The Road By Cormac McCarthy

Image result for the road by cormac mccarthy

Anyone who has read Lord of the Flies, or seen the Walking Dead television show, knows that when the world comes to an end, people are going to do whatever they can to survive (ie cannibalism, children killing other children). This is the same with The Road- people shouting “You would have done the same!” as they try to steal and murder each other. But wouldn’t it be just nice if even in this dystopian world, everyone was nice to each other?

An unnamed father and son travel down a road to the sea and try to survive amid the thieves and not knowing who to trust. We don’t fully know what caused the world to be like this- earthquake? extremely hot temperatures? But we do know that rations are limited and they must keep traveling in order to survive. The father always seems to try to resort to a dark side- giving up food for his son, trying to kill everyone who crosses them- but the son keeps him on the road- noticing when the father tries to give the son bigger portions, begging the father not to kill anyone.

All in all, it is a very pleasant story to read, especially since it gives a theme that man will not fully go down the evil side even when there is no hope. However, there are a few writing styles that will turn a few people down. First of all, there are not quotation marks- whenever the character speaks it is either its own separate paragraph or embedded in another paragraph, which makes the reader go back a couple of times in order to figure out who is talking. Additionally, most of the book is written in camera style- the story’s plot moving along because of dialogue, not because of what they thought. This narration is often considered boring by some readers.

However, the story is beautifully written to me, with a compelling message and a heartfelt plot. It is also a quick read compared to some other books. For those who are looking for a twist on the dystopian genre, it is a worthwhile read.

Megan Villagracia, Eleventh Grade.

The Road By Cormac McCarthy is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Versus Movie: Starters/Selfless

starters_lissapriceThe book Starters by Lissa Price, and the movie Selfless don’t seem to resemble each other at first. However, after looking deeply at both I started to see some similarities. The idea of putting the mind of an older mind into a young person’s body is interesting, but the way the characters use that ability is so different.

In Starters, Enders (older people) rent the bodies of Starters (younger people) who give their bodies to the organization. Enders get to live in a younger body for a limited time and can do things like skydiving or horseback riding. Starters get paid a lot of money after they are made over and rented. This business is very common, because in this world, Enders are very rich and Starters live as homeless people. During the rented time, an Ender’s body is safely asleep, awaiting its mind’s return. This routine seems very normal and harmless, but in Selfless it’s almost the opposite.

selflessIn Selfless, the purpose of the experiment is to enable old but intelligent minds to continue living in order to develop and fulfill new ideas. However, they don’t rent bodies; they steal them. Before an elder’s mind can be transferred into a younger body, they must disappear or fake their death so no one notices they are missing. The younger person’s family gets paid a lot of money once their body is sold, so they no longer have a life of their own. Also, the young person’s personality is lost in the process. This process, known as shedding, is kept secret so as not to be shut down. Shedding is tailor made for the rich, as only they can afford the luxury to live forever in a younger body.

Both the book and the movie have similar storylines but the direction each take are different, with one using it to help both parties and the other ultimately killing someone. I loved the reading the dystopian book and couldn’t wait to check out the sequel, Enders. The movie was also very intriguing, making it nearly impossible to take my eyes off the screen.

-Sabrina C., 10th Grade

Starters and Selfless are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Genre Introduction: Dystopia

Dystopian stories have become pretty popular recently. There are, of course, the well-known Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies, but there are plenty of other messed-up futuristic worlds to explore. Dystopia worlds usually have the government trying to create a “perfect place,” that results in something far worse than today’s standards. Within different social/political structures, heroes face odds to change their world. There’s often some side romance as well. If you haven’t already started into this genre, here are some different types:

legend_coverLegend by Marie Lu focuses on class struggle.

Welcome to a world filled with plague. A plague, for some reason, only affects the poor people. When Day, the Republic’s most wanted criminal, finds his family has been infected, he’ll do whatever it takes to find a cure. After a break-in at the hospital, Day is the in the prime suspect for the murder of  a commanding officer, June’s brother.

June is the Republic’s prodigy, with perfect academic scores, but is constantly in trouble, for things like scaling a building when she wasn’t supposed to. June swears revenge on her brother’s killer, only to find that the Republic has been lying to everyone the entire time.

maze_runner_coverThe Maze Runner by James Dashner targets post-apocalyptic aftermath methods of recovery.

