Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster is a medical miracle living on an oxygen tank and a drug called Phalanxifor. Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at thirteen, Hazel has been through many surgeries and treatments. At one point, dozens of drugs were flowing through her body, trying to keep her alive. Later, doctors experimented on her with Phalanxifor, a drug that didn’t work on around 70% of people—but it worked on Hazel.

Hazel is made of cancer, but The Fault in Our Stars is in no way a typical cancer story. Hazel’s experience with cancer has made her seem a lot older and wiser than she is. Her insights are so interesting to think about, readers will contemplate them for days afterward.

When asked why she doesn’t eat meat, Hazel explains simply, “I want to minimize the number of deaths I am responsible for.”

When a boy in her Cancer Kid Support Group says he fears oblivion (the state of being forgotten by the public), Hazel replies in her wise and honest way, saying that one day everything will be gone and oblivion is inevitable, leaving the group speechless.

But by this time, cancer has completely invaded her body and identity. Hazel’s story is cancer, how it has affected her, and how she has bought herself a couple more years to live. There’s no going back now, no wondering what could have been if cancer had never showed up in her life—Who knows? Who cares? Hazel knows it won’t change a thing. But when she meets Augustus Waters, her entire life is turned around.

In spending time with Augustus, both expose, find, and realize their true and inner selves. On the surface, both are cancer-influenced people who have grown mentally older, wiser, and stronger. Hazel and Augustus discuss the deepest subjects and throw around a whole lot of fancy words. But underneath, both are still naïve teenagers learning how to navigate life.

Intuitive, fearless, poignant, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a truly incredible story of life, death, and those in between. It will make readers smile, laugh, and cry all at the same time. I was not able to stop thinking about the story and its characters long after I finished reading, and the same will occur for you if you choose to read it. The Fault in Our Stars seems to reach beyond its pages, just like a pop-up book—but instead of paper figures popping out, it is the acute emotion that John Green paints painstakingly into his beautiful story.

“There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of the sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”

-Hazel Grace Lancaster, The Fault in Our Stars

-Lam T.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

The Memory Book, by Lara Avery, is the story of a girl who is diagnosed with Niemann-Pick C (NPC). I’m not the biggest fan of books based on illness. But this book was charmingly extraordinary and ideal for crying at 2:00 a.m.

The book is written by our main character, Samantha/ Sammie McCoy. She writes about having NPC. Which is a rare, life-threatening disease that will affect her motor functions, metabolism, cognition, and eventually it will steal her memories. In order to combat this, Sammie carries a laptop everywhere and writes down everything in her life. From talking to her guidance counselor about college to her long time crush, Stuart Shah. 

Sammie is a smart girl, who has won countless debate awards and plans to graduate as Valedictorian. Her dream is to eventually move to New York and attend university there. She’s determined to overcome her illness and not let it stop her. She makes lists about “Future Sam”, who is a mature and successful young woman, who is living out her best life. But instead of looking forward to “Future Sam”, we slowly watch Sammie deteriorate. She starts to forget things, At first, she loses the debate championship, after forgetting where she is. And decides it’s best not to tell her debate partner/ best friend, about her disease. But she does tell her old childhood friend, Cooper Lind. 

Even though she lost the debate championship, she is determined her life will be fine. Starting off with telling Stuart that she likes him and eventually becoming his girlfriend. This is great until Sammie is forced to tell him about her disease which she’s been hiding for months. Stuart handles it greatly and is attentive and caring. But he’s stressed about it and feeling less like a boyfriend and more like a caretaker.

As this is happening, she begins to have more frequent episodes. She forgets about her little sister’s existence, the names of her pets, and even where she is while driving to a party. You can feel her frustration and confusion in her writing. And it’s completely heartbreaking. Especially, reading about her family seeing all of this. Watching how her little brother’s confused when she brushed her teeth 3 times in a row, or her parents crying in the living room. But the upside of all this happening is that she’s grown closer to Cooper. They even manage to rebuild their friendship and admit their feelings to each other. 

