Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman is about 17-year old Rumi Seto who is trying to navigate her life after her younger sister, Lea, dies in a tragic accident. Rumi and her Mom were in the car too, but they were fortunate enough to survive. Struck dumbfounded by this, Rumi’s Mom sends her to Hawaii to live with her aunt. This is difficult for Rumi because she was so used to having her sister by her side, and being apart from her Mother while grieving causes her to feel lots of angst. In addition to mourning the lost of her sister, Rumi feels abandoned by her Mother.

In Hawaii, her two closes allies happened to be both her neighbors: Kai, the boy of her age who enjoys surfing immensely and is very optimistic, and Mr. George Watanabe, an eighty-year-old man who has been dealing with his own demons. With Lea, Rumi would spend all her time writing and creating music. Music kept them grounded and connected; with Lea gone, music is difficult for Rumi. In Hawaii, Rumi connects back to music slowly, which ultimately takes her to connecting with Lea.

Even though this book seemed too thick initially, every page is its own painting of emotion. Bowman’s ability to pack so much emotion and feeling is incredulous. It is difficult to write about or express the grieving process, but the way Rumi is portrayed and written about, one can relate to her loss and the extent to what she is facing. In one word, the book can be described as raw. I would recommend this for anybody who is willing to invest themselves and their feelings into a story.

-Anmol K.

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

A Death in the Family by James Agee

Image result for a death in the family james agee

Personally, I would say that this is definitely a book that I didn’t hate about the reading list I have to go through for school. It captures the authentic emotions of the main character, Rufus, who had to confront his father’s death. But as a very little kid, Rufus doesn’t really know much about what it means to die and how feels like to have someone intimate to you die. Therefore, the author does an amazing job at portraying the internal thinking processes of the characters.

Moreover, what I really loved about this book was the focus of religion. Unlike some of the other novels, delineating Christianity and God as deities that cannot be offended or questioned, this novel, on the other hand, exemplifies characters who don’t believe, or even curse the reality of religion and hold a suspicious attitude toward the existence of Jesus.

Lastly, the detailed expression of the characters’, especially Mary, Rufus’ mother. She was generally seen as a feminine character who takes very good care of Jay, her husband, and the two children. However, when the breadwinner of the family dies, she was forced to confront the harshness of reality and be both the father and the mother to her children. Similarly, this reflects an aspect of our modern society where women can be psychologically strong and support their children even without the help of men in cases of divorce, death, and others where the male influence is missing.

-Coreen C. 

A Death in the Family by James Agee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby is about 18 year old Mari Turner, and her quest to avenge her cousin, while finding herself. Mari cultivates a perfect life to her thousands of followers on social media. She posts inspiring messages and stories, but she does not practice what she preaches. On the inside, Mari is empty and can not keep up with maintaining this fake profile. So one day she breaks down and posts a video of herself confessing to what she actually thinks: she is not happy, and does not feel the inspirational message she spreads herself.

Quickly, it goes viral, and pretty soon afterwards, she faces major backlash and people calling her a fraud. In order to escape all of this, Mari proceeds to hike the John Muir trail. She is doing this to honor her cousin, Bri, who was an avid hiker and died in an accident while doing what she loved. Her and Mari had made the promise to hike the trail together when they turned 18, but Bri did not make it till then. Mari has never had any experience hiking, but she feels that she should complete the hike for the two of them. With Bri’s diary and her hiking boots, Mari proceeds to hike the trail to the best of her ability; but it is much more than a simple hike because it helps Mari to see who she is without the people of the Internet.

This book should be read by everybody because it can help teach us about ourselves. It tells us to take a step back and to be aware of what we value in ourselves. Kirby was able to depict the growth of Mari and she was able to let go of her grief while finding what she knows about herself. Simply put, this book can help people not only see the effects of negativity on social media, but how to be mindful ourselves of what we seek in life.

-Anmol K.

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby is available fro checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Written in 1930, this novel written by William Faulkner follows the Bundren family. Told from the perspective of over 10-15 different characters, the Bundrens are on a mission: to carry out the wishes of their dead mother and bury her with her family. The only problem? This will be a LONG journey. Throughout the novel, hidden desires and motives are uncovered, as the reader discovers the true reason as to why various members of the Bundren family agree to fulfill their mother Addie’s last wish. From the quiet Cash to the observant Darl, every member has a secret reason as to why they are on this trip. And it is not just to bury their mother out of respect.

