Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The reason why I began reading this novel was because of school requirements. Contrary to what I imagined as a typical romance genre, Jane Eyre incorporates elements of horror, fantasy, and even gothic. Jane Eyre actually has a similar background as Cinderella. Her parents died. Their marriage was not supported by her mother’s family because her father’s social status did not match her mother’s. However, even after being disowned by her family and friends, Jane Eyre’s mother did not give up on her family. Jane Eyre was actually raised by her aunt along with her cousins. But because everybody except for a governess treated her so horribly, Jane Eyre decided to leave for a boarding school built just for orphaned girls.

After years of learning and eventually becoming a teacher there, Jane Eyre was bored with her repeating life. Hence, after much effort, she received a recruitment letter from an old mistress at a mansion to be the governess of Adele, an 8-year-old French girl who barely speaks English. And it was from here that Jane Eyre met Mr. Rochester, a very serious and reticent man. Nonetheless, they fell in love shortly and were at the point to be married when Jane Eyre found that Mr. Rochester was married to a crazy woman. She ran away from him and eventually was taken in by a preacher’s family in a faraway village. Jane Eyre was eventually able to unite with Mr. Rochester even after he has gone blind due to a fire. She not only denied the pastor’s wish to marry her and make her a missionary’s wife in India, but she gave birth to a boy with Mr. Rochester.

Although this book has a happy ending, the plot and characters are fickle and unpredictable. I recommend this book to readers who like romance but are tired of the traditional plot and setting.

-Coreen C. 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Written in 1898, The Awakening follows the main protagonist Edna Pontellier. Edna begins to feel somewhat out of place and out of touch with the morals and customs typically followed by the other women in her community. Her view on femininity and her roles as a mother begin to deviate from the norm, making her feel even more out of place from the other women. The novel follows her journey into discovering herself and her attempts to break free from society as she slowly becomes “Awakened”.

Under the surface of this novel, however, is a discussion of women’s roles in society during the late 1800s / early 1900s. Kate Chopin uses various characters– Edna herself included– throughout this novel to help reflect some of the social norms and attitudes to women’s place in society during the time she wrote the novel. Oftentimes hailed as one of the earliest works and novels on feminism, this book clearly highlighted to anyone that read it that women were being subjugated and that there were plenty of women who were unhappy with the traditional motherly role expected of them. Because of Chopin’s controversial portrayal of this fact, the novel would often be censored. Over time, however, this novel would grow to become recognized for its brilliance and its importance in discussing femininity and women’s roles in society.

-Kobe L.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

It’s said that a mother is one of the most important people in a person’s life. To Maya Angelou, her mother, Vivian Baxter, was no exception. As Maya Angelou said about her mother, “You were a terrible mother of small children, but there has never been anyone greater than you as a mother of a young adult” (197).

Mom and Me and Mom follows Maya Angelou through her journey learning to trust and love herself and the people in her life. After being abandoned and sent to live with her grandmother until her early teenage years, Maya was astounded that she would have to live with her “movie-star” mother. Maya just could not get used to Vivian Baxter; she was so different than her grandmother. It would take years before Maya would call her mother Mom, frequently referring to her as Lady or Mother. Also, though Maya asked for advice from her mother, she took no charity and moved out to live on her own as soon as she was able.

But thanks to her mother’s guidance, Maya led an extraordinary life, raising her son and working so many unique and varying jobs that took her all over the world.

This novel was incredible! Maya Angelou is such an inspiration, with what she made of her life, despite some of the situations she was dealt. My favorite part of the book was how easy to read it was, even when dealing with tough topics. Maya Angelou told it as it was, with a level of grace that was amazing.

I heard about this autobiography through Our Shared Shelf on Goodreads. Emma Watson, in tandem with her work for UN Women, created Our Shared Shelf to promote feminism and equality. Their current recommended novel is The Handmaid’s Tale, which I can’t wait to read next!

– Leila S., 11th grade

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.