Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane

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This is perhaps my favorite story written by the short-lived but legendary author so far. It even surpasses his most well-known novel The Red Badge of Courage. Maybe because despite my great interest in the Civil War, the main character in this story touches me the most: Maggie Johnson.

Unlike her common name, Maggie is not a common girl. Just by reading the description of her family, it was pretty easy enough to tell that she detested her family. Her mother, father, and brother Jimmy all had their own life going on. They blame the obstacles in life on her. Mary Johnson, her mother drinks and fights and curses after their father passed away. Jimmy seemed unwilling to acknowledge his family as he thought it as a burden and a disgrace to his life. And Maggie was no different. Since from a young age, her violent reactions including how she trembles and hides under the table show her extreme fear for the people she’s supposed to love the most-her parents. Everything changed when Pete came.

Because of her childhood trauma, Maggie craved more than ever to find a man who is well educated and rich, mainly to save her from her diabolical family. Pete was Jimmy’s friend, I could tell he was being like a casual friend to Maggie by taking her to see plays and eat at luxurious restaurants since he owned a saloon. However, Pete was not a person who holds a serious attitude toward love or relationship, he was simply a player. And this is when Maggie gets really hurt by his rudeness later on when they met Nell, Pete’s old sweetheart. From this point on, Maggie’s imagined glorious life starts to deteriorate.

Moreover, Mary Johnson couldn’t forgive Maggie’s not coming home every night since Pete came along. In my opinion, Mary is very absurd for her requirement for Maggie as a pious daughter when she doesn’t even qualify a single bit to be a mother. Her daughter is an adult, so it’s her right to stay wherever she wants if she doesn’t feel like going home today. Besides, the wrecked condition of the house and her manner toward Maggie, of course, disengages her desire to return home after a grueling day at the clothing factory she works at.

Lastly, this story mainly just reflects how the death of our protagonist at the end proves parental failure to be a severe issue a lot of the children face even in our present society.

-Coreen C. 

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Dangling Man by Saul Bellow

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This is the first novel of Saul Bellow and it talks about the declining lifestyle of Joseph, who believes that a spiritual satisfaction overweighs material perfection. For some reason, I think that this character has a great pride lurching in himself. He denies his slovenly condition of life by claiming that it’s austerity which is the factor that should be valued in our daily life.

What makes the entire situation worse is that Joseph’s brother, Amos is really rich. He always offers unlimited financial support for Joseph and his wife Iva, but Joseph never accepts it, again, due to his obstinate pride. Sometimes I think it won’t be a bad decision to just say “thank you” and accept the money for the simple reason that pride won’t feed you, clothe you, live with you forever. But money fulfills all three circumstances.

My favorite part of this book would actually have to be the fight scene between Joseph and his 15 year old overweening niece Etta. As a wealthy only child, she is undoubtedly spoiled by her parents. She gets whatever she wants. And as a small child, she is used to hearing how poverty has had her dad stricken, but now she is lucky because she doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. This naturally places her in a position to despise poor people, especially if they are her relative, meaning Joseph.

Etta’s disrespect for Joseph was magnified when she called him a “beggar” because Joseph was using her piano without her permission and refused to hand it over to her. In turn, Joseph was riled by this act and beat Etta up. Now, Joseph and Etta have a lot of similarities, not only do they look physically similar, but they both think that they are always right no matter what. One thinks that she is always right because of her rich parents who provide her with boundless support, one thinks that he is alright right because of his spiritual purification.

-Coreen C. 

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Written in 1930, this novel written by William Faulkner follows the Bundren family. Told from the perspective of over 10-15 different characters, the Bundrens are on a mission: to carry out the wishes of their dead mother and bury her with her family. The only problem? This will be a LONG journey. Throughout the novel, hidden desires and motives are uncovered, as the reader discovers the true reason as to why various members of the Bundren family agree to fulfill their mother Addie’s last wish. From the quiet Cash to the observant Darl, every member has a secret reason as to why they are on this trip. And it is not just to bury their mother out of respect.

Written near the start of the Great Depression, this novel completely goes against the “typical family” stereotype. Rather than everyone being very supportive and loving of each other, it is as if everyone is just a hired actor forced to spend time with everyone else in the family. Each family member goes on this trip for every reason except to actually bury their mother. Some characters are easily disliked in this novel (cough, Anse, cough), while other characters are grown to be well-liked.

-Kobe L.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Pearl By John Steinbeck

For diver Kino, his wife Juana and their only son Coyotito are the most important things in this world. In other ways, he has never been to the outside world, so the shabby town is all his eyes can stretch to.

But when the innocent baby got stung by a poisonous scorpion, Kino was helpless, he tramped his dignity under his feet and begged reverently by the well-polished gate by the doctor. Contemptuous rejection due to his impecuniousness was the only reply that he received, not only to him but to all the indigenes. It wasn’t an opinion of the rich people, it transformed into a casual habit a long time ago. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can acquire the authority to scramble a person’s pride.