Written near the start of the Great Depression, this novel completely goes against the “typical family” stereotype. Rather than everyone being very supportive and loving of each other, it is as if everyone is just a hired actor forced to spend time with everyone else in the family. Each family member goes on this trip for every reason except to actually bury their mother. Some characters are easily disliked in this novel (cough, Anse, cough), while other characters are grown to be well-liked.

-Kobe L.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Falling Between Us by Ash Parsons

Image result for the falling between usWhen I first grabbed this book, the color stood out to me on the New shelf.  I read the inside cover, and it sounded like a good read. I wasn’t disappointed. I love reading good books with a lot of music involved.

The Falling Between Us is a story about Joshua Blackbird, a boy from a small town who becomes famous with YouTube. At first, I was getting a Justin Bieber vibe from it. The story is told from the perspective of Roxanne Stewart, who is his best friend and ex-girlfriend. She’s been on tour with him. But the fame isn’t all fun and games, and the glamour of what it looks like.

Joshua starts having to deal with the bad side of fame. Between the crazy fans and paparazzi, the evil family and management, and his “girlfriend” for the press, who can he trust? Roxanne met him when she was six, but didn’t really meet him until their 9th grade English class. Now, Roxanne and Joshua’s drummer, Speed, are his only two true friends.

One night on a boat, Joshua swims off and after a long search, is announced dead. Roxanne is devastated. Is she able to piece all the clues together before it’s too late?

This isn’t your typically story of when a teenager becomes famous and gets tired of it. I would have to say that some parts of the ending were not written well, but overall this was a good read. For the second book by author Ash Parsons, I wasn’t disappointed.

-Rebecca V. 10th grade

The Falling Between Us by Ash Parsons is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air is a best selling book written by author Paul Kalanithi, who majored in English literature in Stanford and would get his Masters degree in English literature. He would enter medical school in Yale and at 36 years old, he would become a resident neuroscientist and neurosurgeon. His life had full of hope and would seem to blossom with his wife Lucy. However, he was diagnosed with stage four metastatic lung cancer. His future seemed to be gone, and it looked as though his potential wouldn’t come to fruition.

Paul had learned about life and death throughout his studies in literature and philosophy. He would learn about death through the experience of studying medicine, but it was a whole new experience when death seemed to come to him. His short term and long term plan for his life would have to be revised. In the hospital, the doctor was somewhat like the “captain” of the ship, and Paul had always been the doctor, the captain, the leader. Suddenly, he became the patient, the ship, the follower. He was confused about his identity. However, he would choose to be a leader and captain of his own life. He spent time with his family, he would write his book When Breath Becomes Air, returned to the hospital, took care of patients, and would even have a daughter. He would leave this unfinished memoir behind and leave a lesson to us that we are all going to die someday, but we have to continue living our lives and making the most of it.

-Kobe L.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Jesse Aarons lives in a big family with four sisters and being the only boy pulls him down sometimes. But he never would have imagined that there would be a girl named Leslie Burke beating him in a foot race, becoming his class’ fastest runner. His confession of this fact led to the starting point of their relationships as chums.

As friends, Leslie and Jesse create an imaginary place to hide from the troubles of the world. There is a narrow rivulet in between the two worlds, sometimes when it’s raining the water roared and raved its intensity with the thunder and the rainwater never really got mollified. During sunny days, the singing water just lets it’s tender skirt trickle along the moist shore, showing happiness and relaxation with the caressing of the soothing sunlight. A decrepit rope connected the two of them as they created an imaginary bridge to the Kingdom Of Terabithia.

There were fewer things in the modern society compared to this magical kingdom. Ogres, fairies, and trees that can extend its flexible branches and help people are components that fall under this natural shield. The first thing after school isn’t homework anymore, but to implement their duty as queen and king to patrol in their own kingdom with the guard dog Prince, Jess and Leslie were inseparable.

It wasn’t until when Jess’s dream came true that he went to this art museum with his music teacher Ms. Edmunds, unaware that tragedy strikes while he is away. A miracle could happen, only so that Jess could be salvaged immediately from the interminable guilt.

-April L.

The Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library