Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

Prisoner B-3087 is a true story of Jack Gruener. Alan Gratz was the person who made Gruener’s story into a novel. The novel tells a tale of Yanek, a boy who was put in a concentration camp.

I choose this book because I needed something to read. When I found it I saw that it was about the Holocaust. I thought that it would be very interesting and it was.

I haven’t read every Holocaust story but this one was very deep. The way Gratz wrote this was very in depth. That is what I think that more of these stories need. They need a more detailed story.

It really made you feel like you where there. Right next to Yanek in the concentration camp. I also learned many news things about the Nazis. Like how they hired convicted criminals to be Kapos in the camps. At the start of the book Yanek was a boy about 10. He was just a innocent boy. Then when the Nazis came he was coming on 11 or 12 maybe. Then when they took him he was going on 14.

The important thing about 13 is that it means its time for your barmitzfah. Before they took him and his uncle had his barmitzfah. Now they couldn’t have had it in there house or else they would’ve been shot. What they did was they had it in the basement.

This was one of my favorite parts of the book because usually Jewish people have a huge celebration for there barmitzfah. I mean my friend rented out half of the Los Angeles stadium for his barmitzfah. Yanke’s family could’ve had a big celebration for his barmitzfah. The only down side is that they would’ve been shot dead on spot.

Another thing that shocked me was the cruelty of the Nazis. There was one point of the book where they would make prisoners move huge rocks for no real reason. They just wanted to see the Jews suffer. In the novel you could see how Yanek changed over time. In the beginning of the novel he was a innocent little boy. At the end of the novel he was a grown man who didn’t fear death.

I thought this book was great and I wouldn’t mind reading it again.

-Max U.

Bar Mitzvah!

Recently, one of my friends, Zac, turned 13 and explained to me that he was holding something called a Bar Mitzvah. I wondered what that was, because I’d never attended one; I was expecting just a normal birthday party.

After doing some research, I realized that traditionally a Jewish child would participate in a coming-of-age ceremony at 13, called a Bar Mitzvah. I finally understood what the event was now.

My friends and I attended the Bar Mitzvah to celebrate with Zac, and it was such a great experience. There were two parts: The Torah, and then the reception later in the evening. The way the Bar Mitzvah is held is actually really similar to that of a wedding, with the long tables, DJ, dance floor, flower assortments, lights, etc.

I was very impressed in the dedication that Zac put forth in the ceremony. He memorized long Hebrew passages and sang songs to praise Jesus. The ceremony lasted about an hour, where he underwent many different spiritual rituals, like one particular flag-bearing. He did really well, especially while playing his guitar and reading his well-prepared speech. It was also very touching when his parents gave a speech and recognized him as a truly worthy son. Zac told us that he’d spent almost two years, and all that hard work and dedication really paid off!

Finally, the reception was very well put together. There was a lot of dancing (Zac got lifted and twirled up in the air on a chair), and it was all fun. There was ice cream, and three courses that were extremely tasty. The family put a lot of effort in the arrangements and the whole event turned out really well. I really enjoyed this event, and had the time of my life!

-Katherine L.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I just finished reading this book early in the morning, shortly before 1 am and to put it simply, I am still in awe as I write this. I’ve never read a book that was so casually written yet so beautiful and articulate. While writing in letter format may seem improper for a published book, the style of writing produces a personal touch that is key to the novel.

Stephen Chbosky follows the coming of age story of a young freshmen boy, who goes by Charlie. Charlie is writing to an anonymous friend and refuses to use real names of people in his life as to protect their privacy. This friend and these letters are Charlie’s source of comfort and security as he adventures through life, beginning high school without a close relationship to his family members or friends and ending his first year with new best friends. This book touches on topics that people are sadly to afraid to talk about such as depression, abuse and the difficulties many teens face as they grow up. It’s incredibly relatable and emotionally touching; you can feel Charlie’s heartbreak and you can almost touch his strong passion for those he learns to love. You can sense the bittersweetness pouring out of the pages, you can laugh at Charlie’s dry, innocent humor. Chbosky ensures a roller coaster of emotions while providing in depth insight to the simplistic yet so complex teenage mind.

I will warn that some scenes or conversations are explicit; I know many high schoolers have been exposed to these topics but some aren’t comfortable reading about it. If that applies to you as a reader, then I don’t suggest checking this book out. However, if you are still curious and unfazed, I think this is an important read because it shows teens out there that they aren’t alone in whatever they’re struggling with, no matter what it is. It also comforts them in knowing that there are kind people in the world that are willing to befriend them and help them solve their problems in a positive way that changes them for the better. Even if the road is bumpy and painful, the destination always proves to be worth the drive if one keeps pushing on. Chbosky attempts to explain that while the teenage years are full of hardships and confusion, everyone finds their way sooner or later. And until one reaches that point of self-confidence, the journey there is a learning experience that shapes you into the person you will be out in the “real world”.

