Variant by Robinson Wells

Variant, written by Robinson Wells, is a well-written mystery/ thriller novel. The book follows Benson Fisher, a foster child who grew up in Pittsburgh. In the story, Benson applies to a private school and gets in! But this is not a regular school. Even though this school is very nice, has good food, and nice people, it also has no teachers or gangs, and the school is completely isolated from any outside world interactions.

When I first started reading this book, I immediately thought it was really good. Wells introduces you to the characters, the school, and the story easily and naturally. I also loved all of the twists and turns in this book; they definitely add to the storyline.

Benson begins to get used to life at the school. He has new friends, eats great food, and even begins to like a girl, Jane. But, just as life is beginning to become comfortable, it goes downhill. One night, Benson and Jane decide to go out for a walk. During the walk, the two get attacked from behind and Benson is knocked out. When Benson wakes up, he finds Jane’s beaten body. Worse yet, she turns out to not even be human but an android!

When I first figured this out, I was so shocked! I did not expect this twist at all and when it came, it blew me away! Because of all the twists, I never knew what was coming or what to trust. This was a major factor in why I liked this book so much.

After this major twist, Benson cannot stand his school and tries to recruit people to escape. The small group of rebels all tries to escape but only Benson and his friend Becky succeed. The book ends with an injured Benson and Becky left alone in the forest.

I enjoyed this book so much and really look forward to reading the sequel. My favorite character is Benson because he is always loyal and never gives up. Thrilling and exciting, Variant is a great novel for eighth graders and above.

-Daniel C.

Variant by Robinson Wells is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Extrodinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart

The book The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict was inundated with adventure from beginning to end. The book had you on your seat’s edge throughout the entire story. This book was witty with great banter between the characters. There is the classic character, of a main bully, with his two friends who make the children’s life miserable. If, you are interested in fairy tales and a more whimsical story, this book is probably not the correct book for you. The story is about an orphan named Nicholas Benedict, who is a very bright boy known for being smarter than most adults. He is going to a new orphanage where he learns  that there is a mystery treasure to be found. He sets out on a hunt to find it, along the way he finds new friends. Unfortunately there are also obstacles to the treasure hunt adventure, his condition of narcolepsy, which has him falling asleep at odd times. The other obstacle is the fact that the head of the orphanage is also trying to find the treasure. It turns into a race to see who can find the treasure first. This book is for people who love to solve mysteries and enjoy the unlikely heroes, or the underdogs rising out on top. “The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict” is a wonderful read and I would say you are never to old to read it and enjoy what it has to offer.

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

In my opinion, Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna was one of my favorite reads this summer. I’ve been pretty content to say that my summer reading list has been comprised of some pretty awesome (for a lack of a better word) books, but this combination of a mystery and thriller book blew me away.

When you first realize the plot, it’s not the most exciting one in the world (not that it stays that way). Not one like Harry Potter, where you find out about Hogwarts, and the next second, everyone’s flying on broomsticks, and you really envied all those magical children out there that were casting spells and you were sitting at home reading about them. No, Two Girls Down is a whole other story.

The story is centered around two sisters, Kylie and Bailey Brandt, and their mother, Jamie Brandt. The story started off at an intriguing pace, leaving me turning the pages hastily to keep up. I was hooked from the very beginning. I loved how the author developed her characters right off the bat, letting everyone know the sister’s similarities and yet quite noticeable differences, too. This would become essential later in the story.

Things are pretty average at the beginning of the story. The two girls’ mother, Jamie, is leading a not-so-perfect-with-a-cherry-on-top life, but she manages. Their father left them a long time ago, claiming not to have the time or energy to raise two young girls. But one day, Jamie’s world shatters and tumbles into a whirlwind of chaos as her beloved daughters, Kylie and Bailey, vanish underneath her very eyes.

The girls are last seen in the parking lot of a mall, where Jamie left them to go shopping for a gift for Kylie’s friend’s birthday. When she gets back, no traces of them remain, and she begins to become frantic.

But here, in shining armor, rise the heroines of the thriller. A very, very unlikely pair. A retired officer named Max Caplan, and a former bounty hunter, Alice Vega, brought together by strange events that could only be the doing of fate, put aside their differences and share their knowledge with each other on a wild chase from town to town, desperate to find the missing girls.

Alice Vega proved to be someone who worked in a solitary way, not needing accomplices or friends, but a tough, hardened woman who could fight life’s problems on her own. But she realizes that she could have never fight alone again after meeting Max Caplan, who proves to be a kind, more logical figure in the mystery. It was one of the weirdest crime fighting pairs I’d ever read about, but once I started, they quickly rose to one of my favorites. They balanced each other out so well, and I really enjoyed the way the author chose to incorporate that.

To read the novel was like being a detective on your own part. I felt fully immersed while reading, feeling the pair’s frustration, their anger and pain, their sorrow throughout the journey (all while I sat motionless on my couch and my eyes burned holes into the pages). My heart pounded when fight scenes emerged, and later, sighing in disappointment as different leads fell away.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who’s wanted to read a mystery thriller, because I think it’s truly exceptional. I would have never guessed the ending, since the author gave nothing away. The leads and evidence tied together so perfectly in such an intricate fashion that I was never tempted to put the book down, even after I read it twice. I promise, you won’t be disappointed by this read!

