And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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If  A Thousand Splendid Suns shows how the situation of Afghanistan affects women and Kite Runner shows how the situation of Afghanistan affects children, then the more recent book by Khaled Hosseini shows how the situation of Afghanistan affects families. The story moves from a boy who gets separated from his sister and moves from person to person as the story of the boy and his sister continues until the sister is able to meet him again around fifty or sixty years later. However, the stories do not  focus on just this narrative, but also others that show how life affects ourselves- a man who meets another man in love with him, the daughter who does not realize how “good” her life is, a man who meets and becomes friends with a girl whose life was ruined. As we travel from not only Afghanistan and the United States, but also Paris and Greece, we see how lives around the world affect each other.

I usually love novels by Khaled Hosseini; after all, I really did love A Thousand Splendid Suns. However, I will admit that this was not his best novel. Does this mean that it was a terrible novel? No way! Jumping narratives may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if it wasn’t for the fact that the characters knew each other, most of the chapters seem like stand alone ones. However, I do not like the fact that most of the chapters are stand alone, as some of them do not seem to have any kind of resolution. However, they do teach very important lessons that anyone can learn, such as being considerate of others, as everyone has a story.

Despite not being as good – in my opinion- as his other two novels, I would definitely recommend reading this book.

-Megan V

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is available at the Mission Viejo Library.

 

The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck

Image result for the wayward busThis book is another one by my favorite author John Steinbeck. It’s about a bus driver named Juan Chicoy who has a wife that he sometimes loves and sometimes pranks her. I must be feeling dreadfully lonely if I have such a profound and deep husband like him. His apprentice Pimples and his best comrade “Sweetheart” (the bus) are always with him just like shadows.

In my perspective, it would be my pleasure to meet such an intelligent couple like Elliot Pritchard and his wife. I can’t imagine what to feel like as a man meeting their erudite but voluptuous daughter Mildred. Sometimes I really wish that I am as inventive and funny as Ernest Horton. Unlike Mr.Pritchard, Ernest Horton is not very complacent and lonely. He always has friends. He was my role model.

Every girl wants to be like Camille Oaks but also doesn’t want to be like her. She has an angelic face that every man would be willing to be a devil for her. But her jobs require using her beauty to earn money. Camille seems to be like an older sister to Norma, a counter girl at Alice Chicoy’s restaurant. I see my sister’s shadow when Camille comforts Norma.

-April L.

The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

There are the people who drive fast in a residential area, even when signs directly forbid it. There are the new families moving in, one of whom backs up his trailer into Ove’s mailbox. There is a starving cat that won’t leave.

In his old age, Ove is lonely and just wants to be left alone to die in peace. But no one will leave the stingy, Saab-driving man alone.

Throughout the course of the novel, Ove has a profound influence on his neighbors and his resident’s association. And those in his neighborhood prove to Ove that the world is just not done with him quite yet. Ove teaches his neighbors, and the readers, that one person can have an outstanding impact on the lives of others.

A Man Called Ove is incredibly deep. The book is more of an adult novel than what I am used to reading, but the story is so real and down to earth that I would recommend it to anyone. My favorite part was seeing Ove secretly change, though he continued to refute that fact to the rest of the world. Behind his guarded attitude is a heart-wrenching story that the neighbors take years to discover, but when they do, it is extremely touching. If you’ve never read this book, please do. It’s definitely worth your time.

– Leila S., 12th grade

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive and Hoopla

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

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We all love choices. Okay, sometimes we don’t because we can’t decide. But here is a choice that would get you thinking: Say you have a red button in front of you. Pressing it will save the world from a catastrophe. Not pressing it will destroy the world. Would you press it? I know I would, for the reason that I don’t want anyone to die, along with various other reasons that I could share with numerous other people.

Henry Denton would not press that button because he doesn’t believe the world should be saved. His brother got his girlfriend pregnant and dropped out of college. His grandma is getting worse with Alzheimer’s by the day, saying that Henry is dead. His mother is wasting away on weed. He is in a….questionable relationship with his bully. His boyfriend Jared, the boy who brought light into his life, committed suicide without any sign that he was depressed. He hasn’t been in contact with his old friend Audrey in over a year. Worst yet, school used to be fun, but instead of names like “f*g” that he would be okay with being called, he is called “space boy”, since he has been captured and probed by aliens, with no one believing him.

And these aliens, after probing him (not in the butt though), gave him a choice: press the red button, or let the world be destroyed. He is given 144 days to make the choice. And that’s when he meets Diego, a transfer student who is full of secrets, such as why he came to his first day of class and claimed he was a nude model.

To warn younger readers, this book is more on the mature side, as the main character is seriously depressed, among other more trigger themes.

When I first picked up this book, I had no idea what I was getting into. I wanted to read another book by Hutchinson, since I read The Deathday Letter (Another great book), and I was blown away, not wanting to put down the book until the end. It made me cry, and nothing makes me cry. I was deeply motivated by how the way Henry describes his life, making it interesting and dark at the same time, such as calling humans “ants” because there are 7 billion lives in the world, and every one of them is insignificant. Best yet, his way of describing things is very informal, such as calling the aliens “sluggers”, which makes the book almost as good as books like To Kill a Mockingbird, but set within the 21st century.

Additionally, Henry is not your typical protagonist. He is gay, which is something rare in any character. He is okay with telling people this, which is even rarer. While most people believe in justice, he believes in destruction.

Finally, without revealing too much of the book, I want to share the part I found interesting: After every couple of chapters, Hutchinson puts in what he thinks is going to be the apocalypse from a meteor to my favorite, virtual reality. And as time goes on and Henry starts to question if he should press the button, the theories get sillier. I feel that this greatly reflects how Henry feels about life in general, as he goes from wanting to know how the world is destroyed to not caring at all.

Once again, I really recommend this book if you are looking for something new and interesting to read.

– Megan V, 11th grade

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

wearetheants_shaundavidhutchinsonIf you knew the world was going to end, but you had the power to stop it, would you?

For Henry Denton, this is not such an easy question. The aliens who regularly abduct Henry, referred to as sluggers, gave him this choice. Henry does not think living is worth it: his father left when he was young, his mother lives a terrible life, his grandmother has Alzheimer’s, his older brother quit school, his best friend committed suicide, he has a secret but abusive relationship, and he is regularly mocked for being “Space Boy.” There seems to be no end to his troubles. Wouldn’t everyone just be better off if they were all wiped off the face of the earth? No one would have to suffer, his grandmother’s life would not have to fall apart before her eyes, his soon-to-be niece would not have to grow up in such a terrible world.

We Are the Ants follows Henry as he discovers how to live in this world, which turns out not to be as bad as he thought. People surprise Henry. People encourage him. People help him find closure. They help Henry decide whether or not to push the button to save the world.

What I thought would be a science fiction book about a boy abducted by aliens was definitely not what I ended up reading. This book comments on how terrible life can get but how perfect the little things can seem. My favorite part was the relationship between Henry and his grandmother, who frequently forgets Henry’s name. I loved seeing how Henry transformed throughout the novel to the point that he gave the perfect gift of memory to his grandmother. This novel is a bit strong for younger teens, but reading it certainly alters one’s perspective on life, so I would definitely recommend it.

– Leila S.

We Are The Ants is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive