Holes by Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats, a boy who has bad luck due to a curse placed on his great- great-grandfather, is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp, for a crime he did not commit. Stanley and the other boys at the camp are forced to dig large holes in the dirt every day. Stanley eventually realizes that they are digging these holes because the Warden is searching for something.

As Stanley continues to dig holes and meet the other boys at the camp, the narrator intertwines three separate stories to reveal why Stanley’s family has a curse and what the Warden is looking for. I thought that the stories were great because they kind of blended in with one another and revealed the history of Camp Green Lake one step at a time.

Anyways, one day, as Stanley is busy digging holes, he finds what other than a lipstick tube with the initials KB imprinted on it. He discovers that the initials stand for a famous outlaw nick-named Kissin’ Kate Barlow. Stanley knows that the Warden, a woman who happens to be a descendant of Charles and Linda Walker, people who are enemies of Kate Barlow, is interested in this find and he speculates that perhaps Kate Barlow used to live in the area.

What treasures might the mysterious and dry Camp Green Lake hold? Read this book to find out!

Holes by Louis Sachar is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Superlatives series by Jennifer Echols

When you open up your yearbook, there usually is a Best Of page, such as Best Dressed, Most Athletic, etc. Some people don’t know that this page is called the Superlatives, or as dictionary.com defines it: being of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others; supreme; extreme. Jennifer Echols weaves together a series about how three different titles affect three best friends: Tia, Harper, and Kaye.

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The first book, Biggest Flirts, starts off with Tia, the drum captain. She bilingual, 5’ 9”, is a serious underachiever, and almost has an allergic reaction if anyone tries to put her in charge. What she thinks are her values and morals all start to change when the new guy, Will, shows up from Minnesota. She states over and over again that she doesn’t want a boyfriend, but will that change as she gets to know Will better?

 

 

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The second book, Perfect Couple, is about Harper, the yearbook photographer. She’s first dating the yearbook editor, Kennedy, and then gets voted Perfect Couple with the schools quarterback, Brody. She doesn’t understand why the school would pair her with someone like Brody.  She’s a photographer with glasses and her funky homemade dresses. So why would the school think that Brody is a perfect match for her while Kennedy already is?

 

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The final book, Most Likely To Succeed is about Kaye, the head cheerleader. She’s the student body vice president, and has exceptional grades, but her mom always pushes her to work harder. She’s dating the student body president, Aidan, for the past three years. But even though similarities at first may attract at the beginning, they sometimes don’t work out in the long run. Maybe she needs to date the school’s bad boy, Sawyer, who has a father than was in jail, dresses up as the school mascot, and tries to convince her that he’s a good fit for her.

 

All three girls first start out with the jerks at the beginning, even though one isn’t a jerk at the end of book three. Each of the girls have a rocky start with the guy they’re supposed be with, but it eventually works out. And of course you have to have the curve-ball, such as when Kaye tells Harper a shocking secret in book 2, which makes you go, wait, what?

This is a nice, relaxing series by Echols. If you want a series that will make you smile, this one is for you! These books make you rethink about wanting to have one of those titles. What if you are voted a bad one, such as Sawyer’s Most Likely To Go Jail award? On the other hand, would you really want the Most Academic Award, and feel like you have to live it up, and be more pressured to be valedictorian? This series is for ages 14 and up.

-Rebecca V., 8th grade

Biggest Flirts and Perfect Couple are available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. 

Book Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes, by Jasmine Warga

my_heart_black_holesMy Heart and Other Black Holes follows the journey of 16-year old Aysel as she plots her own death over the course of several weeks. Aysel is determined to die, she’s more afraid of what will happen if she lives than of the certainty of death, and she only has one thing holding her back. Aysel is worried that she might not have the courage to end her life by herself. She finds her solution on a website called Smooth Passages in the form of a boy name FrozenRobot (also known as Roman). Roman has his own baggage and his own reasons for wanting to die, but they both want the same thing in the end, to end their lives.

Over the course of several weeks the pair spends more and more time plotting their way out. As their plan becomes more concrete, it also starts to become more uncertain if it will reach fruition because Aysel starts to question everything about her future plans. Throughout the course of the book, Aysel and Roman go through a lot of character development that makes them very believable characters and makes for a very good read. The thing that really makes this book stand out though, is that it deals with suicide and depression in a very realistic and raw way; it doesn’t romanticize these feelings, but it doesn’t discount them either. Given that this is a YA novel, I think that this is a very important thing.

The way the plot develops is also nicely done, from the onset of the book we know that Aysel and Roman both want to die, but we don’t full know why, but as the plot moves forward we get bits and pieces until we can see the full story. Neither Roman nor Aysel know the full reason behind the other’s desire to die at the begging so both the read and the characters get this information together and it really draws you into the story. Roman and Aysel’s interactions with their family members is also very well done and interesting to watch develop and change. Roman’s mom and Aysel’s brother were my two favorite family members and I really enjoyed seeing how their actions influenced Roman and Aysel.

As a whole My Heart and Other Black Holes is a very powerful book that has a lot of emotion behind it and dose a wonderful job dealing with suicide and depression. The book ends on a hopeful note and is great read for anyone high school and up.

-Angela J.

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

abundance_of_katherinesAn Abundance of Katherines by John Green is phenomenal book that is about a boy who has only dated girls named Katherine. The book starts with a boy named Colin who is introduced to be a child prodigy. He has just had is heart broken by his nineteenth girlfriend named Katherine. Colin is extremely upset, so his friend Hassan convinces him to go on a road trip.

