Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Written in a time where topics such as mental illness were considered taboo, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye was a revolutionary novel. Catcher in the Rye tells the story of a teenage boy named Holden Caulfield who struggles to find his purpose and place in society while grieving the death of his younger brother Allie. Allie had died when Holden was only 13 years old, and 3 years later, this traumatic event still greatly affects Holden’s cynical view of society and life itself. Holden’s experiences in an upper-class family and in the boarding schools he has spent most of his adolescence in have shaped his view of adulthood and the “phoniness” of society in general. He views childhood as something precious, and adulthood as a dark world of phoniness and monotony. Spending time in all-male prep schools has also caused Holden to question the meaning of masculinity and what it means to be a man.

After being expelled from his third school, Holden decides to go to New York City alone and encounters characters he deems as “phony,” such as Sally Hayes, Bernice, Sunny, and Ernie. Holden resents these characters for their lack of authenticity and superficial interests. His search for someone who is innocent and genuine leads him to his younger sister, Phoebe. It is then revealed that Holden wants to be “the catcher in the rye,” or someone who is there to catch children playing in a field from falling over the metaphorical cliff to adulthood. Holden’s obsession with the preservation of innocence stems from the loss of his younger brother, Allie, and can be seen in his reluctance to see old friends and the museum he used to love as a child. Holden is scared of change, and of seeing those he once adored older, more mature, and, in Holden’s mind, “phony.” These experiences bring Holden to a point of emotional exhaustion and distress, which climaxes at the end of the novel when he watches Phoebe and other young children on a carousel at the New York Zoo. This display of pure innocence and joy brings Holden to tears, yet he feels truly happy for the first time in the story. The entire story is told from Holden’s perspective a year later, as he is talking to a therapist in a mental hospital. The reader never truly gains closure on Holden’s future but is left to finish the story in their own minds.

Thousands of readers have resonated with Holden’s character, and are grateful for the genuine voice of J.D. Salinger and the connection they feel with Holden. Many speculate that Holden is a reflection of Salinger himself, influenced by the traumatic events that plagued Salinger’s own life. This novel has forced readers to question societal influence and what is truly important in life. Salinger has given a voice to the cynical internal monologue many shares with Holden and brought to light countless issues that were never truly discussed or recognized in the time during which Catcher in the Rye was written.

-Katie A. 

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Seventeen-year-old Mia Hall has everything other teenagers her age would want; a loving and relaxed family life, great grades, a charming boyfriend, and a supportive best friend. As a cello-prodigy, Mia awaits her soon-to-be acceptance letter to her dream university.

One snowy day, Mia and her family jam to their favorite songs in the car on the road. They had planned the perfect day-off. However, all goes wrong when an incoming car skids and crashes straight towards them. The moment stops and the reader waits eagerly, with palms sweating, to know what happens next through all of the author’s heart-wrenching details.

The novel follows Mia, in an out-of-body experience, as she has flashbacks on her life and loses the ones she loves. Her flashbacks are followed by heart-breaking scenes of her family and friends visiting her in a hospital while she is in a coma. The unspoken love between the Mia and her close ones makes the novel much more emotional.

The author’s style of switching between the past and present unfolds the significant purpose of a human life. The importance of sacrifice, family, love, death, and life all wrap up to tell Mia’s story. The conflict between choosing to fight endlessly to stay alive or fading away to the afterlife remains a mystery until the end.

Overall, this novel really opened my eyes and made me realize that life can change in an instant. No matter who we are, what we are going through in life, or where we are, death can take its toll. The author truly makes an important point about how fast life moves for the youth and the old. We should never take life for granted because this is all we have and there is only one shot at it.

Mia’s story emphasizes the importance of living in the moment. Our problem are just as big as we make them. However, just like Mia, our worldly problems are nothing in the face of death. Not all the readers of this book can realize that, but anyone who can relate will find its meaning. The novel, as well as the movie of If I Stay, moved me to tears and is one that sticks with you forever.

-Zohal N. 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Soldiers’ Pay by William Faulkner

Soldiers' Pay by William Faulkner · OverDrive: eBooks, audiobooks and videos for libraries

Soldiers’ Pay is the first book written by William Faulkner in 1926. The story revolves around Margaret Powers, a widow whose husband died in World War I. She met Joe Gilligan, a discharged soldier who was on his way to home. Together, they decided to send Donald Mahon, an aviator who was released from a British hospital because he was not only going blind but was also going to die soon. Sympathetic about his experience, the two decided that they were going to send him home and spend his last time with his father.

Donald’s father is a pastor. Originally, Donald was actually engaged to Cecily Saunders, a voluptuous girl who can’t accept Donald’s injury and scars when he came back to her. She secretly has a lover named George Farr, who is crazy about her, but Cecily merely treats him like a toy. Not remembering anyone, Margaret and Joe were the only people who could take care of him besides Emmy, the housemaid whom Donald took her virginity.

Eventually, Cecily broke the engagement and eloped with George. Margaret, seeing that Cecily never loved Donald, decided to marry him herself. In the end, after he died, Joe told Margaret that he has loved her all the time. Before Margaret left, she asked him if he will go with her and he said no due to his religion. Changing his mind shortly after, Joe did not pursue Margaret but decided to stay in the pastor’s house while thinking about his future.

-Coreen C. 

