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.

 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel set in a futuristic fictional nation known as Panem, located in the midwestern United States. The novel’s protagonist is Katniss Everdeen, and she must survive a deadly competition known as the “Hunger Games.”

Panem is divided into twelve districts, each of which is like states. Each district has a specialty; for example, Katniss is from District Twelve, which specializes in coal mining. Because of a failed rebellion years before, each of the districts is required to send one “tribute” to an annual event known as the Hunger Games, during which two tributes from each district, a male and female, all fight to the death to claim the glorious title of “victor.”

The story begins before the Reaping, an event that chooses the two tributes from each district by random. Katniss’s younger sister is drawn, but Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place, knowing that going means almost certain death. Chosen alongside Katniss is the male tribute, named Peeta.

Katniss and Peeta are both sent to the Capitol, a wealthy and powerful state that rules over all the districts and runs the Hunger Games for its own entertainment. Together with their coach and advisor, they begin to prepare for the Hunger Games, training and making alliances with other tributes.

I would recommend the Hunger Games because of the extreme suspense that the author creates while the tributes are fighting during the games. The story is touching, but it contains extreme violence, so I wouldn’t recommend it to younger readers.

-Josh N. 

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I was very astonished by the author’s premonition of our current society. He uses Montag as a prototype of human disconnection and the power of electronic devices on us these days. However, the only thing different between Montag and people these days is that he has between dissuaded from the importance of electronic devices but the people these days haven’t.

Truth proved that TV and smartphones are very addictive these days, which the reason why a lot of teenagers are sent to rehab centers, not for drugs or something else, but merely because they cannot stop playing games or going on their phones and computers. But who can say that this is a less horrible addiction than drugs? Not only the kids are like this, but the parents are no different. Some parents often hand their children the iPad to merely keep them quiet, or instead of wasting their time and playing with them, they’d rather the children play with their gadgets. Therefore, Mildred actually exists everywhere, and in my opinion, she is only a symbolism for this phenomena.

Lastly, this novel serves as an admonition to people in our current society. We have no more feelings and are numbed by the excitement and easy amusement offered by the TV. But once the connection is severed from those that we love and those around us, it is very unlikely to pick it up when the only thing we care about in this world is the happiness of ourselves the how many electronic devices we should have to accomplish that.

-Coreen C. 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver is set in a type of utopia. It is about an isolated community devoid of feelings and memories. There is one person however that has all the world’s memories. The Receiver of Memory. The most honorable job in the community.

At the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas is selected to be the Receiver. Jonas has to bear the pain and joy of all the memories passed down from the previous Receiver. The more memories Jonas receives, the more he wonders why his community has removed these things from people’s lives. Jonas and the previous Receiver, the Giver, come up with a plan to give the memories back to the community. The Giver has a map of what lies beyond the community, so they use that to plan Jonas’ escape.

Once Jonas passes a certain line beyond the community, the memories will be released into the community. Color and feelings will go back to all the citizens in the community. Shortly before his escape, Jonas learns how a Release is actually done. Jonas always thought that the person being released would be taken Elsewhere. It turns out that being Released means to be killed. A new child Jonas has grown close to, Gabriel, is being Released soon, so Jonas decides to take Gabriel with him to save Gabriel. On the night of his escape, Jonas stops by the Nurturing Center, takes Gabriel and leaves the community, starting his journey to the boundary.

Jonas takes a bicycle and rides all day, resting at night. Eventually he makes it to the boundary to a house covered in snow. Inside Jonas can hear singing, and he knows that the people inside are waiting for him and Gabriel. As soon as he crosses the boundary, all the citizens of his community receive memories and feelings.

-Emilio V.

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

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This novel written by Ray Bradbury is about a dystopian society set in the future. There’s no exact date that was stated, but it can be inferred that it’s definitely in the future. This book is about a society where books are banned. Instead of men fighting fires (firefighters), they start fires instead (firemen). Their job is to burn any books that are found, and if there’s a lot of books, they burn the whole house or building.

The main protagonist, Guy Montag, is a fireman. His wife Mildred constantly has these devices in her ears like earbuds and always watches TV. He meets this girl Clarisse on the way home from work one night. She was described as “crazy” because of the way she thought.  Her thoughts were more free-spirited compared to the rest of the neighborhood. After this encounter, Montag begins to question his ideals and his definition of happiness.

Throughout the rest of the book, we see Montag go through changes with himself. We see him challenge the idea of burning books, and ends up trying to “save” the books. His chief/boss Beatty finds out and tells Montag to burn his house. Montag obeys and burns his house down, and runs away. Along the way, he meets these book lovers who essentially teach him about knowledge that was lost.

This story teaches about censorship and the idea of burning books which end up destroying knowledge. It is an interesting book, and I do recommend it.

-Phoebe L.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Privacy? Or Security? Which would you prefer? Little Brother takes place a few years into the future, in a San Francisco that’s already well-monitored. After a terrorist attack, the surveillance tightens to catch the terrorists, but also monitors everyone else without their permission. The Department of Homeland Security has decided that the Bill of Rights can be ignored in the name of “freedom”—a freedom that allows the DHS to monitor everyone without their consent.

Marcus Yallow skips school with his friends, but then his world forever changes after the terrorist attack—and getting picked up by the DHS. He determines to take revenge on them, and in doing so, raises questions about rights: the right to privacy, the right to liberty, the right to justice, the right to stand up for ourselves. Marcus’s technological prowess is admirable, but perhaps isn’t completely surprising considering that almost everything is under surveillance. However, his abilities with technology allow him to do what he does, and he does it well, eventually bringing others—many others—into his fold.

Although I didn’t always agree with everything Marcus did (mostly regarding his personal life), the book was a really good discussion about freedom and privacy and the lengths the government and citizens can go to—from trusting the government unconditionally, to taking issue with it when they’re doing wrong.

-Aliya A.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is available to download from Overdrive