-Jessica T.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

Hatchet

hatchet_garypaulsenHatchet, a Newbery honor book by Gary Paulsen,  is a young adult novel about a boy, Brian, surviving in the wilderness with only one tool; the hatchet he was given to him by his mother.

Brian Robeson was an ordinary child hit with the difficulties of having his parents divorce. He had a hard time with facing this miserable reality but had to learn and try to make space for it in his every day routine. The story began with Brian being sent to visit his father for the summer who had moved to Canada. While in the air, he and the pilot talked and interacted for hours with conversations ranging from being a pilot to their everyday lives. Their satisfying discussion soon turned into a treacherous journey for Brian, testing his limits and skills. Unexpectedly, his standard life turns upside down into a fight for his life against Mother Nature. He finds himself stranded in an unknown forest. He faces wild animals such as moose, bear, and porcupines. His choice to dive into the lake where he could have drowned in the hazardous plane crash, that almost took his life, had not just given him hope but had given him a new beginning. This crash teaches him all the skills he needs to know to be independent and live on his own.

The main ideas of Gary Paulsen’s book are survival, learning to be independent, and solving problems on your own. I recommend this story to people who love to read books where one overcomes their biggest obstacles they never thought they had to face. This story teaches you to be strong and independent.

-Anmol K.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Paper Towns by John Green

papertowns_johngreenWhen I first saw this book, I thought it was kind of weird. I didn’t suspect that the title actually meant something. But after reading other well-known John Green books, I decided to read it. I had heard a lot about the novel—it’s one of my friend’s all-time favorite books—but it was only recently that I gave it a chance.

To be technical, paper towns are “created to protect against copyright infringement” (307). Essentially, they are just made-up towns put on a map by cartographers who wanted to make sure no one plagiarized their design. An interesting idea, but it sounded fake to me. How wrong I was. In “Fun With Copyright Traps: 10 Hoax Definitions, Paper Towns, and Other Things that Don’t Exist,” Crezo pointed out that on the border between Ohio and Michigan, two cities were inserted: Beatosu (Beat OSU) and Goblu (Go Blue), both of which were made up to support the University of Michigan teams and later found out and forcibly removed!

Margo, and in turn Quentin and his friends, develop a fascination with these towns which leads them to leave their high school graduation for a wild adventure in search of Margo. Through all this, the reader learns subtle lessons about life–even if that sounds cliché, that is exactly what someone is left with after reading the book.

This book was fantastic. It’s one of those books that requires your attention. You can’t just read it and forget about it after. Compared to John Green’s other novels, this book certainly dealt with larger issues, but it was still touching in the way all good novels should be. This is the type of book I would love to read again in 10 years, just to see how I have changed and if I can find new meaning in the book. Overall, though, this is a 9 out of 10!

-Leila S., 10th grade

Paper Towns and its feature film adaptation is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

aseparatepeace_johnknowlesHave you ever been jealous of your best friend? Wished you could be better than him/her?

Though I say this with regret, I have experienced such jealousy. And so has Gene Forrester. His best friend, Phineas, had everything. He was the best athlete at school, and he appeared perfect in every way. All Gene seemed to have going for him was his smarts. During the summer school session Phineas started a new club with new activities he became involved with. Phineas’ life seemed carefree while Gene struggled to study and became distracted. He believed that Phineas was intentionally leading him astray to appear better than Gene.

The boys had a fascination with climbing a certain tree and jumping into the river. One day, when climbing the tree, Gene shook the branch, causing Phineas to lose his balance and fall, shattering the bones in his leg, which forced Phineas to give up sports. Gene visited Phineas on one occasion to try to explain and apologize, but he never exactly got to the point.

When Phineas became strong enough to return to school, he decided to be Gene’s trainer. Phineas even came up with an idea that World War II was just made up by the politicians. Gene, though a part of him knew that this philosophy is not true, accepted this. The two of them were able to live together, in a sort of peace separated from the troubles of the world.

But this peace eventually shattered, as the life in front of Gene became more complicated and full of burdens. The carefree days of the summer session disappeared, and Gene was forced to wake up to the life of an adult, fraught with responsibilities and loss.

As a book required for English, I found the storyline lacking. Perhaps because the narrator was reflecting on childhood and presenting the coming-of-age themes through the lens of a much older person, I struggled a bit with connecting to the lessons. This may be a book that offers more meaning once you have more life experiences. However, from a simpler standpoint, I recognized the dangers of being too jealous.

– Leila S., 10th grade

A Separate Peace is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library