The existence of the lucent pearl saved his family ostensibly but murdered his son in the end. For the incandescence of the pearl is too attractive that even the rich people bowed their presumptuous heads, but their ravenous eyes incorporated the richness. The insidious compulsion of getting the flawless pearl drove Kino’s family into a trip on a wonky bridge upon perfectionism.

-April L.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

East Of Eden by John Steinbeck

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eastofeden_johnsteinbeckEast of Eden, I ponder for a while and frown into the swirl not of an ordinary book, but I walk into a capricious hallway of life.

Adam Trask, his mother dead by suicide in a pond near their house, I know how that feels. The water in that pond from that on scours Adam’s accouterments cruelly into its abysmal bottom. He felt naked whenever his face is reflected on the surface of that limpid pond, but for it was obscured than ever before. Adam can never see through the veil that covered his mom’s death. Not a big deal, didn’t have much memory about her pretty face anyways. Cyrus Trask, his dad, a soldier who malingered from the war, was a tough man. His broken leg often riled him. The decrepit crutch is a clue to his cowardice, his obedient wife glued his gratuitousness against his masculinity, the jovial sky loses its blue smile thence. But he made his way into the philosophy and planning of military, he was chosen to assist the president and secretaries in the White House. He had a stupefying heritage of approximately five hundred thousand dollars. Although that wasn’t recorded as a pride within him, he was just redeeming and repenting the sins that he once thrust upon Adam to the holy God scowling at him. Alice was Adam’s stepmother, she was special in an ordinary way, doing her daily chores and taking care of Charles, Adam’s brother and him. Slowly, there was a subtle relationship built upon Adam and Alice, but as a mom, her narrow vision only incorporated her only son Charles who didn’t care as much as his mother than Adam did. She died in a murky corner shrouded by dust, and Adam was the only person that brought a broom. The gruff Charles was a brutal tyrant to Adam, but he exerted his sovereignty to serve Adam and loved him deeply. They quarreled a lot along with their life, but the huge farm that Charles inherited eventually was endowed to Adam, the only humane king died soundlessly, he was judicious but his sheer senses were unnoticed.

Samuel Hamilton, an Irish man who came to Salinas Valley in California as a magnificent craft man, blacksmith, heating contractor, and inventor. But his versatileness kept him poor with nine children. But the forge, the shoes and the machines that he invented always dance around him when he is working, the magic has worked. He was never friends with money, but friends with every neighbor and client who came to him. Sam was a tough man with a soft heart, his red mustache decorated him as a gentle giant, his fingers intercepted with crude soot which foiled him with authority and shrewdness. But Liza Hamilton, his wife was the person that not only conducted the shrewdness but she was able to use her strictness to criticize the shrewdness. Nobody ever blamed her really, because her inviting zeal and palpable discipline convinced every one of them who suspected her. And Tom, the toughest kid but his personality was the most babyish among all of the kids, I guess you can call him a precocious baby. William was the rich boy, Joe was the erudite scholar, Mollie was the beautiful girl and Dessie’s corpse became the precious soul of the family, just to mention a few of the remarkable kids. The other kids are memorable, they are too sacred to be mentioned. You just can’t refuse this glorious family with disgust except for one person.

Cathy Ames, a moral monster, she was enigmatic, her conscience never existed. Cathy wasn’t a normal human, she was like robots, very accurate and seems to obtain the power of mind-reading, nothing tortures her, except her own gnawing vanity. She established a supreme brothel, and once was a seditious whore. Cathy had once been beaten to hell, but her parents were being placed gently into the artificial fire by her. She seldom loved anybody, but a lot of people loved her and even worshipped her beyond their trembling spirit. A mom that left her two sons and shot her husband Adam is unforgivable, something unreasonable will happen, her body bargained with wealth. Cathy was castigated by God, she committed herself as Cathy Trask and left all the money to her son Aron. Her death was silent, some people even celebrated a little, but the person that she hated the most and injured the worse wetted the corner of his eye. Isn’t that sarcastic?

It was a century of racism back in the 1800s until somebody shut that lid and opened a new one. Lee was Chinese, he was born in America though, his father was one of the workers who was involved in building the Great Wall. Lee never engaged in the word “love”, but the impression that his parents had was deep. Women weren’t allowed in the process of the project, but the compulsion of clamping the family together ignited his mother in running into it and be with his father. She devoted her life due to the lassitude in the construction and gave birth to Lee, she was selfish, that’s all I have to say. Her grueling love and persistency abandoned the innocent Lee. He was a family pet to the Trask family, serving them pliantly and never complained about anything. In fact, Lee was smarter than all the humans that are on the earth breathing, he doesn’t breathe in oxygen, but in absolute wisdom. As time eclipsed by, the family pet transformed into the owner and send out bits of advice to the family, he was the actual father of Adam and his sons. During the point when he decided to leave, nobody attempted for retention, but he was the lonely dog without the cuddle of a sweet blanket. People that don’t wield their smartness properly are called a maverick, both good and bad. Sam Hamilton’s was the first and only person whom personality provoked Lee exhibited his yellow belly.

