My Favorite Fictional Characters!

Sodapop Curtis from The Outsiders: After I finished reading the book (The Outsiders), I was absolutely obsessed with it! I loved all the characters very much, but Soda is, by far, my favorite. He’s kind, funny, friendly, and most importantly, he’s a good brother. He protects and stands up for Ponyboy, and does everything he can to help Darry to pay the bills.

Fred Weasley from Harry Potter: (*Spoilers!) Don’t ask me why it’s Fred and not George cause I have no idea why. I do love George too, but for some reason, while I was reading the series for the first time, I decided that Fred was my favorite character. Mind you, I had decided this before I had finished the series, so I was completely heartbroken when he died in the seventh book, as I’m sure everyone was. I just love the twin’s constant bantering and jokes. Despite the fact that I’ve read the series a million times, they never fail to make me laugh.

Percy Jackson from Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus: I think it’s safe to say that this is the only series wherein my favorite character is the main character! I love Percy so much! In a way, I grew up with him as I read the books, and I think that really helped me grow to love him even more. Percy is so endearingly humorous, likable, and just… a fun guy! Even though he’s a very powerful demigod and his father is Poseidon, he acts, for the most part, like a normal teenaged guy.

Newt from The Maze Runner: (*Spoilers!) A Glader, and second-in-command to Alby, Newt is kind yet firm, and grows to be a good and loyal friend to Thomas. Perhaps not as fiery as Minho, Newt brings a more leveled personality to the story and is a very prominent character whom I grew to love and care about while reading the series. I was devastated when Janson (a.k.a. the Rat Man) read out the list of munies and Newt was not on it. It was very sad to see him lose his sanity, but I think he did contribute a lot to the team, and was sorely missed.

Azriel from A Court of Thorns and Roses: Quiet, dark, brooding, and mysterious, he doesn’t talk much, but when he does speak up, everyone pays attention because they know that whatever he has to say is important and significant. He’s an Illyrian warrior! Skilled in combat, he would make a deadly enemy. But he also has a sweet and gentle side. He’s very caring and respectful and enjoys having a laugh with his brother, Cassian, once in a while.

-Elina T.

Book Review: The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

eye_of_mindsThere is reality and there is virtual reality.  In the real world, life is dull and boring for high schooler, Michael.  Virtual reality, however, is the excitement of life times a million, you can do anything…be anything…and the more rules you break, the more fun it is.  The bad part of this virtual world is that a gamer named Kaine has found a way to trap people in the VirtNet and the authorities know that he has to be stopped.  That’s where Michael comes in.  In order to stop Kaine, Michael and his two best friends that he met inside the VirtNet must go on a wild journey through the internet and hope that they will make it home alive.

James Dashner seems to enjoy killing off his characters in gruesome ways.  In the Maze Runner series, people die from a sickness that kills their brain and in this series people’s minds die in the virtual world but not their bodies.  This completely original novel has bizarre, gory and disturbing twists and turns which kept my attention but made me lose my appetite, literally.

I hesitantly recommend this book to teenagers.  You may want to read the Maze Runner series first so that you will be prepared for his brilliant writing style and gore.  If you’ve already read it, then you understand exactly what I’m talking about.

-Evan G., 6th grade

Genre Introduction: Dystopia

Dystopian stories have become pretty popular recently. There are, of course, the well-known Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies, but there are plenty of other messed-up futuristic worlds to explore. Dystopia worlds usually have the government trying to create a “perfect place,” that results in something far worse than today’s standards. Within different social/political structures, heroes face odds to change their world. There’s often some side romance as well. If you haven’t already started into this genre, here are some different types:

legend_coverLegend by Marie Lu focuses on class struggle.

Welcome to a world filled with plague. A plague, for some reason, only affects the poor people. When Day, the Republic’s most wanted criminal, finds his family has been infected, he’ll do whatever it takes to find a cure. After a break-in at the hospital, Day is the in the prime suspect for the murder of  a commanding officer, June’s brother.

