The Mediator: Shadowland by Meg Cabot

Susannah (Suze) Simon’s life is not what you’d consider “ordinary,” in fact, it’s quite the opposite. After living in New York for her whole life, only-child, Suze and her widowed mother move across the country to sunny California. There, she is introduced to her step father, Andy Ackerman, along with his three sons. She has been enrolled into Junipero Serra Catholic Academy, with her new stepbrothers, where she hopes to start a new chapter in her life.

You see, as much as moving to California separated Suze from her one true friend, Gina, it’s also a chance for her to create a new image of herself. Susannah has gotten into trouble a good handful of times, as she is no stranger to the police and is often found sneaking back into the house early in the morning. All along Mrs.Simon has thought this obnoxious act of her daughter’s was due to being anti-social. But that’s not the reason why Suze is often found alone, it’s because she can see ghosts, and she’s kept this secret from all the people she knows!

Being a mediator is no easy task; Susannah knows this from experience. She must juggle her school work, family time, along with the future of the ghosts she encounter in their afterlife. Although Suze is in love with her beach view room, she can’t help but notice the ghost of a cowboy sitting in her bay window. She befriends Jesse, a handsome teen, no older than Suze, who was killed 150 years ago in a tragic accident. As Suze is helping Jesse reach his afterlife, she can’t help but seeing something special in her new friend.

As if moving to a completely new school wasn’t stressful enough, trouble arises when a teenage ghost threatens the students at the academy. Without endangering any of her new friends, Suze must put a stop to the wandering spirit. Alongside Jesse, Susannah plans on getting rid of the academy’s unwanted visitor once and for all!

Shadowland was a great summer read that kept me occupied for most of this week! I can’t wait to see what Meg Cabot has in store for Susannah as she continues her mediator role.

-Skyler K.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

In Challenger Deep, written by Neal Shusterman, Caden Bosch is a teenager who struggles with mental illness. This story is told from two perspectives where it switches from his point-of-view of his life and his fantasy world. In his fantasy world, he has become a part of a voyage with a man who calls himself the Captain and his parrot to explore the Marianas Trench, Challenger Deep, to find the bottom of it.

In Caden’s daily life, he begins to show signs of his mental illness. His friends, family, and teachers begin to notice his anxiety, his random thoughts, and his new hobby of pacing and walking. At first, they shrug it off thinking it’s only a phase, but everyday Caden falls deeper in his mental illness.

Caden’s story is an emotional one about a boy going through his first mental breakdown. There were some funny moments, but it’s a sad story of a teen going through a mental illness.

Although it took me some time to read this book, I highly recommend reading it. This book gave me some new insight about how people with mental illnesses feel. The author did a fantastic job in capturing Caden’s emotions and of his family and friends emotions.

There are some curse words ( no F-bombs though) and no sexual content (Yay for those who don’t want to read smut!). This book has little to no romance since it mainly focuses more on the friendships of Caden and his recovery from his mental breakdown.

This is a good book for older teens, I don’t recommend kids ages 13 and younger reading this because of the mature themes. Also, it can be a bit confusing because it’s from Caden’s perspective, but it’s entertaining.

*Spoiler alert* In one scene, some of the patients talk about what happened to them before they were hospitalized. The author doesn’t go into detail, but it’s a little disturbing. 

-Ash A.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

The novel Shooting Kabul by N.H. Sense is about a boy named Fadi who lived in Afghanistan. His family had no choice but to leave Afghanistan because the Taliban rose to power and they didn’t bring the good like they promised.

Fadi’s father, Habib, had secured the family a safe passage to America in the summer of 2001, as long as they crossed the border. The plan was to meet a truck that would carry Fadi’s family across the Peshawar, Pakistan. While Fadi’s older sister, Noor, was helping her sick mother, Fadi was in charge of taking care of his sister Mariam. All was going according to plan until the Taliban showed up.

Mariam is accidentally left behind because she dropped her barbie doll and she jumped off the truck to get it back. The rest of his family made it safely, but they were unable to properly move on with there lives until they knew Mariam would come back safely. While staying with his relatives in San Francisco, school had just started and he had to adjust to a new life. His new friend, Anh convinced him to join the school’s photography club and there was a competition where the first place winner gets a new camera and a trip to China, Kenya, or India. Then Fadi realized that India is right next to Afghanistan and if he won the competition, he could fly there, find Mariam, and bring her back home. Fadi spent all his time photographing the sights of San Fransisco. He knew that failure wasn’t an option, so he took the perfect picture of his grandparents and submitted it.

Later, there was news that terrorists had crashed planes into two skyscrapers in New York at the Pentagon in Washington DC on September 11. Many people believe that all Muslims are terrorists who support the men who hijacked the planes. Bullies at his school started picking on him because of his Muslim faith. Fadi truly believed that he would win the photography competition, but when he heard that he didn’t win, he was devastated. Fadi isn’t able to go to Afghanistan to find his missing sister. But, he did get an honorable mention for his entry, which attracted the attention of one judge who specialized in photographing war zones. The judge offered to show him some of his most recent work, which was taken along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. While looking thorough the photos, Fadi saw a picture of Mariam playing with some other children at a refugee camp. Mariam was tracked down and she boarded a flight to San Fransisco to be reunited with her family.

I would would recommend this book to anyone who likes novels that involve historical background. This book was interesting and it involved the tragic event of 9/11.Throughout the the novel, you get to see the journey Fadi went through to save his sister in Afghanistan.

-Vanessa T.