Twins are never the same. Cal was the darker one in every aspect. He wanted to be brighter to deviate the shameful appearance of his mom, but even his similarity didn’t gain any fond of both his parents. He is incredibly clever and a genial businessman with the ability to inhale all the profit that he could without any shenanigans. Aron was the boy with pale blue eyes that would drown you in the blue ocean and romp with the energetic dolphins. Abra Bacon lived as a voluptuous fairytale to the brothers. She acted like a soothing mother to Aron, since he had none, and played as a dainty princess to Cal. But then the church and the preacher became the dream of Aron and those were eminent enough to abet Aron to toss Abra aside. Aron joined the army like Adam did and martyred after Cal showed him their mother who changed her name to Kate as an omnipotent owner of a brothel. Cal wasn’t traumatized as bad as Aron, probably a little bit surprised only. If you keep swallowing absinthe then the taste of herbs will be mediocre, but munching chocolate will result in gnawing bitterness even in spinach. Abra turned to Cal and also won the countenance of Lee and Adam together, for her elegant parents were stone like and their daughter is only a sequin to them. Attractive kids get blemished psychologically a lot easier than undistinguished kids.

Adam Trask, I’ve got irresolution in me right now, is he the main character in this book? His life is soaked in extreme agony and performed as a pantomime of tragedy. Adam was forced to join the army by his father, he was being controlled like a pathetic marionette whom his family was diverted and he was tortured by Cathy cruelly. But he cherished Cathy in the very marrow of his bones. Many people around him died and their souls were reluctant to be in related with him. He could have averted the punishment by God, but only his ignorance and injustice treatment to Cal earned that despondent emblem. Adam Trask loved a lot of people, but barely anyone split their love and fed it to Adam. Even though you spray the fresh comedy on top of the reeking tragedy,  there will be one day when the comedy will rot and the irritated tragedy under will devour you.

-April L.

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

janeeyre_charlottebronteAs it seemed to Jane Eyre, she would never be equal to her cousins, neither in status nor in physical appearance. From all angles, she was just a plain orphan, whom Mrs. Reed kept under her care only at the request of her late husband, Jane’s uncle. Constantly chided, blamed for things outside of her control, or treated like a pest, Jane’s early life was not easy.

Before long, she was sent to Lowood, a boarding school for orphaned girls, where she experienced a whole new life, though not necessarily better than her former years. She no longer had any sort of family to return home and the living conditions at Lowood were not any to be rewarded. Her eight years as a pupil did not end, however, as she continued on to become a teacher, and eventually sought a governess position elsewhere in England.

That brings Jane to the center of her story: Rochester Hall, with the stern-faced master, elderly housekeeper, spoiled French pupil, and the mystery within plaguing its halls. Before long, Jane’s governess position becomes more complicated, as she deals with Mr. Rochester. To tell you what happens from there, I would be ruining the story. But this is not even half of the story yet, as Jane embarks on a sort of journey that changes her life. That sounds extremely cliché, but it’s what happens. The events Jane experiences are so extraordinary that they do not seem realistic, but at the same time, I loved the ending.

My favorite part of this novel was the blunt way everything was depicted. Though disguised in flowery, 19th century English, Jane is quite to the point about everything she notices, and Bronte’s storytelling truly draws the reader in. Admittedly, it took me a while to read the novel because adjusting to the older style of English was difficult, but I could not have been happier to finish the book!

– Leila S., 11th grade

Jane Eyre, both the novel and its numerous television and film adaptations, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

In a Perfect World By Laura Kasischke

inaperfectworld_laurakasischkeIn a Perfect World, by Laura Kasischke is about a flight attendant, Jiselle, getting proposed to by Mark Dorn, the captain of the plane she works on. At first, she is overjoyed. All the other flight attendants dreamed of marrying Captain Dorn and Jiselle can finally quit her job which she never truly enjoyed. She also cannot wait to meet her three stepchildren. Camilla, Sara, and Sam.

However, after a few months, Jiselle is not quite as excited as she first was about her choice to marry Captain Dorn. Her stepdaughters, especially Sara hate her and try to make her experience as Mark’s wife as miserable as possible. Ever since the outbreak of the Phoenix flu, a fictional disease, which originated in the US and is spreading quickly, Mark’s job as a pilot is becoming riskier and he is gone longer and longer hours. Jiselle often finds herself alone in the house looking at old photos and realizing that she could never replace Mark’s ex-wife, Joy who died trying to protect Sam.

One day, everything takes a turn for the worse when Mark calls Jiselle and tells her that he is being held in quarantine. Left alone to take care of he stepchildren, Jiselle must make the best of this situation even though everything in her life is slowly falling apart.

I enjoyed this book very much. It never had a dull moment and had a fantastic ending. It captivated me and before I knew it, I was on the last page. I would definitely rate this book a 10/10 and recommend it to anyone looking for a good read.

-Matthew R.

In a Perfect World is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library