June is the Republic’s prodigy, with perfect academic scores, but is constantly in trouble, for things like scaling a building when she wasn’t supposed to. June swears revenge on her brother’s killer, only to find that the Republic has been lying to everyone the entire time.

maze_runner_coverThe Maze Runner by James Dashner targets post-apocalyptic aftermath methods of recovery.

Thomas arrives in an elevator. Everything is dark, and the only thing he can remember is his name. His destination is the Glade, consisting of only teenage boys, surrounded by an impossible constantly changing maze. Every month a new boy arrives and everyone goes along with life, as they have done for the last couple years. But everything changes when, just one day after Thomas, a girl arrives with a mysterious message. The Glade is no longer a safe place. And if they want to escape, Thomas had better start running.

unwindUnwind by Neal Shusterman asks what it means to be alive.

There are too many teenagers in the future. The solution is not to kill them; instead, the rebellious generation simply lives in a “divided state” with every part of their body still alive, but not making up them anymore. Connor is turned in by his parents rebellious behavior. Risa is an orphan the state can no longer afford, since she has reached her musical potential. Lev is a sacrifice, knowing since birth he was going to be unwound for religious reasons. Fate brings these unlikely teenagers together and keeps them on the run because what will happen if they are caught might be even worse than death.

There are plenty other types of dystopias, not to mention the ones I’ve named have multiple meanings and interpretations. That’s the cool thing about dystopias– you can see, from an author’s perspective, how the world might change for the worst. It just makes me that much more grateful it’s only a story.

-Nicole G., 11th grade

Book vs. Movie: The Maze Runner

maze_runner_bookvmovieFrom the very beginning, I could tell the movie was changing things.

The Box where Thomas arrives has a random caged animal never explained in the movie with Thomas. Then Thomas runs off for no apparent reason, and tries to escape the very first night.

Chuck has a smaller role, I felt. His storyline is still there, but Alby decided to give Thomas the tour in the movie version. Chuck basically solved the end puzzle in the book, although to his credit, Chuck in the movie saved the device thing from falling. Minho is also introduced early on as a key character. Gally is still a jerk to Thomas, but it feels more forced without the background of the griever sting memories. Which brings me to my next point.

The background of the glade was also a bit off from the book. Gladers had fewer deliveries, less knowledge of grievers (no one alive to tell the tale), and no cliff for the griever hole. The book basically left Gladers with puzzles that required the final push with Thomas and Teresa to put the pieces together. The movie, however, decided to flesh out the puzzles (maze spelling words and special place the grievers go) to encompass more action scenes with the maze.

One of the most action packed scenes in the book, besides the ending, was when Thomas spent the night in the maze. There was still a chase sequence in the movie, but cleverly tricking the grievers off a cliff with the combined teamwork of Minho was replaced with crushing with a wall (there are a lot of close wall squeezes in the movie). It started with this whole griever tracking device to a long hallway that screams the perfect place for an attack.

The part that always stuck with me from the book was Teresa’s ability to communicate telepathically in her coma and give Thomas some info. The movie introduced her later in the plot and took out the telepathy, coma, and info. She’s still a pretty tough girl. A really great scene was when she was on the top of a tree-house building throwing things at the Gladers. Chuck said something along the lines of “Girls are awesome.”

The movie focused mainly on the maze. Griever attacks were more intense, without taking everyone down one by one idea from the book. I guess WCKD didn’t care about their variables anymore. Best part of the movie was definitely the maze scenes, although my favorite moment was when they found this green exit sign above a door. It was just perfect comedic timing.

The action scenes were intense and fast paced. It felt more dramatic than the book, but it worked. Despite all this– not a bad adaptation, and can easily lead to the sequels. Wish there was more Glader slang than colloquial, though. So if you want more action, check out the movie. If you want to understand what’s going on with this strange world, I suggest reading the book first.

-Nicole G., 11th grade

Book Review: The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

maze_runner_coverIn celebration of the upcoming movie adaption of this exciting novel, I thought I would review the first book in this trilogy.

This dsytopian adventure is full of mystery and suspense, set in a chilling sort of “captivity” where young boys (and boys only) live in the middle of a dangerous maze that no one’s escaped or survived. The protagonist, Thomas arrives one day in “The Box” with no memory of anything and is immediately puzzled and disturbed by this place.