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Shadowlands Series by Kate Brian

Image result for shadowlands by kate brian

I never think that a series is completely bad. Sure, you don’t agree with authors, but you normally don’t think that the series is the worst thing ever written. The Shadowlands series by Kate Brian wasn’t horrible, but was badly written.

The  series is about high schooler Rory Miller. She and her family must run from a serial killer and hide in a safe house on a vacation island. There, Rory uncovers secrets that she shouldn’t know about, and the locals don’t seem like ordinary people. People start disappearing, and the vacationers, including Rory’s sister Darcy, aren’t remembering them. The locals seem to know where they went. Will Rory be able to protect herself and her family before it’s too late?

Kate Brian, also known as Kieran Scott, should have made the books longer instead of stretching out the plot. Sometimes the plot would drone on and on, while other times Brian would introduce ten characters and half explain them.

Image result for Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan BoysImage result for private and privilege seriesHowever, I don’t view Kate Brian as a bad author. Her book, Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys is okay. I have never read her Private and Privilege series, but with 11 books, I’m guessing people enjoyed it. I think that Brian was aiming to have a hit paranormal romance series, but kept reverting back to a realistic theme.

Even though I don’t think that The Shadowlands series was the best, I would say to read it if you just want a relaxing story.

-Rebecca V.

Kate Brian’s novels are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Review: The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan

joy_luck_clubInsightful, heart-warming, and beautifully crafted, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club portrays mother-daughter relationships that must endure both generation and culture gaps. Each of the four Chinese-immigrant mothers narrates their past of growing up in China and immigrating to America. They also describe their struggles to raise daughters who won’t forget their Chinese heritage and values, as well as the legend of their mothers. On the other hand, the four American-born daughters strive to separate themselves from their mothers and find their own identities in America.

While reading, you will learn to be open-minded, as this will allow you to enjoy and understand the intended overall meaning of The Joy Luck Club. The novel teaches many important lessons that include being accepting toward different cultures, never judging someone from just their appearance, appreciating your parents, and being grateful for all of the opportunities we have in America. Many countries’ cultures are very different than the American culture, so we must always respect their customs. In addition, each daughter views their mother as weak and embarrassing to be around in the beginning. Once they begin to listen and see their mothers in an entirely different light, they discover that their mothers have experienced and sacrificed a lot for them to grow up and have a better life. This also leads them to be thankful for all the opportunities they are able to have, unlike their mothers, who grew up in China. All in all, both mother and daughters learn to discover the true meaning of love and come to accept each other for who they truly are.

I would definitely recommend this touching novel to anyone over the age of fourteen, since some mature topics are discussed. I especially recommend The Joy Luck Club to mothers and daughters because it will remind you of the significance of the unbreakable relationship and how important family is. Amy Tan is a remarkable author, and through her writing, she is able to weave a series of short stories into one complete, fulfilling novel.

-Kaylie W., 9th grade

Book Review: If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

if_i_stayIf I Stay is one of my all-time favorite novels. This piece of literature is one of the few that I actually take the time to read over and over again. The story is simply intriguing. And now that the movie is coming out next month with some great actors seen previously, I just can’t wait to experience the touching story once again.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is a novel about an average teenage girl who just happens to be an amazing cello player. Mia, the cello player, is dating Adam, another musician. They both have a good life, when on one of the weekends, Mia and her family go on a drive. During the drive, Mia’s family gets into an accident where all of them end up dead, including Mia. However, Mia is a “ghost” and literally spectates her family and her getting taken away by the paramedics. The harsh and tragic journey Mia has to face while Adam and her best friend Kim mourn over her is astonishing. As readers, we get to experience Mia’s heartbreak’s and sadness, through watching her loved ones miss her and join in unity due to her tragic situation.

I am extremely excited to watch the movie made based on this book! I am intrigued to see what they make out of this amazing novel, and how well the actors play their character’s roles. This is by far, the best novel I have ever read. If I Stay takes you through a journey with Mia, with sadness and love joining to fine a perfect medium.

-Nirmeet B., 10th grade

Book Review: My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier

Z917SchBroSam2upMy Brother Sam is Dead is a fascinating historical fiction by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier, and is a story about a family torn apart over the American Revolution.

The story all starts when the oldest brother, Sam Meeker, comes home unexpectedly from college- Yale to be exact. He gives the family news that the patriots have defeated the “lobster backs” or the British. The Meeker family is loyal to the king and do not think that the war would do any good. However, Sam has a different perspective on this.

Tim, Sam’s younger brother, admires Sam greatly. When the brothers are outside together doing chores around their family’s tavern, Sam tells Tim his plan to steal their father’s gun in order to fight. Tim protests, but he can do nothing to stop Sam. That night, Mr. Meeker and Sam have an argument about the war and Sam runs away from home. One day, near winter, Tim’s father says that this year Tim will be going with him to Verplanck’s Point with him to trade the cattle. On the way there cowboys almost rob them, but a rescue team comes just in time. On the way back however, Tim’s father gets kidnapped and Tim almost does too, but he luckily outsmarts the cowboys. When Tim gets home he immediately becomes more responsible and takes charge of the tavern the family owns. When Sam comes home to visit them a couple months later, he advises Tim to butcher the cattle’s meat and hide it before the patriots steal them. One night when Sam is visiting the tavern again, two patriots try to steal the cattle. Sam chases after them, but gets framed for stealing them.

The question everyone is asking is, what will happen to Sam? I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the American Revolution. It is an interesting read and it gives you a new perspective on the revolution. It will be one of the best historical fictions you have ever read!

-Melika R., 8th grade