The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Extraordinarily crafted and presented, Donna Tartt’s 2013 novel The Goldfinch tells the story of Theodore Decker, a young man plagued by memories of his experiences in an act of terrorism, the loss of his mother, and one piece of artwork that alters his life — and history — forever.

Deemed a Dickensian-style coming of age novel, for its poetic air and substantial length (771 pages, beginning to end), “The Goldfinch” recounts a large sequence of Theodore’s life from his point of view, as he moves from New York to Las Vegas and back again, and ages from thirteen to mid-twenties. The novel stretches broadly across a grand array of emotions, written in descriptive and illustrious sentences: orchestrations of edge and tension, raw reflection and self-discovery, dreamy chains of events.

Tartt presents a diverse and complex cast of characters accompanying Theo in his spiraling search for answers, including his informal guardian and (eventual) business partner Hobie and his risk-taking Ukrainian friend Boris. Each character — individual in their own stories, mannerisms, beauty — pulls new aspects into the course of Theo’s life and leads to the ultimate fate of the story.

Theo’s desire for control and hunt for resolutions to his long-standing questions remains central to the heart of “The Goldfinch.” Still utterly infatuated with Carel Fabritius’s painting, the namesake of the novel, Theo expresses his connection to the painting and the fact that it acted as a piece of joy, a piece of history that he had an impact on: “And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost…” (Tartt 771).

The Goldfinch is brought to a close in the midst of loose ends; what happens between the characters is still unclear, left at the hands of the audience to decide the character’s stories. And, after pages and pages of Tartt’s beautifully written masterwork, we can’t help but imagine our very own endings for the characters we’ve grown so fond of.

-Keira D.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Dessert First by Dean Gloster

The book Dessert First by Dean Gloster can be summed up in one word: beautiful. The story is about a teenage girl, Kat, who is struggling to hold everything together after her little brother Beep relapses with leukemia. With her father being distant and constantly at work, her mother uptight due to her anxiety, and her older sister’s rude remarks, Kat turns to online friends for support. And between all of this, she struggles to complete homework assignments and with her feelings towards her old best friend, who she feels betrayed by.

This book is truly something special which would make me laugh aloud, yet also induce tears. With her witty and sarcastic sense of humor and the sadness that plagues her, Kat seemed to spring out of the pages as a real person. The book very much regarded her journey, through her pain and the feelings that came with it–confusion, anger, sadness, hope, and love.

Eventually, Kat was able to find the silver lining. And as her brother Beep had said to her “Always eat dessert first”, as in to live life to the fullest, and to remember that even after the worst of times, life can be good again.

-Aisha E. 

Dessert First by Dean Glosteris available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Until I read Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, I hadn’t realized how a book could pull off being so comical yet saddening simultaneously.

The story is in the perspective of Ove, who appears nothing more than a cranky, contentious old man. Ove is the kind of man who takes morning rounds of his neighborhood, playing the role of an unwanted rule-enforcer while judging everyone in his unintentionally humorous way. The novel goes back and forth between present and past, and as the story progresses, insight is gained explaining why Ove is the way he is and why he lost his purpose of life.

The glimpses of the past gave me a respect and understanding for Ove and his principles—he isn’t just a cranky old man for no reason. Additionally, unlike many other stories with flashbacks, this story didn’t frustrate me with its back-and-forth movement. In fact, it kept me wanting to know more. Little mysteries are revealed, which explain Ove’s attitude toward certain, seemingly unconnected things.

As the readers gain a new understanding of Ove, the people (and the cat) around Ove gain a similar understanding and love for him. People appreciate and depend on Ove’s practical skills and blunt-yet-considerate manner; they find a place in their hearts for Ove, which helps him regains his purpose. A Man Called Ove is an incredibly humorous yet bittersweet read, and I highly recommend it. It’s the perfect step outside the realm of the prevalent YA novels, and its depth and insight make it a story that’s well worth the read.

– Mia T.

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

Eggs by Jerry Spinelli

Best friends can have close relationships and still fight with each other. David and Primrose knew this firsthand.  It seemed odd they formed a friendship with David at the age of nine and Primrose thirteen.  Yet when the pair met, they formed an almost instantaneous bond.

Primrose and David had both been through hard times.  Primrose and David came from damaged families and endured challenging childhoods. After they met, they would stay up all night walking to the 7-Eleven and their friend Refrigerator John’s house.  They went on many exciting adventures to places like the city of Philadelphia and to events like the library movie party.

I really enjoyed reading this book about two good friends.  I loved reading about their crazy antics, the sad parts, and the touching parts about true friendship.

-Kaitlyn S.

Eggs by Jerry Spinelli is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library