The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

12-year-old Julia wakes up one seemingly normal Saturday morning to find that the Earth’s rotation has begun to slow. As the days stretch longer and longer; gravity has been altered, birds’ behavior has oddly changed, and human behavior has shifted. Julia’s world has been shaken up in itself—the gap between her parents has begun to widen, and she has noticed strange behavior in her friends.

As the entire globe experiences an unexpected catastrophe like nothing they’ve ever known, Julia navigates shakily through her conflicted family relationships, weakened friendships, curious first love, and emotional isolation from the world around her. She struggles to understand the changes taking place at a large scale, to the Earth; and at a smaller scale, to her life and the relationships within.

I thought The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker was all in all a beautiful, magical, enchanting story. A majority of this novel’s scenes did capture me in their gorgeously crafted moments. However, the story was mostly anticlimactic, with many obvious foreshadowings that led up to no major event at all. The ending was also extremely disappointing and slightly confusing, and I didn’t enjoy it since there was no satisfaction.

Nonetheless, if you are seeking a thought-provoking read to simply contemplate life and how temporary it is, The Age of Miracles is the book for you.

“It’s never the disasters you see coming that finally come to pass—it’s the ones you don’t expect at all.”

-Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles

-Lam T.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen

My Mom found this book in a book shop a little while ago. I had just finished reading the False Prince that was also by Jennifer A. Nielsen and I had been looking for another book in the same series. Since I enjoyed the False Prince, my Mom had given me this book and I had decided to read it. 

In The Scourge, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Ani Mells has gotten herself in trouble and is encountering a series of problems. Ani is a River Person who is less better off than what their people would call, the “pinch worms”. Ani seems to have caught the Scourge; the sickness that has spread across the country of Keldan. It is highly contagious and supposedly incurable. Ani is sent to the Colony, where all the Scourge victims are put and to be left for their demise. Weevil, Ani’s best friend, and Della, a pinch worm, are all on the Colony together. During her time on the island, Ani finds something suspicious going on on the island, and she plans to get to the end of it and make everything better. 

This book was wonderful. At first, I was reminded of COVID since a big part of the plot was about a virus that was hard to cure. The farther I read, however, I realized that that wasn’t the case. The story had a huge twist at the end of the book that had a great build up. And throughout the story, there were more surprising events. They were definitely unexpected to me. There was great character development; especially from Ani. Ani’s confidence levels grew, and so did her leadership. But all characters had character development. Even the smallest of side characters had character development. 

I believe that this book was the second Jennifer Nielsen book I’ve read and it definitely didn’t disappoint me. It’s an enjoyable book that isn’t super long, so you can finish it quickly. I would definitely recommend this book to other readers.

-Nicole R. 

The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Brotherband Chronicles Book 1: The Outcasts by John Flanagan

The first book of the Brotherband Chronicles The Outcasts by John Flanagan, is a 434-page book set in the same world as the Ranger’s Apprentice. The book follows Hal and his crew of outcasts a group of Skandians. As Skandians are usually big and strong and Hal and his are not set aside and with nobody wanting to be with them they are outcasts from everyone else. The group of outcasts form the team the Herons. Using their skills they fight against the other teams at sea, As they fight other teams to win glory and a chance to prove themselves.

The story introduces many new terms about boats and sailing for those who are not familiar and it might take some time to get used to some of the new words and remember what they mean. However it does not take away from the book but helps it as it uses accurate sailing terms. The book is great for those who love reading the underdogs who use their skills and smarts to win when they are not expected to. Its set in the same world as the Ranger’s Apprentice and has some connections so any fans of that series should read this book as well.

Overall the book has a good storyline and sets the foundation for the sequels that come after it. The book has lots of background helping readers understand character’s motives, and is well written. With tales of friendships, smarts, action its book many can enjoy.

-Luke G.

Brotherband Chronicles Book 1: The Outcasts by John Flanagan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Beautiful World, Where Are You has quickly shot up to the top of my favorite novels list. Sally Rooney’s unique style of writing gives the novel an almost intensely somber aura. The book follows two young women: Alice, a novelist, and her best friend Eileen. Alice meets a man named Felix, and invites him to travel with her to Rome. Meanwhile, Eileen, recovering from a breakup, reawakens a flirtation with a childhood friend, Simon. 