-Katherine L.

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In A Dark, Dark Wood shows how dark a reunion of friends can get. It goes into the worst possible scenarios that could happen at a reunion all leading to the last scenario that leaves them unsure of who to trust.

Nora lives alone in a flat in London. She runs frequently and enjoys living alone because she doesn’t have to share with anyone. One day while writing a book, she gets an email from an old friend from college called Clare. The email invites Nora to a getaway before Clare gets married. Nora decides to go. When she gets to the isolated house, something feels off to her but she can’t tell what it is.

As the getaway goes on, Nora starts feeling more and more like something odd is going on around her. Finally, during the night all the girls in the house are awoken by a loud noise. The gather together in one room and start hearing footsteps coming up the stairs. Nora grabs a shotgun oddly placed on the wall in front of her and walks out to the stairs. At the stairs, Nora sees a hooded man coming up the stairs. Nora precedes to shoot him with the shotgun which sends him tumbling back down the stairs. As Nora goes to see who it is, she sees that it’s James her college love. James also happens to be the man Clare is getting married to.

Nora begins tying a cloth around James wound to try to stop the bleeding. Then they lift James up into the car. Nora goes to go get her jacket before leaving, but when she goes back outside, Clare is already long gone. Nora runs to the road to get to the car. She gets to the road and sees nothing. Then out of nowhere, Clare’s car speeds onto the road and hits Nora. Nora then wakes up at the hospital forgetful of what happened. Soon she pieces everything together and realizes that Clare had planned everything. She tells that to the police and soon Clare gets taken into custody and then locked up

– Emilio V.

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Name Of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

The Name of This Book Is Secret is about the mystery of a magician’s house burning down. Cass, an extreme survivalist always prepared for all kinds of disasters, becomes unlikely friends with Max Ernest, a very talkative kid who’s allergic to almost everything. The become collaborators and begin investigating the death of Pietro Bergamo, a magician that died in a house fire. They soon discover The Midnight Sun which is a hotel that restores youth. Cass decides to impersonate a famous person and books a reservation for the hotel. The hotel offers a special kind of treatment that makes a person young forever. As soon as Cass gets to the hotel she starts looking around trying to find out as much as she can. The leaders of the Midnight Sun soon discover her plan and capture her. In the basement she finds Max Ernest who came looking for her. They plan their escape and then proceed to escape with another kid from their school called Benjamin. Cass’s butler Owen also helps them to escape. Right as they’re escaping, the spa burns down. Cass, Max Ernest, Benjamin, and Owen get out safely though. Cass and Max Ernest then get recruited for the Terces Society, and their adventures continue.

-Emilio V.

The Name Of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

Harry’s third year at Hogwarts is stressful in the beginning. He is constantly being buried under piles of homework. He also learns that Sirius Black, a mass murderer, is out to kill Harry. Mr. Weasley makes Harry promise that he won’t go looking for Sirius and Harry agrees. At Hogwarts, Dementors have been stationed around the school to prevent Sirius from getting in. The Dementors, however, have a worse effect on Harry than any other student because of Harry’s past. Mr. Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, teaches Harry how to cast a Patronus Charm which is the only spell that works against the Dementors. Ron and Hermione are constantly arguing because Hermione’s cat keeps trying to eat Ron’s rat. Soon they altogether stop talking because Ron thinks that Hermione’s cat did eat his rat. A few days later Sirius Black breaks into Hogwarts, but is quickly captured. Then as it turns out, Ron’s rat is not only alive, but a real human that transformed himself into a rat to spy on Harry. The man’s name is Peter Pettigrew and he was spying on Harry for Voldemort. Pettigrew quickly escapes before Harry can stop him. Harry finds out that it wasn’t Sirius Black that lead Voldemort to his parents, but that it was Pettigrew. Sirius is actually Harry’s godfather. Harry hopes that he can live with Sirius instead of the Dursley’s, but Sirius has to hide from the Ministry. Professor Lupin turns out to be a werewolf, and it was Sirius that saved the kids from Lupin.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter’s second year at Hogwarts is even more eventful than his first. Before school starts, Harry is warned by an elf named Dobby that he should not return to Hogwarts. Harry dismisses Dobby’s warning and goes anyways. At Hogwarts, Harry hears a strange voice coming from inside the walls. Throughout the year, the voice becomes more fierce and soon students at Hogwarts begin to get attacked. Harry quickly finds out, by mistake, that he’s a Parselmouth. Parselmouth is the ability to speak to serpents. When Harry finds this out, people believe him to be Slytherin’s heir and the one who will open the Chamber of Secrets and release the monster inside. Harry then tries finding who is attacking the students. His, Ron’s and Hermione’s first guess is Draco Malfoy. They disguise as Slytherins and ask him if he is attacking the students. Draco responds by claiming that he’s not the one they’re looking for. Soon after Hermione gets attacked and petrified, and Ron’s sister Ginny gets kidnapped and taken down to the Chamber of Secrets. Ron and Harry go into the Chamber to find her and get split up. Harry quickly finds Ginny and destroys Slytherin’s heir who is a young version of Voldemort.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive