The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner is the second book in the Maze Runner series. It’s another very good read like the first book in the series. This book starts the second the other book ends in the story so it feels like you are still in the hectic moment that was the end of the first book. In this book, the characters learn more about the world that is outside of the maze and they find out that life outside might be worse than life inside because there is a virus called the flare virus that is taking over the population and turning people insane and zombie-like. In the story, they call people who are infected and zombie-like Cranks.

Overall this book is a great read just like the first book. This book gives us as readers more information on the characters that we have grown to love and also gave us more insight into the even more dangerous situation that the teens have now gotten themselves in. Also, the movie version of this book is good as well but the book is better in my opinion since they change some things in the movie which differentiate it from the book.

-Howard M.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry follows a young boy named Jonas and the rest of his community. They all live in a utopia, a place that is perfect and everything is the same. A place where there is little conflict and problems. In the community, they know no pain, no loss; everyone is kind and respectful and everything is fair. When Jonas turns twelve, he is assigned the job as the new Receiver. He must undergo training from the Giver who passes on memories to Jonas of real pain, true anger, love, and things they have never seen or felt before in the community. These memories change Jonas and his beliefs. He changes and begins to feel true emotions and starts to see things differently. Once Jonas starts to realize the truth behind their perfect world, Jonas fights for what he thinks is right and takes a stand.

The Giver explores themes like individuality and the ability to choose. It shows that being different can be a good thing and it isn’t always enjoyable to be the same as everyone else. It also expresses that being able to choose something is important even if the thing being chosen isn’t important, it’s the fact that you get a choice that is important. I liked how the author portrayed the memories and the emotions in them. The author described them in an amazing way which made it interesting. There were small twists and reveals in the book, but nothing too big which made it simple.

I liked Jonas’ character development in the story. I like how he made his own decisions and created his own opinions unlike earlier in the story. Jonas decided to choose what he wanted to do instead of following what everyone else does and I really enjoyed him in the story. All the other characters were also enjoyable. I especially liked Asher; Asher was a funny character and stood out from the rest as he made mistakes and liked to have fun. Another thing I like about The Giver was how there weren’t many filler chapters; it was always straight to the point and explained things well. The Giver was a good short book and I really enjoyed it.

-Nicole R.

The Giver by Lois Lowry is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four - Wikipedia

The year is 1984. The world has been divided into three parts: East Asia, Eurasia, and Oceania. Though they are three distinct regimes, each rules with the same iron fisted totalitarianism. There is constant war between the three countries, and at any given time two nations are fighting against the other; as a result, food and other supplies are low, and the people are deprived of basic necessities. Speak (or even think) out, however, and you will be suppressed instantly, facing certain torture and death. This is the world crafted by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Winston Smith, a citizen of Airstrip One of Oceania (formerly known as London), is a member of the super-state’s Outer Party, working at the ironically named Ministry of Truth, where he and his colleagues tamper with historical records to reflect the current stance of the government. Despite the nature of his work, Winston dreams of the end of the Party and expresses his thoughts in a journal, putting him in danger of being arrested for “thoughtcrime.”

However, when he meets and falls in love with Julia, one of his co-workers, his acts of rebellion become more tangible, as the two of them begin a secret love affair that would cause both of their deaths should they be found out. Throughout this, Winston and Julia learn of a secret underground resistance force only known as “The Brotherhood,” which they hope to join in order to escape the suffocating rule of the Party’s nebulous leader, Big Brother.

Unfortunately, Winston and Julia are betrayed, and their struggle to find love and hope in the midst of a totalitarian regime ultimately comes to naught. Although the novel was published in 1949, the scarily accurate depiction of absolute state control has continued to haunt modern times with regimes displaying the same kind of totalitarianism as Orwell predicted in his groundbreaking novel. Few governments have reached the height that Nineteen Eighty-Four predicted, but if the world continues on its current path, that kind of totalitarian future may be much closer than one might imagine.

-Mahak M.

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

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Extract | The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - Penguin Books Australia

The land that was once the United States of America has been taken over by a totalitarian theocracy known as Gilead. In this new government, society is divided into rigid castes, ranging from the powerful Commanders to the lowly Handmaids, with other classes like the Commanders’ Wives and the working Marthas and Econopeople in between.

With the laws of Gilead being based on select passages from the Bible, women are reduced to almost nothing, and have little to no freedom. For instance, they are not allowed to read or write, they must cover their hair and bodies in order to avoid tempting men to sin, and they cannot even choose who they associate with or marry.

The unfortunate women who are “chosen” to become Handmaids, however, lose even more – their basic right to their own bodies. Because of dangerously low reproduction rates, fertile Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving. Despite their importance, the Handmaids are treated as their Commander’s property, only to be seen and not heard.

The narrator, Offred, is among the class of the Handmaids, and she belongs to the man named Commander Fred, as well as his Wife, Serena Joy. Stripped of her name, her body, and her past life, all Offred has left is her voice, which she uses to describe the horrors of Gilead in a way that drives even the most hard-hearted audience to pity. 

Margaret Atwood’s writing skills are brilliant, and she weaves the world of Gilead in a gripping masterpiece that will occasionally cause the reader to be lost inside the dystopian hellscape that is The Handmaid’s Tale. However, the epilogue (which I will not spoil here) leaves a last bit of hope for the reader that will leave them feeling both bitter and optimistic about the future.

-Mahak M.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Authors We Love: Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness at arrivals for A MONSTER CALLS Premiere at Toronto International Film Festival 2016, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, ON September 10, 2016. Photo By: James Atoa

Twice Carnegie Medal Winner Patrick Ness was born in the United States, currently holding dual citizenship status while living in London. He attended the University of Southern California, graduating with a degree in English Literature. While having written books for all age groups and genres, he is most known for his young adult fiction novels, most notably A Monster Calls.

After working as a corporate writer for a cable company, Ness published his first novel in 2003, titled The Crash of Hennington. He also published his pivotal short story collection Topics About Which I Know Nothing the same year. His career took off with the publishing of The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first in a young adult trilogy about a society where everyone can hear each other’s thoughts. He was awarded the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for this novel. He continued headstrong with the Chaos Walking trilogy, publishing the next two books and a series of short stories in the same literary universe. He is currently working on a film adaptation of the trilogy alongside screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.

A Monster Calls originates from the mind of Siobhan Dowd, and Ness was hired to write the story after her passing in 2007. With illustrations by Jim Kay, the novel’s tale of a boy struggling to come to terms with his mothers illness earned Ness the Carnegie Medal after its 2011 publication.

Patrick Ness has written numerous novels about defining the teen experience from non-stereotypical perspectives. The Rest of Us Just Live Here presents an ironic spin on the classic YA fantasy novel, instead focusing on the ordinary side characters while the powerful “protagonists” fight monsters in the background. He has also touched on science fiction with his book More Than This, showing a teenage boy’s journey through a strange world in which he somehow wakes up after drowning in the ocean. The novel is one of my favorites from the author, describing themes of life’s meaning, trauma, and the difficulties of growing up in a place where you don’t feel welcomed. Ness wonderfully defines his diverse character set, and is an expert of including representation of POC and LGBTQ characters without making those identities their defining traits. Instead, he writes diverse characters not for the sake of diversity, but for the sake of telling an important story that everyone can relate to. Other books by Ness include his adult novel The Crane Wife, and his new young adult story titled Burn. As one of my favorite authors, Patrick Ness has astounded me in the  diversity of his literary prowess. I have enjoyed reading all of his works, and would recommend them to anyone that has a love for reading. My personal favorite has been More Than This for several years, and I am currently rereading the Chaos Walking trilogy before the movie makes an appearance.

-Bailey L.

The works of Patrick Ness are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

1Q94 by Haruki Murakami

A mesmerizing collision of sci-fi and dystopian fiction, 1Q84 is a different take on the classic to George Orwell’s 1984. This book really caught my attention because it was written by a Japanese author, which is something unique from anything I’ve written because of how it was translated from Japanese to English! Taking place in Tokyo, Japan in the fictionalized year of 1Q84, which obviously is based on 1984, this rich story explores mature themes of violence, romance, and underlying dark motives. If you know about 1984, you’ll definitely see similarities between these books as they both involve organizations putting people under surveillance to discover parts of their life.

1Q84 revolves around the perspectives of 3 different characters: Masami Aomame, a 30-year-old woman who is a very meticulous assassin who goes by “Aomame”, Tengo, a writer who also works as a math tutor, and Ushikawa, a strangely unattractive man who is hired to investigate Tengo and Aomame when introduced in the 3rd part of the story.

I want to emphasize that this book is not for the faint of heart and the young reader, as there are many topics explored that should be read by older audiences. Anyways, despite the fact that there are many complications that involve violence and even brainwashing, I found this story quite interesting because it actually ended up being an eventful journey of a one-of-a-kind love story that involves rekindling past relationships. This book is truly different from anything I have read, and while writing this I found it a bit hard trying to put my thoughts into words because it is such an indescribable story. It’s one of the most, I guess, “adulty” books I’ve read and I feel like reading this has really broadened not only my reading preferences but my reading ability!

So, if you are looking for a strange book unlike anything you have read before or to expand your reading capabilities, definitely go check out 1Q84!

-Julianne T.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

I recently finished the newly-released prequel to the well-known Hunger Games series, written once again by author Suzanne Collins. I loved the original trilogy so much and consider them among my favorite books, so, as you can imagine, the idea of a prequel was very exciting. Originally, the Hunger Games series was set in a post-war, dystopian era in the country of Panem, and the setting in this book is no different, other than the fact that the events within it took place earlier in time. 

Panem is divided into twelve districts of people with the Capitol as the grand center and overarching control over all. The point of the Games is to allow each district to remember their overwhelming powerlessness against the Capitol, as every year two tributes from each district  between the ages of twelve and eighteen are reaped and then forced to fight to the death in a gruesome, twisted show of entertainment, similar to ancient gladiators, while the rest of the country watches them live on television. 

Now, contrary to popular belief, this book is neither about Haymitch or Finnick, who were both characters from the original trilogy who would have indeed had interesting backstories, but rather about another intriguing character: President Coriolanus Snow. Snow was never a central character in the original trilogy, so we know little to nothing of his backstory and character, other than the fact that he is considered the trilogy’s corrupt villain, in the form of the cold, menacing leader of Panem. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes explores Coriolanus as to what he was like as an eighteen year old Capitol boy. From the very beginning, you can easily see how this young man will inevitably rise to power. 

This book, though often going at a slow pace, gives you insight to what life was like before Katniss ever came into the picture, and before the Games were the lively, twisted events that they were, as Coriolanus is a mentor. Funny enough, Coriolanus ended up being the mentor of the girl tribute of District Twelve, Lucy Gray. This was much to Coriolanus’s dismay, as being part of the Snow family entails a sense of superiority and importance, and being given a tribute from poor and lowly associated District Twelve is nothing short of a slap in the face for him. 

The concepts this book presents are interesting, the plot featuring many twists and turns, and there many notable characters throughout the story.  You never quite know what will happen on the other side of the page. The story unfolds slowly, but with very sharp bumps in the road. I highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoyed the other three installments of the series.

-Aisha E.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The One by Kiera Cass

Caution: May contain spoilers from The Selection and The Elite.

While I would consider The Selection series to be more lighthearted than other dystopian YA novels, the third book, The One, certainly introduces more darkness to America’s tale. Nevertheless, it still possesses Kiera Cass’s quirky and imaginative flair that pervades the first and second books.

As both the Selection within the castle walls and the rebel situation outside escalates, they seem to blend together into a far more complex issue than America had imagined possible. Rebel attacks increase as protest rages against the Selection and the continuation of the monarchy and Maxon struggles as his decision grows closer–a decision through which he may not be able to please both his father and his heart.

It seems that as the books have progressed the characters of the Selected have been able to grow more detailed. While America’s character bursts from the pages of the first book, many of the Selected were not as openly described, and understandably so–imagine describing and reading about 35 different characters who might not all play a large role in the story!

However, since only 6 of the Selected remain, we get to explore these characters in more depth, which I found interesting and enriching to the story. By explaining their motives and backgrounds, Kiera Cass allowed the other 5 girls to become more than just America’s competition. I particularly enjoyed a scene where the remaining Selected talk in America’s room without enmity.  With the escalation of the dangerous situation, they are able to look beyond their more frivolous squabbles.

One aspect I admire about America is that true to her decision in the first book, she remains true to herself. Though she wavers at times, especially as the competition becomes intense and when she is intimidated by the king, she consistently chooses what she feels is true to her values and herself, even if by doing so she could diminish her chances of being the One.

The One, full of romance and action; rebellion and choices; politics, love, friendship, fear, and humor, pulls the Selection and the first half of the series into a dazzling, glittering finale.

– Mia T.

The One (and the rest of The Selection series) by Kiera Cass is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Selection by Kiera Cass

When you open the pages of this book, you enter the country of Illéa, a post-World War IV America. It’s led by a king, not a president; formed of provinces, not states; and populated by eight castes, each number related to different trade and status (one being the most privileged). The story begins at a prominent time in Illéa–a Selection in which 35 girls from any caste are given the opportunity to be the princess of Illéa (which would raise them to the status of a One) and the wife of the young Prince Maxon.

Reminiscent of The Hunger Games, full of romance and humor and extravagance, and populated by a set of dynamic characters, Kiera Cass’ The Selection is an entertaining and satisfying read.

Although lacking the violence and seriousness of The Hunger Games, The Selection parallels Suzanne Collins’ book in some ways. In both novels the citizens are separated into classes, the highest class wealthy and lavish and seemingly frivolous; and there is a “lottery” to select people for a nationwide, televised event. Because of these similarities, if you enjoyed The Hunger Games this may be a book to consider; however, the books differ in significant ways as well–one way being the more romantic focus of The Selection.

I liked how the romance in this novel did not seem forced; the characters were strong and independent, which made any romance believable. The main character, America Singer, lives in a family of Fives, and she does her best to support her family. What I liked about her character was that she does not place as much importance on the caste system, and she has little desire to elevate her caste as long as she and those around her are content. She loves people for their personality and values rather than their image or caste. Her determination to remain herself no matter who is watching is also an admirable trait.

Most of the characters seemed well-rounded and believable, especially because of the rich backstories readers are either informed of or tantalized with. I did feel like some of the 35 Selected characters were not expanded upon, but in retrospect 35 characters would take a while to develop, and I understand how the introduction of the formation of all the characters could have shifted the focus of the story and its readers.

Along with romance and dynamic characters is the theme of judgment. The caste system in itself causes judgment among the characters–each caste is expected to work in a certain field, such as art, acting, or physical labor. The Selection addresses the inequality across Illéa as well as the barrier judgment causes, whether the judgment is towards a One or an Eight. It’s interesting to see the lives of those in the palace–the Ones–and though they live with abundance and frivolity, they have the onerous job of running a country. Furthermore, Prince Maxon presents himself quite differently than the stuck-up, spoiled prince America initially imagines him to be. On the other hand, Prince Maxon starts to understand the hardships of the lower classes–hardships he had previously been oblivious to.

If you haven’t read the book yet or are now planning on it, I want to mention that The Selection is the first of a series of five. While I was reading, I was expecting the answers to “who wins the Selection?” “What is the mysterious backstory of Illéa?” and “why is the palace in danger of rebel attack?” to be answered by the end of the story, but they weren’t. However, I didn’t find the ending of the story very disappointing; it set up the next book as an intriguing and exciting continuation to the story of America, the Selection, and Illéa.

– Mia T.

The Selection by Kiera Cass is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available as a free download from Overdrive

The Roar by Emma Clayton

The Roar by Emma Clayton is a dystopian science fiction book that re-examines what it really means to be human.

In the (not so) distant future, the entire human population is squeezed into a third of the land that it once occupied, behind an impenetrable gray wall. Society’s distinctions are more emphasized than ever, with all the rich living in the Golden Turrets, and those not so fortunate shoved underneath, deprived of sun and water, into the Shadows. An animal plague has destroyed the rest of the Earth. 

So they think.

Hybrid Mika Smith has his doubts about everything, even about his sister Ellie’s suspicious death. But when a mysterious dream, a podship competition, and The Roar come into play, Mika must prepare to rethink everything he has ever known about the dying and corrupted world he lives in. 

One quote from the book really struck me: “A few people started riding bicycles and others reused their plastic bags and meanwhile Earth was gasping its last, desperate breath.” This quote really summarizes what the main idea of this book is. In this book, the Earth has been polluted beyond recognition, and humanity is desperately warring against nature, believing that only one can survive. This quote is gripping on an intrinsic level, making us question the validity of our motives, however well-intentioned they may be, and raises an inquiry into the basic human nature of greed and power. It stresses the need for substantial action and unity against some of the pressing problems facing our world.

The Roar by Emma Clayton is one of the best books I have ever read. The plot is just interesting enough to not be boring but suspenseful enough to be a nail-biting thriller. Although the plot is a bit too slow at times, the book still remains an excellent read. Emma Clayton has created a fictional masterpiece but added perfect undercurrents of real issues like climate change that pressure us all today.

-Vaidehi B.