It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

itskindofafunnystory_nedvizziniIt’s always tragic when one takes their own life. Ned Vizzini, the author of this highly acclaimed novel, did so at age 32. His death lends so much more meaning to this book about a 15-year-old battling depression and suicidal thoughts. In the story, teen Craig Gilner has absolutely nothing to complain about in life. He’s got a good, loving family, great friends, and goes to one of the hardest to get into schools in Manhattan. Which is why he can’t figure out why he’s so depressed. He can’t eat, he can’t sleep, and every day is another waking nightmare. So finally, he decides he’s going to do something about it and kill himself. But Craig isn’t an idiot, he realizes something is very wrong with him. He calls the suicide hotline and checks himself into a hospital, where he is sent to the mental ward. While there, he learns about the truths behind the other patients, and more about himself than he’d ever known. Written in a tone of humor mixed with tragedy, this incredible story brilliantly illustrates how severe depression really is, and how to try to beat it.

You feel as if you know Craig personally, and are constantly rooting for him. This is because he talks to the reader casually, as he would a close friend, making him all the more relatable. When I read this book the first time through, I had unfortunately skipped the forward and didn’t find out that the author had actually killed himself until someone I had recommended it to told me. This was devastating, as I grew so close to the main character (who was based very closely on the author). This story is incredible, not only because of how well-written it is and how relatable the characters are, but because shortly before writing this book, Ned Vizzini, himself, was admitted into a mental hospital for suicidal thoughts and wrote It’s Kind of a Funny Story based on his real-life experiences there. This is a book that should be read by everyone, old and young, depressed and not, because people need to wake up and seriously look at this issue. I would, however, keep this book out of the hands of children twelve and under. As many of my friends struggle with depression, this book really helped me to understand. Highly recommend!

Evan G., 8th Grade

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

wonder_rjpalacioI recently finished the novel Wonder by R. J. Palacio. I had seen good reviews about this book and its ability to connect with readers from a wide age group. After reading the story for myself, I found a novel that was personable and heartfelt, teeming with life lessons. The book is about a 5th grader named August Pullman who was born with a facial deformity. It’s told from the perspective of various characters in the story, explaining how their lives are affected by August. August has been homeschooled his entire life, up until the 5th grade, when his mom urges him to attend a local elementary school. Apprehensively, August complies, and is hit with the expected reactions: stares, whispers, and giggles from his fellow classmates. Naturally, I began to develop a dislike for those characters who hurt August, and excluded him just because he looked different. I’d often ask myself how characters could be so cruel, how strangers could openly gawk at him with no shame. Unfortunately, the answer was simple; people are curious and often afraid of what’s different.

This novel really makes the reader inquire on what it means to be different. August dawns the same playful and curious personality of a 5th grader, just with an alternative appearance. One of my favorite quotes from the novel was “The only reason I’m not ordinary is because no one else sees me that way.” This line captures the essence of the entire story, reminding the reader that normality is simply an idea in one’s head. Differences are a thing to be celebrated; they make the world a colorful, interesting  place. However, problems arose when characters in Wonder couldn’t just see August as a human being, similar to themselves. Flowers come in a multitude of colors, lengths, and locations, but they’re still flowers. August’s face does not fit the typical standard, but it doesn’t make him less of a person. August Pullman is different; one look and anyone could see. Nonetheless, at the end of the novel, students and parents came to realize that August Pullman is not lost cause, a sad story. Just because he dawns his differences on his face, it doesn’t make him any more unusual than the next person. I recommend this novel to anyone and everyone; it’s a well-written reminder that variety really is the spice of life.

-Diana P.

Wonder is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download on Overdrive

 

 

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

sunalsorises_hemingwayDescribed as “the quintessential novel of the Lost Generation,” The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway’s first masterpieces that established him as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Set in Paris in the 1920s, the novel explores the disillusionment and anxiety of the “lost” post-World War I generation. The story follows the unfortunate Jake Barnes, the ostentatious Lady Brett Ashley, and a disenchanted group of American and British expatriates on their journey to rediscover their purposes in life. From parties in Paris, to a fishing expedition, the group eventually finds themselves in Pamplona, Spain during a wild fiesta and bull-fight. The group’s encounters throughout the novel perfectly reflects the Lost Generation’s moral conflicts, spiritual disenchantment, unrealized love, and most of all, the tragedy of lost hope and dreams.

The Sun Also Rises was my first Hemingway book, so my expectations were quite high, especially because Hemingway is widely known as a literary genius. Upon first look, I personally felt that the novel was quite uninteresting. The characters seem to do nothing but drink and quarrel constantly. Although the writing is simple and very easy to understand, there is no plot and no climax. Although the group does journey outside of Paris and explores Spain, they ultimately end up exactly where they are when the book starts, stuck in Paris and wondering when love and adventure will find them. However, upon closer examination, I realized that this was Hemingway’s sole purpose, to portray the hopelessness and despair of the Lost Generation, men and women who served heroically in the war and returned only to find that they no longer had a purpose in life. Just as the title implies, the sun rises every day, and the novel’s characters repeat the same routine of drinking and partying and wandering aimlessly every day.

In retrospect, while the writing could tend to be lackluster in some parts, the book was quite enjoyable, and I can now appreciate the genius that Hemingway was behind the novel. He flawlessly depicts the Lost Generation and evokes the same feeling of confusion and aimlessness that the people during the post-World War I age experienced through his words, truly making The Sun Also Rises a literary masterpiece that should be experienced by everyone.