This resulted in a fight between Stuart and Cooper, when Stuart found them sleeping together. This was my least favorite part since cheating (even if you’re sick) is not okay. But you can feel Sammie’s emotions, and how this disease is making her unsure of who she loves and who she thought she loved. She eventually breaks up with Stuart and goes to Cooper. There’s this huge scene, where she shows up at his work. Then goes on the intercom and tells him how she’s sorry and that she loves him. It’s a light-hearted and satisfying scene. It almost feels like the book should end right there.

But it doesn’t. Instead, we are cheerfully greeted by Cooper, who is writing a few pages explaining how he fell in love with Sammie. And how she had a seizure and was sent into shock. This part made my stomach drop. But luckily, Cooper wrote that Sammie woke up and is talking. There are a few cute pages of Cooper and Sammie leaving each other notes via computer/memory book. But there are also some parts, where Sammie doesn’t even recognize Cooper and asks why he’s there. But she eventually remembers and leaves the line “Coop I don’t know what I would do without you. I’m really happy- Sammie”

The next pages are characters writing in the book their favorite memory with Sammie. Again I thought the book was over, and that Sammie is okay. But then my eyes froze on the last page. It’s a single paragraph, a note really, from Cooper. It talks about how Sammie is now gone, and how his favorite memory is this entire book since it’s a recording of her life. My heart shattered when I read this and I started sobbing. Because the emotions you feel during this book are so genuine. You feel as if you watched Sammie grow, and learn to experience her life. You watch her chase after her dreams and connect with her friends. You watch her fix her mistakes and become a better person. Although you don’t see Sammie dying in her entries. You can put it together from Cooper’s note. 

This book is definitely a tragic, romance book. But I felt as if the romance and “love triangle’ were a bit too forced. I also felt like her death was so sudden and how we barely saw Sammie at this point. But I understand why the author didn’t do that. This is Sammie’s book. It’s Sammie’s life, and she can’t document her own death.

-Ashley Y.

The Memory Book by Lara Avery is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, Tobias Iaconis, and Mikki Daughtry

Stella, a teenager that has Cystic Fibrosis whose entire life has been very routine-like is approached by a boy named Will. The catch is that Will also has Cystic Fibrosis and they must stay six feet apart at all times in order to stay safe. Hospital trips, medications, and nurses have been a huge part of Stella’s life, but to Will, this is all new. Ironically, their personalities clash. Stella could be described as a good kid, but on the other hand, Will likes to act out, giving the book an adventurous side. Fortunately, this doesn’t get in the way of them catching feelings for each other. Five Feet Apart is a book about their influence on each other with appearances made by other vital side characters.  

Even though I read this book a couple of months before the movie came out, I still watched the movie. I figured that some of you may have already heard of, or seen the movie, but I’m here to tell you to give the book a shot as well! It made me bawl my eyes out and allowed for more emotion to be felt. Will really added a fun and exciting element to the book that kept me on the edge of my seat and the impact they both had on each other really touched my heart. It’s a 10/10 for me!

-Kaitlyn Y.

Five Feet Apart is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Love and Luck by Jenna Evens Welch

The novel Love and Luck by Jenna Evens Welch tells the story of overcoming a broken heart and finding one’s self.  

The story stars a young Addie, the youngest of her large family. Addie and her family are on a trip to Ireland for her aunt’s extravagant destination wedding. But the only thing on Addie’s mind is the recent events that led to her heart being broken. 

No matter how hard she tries to forget, the images keep replaying in her mind- and it does not help that her brother Ian keeps reminding her of it. In fact, the two fight over the aftermath of the heartbreak situation for most of the story. However, things start to look up when Addie finds a guidebook titled Ireland for the Heartbroken. On a whim, she takes the book, hoping to escape her nagging thoughts-and her nagging brother.  

When an unexpected change in plans occurs, Addie ends up in a tiny car with Ian and his new Irish friend Rowan. The three of them take a fun-filled adventure around Ireland visiting all sorts of beautiful landmarks. Addie hopes her guidebook can help her find the peace she longs for, and, surprisingly, Rowan joins in. Along the trip, Addie works to mend her heart as well as mend her relationship with Ian. Love and Luck is an exciting read full of self-discovery, friendship, adventure, and of course, love!  I would highly recommend this book to any teen who enjoys a cute story that features travel! 