The boys live a puzzling life of trying to survive and attempting to make it out of the maze, with no idea of anything at all or who they are. The maze, which several of the boys try to brave but never make it out alive, holds terrifying creatures called Grievers.

One day, the disturbing cycle of everyday life is interrupted by the shocking arrival of- a girl. She brings a strange cryptic message before passing out. With her arrival, everything is shaken up. What happens then… you’ll have to read the book to find out.

This novel, although a bit slow at times, was a generally thrilling book that will keep you on the edge of your seat with a thousand questions running through your mind. Unfortunately, these questions are barely or not even answered in the first book, but the second and third ones do address them, and let me tell you – they will shock and excite and are not to be missed.

If you are a fan of dystopian stories like The Hunger Games or Divergent, I highly recommend this book (as well as the rest of the trilogy) for an entertaining suspense-filled read. Plus, you’ll be prepared for the upcoming movie, in theaters everywhere this September!

-Rachel L.,10th grade

Book Review: The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

maze_runner_coverThe Maze Runner is a dystopian science fiction novel by James Dashner.

The setting of the book is an actual navigable maze and a group of boys live together in the middle of it. These boys are called Gladers and they have learnt how to work with each other to survive in midst of it. A new boy arrives on the same day of every month through the Box.

One day a boy named Thomas comes, and nobody is alarmed– but after he arrives, many uncanny things start to happen. The next day a girl, who was in a coma, arrives. The two weird things about that were: first, she was a girl and second, the next kid to arrive was supposed to come a month later than Thomas. The next odd event was that the supplies that came weekly stopped coming. People starting suspecting that Thomas was somehow responsible, and he had no clue on how it all happened. The Doors normally closed every night, around the boys’ enclosure to protect them from Grievers, a nocturnal horrible creatures that lived in maze, but after Thomas’s arrival the doors stopped closing at night. After that, Thomas was determined to find a way out of there.

Read the rest of the book to find out if they make it out or not. I enjoyed reading the book and the characters were very interesting. The setting was a bit unusual, but it turned out to be a fine book. The ending was not that good as I was expecting. The action in the beginning of the book was excellent, but sort of fell towards the end.  Otherwise, it was a great book. The Maze Runner perfect for middle and high school students. If you read The Maze Runner and enjoyed it, be sure to look for the next book in the series, The Scorch Trials.

-Anmol K., 6th grade

Top 10 Books To Read After Harry Potter

Whenever a review refers to a book series as “the next Harry Potter,” I start reading with impossibly high expectations. While these books aren’t as enchanting or inspirational as Rowling’s phenomenon, they are unforgettable just the same.

divergent_cover1. The Divergent trilogy, by Veronica Roth… because readers can relate to the main character’s conflicts, such as deciding between what your family wants and what’s best for you, and discovering the difference between bravery and stupidity.

2. The Twilight saga, by Stephenie Meyer… because of the memorable characters and unexpected plot twists.

3. The Delirium trilogy, by Lauren Oliver… because of its universal themes and unique characters, making for an unforgettable dystopian read.

4. The Gallagher Girls series, by Ally Carter… because the author was able to amalgamate teenage girls into a world of spies, romance, danger, and sacrifice.

stormbreaker_cover5. The Alex Rider saga, by Anthony Horowitz… because of its complex setting and captivating characters.

6. The Maze Runner trilogy, by James Dashner… because the author exhibits adventure and suspense in this narrative about values, curiosity, and life’s true meaning.

7. The Hush, Hush saga, by Becca Fitzpatrick… because of how readers are able to relate to the characters and their personal incentives.

matched_cover8. The Matched trilogy, by Allie Condie… because of how it is similar to The Giver. It takes place in a futuristic dystopian society, while telling a story of love, courage, and individuality.

9. The Percy Jackson series & the Heroes of Olympus series, by Rick Riordan… because the author takes Greek mythology and adds modern, unforgettable characters.

10. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins… because it teaches readers about life, loss, love, and bravery through the eyes of the strong, female heroine, Katniss Everdeen.

-Danielle K., 7th grade