An Appointment With My Brother by Yi Mun-Yol

This novella, An Appointment With His Brother, talks about the unseen interaction between North and South Korea. Basically what happens is, the protagonist’s father defected to North Korea, which is unusual because it would normally be the other way around. The protagonist finds out years later that his father had a new family. Since the father lives in North Korea, visiting each other is nearly impossible. However, one day he learns about the boundary line between North Korea and China. People would cross the border with the help of a broker and essentially escape. So the main character attempts to meet his father but ends up having An Appointment With My Brother instead. Once they meet each other, they talk to each other about their lives and compare them. They come to a realization about their lifestyles after talking–their lives weren’t as different as they thought.

There was a lot learned from this story, things that aren’t usually revealed in the news, and only something that those people know. Even though the book was difficult to understand, the underlying theme and message are important to one’s everyday life. Reading this book allowed me to put the prejudice views aside and really see the true events that occur instead.

-Phoebe L.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent was one of those books that everyone had read and I hadn’t and everyone loved when it came out. So I didn’t read it thinking that it was all talk and not a very good book. But, when I eventually got around to reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised.

This book is based in the future, in the city of Chicago.  It is divided up into five factions, the Abnegation who believe in selflessness, the Dauntless who believe in bravery, the Candor who believe in the truth, Erudite who believe in intelligence, and Amity who believe in peace.

Beatrice Prior, a 16-year-old that grew up in Abnegation transferred to Dauntless on the day of her choosing ceremony carrying a very dangerous secret. She is one of the divergent, she had an aptitude for more than one faction, something many of the factions leaders consider very dangerous.

Like most other dystopian society books, Divergent starts off as a utopia. Everything seems perfect. But it isn’t. The flaws in this perfect society show through and eventually chaos breaks out.

Overall, this book was great. It might not be as amazing as everyone has said it was when it first came out. But it is still a great read. So, if you haven’t read this book a would defiantly recommend it. It is fairly long though, but I would say it is worth it.

-Ava G.

The Divergent series by Veronica Roth is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available online from Overdrive

Stepping on the Cracks by Mary Downing Hahn

Let me just say, this book was a lot better than I originally thought it would be. I usually don’t read WWII novels, I am more into the Civil War myself, so this was a different kind of read for me. But let me tell you it was worth it because it had me hooked after the first sentence.

In this book, Margaret and her best friend Elizabeth find a hut in the woods. At first, Margaret is scared to go into it, but with prompting, Margaret goes in. It turns out that Gordy (the class bully) is hiding his brother, a deserter, in the hut. To keep the secret, Gordy attempts to blackmail Margaret and Elizabeth. Along the way they get into many hardships, but they find a way through it.

The cool thing about this novel is that even though it is a children’s book, it isn’t written like one. This is the perfect book for a child to read because it is all very easy to understand and it is very intriguing. However, an adult would enjoy this book just as much as a child. The way the author portrays everything it is obvious she must have witnessed it. In my personal opinion, everyone should read this book. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you would like it, just trust me, you will.

Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash

Like many others, one of my New Year’s Aspirations was to read more books. To help myself with this, I chose to do the PopSugar 2017 Reading Challenge. Along with a friend of mine, I began to check books off the list.

My first read of the year was back in January, but I still find myself thinking about it in March. Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash was my “Book With a Red Spine,” and it has made its way onto my list of favorites.

Until I came across Tom Barbash’s work, I had never much gone for short stories, much less collections of them. There was always something deeply unsatisfying about their brevity. I found myself anxious and yearning for more after the final page was turned.

But Stay Up With Me was incredibly real and terrifyingly relatable. Barbash has the power to make a reader fall in love with his characters in just a few sentences. The people in these stories are complex – they have failings and flaws in addition to their successes. Each one grows as a person and learns in the short course of their time in your hands.

And just as you are invested, just as you have committed the little idiosyncrasies of these characters to memory, the story ends.

Each time, as you feel the power of the final line, you are forced to wrench yourself from the story. There is a forceful discomfort as you move on, a sense of loss when their names are not printed on the next page.

All those people you just learned about? They’re gone. Everything there is for you to know about them is contained in those last few pages.

Stay Up With Me is collection of heartbreaking tales. Love, loss, and everything in between – Barbash does it beautifully.

-Zoe K., Grade 11

Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

prideandprejudice_janeaustenWhat has made Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s 19th century book, so timeless? We no longer live in an era where the only way to do well is to marry well. But, as it turns out, not much is different.

People today hold prejudices, albeit of different scales. What makes this an issue is if a person acts on those prejudices, without getting to know the truth. For example, I don’t like papaya or kiwi. I don’t remember if I actually tried the fruit when I was younger, but to this day, I refuse to eat the fruit. Maybe I had tried one bad kiwi, or had been influenced when my sister got sick after eating papaya. either way, I never tried it again. My pride comes into play, because I never want to be proven wrong. What if I ate a kiwi and loved it? Then I would be embarrassed for my embargo that has lasted my whole life so far. So to me, it’s best to never risk it.

Thinking about it now, this is definitely the wrong way to go about things. It may not seem serious, but this issue becomes serious in other circumstances. What if, instead of hating a type of fruit, someone hated a group of people? Maybe this was only because of one bad experience they had (or even heard about). Sometimes this hate can even be unfounded. People constantly make generalizations about people, which add bias to their actions, and they forget the most important virtue: to understand.

People need to understand why another person might have acted a certain way. It’s unfair to make judgments about a person without actually getting to know them. Elizabeth, in Pride and Prejudice, proved this. She was cold toward Mr. Darcy the entire book, thinking him a stuck-up, unfeeling man, and she was content in thinking this. But she soon found how much she was missing, finding out what Mr. Darcy had actually done (rather than hearing it in rumors from Mr. Darcy’s “enemy”) and seeing how kind and good-hearted Mr. Darcy had been to help Lizzy’s sister. (Spoiler alert!) Once she got to know him, her opinion widely changed.

Before long, her prejudices were broken, though perhaps not entirely gone. Before, she was too proud to admit that she could be wrong, but by the end, she realized her mistake. She then had to convince others of her feelings, since her previous prejudices had rubbed off on the rest of her family. Long story short, she had a lot to learn by getting to know another person. Just by giving him a chance to explain himself, Elizabeth radically changed her (and Mr. Darcy’s) life.

Thus, a lot can be learned from Jane Austen’s novel. I mean, for me, I’m definitely going to try kiwi this weekend. But for the rest of my life, the message of Pride and Prejudice will stay with me. I hope that those of you who have read this classic will keep the message in mind. For those of you who haven’t read the book, I truly recommend it.

-Leila S., 11th grade

Pride and Prejudice is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.