Sally Rooney’s way of making her characters realistic and flawed is impressive. They aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, they don’t say things they should, and they say things they shouldn’t. Beautiful World, Where Are You is almost plotless, a narration of daily life, relationships, falling in and out of love, and intimacy. Alice being a writer also holds a deeper meaning: while critics may believe that novels should have more profound ideology than relationships, Rooney shows the value of reading about relationships, but manages to also talk about class and modernism.

Alice and Eileen’s long correspondence to each other, with their perspectives on all aspects of life and notes on humanity, is a main highlight in the book. I strongly recommend Beautiful World, Where Are You for those who enjoy novels about navigating personal relationships while going through the hardships of life.

-Kelsie W.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Set in New Hampshire during World War II, A Separate Peace by John Knowles tells the story of Gene and his best friend Finny and their lives during this extremely difficult time in history. The novel begins with Gene returning to Devon boarding school after fifteen years and continues as he recounts his time at Devon. 

Gene and Finny are roommates at Devon boarding school. Gene is quiet, introverted, and focuses on his schoolwork and studies. Finny is the complete opposite. Finny is extroverted, adventurous, and carefree. The book is not plot driven, but instead it is about the relationship between Gene and Finny. 

What I really enjoyed about his novel was the characters. The characters are some of the most well-developed and interesting characters I have ever read about. I really enjoyed the interactions between the various characters and how different they are from each other. All the characters have their own individual personality and were developed very well. 

Throughout the book you could start to see the effect of the war on each character and how they all react in different ways. Some of the characters enlist in the military to fight in the war, while others completely deny the existence of the war. Gene and Finny and their friends are a lot like all of us today.  We all choose what to focus on in life and do something about, and some choose to turn the other way and pretend things don’t exist. 

Another thing I enjoyed about this book is the symbolism and foreshadowing in the book. Right from the beginning of the book Gene states that something bad happens during his time at Devon and where it happens, but then we don’t actually find out what happened until much later when it happens in a flashback. It is a unique way of telling a story that keeps the reader interested in what may be coming next.

I would recommend this book to anyone in middle school through high school as I believe they would be able to genuinely relate to the characters in many ways. Adults may also find the details of the relationships that transpire during a tumultuous time in history an interesting read.

-Brandon G.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

In a city near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, lives a twelve-year-old girl named Charlotte. Over a thousand miles away, in the small town of Lanester, Louisiana, lives an eleven-year-old boy named Ben.

Charlotte’s and Ben’s lives intersect through only an online Scrabble game. At first glance, they seem drastically different—Charlotte possesses a rock collection and aspires to be a geologist, while Ben loves anything related to presidential history, recycling, and Harry Potter.

Yet somehow, as the story escalates, Charlotte’s and Ben’s lives begin to tie together in completely unexpected ways. Throughout their journeys, similarities between the two rise to visibility. Charlotte and Ben learn more about each other, and even more consequentially, themselves, as they figure out the obstacles and challenges thrown into their lives.

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly is a truly touching, inspiring, and reflective novel. The parallels drawn between the two main characters’ lives are skillfully crafted, and it is even more so when it is considered how different they really are. You Go First truly impressed me, and I’m sure I’ll be rereading this story countless more times, as readers may if they decide to give this one a try.

I would definitely recommend You Go First, especially for younger teenage readers. I absolutely fell in love with this book, and I’m sure you will too! Hopefully, you will enjoy this tale spun of friendship and family, humor and grief, growing up and breaking down, and finding one’s true identity. Happy reading!

-Lam T.

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Charlotte’s Web is a children’s novel by E.B. White.  The story revolves around a lonely pig named Wilbur.  Wilbur lives in a barn owned by a farmer named Mr. Zuckerman.  Wilbur feels ostracized by the other farm animals, until one night when he is befriended by an unexpected stranger in the dark.  The friendly animal turns out to be a spider named Charlotte, who lives in a big web stretched across the upper part of the doorway to the barn.  When Wilbur learns that the farmer intends to kill him, Charlotte promises to find a way to save Wilbur’s life.

This book is very heartwarming.  I enjoyed reading about the development of the friendship between Wilbur and Charlotte.  The supporting characters are also quite memorable.  One character that I especially enjoyed was Templeton.  Templeton is a rat who will not do anything unless there is something in it for him.  Despite his faults, I found his personality to be amusing.

While this book is intended for children, I would recommend it to anyone.  The story is heartrending but beautiful.  Most of the characters are just farm animals, yet somehow the story is quite poignant and impactful.  This book is a quick read, but for me it generated surprisingly bittersweet feelings that make it hard to forget.