-Hidaya R.

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Love is in the Air

Are you looking for books that make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside? Well you have come to the right place! My top three romance books are Quarantine; a love story, Windfall, and Love, Life, and the List.

The first book, Quarantine; a love story by Katie Cicatelli-Kuc, is about two teenagers that are both flying to New York to see family, get stopped by a bunch of biohazard people. The people from biohazard are studying a disease called tropical mono, and if anyone on the plane had a fever, they would be put into thirty-day quarantine. The girl Flora faked a fever and kissed Oliver so they would go to quarantine together. Now they are stuck in a room together, forced to learn things about each other, including secrets. This book is very well written and will definitely make you tear up towards the end.

My second book, Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith, is about three best friends named Teddy, Alice, and Leo. Alice has had feelings for Teddy, but she does not know how to tell him. So for his birthday, she jokingly gives him a lottery ticket and a card that confesses her feelings for him. On the night she gives it to him, the card slips under the fridge so only the ticket remains. The next morning, Teddy finds out he won the lottery! This book truly demonstrates friendship and true love. I highly recommend this book.

My last and final book Love, Life, and the List, by Kasie West, is about two best friends named Cooper and Abby make a list of things to accomplish during the summer. Abby has feelings for Cooper but the first time she told Cooper about her feelings, he clearly did not feel the same. Abby also has a passion for art and is determined to get into the art museum that her boss is hosting. She also has to deal with a paranoid mother who is too afraid to even go out of her own house. Now Abby has to go through the whole summer juggling her feelings, skills, and family. This book definitely demonstrates heartbreak, friendship, and family.

-Veronica S.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: 9780451531520 | PenguinRandomHouse.com:  Books

Like most of Dostoyevsky’s novels, “The Idiot” has a tragic ending, but that doesn’t make “The Idiot” a work of pessimism. The tragic ending of the protagonists reflects the author’s pain caused by the yearning for a better future. The positive ideal put forward by Dostoevsky has been bankrupted, but the ardent yearning for the good ideal is forever shining with the radiance of humanism. The novel gives a broad description of the Russian upper class after the reform of serfdom, involving complex psychological and moral issues. The good, tolerant Prince Myshkin is powerless to influence or benefit those around him, a Quixotic figure whose futile efforts show the disillusionment of the author’s attempt to save the world through faith and love.

“The Idiot” develops themes of indignity and victimization. The strong rebelliousness of the heroine Nastasya Filippovna and the kindness and purity of the positive character Prince Myshkin give the novel a bright tone. But some nihilistic images used to attack revolutionaries have weakened the novel’s revealing power. The development of bourgeois social relations and the disintegration of old social relations are observed and expressed from the perspective of moral psychology. The plot of the novel takes the emotional entanglement of the hero Prince Myshkin, Nastasya Filippovna and Aglaya Yepanchina as the second main line of humanitarianism about kindness and love.

Although he was clearly called an idiot by many people around him at that time, people close to him showed to him that in the social environment at that time, people were ashamed to show their love and supreme trust and their sincere yearning for truth, goodness and beauty under the cover of false and vain appearance. The main idea of a novel is to portray an absolutely beautiful character, and there is nothing more difficult than that, especially now. All writers, not only In Russia, but all over Europe, feel powerless if they wish to depict absolute beauty. Because it’s an incredibly difficult task. Beauty is the ideal, and the ideal, whether for us or for civilized Europe, is far from being formed. There is only one absolutely wonderful person in the world – Christ. Therefore, the appearance of this incomparable and infinitely beautiful figure is certainly a permanent miracle. That’s what the Gospel of John means. He sees miracles as mere manifestations of beauty. The author modeled Prince Myshkin according to the image of Christ in his mind. He was the spokesman of Christ and the embodiment of moral beauty. As an image of pure moral beauty, Prince Myshkin embodies all the virtues of Christ — love, humility, obedience, patience, open-mindedness, selflessness, repaying good for evil, faith, keeping the suffering of mankind in one’s own heart, always ready to sacrifice for others. In Prince Myshkin, morality is religiously incarnated, that is to say, morality finds its home in faith in Christ.

