life. Having been kicked out of four private schools, Holden has to face the wrath of his parents. His parents, especially his mother, are distressed because they had lost Holden’s younger brother, Allie. Mr. and Mrs. Caulfield feel the best way to take care of Holden is to send him away. Throughout the novel, Holden is talking to a psychoanalyst and is recounting various anecdotes of his life. As the story is told, the layers of Holden Caufield are revealed.

As I was reading the first three chapters, I did not like the character of Holden Caulfield at all. He seemed like this obnoxious guy who hated anything got to do with life. As I continued with the story, I started to sympathize with him because of his struggles as a teenager figuring out if adulthood is really what it seems to be. I have had those feelings, and I started to discover that much of our internal dialogue is the same. J.D. Salinger was very talented to have written a novel that is typical of the teenage mind. Although most people have read it as a requirement for school, it is a read for anyone struggling with the transition to adulthood.

-Anmol K.

The Catcher in the Rye is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

allquiet_erichremarqueWar has always been a big part of my family’s history. The impact war has on people and society changes the course of history. The war novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, depicts foot soldiers in the German infantry during World War I. Illustrating the intense violence and hardships of real war, this book shuts down theories people have made to convince themselves that war is an awesome event. Most action video games glorify war with blood, gore, and kills, but real war is nothing like that. There is no pleasure in taking the life of another human being nor are there any extra lives to bring one back from death.

This book accurately shows the reality versus romanticism that war is normally associated with. Even in the early 1900’s, people believed war glorified people and brought out the heroes inside them. All Quiet on the Western Front convinces us otherwise. The characters in this novel do what they have to in order to survive, including taking refuge in a graveyard. We were required to read this book for our English class, and it has opened my eyes into the reality of the world and the things people can do to other people. If you can, read this book because you will have your eyes opened too.

-Kyle H.

All Quiet on the Western Front is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

lordoftheflies_williamgoldingLord of the Flies is an allegory by William Golding, following the robinsonade storyline of a group of schoolboys stranded on a tropical island. After the boys crash land on a deserted island, they form a mock government and mimic the society they once knew in hopes of being rescued. However, as priorities conflict among the leaders of the clan, a group of boys who wish to be savages, hunting and playing all day with painted faces, leaves the main society. Chaos and death ensues, and the once innocent boys become dark-hearted and desperate.

One notable element of Lord of the Flies was Golding’s seamless blending of metaphors and symbolism into an exciting adventure novel. Each boy on the island symbolized a certain aspect of mankind’s priorities, and their fatal flaws. For example, the protagonist, Ralph, symbolized democracy and order, and the antagonist, Jack, symbolized savagery. Other symbols were clearly evident throughout the novel, truly forcing the reader to contemplate both their meanings and their relevance on the island, that was closely mirrored to society in real life.

I personally loved this novel. Golding’s view on human nature, saying that humans are innately evil, and the pull towards savagery will always trump democracy, was refreshing in a world of overly optimistic novels. Although everybody loves a heartwarming novel about the triumph of good over evil, Golding’s opposite viewpoint was truly fascinating. I loved how flawlessly Golding was able to mirror the world on his fictitious island. Not only was the literary aspect of the novel amazing, it was fun to read. You’ll be hard pressed to put this book down once you start it!

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who is looking for an exciting page turner of an adventure novel.

-Mirabella S.

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

janeeyre_charlottebronteAs it seemed to Jane Eyre, she would never be equal to her cousins, neither in status nor in physical appearance. From all angles, she was just a plain orphan, whom Mrs. Reed kept under her care only at the request of her late husband, Jane’s uncle. Constantly chided, blamed for things outside of her control, or treated like a pest, Jane’s early life was not easy.

Before long, she was sent to Lowood, a boarding school for orphaned girls, where she experienced a whole new life, though not necessarily better than her former years. She no longer had any sort of family to return home and the living conditions at Lowood were not any to be rewarded. Her eight years as a pupil did not end, however, as she continued on to become a teacher, and eventually sought a governess position elsewhere in England.

That brings Jane to the center of her story: Rochester Hall, with the stern-faced master, elderly housekeeper, spoiled French pupil, and the mystery within plaguing its halls. Before long, Jane’s governess position becomes more complicated, as she deals with Mr. Rochester. To tell you what happens from there, I would be ruining the story. But this is not even half of the story yet, as Jane embarks on a sort of journey that changes her life. That sounds extremely cliché, but it’s what happens. The events Jane experiences are so extraordinary that they do not seem realistic, but at the same time, I loved the ending.

My favorite part of this novel was the blunt way everything was depicted. Though disguised in flowery, 19th century English, Jane is quite to the point about everything she notices, and Bronte’s storytelling truly draws the reader in. Admittedly, it took me a while to read the novel because adjusting to the older style of English was difficult, but I could not have been happier to finish the book!

– Leila S., 11th grade

Jane Eyre, both the novel and its numerous television and film adaptations, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

prideandprejudice_janeaustenWhat has made Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s 19th century book, so timeless? We no longer live in an era where the only way to do well is to marry well. But, as it turns out, not much is different.

People today hold prejudices, albeit of different scales. What makes this an issue is if a person acts on those prejudices, without getting to know the truth. For example, I don’t like papaya or kiwi. I don’t remember if I actually tried the fruit when I was younger, but to this day, I refuse to eat the fruit. Maybe I had tried one bad kiwi, or had been influenced when my sister got sick after eating papaya. either way, I never tried it again. My pride comes into play, because I never want to be proven wrong. What if I ate a kiwi and loved it? Then I would be embarrassed for my embargo that has lasted my whole life so far. So to me, it’s best to never risk it.

Thinking about it now, this is definitely the wrong way to go about things. It may not seem serious, but this issue becomes serious in other circumstances. What if, instead of hating a type of fruit, someone hated a group of people? Maybe this was only because of one bad experience they had (or even heard about). Sometimes this hate can even be unfounded. People constantly make generalizations about people, which add bias to their actions, and they forget the most important virtue: to understand.

People need to understand why another person might have acted a certain way. It’s unfair to make judgments about a person without actually getting to know them. Elizabeth, in Pride and Prejudice, proved this. She was cold toward Mr. Darcy the entire book, thinking him a stuck-up, unfeeling man, and she was content in thinking this. But she soon found how much she was missing, finding out what Mr. Darcy had actually done (rather than hearing it in rumors from Mr. Darcy’s “enemy”) and seeing how kind and good-hearted Mr. Darcy had been to help Lizzy’s sister. (Spoiler alert!) Once she got to know him, her opinion widely changed.

Before long, her prejudices were broken, though perhaps not entirely gone. Before, she was too proud to admit that she could be wrong, but by the end, she realized her mistake. She then had to convince others of her feelings, since her previous prejudices had rubbed off on the rest of her family. Long story short, she had a lot to learn by getting to know another person. Just by giving him a chance to explain himself, Elizabeth radically changed her (and Mr. Darcy’s) life.

Thus, a lot can be learned from Jane Austen’s novel. I mean, for me, I’m definitely going to try kiwi this weekend. But for the rest of my life, the message of Pride and Prejudice will stay with me. I hope that those of you who have read this classic will keep the message in mind. For those of you who haven’t read the book, I truly recommend it.

-Leila S., 11th grade

Pride and Prejudice is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.