Thomas arrives in an elevator. Everything is dark, and the only thing he can remember is his name. His destination is the Glade, consisting of only teenage boys, surrounded by an impossible constantly changing maze. Every month a new boy arrives and everyone goes along with life, as they have done for the last couple years. But everything changes when, just one day after Thomas, a girl arrives with a mysterious message. The Glade is no longer a safe place. And if they want to escape, Thomas had better start running.

unwindUnwind by Neal Shusterman asks what it means to be alive.

There are too many teenagers in the future. The solution is not to kill them; instead, the rebellious generation simply lives in a “divided state” with every part of their body still alive, but not making up them anymore. Connor is turned in by his parents rebellious behavior. Risa is an orphan the state can no longer afford, since she has reached her musical potential. Lev is a sacrifice, knowing since birth he was going to be unwound for religious reasons. Fate brings these unlikely teenagers together and keeps them on the run because what will happen if they are caught might be even worse than death.

There are plenty other types of dystopias, not to mention the ones I’ve named have multiple meanings and interpretations. That’s the cool thing about dystopias– you can see, from an author’s perspective, how the world might change for the worst. It just makes me that much more grateful it’s only a story.

-Nicole G., 11th grade

Book Review: Echoes of Us, by Kat Zhang

Note: This is the last book in the Hybrid Chronicles, and may contain minor spoilers from the previous books What’s Left of Me and Once We Were.

echoes_of_usEva and Addie are twin souls in the same body. Eva was supposed to fade away when they were five, but she didn’t. Until recently, Eva hasn’t been able to move, talking only to Addie. But with a little help from some new hybrid friends, Eva was able to take control of the body she shared with Addie. Only to be captured, escape, join an underground resistance, and become even further fugitives in the eyes of the law, that doesn’t trust hybrids in the slightest.

On the other hand, Eva can sometimes be too trusting. When offered a job to go undercover in a hybrid institution by a reporter, Eva jumps at the opportunity in order save the boy Addie loves, even if it means leaving the boy Eva herself loves. Yeah, just because they share the same heart, doesn’t mean they share the same feelings, especially when it comes to love.

Only problems arise when Eva and Addie make their decision. Promises aren’t always kept, people can’t always be trusted, and situations aren’t always what they appear. This is the chance of a lifetime to make some real changes for the hybrid community, but if they aren’t careful, Eva and Addie could be destroyed permanently.

I really liked this series. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the two souls/one body thing at first, but I think that’s kind of the point. It is dystopian-esque more within people than in society, that tries to change people who won’t be “normal.”

I kind of wish Addie narrated part of the trilogy, but it was more of Eva’s story. As most endings, there are some losses in order to obtain a gain for the greater good. The ending was pretty perfect to me. If you enjoyed the first two books, definitely find out how it ends. If you haven’t started this series, I would recommend it to science fiction fans who also enjoy save the world themes with a splash of romance.

-Nicole G., 11th grade

Book vs. Movie: The Giver

giver_bookvmovieThe Giver is an award-winning book written by Lois Lowry about a futuristic dystopian community of “Sameness.” The book was written in 1993 – before the teen dystopian literature era took off so I guess you could say it was before its time in two ways!

Because most middle-schoolers end up reading The Giver as part of their curriculum, I don’t want to go into the novel or movie details. However, I will share that the novel was originally written by Ms. Lowry as a result of realizing her father was losing his memory. This sad, negative situation was developed into imagining a society that had lost its memory; that is, it had no past. Eliminating a “history” means that many ingredients making up that “history” must also be eliminated. The protagonist in The Giver is Jonas, an 11-year old who lives in this resulting community known as “Sameness,” a seemingly utopian society where everything is the same and everything is equal. Jonas, through a developing uniqueness, is able to see past this “sameness” and perceived utopia.

After 18-19 long years of hoping and trying to bring the novel to the big screen, Jeff Bridges, who plays The Giver in the movie, successfully premiered the movie on August 11th and opened it nationwide on August 15th. I have seen it twice: I attended a special showing on premiere night and then saw a regular showing about a week later. I had been anticipating the release of this movie since last August when I first learned that Taylor Swift was going to play a small, but important character role of “Rosemary.”   As a Swiftie and a lover of Lois Lowry’s Giver Quartet (of which The Giver is the first novel), my excitement was barely containable!

So because I saw the movie twice within one week, you probably think I LOVED the movie the first time and went back to enjoy it a second time. Not exactly . . .

I was actually disappointed when I saw The Giver movie the first time. I thought the beginning was very rushed. I was annoyed by the changes made in the movie. I sort of expected the movie to be a bit more accurate because I had read they kept writing, discarding, and rewriting the screenplay in those 18 or so years. And I was extremely “let down” that the anticipation of the movie was over.

When I saw it the second time, I went into it expecting to be disappointed again. (I had promised my friend to see it with her.) Surprisingly, I found I liked the movie this time. I really did!! So what changed?

Yes, compared to the book, the beginning is rushed. But you can’t fit a 200+ page book into a two-hour movie. So, I guess I’m okay with that. The “rushed beginning” still set the stage for the movie which was what it needed to do.

As for the changes in the screenplay . . .all the people involved, including Lois Lowry, agreed that the movie stayed true to the book’s storyline. So who am I to get upset with the changes? Yes, the movie is different than the book.   But that’s not necessarily a bad or negative thing.

And as for being “let down” . . . I left the movie the second time feeling more satisfied, happier, seeing the positives more, and appreciating the movie for its differences. I actually LIKE the movie and hope that the other Lois Lowry books in The Giver Quartet also find their way to the big screen!

-Danielle L., 7th grade

Book Review: Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi

never_skyI don’t know if you have heard of this book. It’s become bigger recently but it isn’t the most popular title in my library. However, it is an interesting read and a very unique take on dystopian lit.

This isn’t the ordinary, “girl lives in society – society is corrupt – girl rebels and becomes an outcast. – falls in love with a rebel boy – take down corrupt society or government together – the end.” There are definitely those elements in this book, but there’s also cool new technology and a fresh new writing style. It does share elements with Divergent,
The Hunger Games, The Selection, Uglies, etc. However, I thought it was more than the generic dystopian book that has seemed to take Barnes and Noble by storm.

This book takes place in a world where civilized people live in pods and for them to go outside would mean certain death. Aether, the energy that fills the sky, has been zapping the ground for 6 generations. First it started fires and then it started plagues. There are tribes that live in the wild, savages, but for the average citizen, outside the pods is called the death shop. Even to breathe the air is certain death. So when Aria gets dropped off in the middle of the desert after an attempt to find her mom that kills three of her peers she is certain she will die and never see her mother again. But with the help from a Savage named Perry, she learns to survive and fight. But she continues to hunt for her mother.

This book was not extremely well written but the world Veronica Rossi creates is a fascinating concept that has not really been touched by a lot of dystopian authors. I thought that the storyline was good and the plot twists came out of nowhere. I would recommend it to anyone who likes dystopian or wants to try something new.

-Becka O., 8th grade

Book Review: The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

maze_runner_coverIn celebration of the upcoming movie adaption of this exciting novel, I thought I would review the first book in this trilogy.

This dsytopian adventure is full of mystery and suspense, set in a chilling sort of “captivity” where young boys (and boys only) live in the middle of a dangerous maze that no one’s escaped or survived. The protagonist, Thomas arrives one day in “The Box” with no memory of anything and is immediately puzzled and disturbed by this place.

The boys live a puzzling life of trying to survive and attempting to make it out of the maze, with no idea of anything at all or who they are. The maze, which several of the boys try to brave but never make it out alive, holds terrifying creatures called Grievers.

One day, the disturbing cycle of everyday life is interrupted by the shocking arrival of- a girl. She brings a strange cryptic message before passing out. With her arrival, everything is shaken up. What happens then… you’ll have to read the book to find out.

This novel, although a bit slow at times, was a generally thrilling book that will keep you on the edge of your seat with a thousand questions running through your mind. Unfortunately, these questions are barely or not even answered in the first book, but the second and third ones do address them, and let me tell you – they will shock and excite and are not to be missed.

If you are a fan of dystopian stories like The Hunger Games or Divergent, I highly recommend this book (as well as the rest of the trilogy) for an entertaining suspense-filled read. Plus, you’ll be prepared for the upcoming movie, in theaters everywhere this September!

-Rachel L.,10th grade