The implementation of morality is guaranteed by religious belief and its system. The life brought about by the moral efforts of the inner self is also the sublimation of the soul brought about by salvation. Only the moral binding force of religion can bring people from vulgarity to sanctity, from humble to sublime. Therefore, “The Idiot” reveals that moral belief and sanctification are the only way to play the role and function of society, and the moral destination is religious faith, the Russian Orthodox Christ. The so-called “beauty” refers to the personality and moral beauty embodied in Christ, and the spirit of Christ’s beauty is the only power to save the world from suffering. Christ is the ideal entity of moral perfection, and man’s redemption in this world is Christ who is the symbol of moral perfection after the baptism of suffering, the purification of love, the removal of evil from good. In fact, the religious belief in “The Idiot” is rooted in moral necessity. Thus, on the surface, the work is a loud call for the return of religious belief and a repeated argument for the existence of God, while the real concern is that without the shadow of religious belief, morality will become homeless. If there is no God, everyone can do as he pleases. Therefore, God is needed to restrain people to realize the perfection of people and the ideal harmony of society.

At the same time, for individuals in the real society, the practice of morality should be reflected as a kind of behavior of consciously obeying the teachings and strictly complying with the moral laws of religion in the world. The core of Christ’s beauty is love, and love is the eternal content of moral law. A man should be an enhancement of Christ’s virtue. The moral concept of “The Idiot” reflects a moral ideal, which in real life is more reflected as a man-made act of peace, and becomes the state of personal cultivation and pursuit to achieve. In this state, it is assumed that being is realized in love and that the development of being is accomplished in love. Love first, regardless of logic, only then can you grasp the meaning of life. If you love life, half the battle is yours. In a society where everyone loves each other, the world is becoming more and more beautiful, and all human beings are marching towards messiah and universal harmony. This is the beauty of Prince Myshkin to save the world, and this is the heaven on earth that Prince Myshkin wants to create. “The Idiot” ends with Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin killing Nastasya Filippovna, thus pushing human sin to an extreme. This destructive act means salvation for both Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin and Nastasya Filippovna. The scene of Nastasya Filippovna’s death was somewhat similar to the crucifixion of Christ in Golgotha; her body bore a striking resemblance to the image of the dead Christ hanging in Luo’s room. Nastasya Filippovna takes her name from the Greek word Anastasius, meaning resurrection, and receives death with equanimity, exactly like Christ. To her soul, death meant resurrection. She sacrificed her life to atone for her sins and overcome her spiritual death. In addition, Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin’s name is most likely borrowed from Moscow Rogozhkoe cemetery where he is on the verge of death, signifying the possibility of a new life.

-Coreen C.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Seventeen-year-old Mia Hall has everything other teenagers her age would want; a loving and relaxed family life, great grades, a charming boyfriend, and a supportive best friend. As a cello-prodigy, Mia awaits her soon-to-be acceptance letter to her dream university.

One snowy day, Mia and her family jam to their favorite songs in the car on the road. They had planned the perfect day-off. However, all goes wrong when an incoming car skids and crashes straight towards them. The moment stops and the reader waits eagerly, with palms sweating, to know what happens next through all of the author’s heart-wrenching details.

The novel follows Mia, in an out-of-body experience, as she has flashbacks on her life and loses the ones she loves. Her flashbacks are followed by heart-breaking scenes of her family and friends visiting her in a hospital while she is in a coma. The unspoken love between the Mia and her close ones makes the novel much more emotional.

The author’s style of switching between the past and present unfolds the significant purpose of a human life. The importance of sacrifice, family, love, death, and life all wrap up to tell Mia’s story. The conflict between choosing to fight endlessly to stay alive or fading away to the afterlife remains a mystery until the end.

Overall, this novel really opened my eyes and made me realize that life can change in an instant. No matter who we are, what we are going through in life, or where we are, death can take its toll. The author truly makes an important point about how fast life moves for the youth and the old. We should never take life for granted because this is all we have and there is only one shot at it.

Mia’s story emphasizes the importance of living in the moment. Our problem are just as big as we make them. However, just like Mia, our worldly problems are nothing in the face of death. Not all the readers of this book can realize that, but anyone who can relate will find its meaning. The novel, as well as the movie of If I Stay, moved me to tears and is one that sticks with you forever.