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This novel was one I was assigned as a summer reading assignment which, undoubtedly deterred my interests from the story. It took a lot of psyching myself up to finally delve into the world Marquez had exquisitely painted. But immediately the book was extremely intriguing. The first line of the novel was an eye-catcher stating “On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.”

This novel, in the beginning, was confusing. The book was not written in chronological order as suggested but instead jumped around in time. This constant shift through time made it hard to understand a cohesive story during the early stages of reading. However, after a few chapters, the story came together. So as a suggestion, do not let this initial confusion deter you from reading this book.

By the end of the novel, this jumping through time helps create a more intriguing story, creating suspense because the author can choose specific information through different times to give to the reader.

This story is also accurate to the customs of the place in which the story was written. So, it gives an almost realistic feel to a seemingly horrific action. It also allows readers to have some insight into the practices of a different era and different location. This story, stating that the main character was to be killed, then follows the actions which allowed the main character to suffer such a horrific fate. This story ended up being one I extremely enjoyed. I finished the book in a day because I just could not put it down. So, sometimes these books that we are forced to read because of school can actually be enjoyable. It gave me something to do over the summer which was fun.

This book is a nice short read for anyone who is interested in a mystery book. I would suggest it to anybody looking to read something different than the popular books that are being written today. For, this book brings a totally different perspective to the way books can be written.

-Ava G.

Chronicle of Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The End of Forever by Lurlene McDaniel

This book is basically about how Erin, the older sister has to cope with Amy, her beloved younger sister’s death. The thing happened when after a very successful show at the theatre, there was a party and Amy offered to buy some food and drinks for the party when there was an accident and after a lot of efforts from the family, they eventually lost her. But another even bigger problem was the question if their family chooses to donate her organs to the hospital where it can be used on other patients who need it.

Facing this challenge, Erin strong opposed it because she wanted to keep a complete body, but her parents thought it wise to donate it after all since Amy was already dead and it’s better than her organs can help somebody. In my opinion, it’s very hard to imagine how Erin finally came to the conclusion that she would agree with this proposition. Imagine, if it’s my own sister I would never let anybody extract her organs and give it to somebody I don’t know.

Through this story, I saw a family getting together and facing this grieving incident at the same time. It is a very healing novel to read for normally a lot of families would give up on their child or blame each other for this accident. However, although everyone is tired, exhausted, or hopeless even, Erin’s parents still chose to tell Erin that it’s not her fault at all, but merely Amy’s carelessness which caused all of this. If every family can just understand the other families more and put themselves in their shoes, wouldn’t a lot of arguments and fights be avoided eventually?

-Coreen C.

For One More Day by Mitch Albom

It so often seems that the answer to the question is always clear after something has happened and can never be reversed. No one knows why the answer wasn’t there before, why it’s here now if it’s even there at all. The only thing we could ever know is this: we should have been different Before, in order to prevent a distinguished After.

This idea, this concept that has shadowed us for as long as we have existed, is presented in Mitch Albom’s eerie and reflective masterpiece “For One More Day.”

The story concentrates on Chick Benetto, who’s addictive abuse of alcohol and general absence drives a barrier between himself and his ex-wife and daughter. Chick, believing that his broken life is no longer worth living, attempts to return to his hometown, determined to end his life in the very place it began. Before reaching the town, he experiences a fatal car crash, leaving him unconscious for a short period of time.

In his unconscious state, Chick explores a third place, in which he and his mother (who had passed away eight years previous) are reunited. Chick experiences this phenomenon as one day — a final full day to spend with his mother, fit together the mysterious pieces of his life that have haunted him since childhood, and understand the mistakes he has made in the relationship between himself and his mother.

Through Chick’s retrospective memories of times his mother stood up for him versus the times he didn’t do the same for her, the audience is able to make a compelling realization: the immense power that regret can hold over us. The concept is one familiar to us all, one with stable foundations in the evolution of human nature. Through regret, we begin to visualize the border between Before and After.

In the miraculous account illustrated in For One More Day, the readers encounter the pure, everlasting enigma that is a mother’s love. Alongside the idea of love’s promise of forever, the novel, while exceptionally sad, sends a message of hope to the readers: hope for forgiveness, hope for mending the mistakes we never truly meant to make, hope for new beginnings. And perhaps the best new beginning to offer is to pick up For One More Day and marvel at Albom’s literary craftsmanship.

—Keira D.

For One More Day by Mitch Albom is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. OIt can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

For the last couple of weeks, my English class read the novel, The Catcher in the Rye. For a book we had to read in class, it was actually quite interesting to read a book that really captured that teenage “angst” that some teenagers actually go through in real life.

The book is about a teenage boy named Holden Caulfield who is narrating the book and recollecting the past. He touches on touchy topics like the death of his younger brother Allie and of his friend James Castle. We see how he goes through different situations and how he acts upon it.

What was interesting about this book was that since it was all narrated by Holden, he would sometimes over exaggerate the story. However, it would seem that at times, he would lie which was quite enjoyable to read. This novel points to topics such as: social awkwardness, death of close ones, innocence, and finding oneself. The main character tends to struggle with these topics and constantly lies through it all, to the readers, to other people, and to himself.

Another part of the novel I enjoyed was all the different characters that were mentioned in this book. All the people at his school, the people he meets on the streets and in bars, and old teachers and the interaction Holden has with them.

If you have not yet read this book, I highly recommend this novel because it really captures the struggle of adolescents and the overcoming of it.

-Phoebe L.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

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