-Oliver H.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B White is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Have you ever felt like one of your friends had another side? Have you ever had a friend who you thought was a good student, kind, caring, and honest, but they shocked you out of your shoes by their behavior? If you answered yes to one or both of those questions, you will definitely find Bryan’s story relatable. Bryan was always told by his mother, “Focus on school. There will be friends later. The wrong friends bring drama, and I don’t want them rubbing off on you.” Then, one day, a kid named Mike showed up at Bryan and his family’s home, and everyone in his family was very fond of Mike.

That annoyed Bryan, until one day, Mike came for dinner and Bryan and Mike became really close after reading their superhero comics together. His mother and father loved Mike because of his good grades and they felt that he would be a good friend for Bryan. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Mike would do crazy things like cutting school by faking his mom’s handwriting and excusing himself from school and Bryan started to notice that Mike was jealous of him under the fake smiles that masked Mike’s face. Bryan felt pressured by Mike because he was afraid that Mike would call him soft or a mommy’s boy. Mike kept on getting Bryan in trouble, and Bryan learned that Mike was not the best friend choice for him. He started to become friends with people closer to his personality like Big Will. 

This book was so interesting and exciting that I couldn’t put it down and I finished it in one day. As I turned the pages, I was curious to see what would come next. As each minute ticked by, I fell more and more into this book. It really fed my passion for reading!  I think this book really shows that you should be careful with the people you become friends with because they can be very good, nice friends, but they can also get you in trouble like Mike did to Bryan in this novel. 

I really recommend this book to anyone who needs a good book to read because this novel will not disappoint. I rate this book a 10 out of 10 and this is definitely one of my favorite books that I have read recently.

-Mert A.

Tight by Torrey Maldonado is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

On a day which did not seem particularly special at first, something extraordinarily special happened to occur—but none knew it until later on. In a thrift shop on the outskirts of town, Carmen Lowell stumbled upon a seemingly ordinary pair of pants and decided to buy them. When she got home, she tossed them in her closet and forgot about them.

Later on, Carmen and her best friends, Lena, Tibby, and Bridget, get together before spending their first summer apart. They discover the forgotten pants and each takes a turn in trying them on. Though the girls have very different body shapes, the pants fit them all in quite a magical way.

The pants are christened the Traveling Pants, and the girls decide that they will share the Pants throughout the summer to stay in touch. The Pants pass from Lena, in Santorini, Greece; to Tibby, stuck at home; to Carmen, in South Carolina with her divorced father; to Bridget, at a soccer camp in Baja California.

Throughout the four girls’ exciting adventures and incredible experiences, the Pants crisscross the globe, witnessing it all. This is the story of four girls and their first summer apart as a pair of magical pants comes into their lives.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares is an unpredictable novel which takes readers into the lives of four girls and their issues and triumphs. This book was one I absolutely loved—I couldn’t even put the book down until I’d finished, and afterward, I thought about it for a long time. Venturing into the stories of the relatable characters, readers will follow them through their ups and downs with excitement and anticipation. I promise you, after reading about the Sisterhood, you will never forget about Lena, Tibby, Bridget, and Carmen and what they represent.

“Bridget called for a moment of silence. ‘To honor the Pants,’ she said.

‘And the Sisterhood,’ Lena added.

Carmen felt tiny bumps rising along her arms. ‘ And this moment. And this summer. And the rest of our lives.’

‘Together and apart,’ Tibby finished.”

-Ann Brashares, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

-Lam T.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

We All Looked Up is probably one of the books that I’ve read the most during quarantine. “we all looked up” tells the story of the entire world having two months- two months to live, two months until the asteroid would inevitably collide with Earth. We All Looked Up follows four main people, Peter, Eliza, Andy, and Anita. Peter, the stereotyped jock, wants to become a better person and make an impact. Eliza, the typical shunned rebel, finds companionship in others, one being Andy, a person who’s only passion seems to be music. Finally, Anita, who’s parents put immense pressure on her to be the best, finds peace in singing.

I enjoyed We All Looked Up because it felt real and not sugar coated. We All Looked Up covered many topics, such as suicide, but also didn’t have to have a miracle ending to be a good and entertaining read. We All Looked Up feels raw, capturing the emotions that are experienced during intermediate/high school, the fear of growing up, the drama that can happen, and the fear of the unknown. I highly recommend We All Looked Up to those who enjoy realistic fiction and young adult novels.

-Kelsie W.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.