-Zohal N. 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Across the River and Into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway

Across the River and Into the Trees eBook by Ernest Hemingway ...

“Across the River and Into the Trees” is a novel written by Ernest Hemingway after a trip to Italy and his return from hunting in 1949. The protagonist Colonel Cantwell has something of the author in him. As he grew older and more depressed, Colonel Cantwell went duck hunting in Venice and to northern Italy to pay his last visit to the battlefields of the past. He thought of past love, thought of death, and felt lonely and hopeless. Shortly after the war, the hero of the two world wars goes to Fossalta di Piave, Italy, to revisit the spot where he was wounded in battle. The hero, Colonel Cantwell, hunts wild ducks with his friends and focuses on the pure love between him and the beautiful Italian girl Renata, which has no utilitarian purpose.

It reflects the author’s aversion to war, his concern for the future of human beings, and his thoughts on the value of life, love, and death. Though this novel may not be the most classic work of Hemingway, its profound themes and traumatized account of the war shock the reader. Its rich background gives the reader knowledge and its unique way of writing left an unforgettable impression on people. The book’s title, taken from the dying words of Confederate General Thomas Jackson during the American Civil War, shows Hemingway’s “tough guy” theme similar to himself, who faced down death.

-Coreen C.

The Torrents of Spring by Ernest Hemingway

The Torrents of Spring - Kindle edition by Hemingway, Ernest ...

The wife and daughter of American young writer Scripps O ‘Neill left one after another. He left home on snowy nights to find work and met middle-aged waitresses in small restaurants. In a small restaurant, he meets Diana, a middle-aged waitress and literary English. They hit it off and got married in a flash. As a result, he became a worker in the city’s water pump factory. But Mandy, Diana’s replacement waitress at the little restaurant, charmed Scripps with her literary wit and eloquent speech. Yogi Johnson, Scripps’ fellow factory worker, wanted no women after an affair in Paris during the First World War. However, a naked Indian woman broke into the small restaurant and was kicked out. Yogi, wandering the streets in a daze, followed her and walked with her into the night.

This novel is a parody of Hemingway’s. It has both romantic and naturalistic styles and belongs to alternative works. From the perspective of the narrator, it is of great value. In the way of narration, Hemingway likes to show and tell, usually presented in a conversational manner. The narration is generally a description, and the characters do not speak. But in “The Torrents of Spring,” Hemingway employs repetition, stream of consciousness, and meta-narrative in addition to presentation and dialogues.

-Coreen C.

Film Review: The Secret Life of Pets 2

The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019) Final Poster.jpg

I know it might sound a little bit childish for some of the people out there, but The Secret Life of Pets 2 was definitely a very good movie for me. At least, in my opinion, the addition of more characters added more flavor to the movie as a whole. Not only was it funny, but it also portrayed the theme of family, love, friendship, and loyalty

To start off, family has always been a big thing throughout the two movies. It was first the introduction of Duke, and then Liam the son of the family. By overcoming jealousy and eventually falling in love with the new members of the family, Max has demonstrated what the firstborn of many families have gone through.

And as for love, it would be the next stage of family. For one thing, Max became overprotective over Liam and was unwilling to let him cross the street, run into people and different things, and go to preschool. It was not after when Max himself was trained by Rooster to save the little lamb hanging on a branch did he know how important independence is to a person.

Friendship has always been a big thing for the movie series. From Max saving Hu to Daisy fighting off the wolves, it’s all revolving around friendship. And again, through a series of adventures and dangers, the white tiger cub was saved.

Lastly, what I really wanted to mention in this movie is something people normally don’t pay attention to—the wolves. They might look very evil, malicious, and atrocious, but at the same time, they are very loyal to Sergei no matter what he does to them. I’m pretty sure they could’ve just run away since they weren’t chained anyways. Under the threat of killing them and not giving meals, the wolves still strived to complete their missions and obey every single command Sergei the circus owner gives. This way, I think that they resemble dogs for their loyalty but not amiability.

-Coreen C.