-Kaylie W.

The Sun Also Rises is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

harrypotter1_jkrowlingHarry Potter is an eleven year old boy, but not an ordinary one. Certainly not ordinary. He is a wizard. But he never knew this for eleven whole years.

Harry Potter is a boy who learns on his eleventh birthday that he is the orphaned son of two powerful wizards and possesses unique magical powers of his own through hundreds of mysterious letters. He is summoned from his life as an unwanted child to become a student at Hogwarts, an English boarding school for wizards. There, he meets several friends, Ron and Hermione, who become his closest allies and help him discover the truth about his parents’ mysterious deaths: That they were killed by the Darkest wizard of all time, Voldemort.

Voldemort was such a powerful Dark wizard, that many feared to speak his name. He was know by common witches and wizards by “You-Know-Who.” Voldemort was part of Harry’s mysterious past, of why he was left on the doorstep of his mother’s sister’s house, eleven years ago. Harry’s mother and father, James and Lily Potter, were both of magical blood. Voldemort tried to kill Harry and his family one night at Godric’s Hollow, but failed to do so. Harry’s parents died tragically trying to save him, but Harry Potter lived on with only a lightning scar on his forehead to resemble his horrible past connected to Voldemort.

So this was why Harry Potter was brought to where his aunt, the Dursleys, lived, at the age of one year old. And he lived there for eleven years, not know he was famous, not knowing that Voldemort had tried to destroy him, not knowing he had broken the powers of one of the most powerful Dark wizards of all time. The young wizard lived with the Dursleys, where he was treated like a slave. But one day Hogwarts wrote to him, and off he went to the magical school, where he and his scar were famous.

At the magical school, Harry meets Ron, a good-natured, red-haired wizard, and Hermione, a bossy know-it-all witch at Hogwarts. Overtime, they become good friends. Harry found Hogwarts very exciting, what with all of his classes, perhaps except for Professor Snape’s class, which was Potions. He has never flown on a broomstick, played Quidditch, the popular sport in the magical world, or worn a cloak of Invisibility.

But not that his whole year at Hogwarts was fun. At the end of term, who other does he come face-to-face than Voldemort, his arch-nemesis. Harry barely manages to escape, but in the end he does, by using his wit and courage.

And there goes the story of a brave wizard, where he is remembered as the true hero at Hogwarts. However, he has to spend his summer with the Dursleys, which he is definitely not looking forward to. Oh, well. He can’t wait for his second year at Hogwarts, where he knows there will be more adventures to come.

I really liked this book, because it was really unique. Harry Potter’s adventures, Quidditch, everything, was so original. My favorite part of this book was when Harry, Ron, and Hermione went through a secret trapdoor to defeat Voldemort once and for all. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves thrillers and adventure! I know I certainly enjoyed the book!

-Katharine L.

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone is available to checkout in multiple formats from the Mission Viejo Library and online through Overdrive

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

Harmony House by Nic Sheff

harmonyhouse_nicsheffThis horror story takes place in a old manor in New Jersey. Jen Noonan and her father move to a quiet town to enjoy a fresh start after an unfortunate incident with Jen’s mother. At first, the move didn’t seem so terrible. Jen meets new friends and finds her place among the people. But as her stay at Harmony House continued, it becomes clear that anyone that stepped foot in the house was no longer safe.

The house holds dark secrets which are slowly revealed to Jen in visions and dreams beyond her control. These flashes into the past help her put together the history of the manor and discover how she is connected to it. Towards the beginning, Jen’s father is introduced as a believer of God, and as the story continues he acts in a way that even the main character fights against because it is absolutely ridiculous.

As annoying and extreme as his personality may be, it is crucial to the development of the story, so I painfully endured the character because I was interested to see where it would lead. The book was very well thought out and is a captivating read. I, personally, would not choose to read it again because when I pick up a horror story I expect to be scared and Harmony House didn’t do that for me. However, I would still recommend this story to a mature audience that enjoys this genre.

-Sabrina C., 11th Grade

Harmony House is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Gospel According to Larry

worldaccordingtolarry_janettashjianThe Gospel According to Larry is a novel about a teenage boy who wants to change the world. He creates a blog on which he shares his views of the world. His fan base calls his blog posts “sermons” and say he preaches to them. In reality, his name is Josh Swenson and his ideals are spread all over the Internet until he becomes famous all over the country.

Keeping his identity a secret, Josh continues to “preach” about the problems of the world while offering helpful solutions to bloggers. Going about his life, he spends his time with his friend, Beth, and he often directs his posts around her life so that she seems to really connect with “Larry”. In addition to preaching, he lets people guess who he is by posting pictures of his possessions on the blog. Josh only owns 75 possessions, and he states this as he posts each picture.

After a few months, a fan discovers his identity and releases it to the world. Becoming famous in a few days after, Josh is now swarmed with the press; unknowingly pushing away his friends. Unable to live like this anymore, he fakes his own death and moves away. This book was actually quite good. Normally I wouldn’t read anything other than Harry Potter; however, this book not only was enjoyable but it also opened my eyes to many problems in the world discussed in “Larry’s” sermons. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading. It wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but it was a nice change from all the wizards and dragons!

-Kyle H.

The Gospel According to Larry is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library