After convincing both of their parents, they go on the road trip. They stop in a town called Gutshot where they are offered summer jobs and a room to live in. The women who offers them these jobs has a daughter named Lindsey. Meanwhile, Colin is set on the fact of finding an equation that will predict the future of any relationship.

Eventually, Colin finds that he is attracted to Lindsey. However, Lindsey already has a boyfriend. Anyone who has read any John Green books in the past would certainly be interested in this book and it is a wonderful book that I would recommend to everyone.

-Melika R., 9th grade

 

Book Review: The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

running_dreamThe Running Dream is a novel by Wendelin Van Draanen. It follows the story of a high school girl named Jessica who loses one of her legs in a school bus accident. This would be a tough experience for anyone…but Jessica is on the track team. She doesn’t just love to run – she considers running just as important as breathing! This book takes us through Jessica’s emotions, her mental and physical challenges, and her extraordinary journey to her “new normal” life.

I’m not a runner. In fact, I am more of a creative mind than a physical one. I wasn’t sure I could fully get into this book, but I could, and it was an awakening experience. Not only did it make me eager to experience the feeling of running so adeptly described by the author who is a runner herself, but I learned so much about life and its challenges.

There are just so many life lessons that The Running Dream takes the reader through. It is a worthwhile read for anyone, of any age. Empathy, compassion, and respect shine through as the reader learns that humanity shines through when understanding others.

(This book does not carry any inappropriate content and really is suitable for any age. It also has been awarded the Schneider Family Book Award; “it honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”)

-Danielle L., 7th grade

Book Review: We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

we_were_liars“Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family. No one is a criminal. No one is an addict. No one is a failure…We are the Sinclairs. No one is needy. No one is wrong. We live, at least in the summertime, on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. Perhaps that is all you need to know.” (3)

With its thought-provoking title and captivatingly blurry cover-photo, I expected We Were Liars to be an interesting read. That being said, the book largely exceeded my expectations.

We Were Liars is told in the first person point of view and bounces back and forth from summers past to present. These snippets of information provide the reader with a detailed history of the Sinclair family; along with a deeper understanding of the protagonist’s character and motives.

This contemporary, realistic YA novel contains stories of criminal activity; childhood adventure; constant action; uniquely limited friendships; forbidden romance; excruciating loss; unconditional love; utmost regret; what it means to belong; and the truth regarding mental inadequacy.

One specific facet of this story that I liked was the humor; strategically placed between solemn moments of the novel, We Were Liars had me laughing out loud in the middle of English class. The comedy utilized is clean, spontaneous, John Greenesque, and (in other words) inexplicably hilarious.

“‘Don’t look at my troll feet,’ says Gat suddenly.

‘What?’

‘They’re hideous. A troll snuck into my room at night, took my normal feet for himself, and left me with his thuggish troll feet.’ Gat tucks his feet under a towel so I can’t see them. ‘Now you know the truth.’

…‘Wear shoes.”

‘I’m not wearing shoes on the beach…I have to act like everything’s okay until I can find that troll. Then I’ll kill him to death and get my normal feet back. Have you got weapons?’

‘No.’

‘Come on.’

‘Um. There’s a fire poker in Windemere.’

‘All right. As soon as we see that troll, we’ll kill him to death with your fire poker.’

‘If you insist.’” (72)

Another aspect of We Were Liars that I came to enjoy was E. Lockhart’s particular style of writing, which is notably similar to Tahereh Mafi, author of the Shatter Me trilogy. Occasionally their prose transforms into free verse and then back again like a flicker of poetry, in a fashion that successfully mimics the subconscious rant-like thought process.

“I plunge down,
to rocky rocky bottom, and
I can see the base of Beechwood Island and
my arms and legs feel numb but my fingers are cold. Slices
of seaweed go past as I fall.
And then I am up again, and breathing.
I’m okay,
my head is okay,
no one needs to cry for me or worry about me.
I am fine,
I am alive.
I swim to shore.” (142)

Liars is truly a roller coaster full of unexpected twists, sharp turns, and gut-wrenching drops; I guarantee that you will be kept on your toes as Cadance strives to recover her past, no matter what that might mean or whom it may affect.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read, particularly fans of John Green, Lauren Myracle, Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfeld, Ally Carter, and Libba Bray.

-Danielle K., 9th grade

Book Review: How to Save a Life, by Sara Zarr

how_to_save_a_lifeJill MacSweeney, a seventeen-year-old trying to find her place in the world, desperately wishes for her life to go back to normal. But ever since her father passed away, she can’t help but feel angry at the world and isolate herself from everyone who tries to support her—her boyfriend, her best friends, even her own family. And when her mother chooses to adopt a baby, Jill feels as if she’s trying to replace a lost family member. Can she accept her mother’s decision and embrace this sudden change in her life?

Mandy Kalinowski, on the other hand, has experienced firsthand what it feels like to grow up unwanted and be raised by a mother who never actually loved her. So when the nineteen-year-old Mandy becomes pregnant, she vows to provide a better life for her baby and find someone who will love her for who she is. Will Mandy be able to overcome her doubts and fears to find that “perfect” family for her and her unborn child?

Written by Sara Zarr, How to Save a Life is a novel that teaches readers about the meaning of life and love. Jill and Mandy are two distinct characters who both show signs that they are “lost.” In the end, they unexpectedly realize that they need one another in order to “find” themselves again. Since I normally prefer the sci-fi, dystopian, action/adventure genres, this realistic, heartfelt fiction book was not in my usual range of interests at all. To be honest, I’m not quite sure why I decided to read this book. However, it turned out to be much more than what I expected. I would certainly recommend this novel to anyone over the age of fourteen (due to some explicit language), even if you aren’t a fan of realistic fiction like me!

-Kaylie W., 10th grade